United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
Court has before it a motion for judgment on the pleadings
 filed by Defendants Tippah County, Mississippi, Sheriff
Karl Gailard, Josh Bateman, Donald Austin, Jonathan Rainey,
and Billy Johnson (collectively the "Tippah County
Defendants"); and a motion for judgment on the pleadings
 filed by City of Ripley, Chief Scott White, and Officer
Ryan Swallow (collectively the "Ripley
Defendants"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court
finds the motions should be granted.
Court has described the facts of this case in great detail in
a prior opinion. See September 4, 2018 Memo. Op.
 at 1-2. For the sake of brevity, the Court will provide
an abridged version: Plaintiffs allege that Taylor Talley led
a deputy with Alcorn County Sheriffs Department on a
high-speed chase. Officers with the Tippah County Sheriffs
Department, the Ripley Police Department, and Mississippi
Highway Patrol joined in the pursuit. Bryan Anderson, a
Mississippi State Trooper, ended the chase by deploying a
spike strip, causing Talley to crash. Decedent Samantha Cruz,
a passenger in Talley's vehicle, died in the crash.
Regina Williams, on behalf of Cruz's wrongful death
beneficiaries, filed this action against the officers
directly involved in the chase, as well as the municipalities
that employed them, and their supervisors, alleging that
their actions violated Cruz's Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. Concerning the Tippah County Defendants,
Williams asserts that: Sheriff Karl Gailard and Deputies Josh
Bateman, Donald Austin, Jonathan Standford, Jeremey Rainey,
and Billy Johnson used excessive force in seizing Cruz (count
1), deprived Cruz of her right to life, and Cruz's family
of their right to a familial relationship with Cruz (count
2), failed to stop Anderson from using excessive force (count
3); and deprived Cruz of her life through arbitrary
government action (count 10); and that Defendant Tippah
County's failure to train its employees caused her death
(count 9). As to the Ripley Defendants, she asserts that
Chief of Police Scott White and Officer Ryan Swallow used
excessive force in seizing Cruz (count 1), deprived Cruz of
her right to life, and Cruz's family of their right to a
familial relationship with Cruz (count 2), failed to stop
Anderson from using excessive force (count 3); deprived Cruz
of her life through arbitrary government action (count 12);
and that the City of Ripley and Scott White's failure to
train Swallow resulted in Cruz's death (counts 11 and
13). Williams also brings negligence claims against all
defendants (count 15).
brought identical claims against Alcorn County, Mackie
Sexton, and Bryan Anderson. They moved to dismiss, and the
Court held that there was no excessive force used in seizing
Talley and Cruz. Because all of Williams' federal claims
were predicated on an excessive use of force, the Court
dismissed her federal claims against Alcorn County, Sexton,
and Anderson. As the Court will explain, that holding extends
to the federal claims made against the Tippah County and
on the Pleadings Standard
the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay
trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) motion is governed by the
same standards as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Brown v.
Citi Mortgage, Inc., 477 Fed.App'x. 302, 303 (5th
Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co.
v. Williamson, 224 F.3d 425, 440 n.8 (5th Cir. 2000)).
"A motion brought pursuant to [Rule] 12(c) is designed
to dispose of cases where the material facts are not in
dispute and a judgment on the merits can be rendered by
looking to the substance of the pleadings and any judicially
noticed facts." Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone
Props., Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990) (per
curiam) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1367, at 509-10
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)
(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)).
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
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127
S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). "[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) (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'n, 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 has
failed to 'raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.'" Emesowum v. Hous. Police
Dep't, 561 Fed.Appx. 372, 372 (5th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570, 127 S.Ct.
Tippah County Defendants argue that Gailard, Bateman, Austin,
Standford, Rainey, and Johnson are entitled to the qualified
immunity on the excessive force, familial relations, failure
to intervene, and arbitrary government action claims. The
Tippah County Defendants also argue that Williams has failed
to state a failure to train claim against Tippah County.
Ripley Defendants argue that that White and Swallow are
entitled to qualified immunity on excessive force, familial
relations, failure to intervene, and arbitrary government
action claims. They also argue that Williams has failed to
state a failure to train claim against the City of Ripley or
Tippah Deputies and the Ripley officers each argue they are
entitled to qualified immunity on the claims made against
them individually: that they used excessive force in seizing
Cruz, that they deprived Cruz's family of their familial
relations with Cruz, that they failed to intervene in other
officers' use ...