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S.O. v. Hinds County School District

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

October 18, 2017




There are four motions pending in this § 1983 case: Defendants filed three separate Motions to Dismiss [10, 18, 20], each raising arguments as to why particular claims should be dismissed as to certain defendants, and Plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint [50]. For the reasons that follow, Defendant Hinds County School District's motion to dismiss [18] is granted in part; Defendants Ben Lundy, Tommy Brumfield, Michelle Ray, and Shannon Rankin's motion to dismiss [20] is granted in part; Defendants Byram Police Department and Officer Ricardo Montez Kincaid's motion to dismiss [10] is denied; and Plaintiffs' motion to amend [50] is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs are suing Defendants due to alleged conduct that occurred during a disciplinary action at Byram Middle School. Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [3] alleges that, on April 4, 2017, Defendant Shannon Rankin, a social-studies teacher, accused Plaintiff B.O., a seventh-grade student, of selling candy bars during class and directed him to go to the assistant principal's office. Once there, Defendant Tommy Brumfield, an assistant principal, proceeded to pat-down and empty B.O.'s pockets in search of evidence pertaining to the candy-bar sales but found nothing. During this pat-down, B.O. alleges that he felt his penis being touched.

         When Brumfield found nothing in B.O.'s pockets, Defendant Michelle Ray, another assistant principal, emptied B.O.'s school bag and found various items, including a purse and three Hinds County School District (“HCSD”) calculators. B.O. claims that his math teacher authorized him to carry these calculators and that the purse belonged to his aunt.

         After these searches, B.O. says he was forced to dig in a trash can to search for any candy wrappers that were thrown away during his trip to the assistant principal's office. B.O. alleges that all of this occurred in the presence of Defendant Officer Ricardo Montez Kincaid, an officer with the Byram Police Department.

         Based on these events, S.O. filed this suit individually and on behalf of her minor son B.O. They assert claims under § 1983 for violating the Fourth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments as well as various state-law causes of action. Defendants, who were sued in their individual and official capacities, have since filed multiple motions to dismiss [10, 18, 20] that identify purported deficiencies in Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. Having been fully briefed, the Court is ready to rule on these motions and otherwise clean up the docket.

         II. Motions

         A. Hinds County School District's Motion to Dismiss

         Plaintiffs say Defendant HCSD is liable under § 1983 and state law because its employees violated B.O.'s constitutional rights and otherwise assaulted him. HCSD raises two issues in its motion to dismiss [18]. First, HCSD says that Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint should be dismissed because it is unsigned. Second, HCSD contends that the Court cannot hear Plaintiffs' state-law claims because Plaintiffs failed to comply with the Mississippi Tort Claims Act's (“MTCA”) notice provisions. See Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-11.[1]

         First, in regards to the unsigned Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs filed a signed version of the signature page on June 26, 2017. See Attachment [15]. While this entry is dated 35 days after Plaintiffs filed the Amended Complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiffs cured the defect and HCSD was not prejudiced. Therefore, the Court will focus on HCSD's second argument.

         There is no dispute that Plaintiffs failed to give HCSD notice of their state-law claims. Under the MTCA, a plaintiff wishing to bring a tort claim against a government entity must provide written notice of the claim “at least ninety (90) days before instituting suit.” Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-11(1). This pre-suit-notice requirement is jurisdictional and “imposes a condition precedent to the right to maintain an action.” Bunton v. King, 995 So.2d 694, 695 (Miss. 2008) (quoting Miss. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Stringer, 748 So.2d 662, 665 (Miss. 1999)). But Plaintiffs hope to evade the notice requirement by arguing that the Court has original jurisdiction over their § 1983 claims and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the tort claims. See Pls.' Mem. [29] at 4 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a)). Thus, they seem to suggest that no notice was required.

         Plaintiffs offer no authority for this argument, and it is not persuasive. Bringing federal and state-law causes of action in the same federal suit may create supplemental jurisdiction under § 1367(a), but it does not circumvent conditions precedent to a state's consent to such suits. Cf. Raygor v. Regents of Univ. of Minn., 534 U.S. 533, 541-42 (2002) (“[W]e cannot read § 1367(a) to authorize district courts to exercise jurisdiction over claims against nonconsenting States, even though nothing in the statute expressly excludes such claims. Thus, consistent with [Blatchfordv. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775 (1991)], we hold that § 1367(a)'s grant of jurisdiction does not extend to claims against nonconsenting state defendants.”); see also Montgomery v. Mississippi, 498 F.Supp.2d 892, 905 (S.D.Miss. 2007) (refusing to hear plaintiff's state-law claims brought with federal claims under § 1367 and concluding that “[b]ecause [plaintiff] failed to provide any notice whatsoever, the Court finds that all state law tort claims for ‘wrongful demotion' are procedurally ...

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