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Hooks v. Berrien County

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

June 20, 2017

JIMMY KYLE HOOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
BERRIEN COUNTY, GEORGIA and ANTHONY HEATH, in his Individual Capacity, Defendants.

          ORDER

          HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Berrien County's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6) and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 13). For the reasons discussed herein, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend is denied, and Defendant Berrien County's Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants Berrien County and Anthony Heath on September 29, 2016. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff seeks damages against both Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for injuries resulting from Defendant Heath's allegedly unconstitutional conduct, as well as an award of attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 9-27). Plaintiff makes the following allegations in support of his § 1983 claim:

7. On or about October 1, 2014, Defendant Anthony Heath, while acting under color of law as the Sherriff [sic] of Berrien County, willfully deprived Plaintiff of the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and the right to not be subjected [to the] unreasonable use of force.
8. Defendant Anthony Heath kicked, punched and forcefully kneed Plaintiff countless times while Plaintiff was subdued, handcuffed face down on the ground, and not resisting arrest.
9. Plaintiff sustained substantial and permanent injuries as a result of Defendant Anthony Heath's conduct.

(Doc. 1, ¶¶ 7-9).[1] Although the allegations pertain solely to the conduct of Defendant Heath, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Berrien County is liable because, “[a]t all times relevant to this action, Defendant Anthony Heath was employed by Berrien County, Georgia as the Sheriff and . . . was acting within the scope of his employment and pursuant to the customs, policies and procedures of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 4).

         Defendant Berrien County filed a Motion to Dismiss on November 23, 2016, arguing that a county cannot be held liable for the acts of a sheriff or his or her employees. (Doc. 6-1, p. 3). Further, Defendant Berrien County asserts that the County is entitled to sovereign immunity for the claims against it under Georgia law. (Doc. 6-1, pp. 8-9). Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendant Berrien County's Motion and Motion for Leave to Amend Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. 13). Plaintiff seeks to amend his Complaint to remedy the shortcomings highlighted in Defendant's Motion to Dismiss concerning Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against Berrien County.

         II. MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 13)

         A. Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) sets forth the procedures for amending pleadings and provides that a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within certain time constraints. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Where, as in this case, the time to amend as a matter of course has passed, a party may amend its pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the opposing party. Id. Generally, when leave to amend is sought, “it shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Id. However, “[b]ecause justice does not require district courts to waste their time on hopeless cases, leave may be denied if a proposed amendment fails to correct the deficiencies in the original complaint or otherwise fails to state a claim.” Mizzaro v. Home Depot, Inc., 544 F.3d 1230, 1255 (11th Cir. 2008). Factors such as undue delay, undue prejudice to defendants, and futility of the amendment are sufficient to justify denying a motion to amend. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1952).

         When filing a motion to amend, it is the preferred practice of this Court that the proposed amended complaint be attached to the motion. Mizzaro, 544 F.3d at 1255. However, such failure is not, in itself, a valid basis to deny the motion to amend. Id. A motion to amend “is sufficient if that motion itself ‘sets forth the substance of the proposed amendment.'” Id. (quoting Long v. Satz, 181 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 1999)).

         B. ...


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