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Estep v. City of Del City, ex rel. Del City Police Department

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 30, 2018

ROYCE LEON ESTEP, individually, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF DEL CITY, ex rel. DEL CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, an Oklahoma municipality, JAMES TAYLOR, individually and in his Official Capacity as Chief of Police of Del City, and RYAN HOWARD, individually, Defendants.

          ORDER

          VICKI MILES-LaGRANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, filed July 28, 2017. On August 18, 2017, plaintiff filed his response, and on August 30, 2017, defendants filed their reply.

         I. Introduction[1]

         On June 11, 2016, plaintiff Royce Leon Estep (“Estep”) was a sixty-four year old man with a history of bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, and acute post-traumatic stress disorder. Estep had limited mobility and was required to use either a cane or walker to stand up, support himself, and to walk. On June 11, 2016, at approximately 7:46 p.m., Estep was at his home in Del City, Oklahoma when he contacted the Del City Police Department to report a white car parked in his neighbor's driveway. The vehicle belonged to an individual who was at a party at another house near Estep's home. In the phone call, Estep advised the Del City Police Department that Estep's neighbor was not home and that no one was supposed to be parked in the driveway. In response to the call, the Del City Police Department dispatched defendant Ryan Howard (“Howard”) to the scene at approximately 7:48 p.m.

         When Howard arrived or within minutes thereafter, Estep and the participants at the party were yelling across the street at one another. Neither Estep nor the participants approached one another or became violent towards one another. Howard told Estep to back up and not to yell curse words. Estep stated one or more additional curse words and then began to walk away from the scene. Howard then attempted to arrest Estep because Estep stated a curse word(s).

         Howard has stated that after being told that he was being arrested and to put his hands behind his back, Estep started screaming at the top of his lungs and started charging towards Howard. Estep, however, asserts that he did not scream at Howard and while using an assistive device, only slowly walked in Howard's direction. Howard also has stated that Estep began to raise his cane at Howard, but Estep asserts that he never raised his cane prior to being tased. While witnessing this exchange between Howard and Estep, Dee Messick, Estep's neighbor, ran from her house and informed Howard that Estep suffered from mental health issues. Estep began to turn to his left, away from Howard, and as he was turning away, Howard deployed his taser, causing Estep to fall to the ground.[2] As a result, Estep sustained a fracture to his hip and injured his shoulder, requiring multiple surgeries and incurring substantial medical bills.

         On May 16, 2017, Estep brought the instant action in the District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma. On June 5, 2017, this case was removed to this Court. On July 14, 2017, Estep filed his Second Amended Complaint, alleging the following causes of action: (1) Section 1983 claim against Howard; (2) Section 1983 failure to train and supervise claim against defendants City of Del City (“Del City”) and defendant James Taylor (“Taylor”); and (3) state law negligence claim against Del City and, in the alternative, Howard. Defendants now move this Court to dismiss Estep's Section 1983 claim against Del City and Taylor, negligence claim against Howard, and all punitive damages claims against Del City and Taylor, in his official capacity.

         II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         Regarding the standard for determining whether to dismiss a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the United States Supreme Court has held:

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. 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Further, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotations and citations omitted). Additionally, “[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. at 678 (internal quotations and citations omitted). A court “must determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.” Lane v. Simon, 495 F.3d 1182, 1186 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Finally, “[a] court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint presumes all of plaintiff's factual allegations are true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991).

         III. Discussion

          A. Section 1983 failure to train and supervise claim

         To establish a Section 1983 claim against a municipality, a plaintiff must establish both (1) a municipal policy or custom, and (2) a direct causal link between the policy or custom and the alleged injury. See Bryson v. City of Okla. City, 627 F.3d 784, 788 (10th Cir. 2010). Further, “municipal liability may be based on injuries caused by a failure to adequately train or supervise employees, so long as that failure results from ‘deliberate indifference' to the injuries ...


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