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Montia v. Wills

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

May 4, 2017

MURIEL MONTIA, individually and as executor of the estate of Mildred Davis, Plaintiff,
v.
JACQULINE D. WILLS, in her official capacity as Clerk for Clayton County Court, CLAYTON COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, IR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Jacqueline D. Wills (“Wills”) and Clayton County's (together, “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint [4] (“Motion to Dismiss”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 11, 2016, the Clayton County Magistrate Court issued a writ of possession against Plaintiff Muriel Montia (“Plaintiff”) and in favor of PennyMac Corporation (“PennyMac”). (Compl. ¶ 7; [1.4]; [1.6]). Later that day, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and paid $187.50 in filing fees. ([1.4]). The court required an additional payment of $39.50 to process the appeal. ([1.5]). On April 20, 2016, the Magistrate Court Clerk's office (“Clerk's Office”) sent a letter to PennyMac, stating that Plaintiff's appeal would be dismissed if she did not “remit full payment” within ten days. ([1.5]). The Clerk's Office did not send Plaintiff a copy of this letter and, on May 12, 2016, without her knowledge, Plaintiff's appeal was dismissed for failure to pay the required fees. ([1.6]; Compl. ¶¶ 9-10).

         On June 15, 2016, Plaintiff called the court to inquire about the status of her appeal. (Compl. ¶ 9). She was told, incorrectly, that the appeal was “pending.” (Compl. ¶ 10). On July 19, 2016, the Clayton County Sheriff executed the writ of possession and removed items from Plaintiff's home. (Compl. ¶ 11; [1.6]). Several of Plaintiff's items were “destroyed, broken or stolen” during the eviction. (Compl. ¶ 13). Later that day, the Magistrate Court of Clayton County discovered its “clerical error regarding the payment of appeal costs, ” stayed the writ of possession, vacated its order dismissing Plaintiff's appeal, and reinstated Plaintiff's appeal. ([1.6]; Compl. ¶ 13).

         Plaintiff alleges that the Clerk's Office “misstated and concealed numerous relevant facts which mislead [sic] Plaintiff to believe her appeal was pending, ” “concealed and mishandled Plaintiff paperwork so as to appear that Plaintiff had not paid for the appeal, ” and “concealed paperwork by mailing to opposing counsel.” (Compl. ¶¶ 19-21). Plaintiff claims this misconduct occurred because Wills “fail[ed] to adequately train the employee of the County's Magistrate Court” and because Clayton County has deficient “customs, policies, or practices.” (Compl. ¶¶ 23-24).

         On September 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Complaint [1], asserting claims, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for “deprivation of property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment” (Count 1), and “maintain[ing] customs, policies, or practices exhibiting deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of persons who came into contact with the Courts of the Defendant, Clayton County, which caused Plaintiff's rights to be violated” (Count 2). (Compl. at 5, ¶ 24). The Complaint also asserts state law claims for negligence (Count 3) and “intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass to land, trespass to chattel, misrepresentation, wrongful eviction and civil theft” (Count 4). Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees (Count 5) and damages (Count 6). (Compl. ¶¶ 29-36). On October 4, 2016, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint.[1]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must “assume that the factual allegations in the complaint are true and give the plaintiff[] the benefit of reasonable factual inferences.” Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010). Although reasonable inferences are made in the plaintiff's favor, “‘unwarranted deductions of fact' are not admitted as true.” Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Montalvo, 84 F.3d 402, 408 n.10 (11th Cir. 1996)). The Court is not required to accept, as true, conclusory allegations or legal conclusions. See Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (construing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); see Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004) (“[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” (quoting Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted))).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” are insufficient. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This requires more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Am. Dental, 605 F.3d at 1290 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The well-pled allegations must “nudge[] [plaintiff's] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. at 1289 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         B. Plaintiff's § 1983 Claim against Clayton County

         Plaintiff asserts a § 1983 claim against Clayton County, alleging that the county's “dispossessory actions occurred in the absence of notice or opportunity to be heard, and constituted an unlawful deprivation of property without due process of law.” (Compl. ¶ 22). Plaintiff states that Clayton County “maintained customs, policies, or practices exhibiting deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of persons who came into contact with the Courts of the Defendant, Clayton County, which caused Plaintiff's rights to be violated.” (Compl. ¶24).

         “[T]o impose § 1983 liability on a municipality [such as Clayton County], a plaintiff must show: (1) that his constitutional rights were violated; (2) that the municipality had a custom or policy that constituted deliberate indifference to that constitutional right; and (3) that the policy or custom caused the violation.” McDowell v. Brown, 392 F.3d 1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2004); see Gold v. City ofMiami, 151 F.3d 1346, 1350 (11th Cir. 1998) (“It is only when the ...


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