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Hicks v. Kilgore

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

May 4, 2017

KELLY HICKS, individually and as next friend of J.E., Plaintiff,



         Before the Court are Defendants Chad Seymour and Tracy Wainwright's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17) and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint (Doc. 27). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17) is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend (Doc. 27) is DENIED.


         Plaintiff Kelly Hicks initiated this action on September 20, 2016 (Doc. 1) and amended her complaint as a matter of right on December 22, 2016 (Doc. 13). On January 5, 2017, Defendants Chad Seymour and Tracy Wainwright filed the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17) that is now before the Court. Defendants Dan Kilgore, Casey Clark, and David Walker answered the Amended Complaint on January 11, 2017. (Doc. 21). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (hereafter, “Complaint”), alleges that Defendants Seymour and Wainwright (hereafter, “Defendants”) violated her son's Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, deprived her son of his personal liberty under the Georgia Constitution, and committed the tort of illegal arrest under Georgia state law. (Doc. 13, ¶¶ 28, 33, 47-49).

         Plaintiff Kelly Hicks is the mother and custodian of J.E. (Doc. 13, ¶ 5). At the time of the incident, J.E. was a nine-year old child with autism, attending school pursuant to an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Id. Defendant Chad Seymour was the principal of J.E.'s school, and Defendant Tracy Wainwright was the vice-principal. Id. at ¶ 9. On December 3, 2014, J.E. witnessed students at his school being escorted out of the building due to a bomb threat that had been written on the wall of a bathroom stall. Id. at ¶¶ 6-7. On December 8, 2014, J.E. tried to re-create the situation by writing “bone thrat” on the wall of a bathroom stall and telling a student monitor about the threat. Id. at ¶ 8. Pursuant to local school district policy, the student monitor told a teacher, who told administrative personnel, who then telephoned 911. Id.

         Defendants Casey Clark and David Walker are the law-enforcement officers who arrived at the school. After their arrival, Clark, Walker, Seymour, and Wainwright all began questioning J.E. without Plaintiff being present and without giving J.E. his Miranda warnings. Id. at ¶ 9. At all times, Defendants Seymour and Wainwright were aware of J.E.'s age and that he was autistic. Id. at ¶ 10. In the course of questioning, J.E. admitted to writing “bone thrat” on the bathroom wall. Id. at ¶ 11. Clark and Walker then arrested J.E. and transported him the Sheriff's office, where he was charged with terroristic threats under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-37. Id. at ¶ 14, 18, 19. At the Sheriff's office, J.E. was questioned again outside of his mother's presence. Approximately an hour after arriving at the Sheriff's office, J.E. was released to Plaintiff's custody. Id. at ¶ 19.


         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to assert the defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must plead enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible- not just conceivable-on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Restated, “the factual allegations in the complaint must possess enough heft to set forth a plausible entitlement to relief.” Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal citation and punctuation marks omitted).

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court “construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepts all well-pled facts alleged [ ] in the complaint as true.” Sinaltrainal v.Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009), abrogated on other grounds by Mohamad v. Palestinian Auth., 132 S.Ct. 1702 (2012). The “tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While notice pleading is a liberal standard, “it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79. A “plaintiff's obligations to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Moreover, when evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must “make reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor;” however, the Court is “not required to draw plaintiff's inference[s].” Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005)), abrogated on other grounds by Mohamad v. Palestinian Auth., 132 S.Ct. 1702 (2012).

         II. Discussion

         A. Unlawful Arrest

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must allege: “(1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct deprived a person of rights secured by the Constitution or law of the United States.” Morrison v. Washington Cty., Ala., 700 F.2d 678, 682 (11th Cir. 1983). Pursuant to § 1983, “a government official who neither arrests plaintiff nor procures the arrest warrant but who instigates or causes an unlawful arrest may be held liable under the Fourth Amendment.” Buckner v. Shetterley, 621 F.Supp.2d 1300, 1303 (M.D. Ga. 2008); see also Jordan v. Mosley, 487 F.3d 1350, 1354 (11th Cir. 2007). Such a claim, however, is still subject to the same requirements of damages and causation as common law tort claims. See Dixon v. Burke Cty., Ga., 303 F.3d 1271, 1274-75 (11th Cir. 2002) (“The Constitution is the substantive fuel powering § 1983, but its mechanical structure is similar to the common law of Torts.”); Jackson v. Sauls, 206 F.3d 1156, 1168 (11th Cir. 2000) (“[W]e are guided by certain common law tort principles of damages and causation which apply in this § 1983 context.”); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 187 (1961) (explaining that § 1983 “should be read against the background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for the natural consequences of his actions.”).

         “As with any common law tort, Plaintiff must establish an adequate causal link between the alleged harm and the alleged unlawful conduct.” Dixon, 303 F.3d at 1275; see also Troupe v. Sarasota Cty., Fla., 419 F.3d 1160, 1165 (11th Cir. 2005) (“A § 1983 claim requires proof of an affirmative causal connection between the defendant's acts or omissions and the alleged constitutional deprivation.”). Without this causal link, a § 1983 claim “fails as a matter of law.” Id. “Under traditional tort principles, causation has two required elements: cause-in-fact and legal or proximate cause.” Jackson, 200 F.3d at 1168 n. 16. “To establish cause-in-fact, the plaintiff must show that except for the constitutional tort, such injuries and damages would not have occurred.” Id. To establish proximate cause, the plaintiff must show that “the injury or damages was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of ...

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