United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
RAYMOND SMITH, on behalf of the Estate of deceased Rainer Smith, on behalf of Rainer Smith, Jr.; and AMY RYLES, on behalf of Abigail Smith; Plaintiffs,
JOHN FORD, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS
E. SELF, III, JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim [Doc. 2]. For the following reasons,
the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion as
to Plaintiffs' conspiracy claims; their § 1983 claim
against the City of Byron; their § 1983 claims against
Officers Ford, Wynn, Farmer, and Patterson, and Captain
Lavender in their official capacities; and their punitive
damages claim. In contrast, the Court DENIES
Defendants' Motion as to Plaintiffs' state-law claims
against the City of Byron and Officers Ford, Wynn, Farmer,
and Patterson, and Captain Lavender in their official
case arises out of the fatal shooting of Rainer Smith
(“Smith”), the son of Raymond Smith,
Defendants Ford, Wynn, and Farmer, all of whom are members of
the City of Byron Police Department and Byron Peach County
Drug Enforcement Unit. [Doc. 1-2 at ¶¶ 1-8].
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Ford, Wynn, Farmer,
Patterson, and Lavender (“the Officers”), on or
about December 12, 2016, at 2 AM, arrived in multiple
vehicles, cut a locked gate, and entered onto Smith's
property. [Id. at ¶¶ 1, 13]. Plaintiffs
further allege that Smith's fiancée woke him up
and told him that people were trespassing. [Id. at
¶ 15]. In response, Smith threw on some sweat pants,
took up a defensive position, and armed himself to defend his
fiancée, child, and home. [Id. at
allege the Officers were “wholly unidentified and
unidentifiable as law enforcement officers” and failed
to announce themselves as law enforcement or announce that
they had a warrant. [Id. at ¶ 17]. Plaintiffs
contend that, without knocking, “Defendants entered the
home and shot Rainer Smith to death, despite not having an
arrest warrant for Rainer Smith, announcing themselves as
police officers, or even giving orders to Rainer
Smith.” [Id. at ¶¶ 18, 36].
Plaintiffs also allege Defendants Ford, Wynn, and Farmer
admitted to firing their guns at Smith, and Defendants
Patterson and Lavender assisted in the entry and killing of
Smith. [Id. at ¶¶ 19-20].
filed their Complaint on July 5th, 2019, in the Superior
Court of Peach County, in which they claim to have complied
with ante litem notice requirements for their claims.
See [id. at ¶ 11]. After Plaintiffs
filed their Complaint, Defendants filed their Answer [Doc.
1-10] and removed the case to this Court on August 5, 2019.
See generally [Doc. 1-9]. That same day, Defendants
filed this Motion. Despite the opportunity, Plaintiffs never
responded to Defendants' Motion.
Standard of Review
ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept the facts
set forth in the complaint as true. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 572 (2007). A complaint survives
a motion to dismiss only if the plaintiff alleges sufficient
factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible
on its face, and he must state more than “unadorned,
McCullough v. Finley, 907 F.3d 1324, 1333 (11th Cir.
2018) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678-79 (2009)). He must also “plead more than labels
and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action, ” id., such that the
factual allegations contained in the complaint are
“enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
assessing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the Court employs a two-step framework. McCullough,
907 F.3d at 1333. First, the Court identifies and disregards
allegations that are “no more than mere conclusions,
” since “[c]onclusory allegations are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Second, the Court
“assume[s] any remaining factual allegations are true
and determine[s] whether those factual allegations
‘plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679).
Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claims Against the
assert claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Officers both in their individual capacities and in their
official capacities as members of the City of Byron Police
Department. See [Doc. 1-2 at ¶¶ 1-4].
“[S]uits against a municipal officer sued in his
official capacity and direct suits against municipalities are
functionally equivalent, ” thus obviating the need to
sue local government officials in their official capacity.
Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 776 (11th
Cir. 1991). The Plaintiffs named the City of Byron as a
defendant in this lawsuit, and asserted § 1983 claims
against the City of Byron, as well as against the Officers.
See [Doc. 1-2 at ¶¶ 33-35]. Therefore,
Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against the Officers-in
their official capacities-are duplicative of their §
1983 claims against the City of Byron. Thus, the Court
DISMISSES Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims
against the Officers in their official capacities.
Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claim Against the City of
also assert § 1983 claims against the City of Byron for
the actions of its officers. See [Doc. 1-2 at
¶¶ 33-35]. “[T]o impose § 1983 liability
on a municipality, 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) (citing City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S.
378, 388 (1989)). A plaintiff may show a policy by
identifying either “(1) an officially promulgated
[city] policy or (2) an unofficial custom or practice of the
[city] shown through repeated acts of a final policymaker of
the [city].” Grech v. Clayton Cty., 335 F.3d
1326, 1329-30 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978)).
Due to the fact that a city will rarely have an
officially-adopted policy that permits a particular
constitutional violation, “most plaintiffs . . . must
show that the [city] has a custom or practice of permitting
it and ...