United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
PAUL N. ROYAL, as Administrator Ad Litem for the Estate of Ricky Javentia Ball, Deceased, and on Behalf of All Wrongful Death Beneficiaries PLAINTIFF
CANYON BOYKIN, JOHNNY BRANCH, YOLANDA YOUNG, and GARRETT MITTAN, Individually and in Their Official Capacities as Officers of the Columbus Police Department; TONY CARLETON, Individually and in His Official Capacity as the Chief of Police of the Columbus Police Department; and CITY OF COLUMBUS, MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
before the Court is Defendant Canyon Boykin's motion to
dismiss  which the other Defendants have joined [109,
111]. Upon due consideration, the Court finds the motion to
dismiss  is not well taken and must be denied.
Factual and Procedural Background
September 29, 2016, Plaintiff Paul N. Royal
("Plaintiff), as administrator ad litem for the
Estate of Ricky Javentia Ball, deceased
("Decedent"), and on behalf of the wrongful death
beneficiaries of Decedent, filed this action against
Defendant City of Columbus, Mississippi, as well as the
following Defendants in their individual and official
capacities as officers of the Columbus Police Department:
Canyon Boykin, Johnny Branch, Yolanda Young, and Garrett
Mittan; and Tony Carleton in his individual and official
capacity as Chief of Police of the Columbus Police Department
(collectively, "Defendants"). Subsequently,
Defendants filed their answers and affirmative defenses.
undisputed that Decedent was shot and killed by police in
Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi. Plaintiff, as
administrator ad litem of Decedent's estate,
contends that Decedent's estate is entitled to damages
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as wrongful death under
Mississippi law. Defendants argue that the fatal shooting of
Decedent was in self-defense.
January 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his
complaint which was subsequently granted by the Magistrate
Judge in an Order  dated February 2, 2017. Plaintiff
filed his amended complaint  on that same day, and
Defendants filed answers to the amended complaint. On
February 16, 2017, Defendant Boykin filed the present motion
to dismiss ; the other Defendants joined in the motion
[109, 111]. Plaintiff filed a response, and Defendants filed
sole issue before the Court on Defendants' present motion
to dismiss is whether Plaintiff can properly bring the case
subjudice. The Court addresses the issue as follows.
argue that Decedent was a Mississippi resident who died
intestate in Lowndes County, Mississippi, and that this case,
which includes wrongful death claims, is governed by
Mississippi's wrongful death statute. Defendants maintain
that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action, because
no proper estate was opened and no letters of administration
were issued in the Chancery Court of Lowndes County,
Mississippi, which Defendants contend were prerequisites to
bringing this case under Mississippi's wrongful death
statute. Defendants further argue that Plaintiff lacks
standing because he is not a wrongful death beneficiary.
Defendants also argue that no survival action can be filed
without an estate being opened. Defendants maintain that
Tennessee's administrator ad litem statute does
not confer authority on Plaintiff to bring this case in
federal court and that that statute applies only where no
estate has been opened. Defendants request that the Court
dismiss Plaintiffs claims in this case.
argues that he has standing to bring this action for the
following reasons. First, Plaintiff argues he has standing as
a "personal representative" under Mississippi's
wrongful death statute, Mississippi Code § 11-7-13,
because he has met the only requirement of the statute that
he be formally appointed at the time the wrongful death
action commenced. Plaintiff maintains that the time of the
appointment, not the place of the appointment, is the
dispositive issue, and urges the Court to interpret
Mississippi Code § 11-7-13 broadly. Second, Plaintiff
argues that he has standing because Tennessee Code
§301-1-109 does not limit his appointment to Tennessee
chancery courts and circuit courts, but allows him as
administrator ad litem to pursue cases on behalf of
the estate in other courts, as well. Third, Plaintiff argues
that he is not suing as a wrongful death beneficiary, but as
a nominal plaintiff on behalf of the estate, and that this
distinction does not matter. Fourth, Plaintiff argues that
regardless of whether he has standing to bring the wrongful
death claims in this case, the federal claims and
beneficiaries' claims survive with or without his claims
for the estate, because Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure allows administrators and similar fiduciaries to
initiate and prosecute claims on behalf of their wards.
Analysis and Discussion
sole issue before the Court at this juncture is whether
Plaintiff has standing to bring this case, which asserts
Section 1983 and state law claims. The type of standing at
issue in this case is not Article III standing, but statutory
standing. "[S]tatutory standing is not indicative of
Article III jurisdictional standing." Camsoft Data
Sys., Inc. v. S. Elecs. Supply, Inc., 756 F.3d 327, 332
(5th Cir. 2014). "If a plaintiff does not have statutory
standing, he lacks a cause of action, and the action should
be dismissed under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6)."
Walker v. New Orleans City, La., No. 16-31229, 2017
WL 3467879, at *1 (5th Cir. Aug. 11, 2017) (per curiam)
(citing Malvino v. De lluniversita, 840 F.3d 223,
229-30 (5th Cir. 2016); Harold H. Huggins Realty, Inc. v.
FNC, Inc., 634 F.3d 787, 795 n.2 (5th Cir. 2011)
("Unlike a dismissal for lack of constitutional
standing, which should be granted under Rule 12(b)(1), a
dismissal for lack of . . . statutory standing is properly
granted under Rule 12(b)(6).")). "[W]hether or not a
particular cause of action authorizes an injured plaintiff to
sue is a merits question ... not a jurisdictional
question." Blanchard 1986, Ltd. v. Park Plantation,
LLC, 553 F.3d 405, 409 (5th Cir. 2008).
although Defendants in the case sub judice urge
their motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as a challenge to the
Court's subject-matter jurisdiction, the issue of
statutory standing instead presents a challenge to the merits
of the action under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. The Court will thus consider the motion as
one filed under Rule 12(b)(6).
to bring a [Section] 1983 claim 'is guided by 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988, which provides that state common law is used to
fill the gaps in [Section 1983's] administration.'
" Walker, 2017 WL 3467879, at *1 (quoting
Pluet v. Frasier, 355 F.3d 381, 383 (5th Cir.
2004)). "Thus, in order to have statutory standing to
bring a [Section] 1983 claim on behalf of another, a
plaintiff 'must have standing under the state wrongful
death or survival statutes.' " Id. (quoting
Pluet, 355 F.3d at 383); accord Rodgers v.
Lancaster Police & Fire Dep't, 819 F.3d 205,
208-09 (5th Cir.), cert denied, 137 S.Ct. 304, 196
L.Ed.2d 223 (2016), reh'g denied, 137 S.Ct. 545,
196 L.Ed.2d 440 (2016) ("[Section 1988 incorporates
wrongful death statutes."). "A party must have
standing at the time the complaint is filed."
Pluet, 355 F.3d at 386.
specific question for the Court on the present motion to
dismiss thus is whether Plaintiff has statutory standing to
bring this case under Mississippi's wrongful death
statute or survival statute. If Plaintiff has statutory
standing, he can assert both the Section 1983 claims and
state law claims against Defendants. If he does not have