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Dreith v. City of Saint Louis

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

August 12, 2019

ALISON DREITH, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF SAINT LOUIS, MISSOURI, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion of Defendant, the City of Saint Louis Missouri, to dismiss or in the alternative to strike filed February 14, 2019. (ECF No. 28). The matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         On September 15, 2017, the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis issued its findings and verdict in Stockley, prompting some members of the public to engage in protest activity around the St. Louis metropolitan area including within the City of St. Louis. (ECF No. 21, ¶¶ 12-17). The Protests concerned the verdict itself and broader issues including racism in the criminal justice system and the use of force by police officers against African-American citizens. Id. ¶¶ 18-20. Most of the protests were non-violent. Id. ¶ 23. “In response to the protests, St. Louis Metropolitan police officers amassed at several protests wearing military-like tactical dress, helmets, batons, and full-body riot shields and carrying chemical agents. Id. ¶ 21.

         At approximately 9:45 AM on the morning of September 15, 2017, Plaintiff arrived downtown and gathered with other protesters at the intersection of Tucker and Market streets. Id. ¶ 36. After marching with protesters, clergy and elected officials, Plaintiff returned to the intersection of Tucker and Market, where she remained for two hours. Id. ¶¶ 38-39. Plaintiff observed SLMPD officers on bicycles. Id. ¶ 40. These officers nearly knocked Plaintiff to the ground. Id. Plaintiff needed to use the restroom, so she spoke with a St. Louis City Alderman who suggested that Plaintiff use a restroom inside City Hall. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. When Plaintiff was done using the facilities, she exited city hall on Clark Street. Id. ¶ 44. Plaintiff witnessed officers use their bicycles to push protesters and witnessed a woman being pepper sprayed but did not see civilians commit any unlawful activity. Id. ¶¶ 47-49. Plaintiff was then, without warning, pepper sprayed in the face by an unidentified SLMPD officer. Id. ¶50. Plaintiff claims that she was not engaged in unlawful activity at any time during her encounter with police. Id. ¶ 52. Plaintiff asserts that as a result of being sprayed, she experienced pain, burning in her eye, mucus, and labored breathing that persisted for 24 hours. Id. ¶ 53. Plaintiff alleges that she now fears future police retaliation. Id. ¶ 56.

         Plaintiff asserts First Amendment (Count I), and excessive force (VI) against the individual officers pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also asserts § 1983 claims against the City (Count II) alleging municipal liability for failure to train and for an unconstitutional policy or custom. Finally, Plaintiff asserts supplemental state-law claims alleging assault (Count III), battery (Count VII), intentional infliction and negligent infliction of emotional distress (Counts IV and V), and battery (VIII).

         DISCUSSION

         The City moves to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) “short and plain statement” requirement and to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In the alternative, Defendant moves to strike certain paragraphs of the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) as immaterial or impertinent. Specifically, the City moves to dismiss Plaintiff's §1983 claims under 12(b)(6), asserting that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim for municipal liability based on policy or custom.

         Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) or in the Alternative Motion to Strike

         The City moves to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to comply with the “short and plain” statement requirement of Rule 8(a), arguing that the amended complaint contains inflammatory rhetoric. (ECF No. 29, at 2). Specifically, the City objects to Plaintiff's allegations concerning the Stockley verdict, the nature of the public protests in response thereto, the prior orders of this Court concerning SLMPD actions in response to public protests, and the attachment of hearing transcript documentation to the complaint. Id., at 3. Alternatively, the City moves to strike these paragraphs under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) as immaterial or impertinent. Id.

         As other judges in the District have held with respect to the same challenge in related cases, the Complaint's factual allegations and supporting exhibits, to which the City objects, are relevant to the Plaintiff's municipal liability claim at a minimum. Laney v. City of St. Louis, Mo., No. 4:18 CV 1575 CDP, 2019 WL 2423308, at *3 (E.D. Mo. June 10, 2019); Altridge v. City of St. Louis, Mo., No. 4:18 CV 1677 CAS, 2019 WL 1695982, at *4 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 17, 2019). The Court therefore finds that dismissal under Rule 8(a) or striking under Rule 12(f) is not warranted.

         Standard for Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         In ruling on a motion to 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, 1-39 (8th Cir. 2005)(citation omitted). The complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” 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, 520 (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 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, 129 1937, 1949 (2009)(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (pleading offering only “labels and conclusions” or formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not do)).

         I. ยง1983 Constitutional Violations ...


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