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Krupp v. City of Pine Lawn

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 27, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's first amended complaint for failure to state a claim for relief pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P., and to strike certain paragraphs, pursuant to Rule 12(f)(2). Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition and the issues are fully briefed. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         Plaintiff Michael Krupp alleges that Steven Blakeney stalked and harassed him while Blakeney was employed by defendant City of Pine Lawn as a police officer. Plaintiff reported Blakeney's conduct to regulatory and law enforcement authorities. Plaintiff alleges that Blakeney then increased his harassing conduct to retaliate against him and to deter him from engaging in protected speech. Plaintiff filed suit against the City of Pine Lawn in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that the City had a policy, custom or practice of permitting its officers to engage in abusive, harassing conduct or, in the alternative, was deliberately indifferent to its duty to correct, supervise, control and discipline its police officers. Defendant removed the action, asserting this Court's subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. Allegations in the Complaint

         Pine Lawn hired Blakeney in 2009. In June 2011, shortly after Blakeney and his wife separated, plaintiff began a relationship with Blakeney's wife. First Amended Complaint at ¶¶ 4, 6 [Doc. # 11]. Later in 2011, someone left on plaintiff's porch a package of “numerous pictures and other evidence demonstrating that Blakeney had been surveilling [plaintiff] using Department resources.” Id. at 7. In 2012, Blakeney was “arrested for forcible rape” and “tested positive for cocaine.” Id. at 10-11.

         In December 2012, plaintiff reported Blakeney's conduct to the Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) Program. He gave POST “a large amount of evidence” for its investigation of Blakeney. He also contacted the FBI, speaking with at least three FBI agents between 2012 and 2014. In March 2013, plaintiff sought a restraining order against Blakeney. At the hearing, plaintiff testified that he had reported his concerns about Blakeney to POST and the FBI. Id. at ¶¶ 13-18.

         After the hearing, at which Blakeney was present, Blakeney's abusive and harassing conduct worsened. Throughout 2014, he engaged in persistent unjustified surveillance of plaintiff, including appearing at events outside Pine Lawn's jurisdiction in a Pine Lawn police vehicle, wearing his uniform and accompanied by other uniformed Pine Lawn officers. Blakeney would flash his firearm at plaintiff, even though the restraining order entered against him barred him from carrying a weapon. Plaintiff believed that Blakeney was trying to intimidate him into remaining silent about Blakeney's conduct. Id. at ¶¶ 20-27.

         Plaintiff alleges that multiple people complained about Blakeney's behavior to the Pine Lawn Police Department. In August 2011, the Chief of Police received a letter from someone complaining that Blakeney was harassing him. In 2013, Blakeney arrested a woman who recorded him allegedly harassing people in a barber shop. When she “released the footage, ” Blakeney retaliated against her by harassing her at her residence. In September 2014, plaintiff's lawyer emailed Pine Lawn's city attorney to report the ways in which Blakeney was harassing plaintiff. In response, the city attorney stated that Pine Lawn “would like to stay away from digging into the personal affairs of its officers, unless they have a direct connection to the department.” Blakeney was fired in December 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 28-35.

         II. Legal Standards

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A complaint states a plausible claim for relief if its ‘factual content . . . allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the district court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and grants all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Crooks v. Lynch, 557 F.3d 846, 848 (8th Cir. 2009). A claim for relief “must include sufficient factual information to provide the ‘grounds' on which the claim rests, and to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & n.3). This obligation requires a plaintiff to plead “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The principle that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint does not apply to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice”).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that a court may strike from a pleading “any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Courts have liberal discretion to strike pleadings under Rule 12(f). Nationwide Ins. Co. v. Cent. Mo. Elec. Co-op, Inc., 278 F.3d 742, 748 (8th Cir. 2001). However, striking a party's pleading is an extreme measure that is viewed with disfavor and infrequently granted. Stanbury Law Firm, P.A. v. IRS, 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir. 2000). “In ruling on a motion to strike, the Court views the pleadings in the light most favorable to the pleader.” Shirrell v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., No. 1:13-CV-42 SNLJ, 2013 WL 3457010, at *1 (E.D. Mo. July 9, 2013) (citation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         In general, “a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents” on a respondeat superior theory of liability. Marsh v. Phelps Cty., 902 F.3d 745, 751 (8th Cir. 2018) (citing Monell v. New York Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). To establish a municipal custom based on a failure to prevent police misconduct, a plaintiff must show that the municipality acted with deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the officers come into contact. Perkins v. Hastings, No. 17-2079, 2019 WL 469718, at *6 (8th Cir. Feb. 7, 2019); see also Harris v. City of Pagedale, 821 F.2d 499, 504 (8th Cir. 1987) (applying a deliberate indifference standard to a claim of “a municipal custom of failing to receive, investigate or act on citizen complaints ...

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