United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
REGINA WILLIAMS, Individually and on Behalf of the Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of SAMANTHA CRUZ PLAINTIFFS
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, el al DEFENDANTS
before this Court is Defendant Mississippi Department of
Public Safety's ("MDPS") motion  to dismiss
for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.
Having considered the matter, the Court finds that the motion
should be granted.
and Procedural Background
November 7, 2016, Defendant Mackie Sexton, a deputy with the
Alcorn County Sherriff s Department attempted to serve an
arrest warrant on Taylor Talley at his residence in Alcorn
County. Compl.  ¶ 12. Talley, driving with decedent
Samantha Cruz as a passenger, arrived at the house while
Sexton was attempting to serve the warrant, and, after
noticing Sexton, Talley sped away. Id. Sexton
pursued. Talley was able to evade Sexton briefly, but the
pursuit resumed when Talley was spotted in neighboring Tippah
County. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Law enforcement
officials from both the Tippah County Sheriffs Department,
City of Ripley Police Department, and the Mississippi Highway
Patrol eventually joined the pursuit. Id.
¶¶ 15-16. During the chase, a trooper with the
Mississippi Highway Patrol deployed spike strips in order to
stop Talley's car. Id., ¶ 17. Talley ran
over the strips, and the car left the road and struck a tree,
where it burst into flames, killing Cruz. Id.
estate filed this action against the Mississippi Department
of Public Safety, the Alcorn County Sheriffs Department, the
Tippah County Sheriffs Department, the City of Ripley, and
Sexton under § 1983, alleging that Defendants' use
of excessive force and Defendants' failure to train
officers caused Cruz's death. Plaintiffs also brought
state law claims for assault and battery and negligence. MDPS
filed the present motion arguing that the Eleventh Amendment
bars Plaintiffs' claims against it. Plaintiffs'
responded, and the matter is now ripe for review.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
argues in its motion that under Rule 12(b)(1),
Plaintiffs' claims against it should be dismissed due to
sovereign immunity. "When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is
filed in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, ... courts
must consider the jurisdictional challenge first."
McCasland v. City of Castroville, Tex., 478
Fed.Appx. 860, 860 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing
Wolcott v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 762 (5th Cir.
2011); Moran v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 27 F.3d
169, 172 (5th Cir. 1994)). This " 'prevents a court
without jurisdiction from prematurely dismissing a case with
prejudice.' " Id.
12(b)(1) motion allows a party to challenge the Court's
subject matter jurisdiction. " '[A] factual attack
under Rule 12(b)(1) may occur at any stage of the
proceedings, and plaintiff bears the burden of proof that
jurisdiction does in fact exist.' " Arena v.
Graybar Elec. Co., 669 F.3d 214, 223 (5th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit. Corp., 613
F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir. 1980) (citations omitted)).
Fifth Circuit has instructed:
A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate the case. In considering a
challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the district court
is free to weigh the evidence and resolve factual disputes in
order to satisfy itself that it has the power to hear the
case. Thus, under Rule 12(b)(1), the district court can
resolve disputed issues of fact to the extent necessary to
Smith v. Reg'l Transit Autk, 756 F.3d 340, 347
(5th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the Court can
consider: "(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint
supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or
(3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the
court's resolution of disputed facts." Tsolmon
v. United States, 841 F.3d 378, 382 (5th Cir. 2016)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Eleventh Amendment provides that: "The judicial power of
the United States shall not be construed to extend to any
suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of
the United States by Citizens of another State, or by
Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const,
amend. XI; "The Eleventh Amendment strips courts of
jurisdiction over claims against a state that has not
consented to suit." Pierce v. Hearn Indep. Sch.
Dist., 600 Fed.Appx. 194, 197 (5th Cir. 2015) (per
curiam) (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100-01, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79
L.Ed.2d 67 (1984)).
Fifth Circuit has stated: "Eleventh Amendment immunity
operates like a jurisdictional bar, depriving federal courts
of the power to adjudicate suits against a state."
Union Pac. R. Co. v. La. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 662
F.3d 336, 340 (5th Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted).
"The Eleventh Amendment grants a State immunity from
suit in federal court by citizens of other States, and by its
own citizens as well." Lapides v. Bd. of
Regents, 535 U.S. 613, 616, 122 S.Ct. 1640, 152 L.Ed.2d
806 (2002) (citation omitted). Indeed, "[t]he amendment
has been judicially construed to bar federal jurisdiction
over suits brought against a state by its own citizens,
despite the absence of language to that effect." See
Jagnandan v. Giles, 538 F.2d 1166, 1177 (5th Cir.),
cert. denied, 432 U.S. 910, 97 S.Ct. 2959, 53
L.Ed.2d 1083 (1977) (citations omitted). Both federal and
pendent state law claims are barred from being asserted
against a state in federal court. Pennhurst State Sch.
& Hosp., 465 U.S. at 119-21, 104 S.Ct. 900.
immunity extends only to states themselves. Alden v.
Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 756, 119 S.Ct. 2240, 144 L.Ed.2d
636 (1999). Entities that are not "arms of the
state" are not afforded Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Id. The Court, then, should first determine whether
MDPS is an arm of the state. If so, the Court should
determine whether an exception to the Eleventh Amendment
nonetheless allows the suit to proceed.
The Mississippi Department of Highway Safety is ...