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Collins v. Hood

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

February 26, 2018



         Presently before this Court are two motions: Defendant Matthew Hood's second motion [20] to dismiss, and Plaintiff Kim Collins' motion [31] for leave to amend her complaint. For the following reasons the Court finds that: 1) the motion for leave to amend should be denied; and 2) the motion to dismiss should granted in part and denied in part.

         Factual and Procedural History

         In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case, Collins sues Hood, a Mississippi Highway Patrolman, for alleged constitutional violations that occurred during a traffic stop. Collins alleges that during a traffic stop and arrest in January 2013, Hood violated Collins's First Amendment right to free speech; Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force; and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Collins also asserts a tort claim for damages inflicted on Collins because of Hood's "intentional, reckless, or negligent actions." Am. Compl. [5] ¶ 25.

         More specifically, Collins alleges that Hood pulled her over for speeding and issued her a citation. Id. ¶¶ 6-10. While Hood was issuing the citation, Collins questioned why Hood was ticketing her, and after Hood issued the citation, Collins told Hood she "would be calling his boss." Id. Hood ordered Collins to drive away, but as Collins did so, Hood ordered her to stop the vehicle. Id. ¶ 11.

         Hood approached the vehicle, and ordered Collins to exit, while Collins objected. Id. ¶ 12. Hood informed Collins he was placing her under arrest and attempted to remove her from the vehicle. Once Hood had removed Collins from the vehicle, he attempted to handcuff her. Id. ¶ 13. Collins admits to resisting Hoods attempts to handcuff her. While Collins resisted, Hood threw her to the ground, injuring Collins, and ultimately handcuffed her. Id.

         After the arrest Collins was charged with, and convicted of, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, speeding, disturbing the peace, and public profanity in the Circuit Court of Monroe County. She appealed those convictions to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. On June 27, 2017, the Mississippi Court of Appeals issued a decision affirming the Circuit Court of Monroe County as to the speeding conviction, but reversing that court as to the misdemeanor convictions for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, public profanity, and disturbing the peace. Collins v. State, 223 So.3d 817 (Ct. App. Miss. 2017).

         On January 19, 2016, while the appeal of her criminal convictions was pending, Collins filed her initial complaint in the case sub judice against Hood, in both his individual and official capacities, the State of Mississippi, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Before an answer was filed, Collins amended her complaint to include only Hood in his individual and official capacity as a defendant, and removing the State of Mississippi and the Mississippi Highway Patrol as defendants.

         Hood filed a first motion to dismiss arguing that Collin's official-capacity claims should be dismissed due to sovereign immunity and that the individual-capacity claims should be dismissed based on Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 447, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). This Court dismissed the official-capacity claims, but found that the individual capacity-claims were not Heck-barred.

         On October 24, 2017, Hood filed a second 12(b)(6) motion [20] to dismiss, arguing that he was entitled to qualified immunity and that the amended complaint failed to state a claim. On January 5, 2018, Collins filed a motion [31] for leave to amend the complaint.

         The Court will first decide whether Collins' should be permitted to amend her complaint, and if it declines to grant leave, the Court will analyze Hood's motion to dismiss.

         Legal Standards

         1. Motion for Leave to Amend

         A court should freely give leave to amend a pleading when justice requires. Fed. R. Civ. P 15(a)(2). "In the context of motions to amend pleadings, 'discretion' may be misleading, because Fed.R, Civ.P. 15(a) 'evinces a bias in favor of granting leave to amend.' " Martin's Herend Imports, Inc. v. Diamond & Gem Trading United States of Am. Co., 195 F.3d 765, 770 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d 594, 597 (5th Cir.1981)).

         However, "[t]he district court may deny leave to amend if the amendment would be futile because 'the amended complaint would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.' " McGee v. Citi Mortage, Inc., 680 Fed.Appx. 287, 291 (5th Cir. 2Ol7)(quoting Stripling v. Jordan Prod. Co., LLC, 234 F.3d 863, 873 (5th Cir. 2000)). To determine whether the amended complaint is futile, the court should apply "the same standard of legal sufficiency as applies under Rule 12(b)(6)." Stripling, 234 F.3d at 873.

         2. Motion to Dismiss under 12(b)(6)

         When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court is limited to the allegations set forth in the complaint and any documents attached to the complaint. Walker v. Webco Indus., Inc., 562 Fed.Appx. 215, 216-17 (5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (citing Kennedy v. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, NA, 369 F.3d 833, 839 (5th Cir. 2004)). "[A plaintiffs] complaint therefore 'must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." ' " Phillips v. City of Dallas, Tex., 781 F.3d 772, 775-76 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007))).

         A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "[P]laintiffs must allege facts that support the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid claim." Webb v. Morella,522 Fed.Appx. 238, 241 (5th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (quoting City of Clinton, Ark v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp.,632 F.3d 148, 152-53 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Id. (quoting Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass's 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "Dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff has not alleged 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face' and ...

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