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Green v. City of Saint Louis

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

September 3, 2019

MEGAN GREEN, Plaintiff,
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 the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint filed February 14, 2019. (ECF No. 24). 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 7:00 PM on September 15, 2017, Plaintiff went to the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis city to protest the Stockley acquittal. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff has been an active protester for the Black Lives Matter Movement since 2014. Id. ¶ 38. Plaintiff participated in a march that started in the Central West End. Id. ¶ 39. Following the march she observed buses of riot police officers on Lake Avenue. Id. She also observed SLMPD officers in riot gear blocking off the intersection at Waterman Boulevard and Lake Avenue. Id. ¶¶ 39-40. Plaintiff then entered the Central Reform Congregation, a Synagogue near the intersection to avoid tear gas between 9:30 PM and 10:00 PM. Id. ¶ 42. Plaintiff asserts that approximately 100-150 people also sought refuge in the Synagogue, and that while inside, she could hear SLMPD officers banging on the door and yelling. Id. ¶¶ 43-44. Plaintiff asserts that the Synagogue was surrounded by SLMPD officers which caused Plaintiff and others to remain in the Synagogue for approximately an hour. Id. ¶ 45. Later, Plaintiff and approximately ten other protesters exited the Synagogue. Id. ¶ 47. Plaintiff decided to go home so she attempted to reach her vehicle to leave. Id. To reach her vehicle, located on Euclid and Laclede, Plaintiff, along with other individuals, walked south on Kingshighway. Id. ¶¶ 47-49. They were approached by a line of SLMPD officers. Id. ¶ 48. Plaintiff sough permission to cross the line of police to reach her vehicle. Id. ¶ 49. The police granted Plaintiff and others to cross the line. Id. ¶ 50. Plaintiff asserts that as she crossed the police line, they began to make mocking statements toward her. Id. ¶ 51. Before reaching her vehicle, Plaintiff saw an armored SLMPD truck speed toward where she and others were walking. Id. ¶ 53. Plaintiff yelled for those with her to take cover. Id. ¶ 54. The armored truck passed Plaintiff once without incident. Id. ¶ 56. Plaintiff and others quickly crossed Lindell to get to their vehicles. Id. ¶ 57. The SLMPD truck then made a U-Turn and returned to Plaintiff's location and the SLMPD dispersed tear gas. Id. ¶ 58. Plaintiff asserts that she did not hear a warning at the time the tear gas was being deployed. Id. ¶ 59. Plaintiff further asserts that she was not committing any crime, nor was any crime being committed at the time the tear gas was deployed. Id. ¶¶ 60-61. Plaintiff asserts that she began to feel excruciating pain; her eyes began to burn, mucus ran from her nose, and her breathing became labored. Id. ¶ 62. These reactions persisted for several months. Id. Plaintiff asserts that she has suffered from respiratory issued as a result of the tear gassing. Id. ¶ 67.

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

         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 Monell and Conspiracy claims under 12(b)(6), asserting that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim for municipal liability based on policy or custom, and is barred from raising a 1983 conspiracy claim against Defendant due to the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine.

         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. 27, at 4). 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 6. 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. Civil ...


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