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Rulo v. Turner

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

June 12, 2019

LINA RULO, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of RICHARD A. RULO, SR., deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
AUSTON C. TURNER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Dustin Steinc's (“Steinc”) Motion to Dismiss, filed March 19, 2019. (ECF No. 7). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         On May 8, 2017, Decedent Richard A. Rulo, Sr. was driving from his place of employment in Iron Mountain Lake, Missouri to his residence. (Compl., ¶ 16). As Decedent approached his home, Defendant Jermaine Sails (“Sails”), a police officer and agent, servant and employee of the City of Iron Mountain Lake (“City”) and the Iron Mountain Lake Police Department, activated his police car's emergency lights in order to stop Decedent's vehicle. (Id., ¶¶ 11, 18).[2] Decedent stopped at his mailbox to retrieve his mail, and then pulled into the driveway of his private residence and exited his vehicle. (Id., ¶ 19). Sails parked in Decedent's driveway behind Decedent's truck. (Id.).

         According to Plaintiff, Sails told Decedent he pulled him over, “first of all, ” because Decedent was not wearing his seatbelt. (Compl., ¶ 20). Sails ordered Decedent to produce his driver's license and most recent insurance card. (Id.). When Decedent failed to produce his most recent insurance card[3], Sails returned to his police vehicle to write Decedent a citation. (Id., ¶ 22). At that time, Decedent began complaining to Plaintiff, who had walked out onto the driveway. (Id., ¶ 24).

         After approximately eight to nine minutes, during which time Sails remained seated in his police car, Defendant Auston C. Turner (“Turner”), Chief of Police for the Iron Mountain Lake Police Department, arrived at Decedent's residence with his siren activated. (Compl., ¶¶ 7, 26). While Turner and Sails talked, Plaintiff stated, “Call [Defendant] Dustin [P. Steinc, Mayor of Iron Mountain Lake] over here, now.” (Id., ¶¶ 12, 27-29). At that, Plaintiff maintains Turner became angry, and walked quickly toward Decedent and Plaintiff stating, “You're both going to jail.” (Id., ¶ 30). When Decedent responded, “no, I'm not, ” Turner aggressively moved toward Decedent, grabbed Decedent, swept his legs out from underneath him, and slammed him violently to the ground. (Id., ¶ 31). Turner and Sails then tackled Decedent and placed him in handcuffs, and Turner ordered Sails to charge Decedent with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. (Id., ¶¶ 31, 32).

         While sitting in the police car, Decedent began having difficulty breathing. (Compl., ¶ 37). Emergency services were eventually called, and they transported Decedent to a hospital. (Id., ¶ 38). Several hours later, while at the hospital, Decedent died. (Id., ¶ 39). A May 10, 2017, autopsy determined Decedent's cause of death to be complications of coronary artery disease, with the manner of death listed as homicide resulting from an altercation with police officers during a traffic stop. (Id., ¶ 40).

         Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint on February 26, 2019, claiming the force used by Turner and Sails was unnecessary, excessive and oppressive, and caused Decedent to suffer physical injury and emotional distress. (Compl., ¶¶ 35, 37). Plaintiff lodged the following counts against Defendant Steinc[4]: Municipal Liability for Failure to Train, Supervise, Control and Discipline, and for Unconstitutional Customs and Practices, Cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III); Conspiracy to Violate Decedent's Civil Rights, Cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV); and Wrongful Death, Cognizable under Missouri State Law (Count V). As stated above, Defendant Steinc filed the instant Motion to Dismiss on March 19, 2019, claiming all of Plaintiff's claims against him must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (ECF No. 7).

         STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS

         In ruling on a motion dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008). The Court, “must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). The complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” however, and the motion to dismiss must be granted if the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007) (abrogating the “no set of facts” standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Furthermore, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (pleading offering only “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not do)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Official Capacity Claims

         In support of his Motion to Dismiss, Steinc first asserts Plaintiff's official capacity claims against him must be dismissed for the same reasons addressed in Defendant City's Motion to Dismiss, i.e., because Plaintiff fails to identify any unconstitutional policies or customs pursuant to which her constitutional rights were violated, and because she mischaracterizes Steinc as a final policymaker. As discussed in the Order disposing of Defendant City's motion, the Court finds said arguments are better suited for determination on summary judgment.

         II. Quali ...


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