United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Ryan Goldberg and Patricia Goldberg, Individually and as Parents and Natural Guardians of H.G., and I.G., Minors, Plaintiffs,
Officer Patrick McCormick, Officer Ben Nordskog, and Officer Michael Renier, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss. As stated at the hearing, and for the following
reasons, the Motion is granted.
Amended Complaint contains very few factual allegations. On
June 5, 2016, at about 4:00 a.m., Defendant Officers Patrick
McCormick, Ben Nordskog, and Michael Renier entered the home
of Plaintiffs Patricia and Ryan Goldberg, allegedly without
justification or a warrant. (Am. Compl. (Docket No. 8) ¶
8.) While in the house, Defendants became concerned about the
welfare of Plaintiffs' two children, and they reported
this concern to the St. Louis County Child Protection
Services. (Id. ¶ 18.) According to Plaintiffs,
the warrantless entry and subsequent reporting caused them
emotional distress. (Id. ¶ 11.)
Amended Complaint raises § 1983 claims that Defendants
violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights by entering
their home without justification, and state law claims of
invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress.
Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Court reviews a Rule 12(c) motion to dismiss “under the
standard that governs 12(b)(6) motions.” Westcott
v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).
When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court assumes the allegations in the Amended Complaint to be
true and construes all reasonable inferences from those facts
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986).
But the Court need not accept as true wholly conclusory
allegations, Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview
Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir. 1999), or legal
conclusions that the plaintiff draws from the facts pled.
Westcott, 901 F.2d at 1488.
complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face” to survive a
motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although a complaint need not contain
“detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain
facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Id. at
555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will
not pass muster under Twombly. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This standard
“calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the
claim].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
first contend that, because Plaintiffs' § 1983
claims are brought against them in their official capacity,
these claims fail. Defendants note that the Amended Complaint
does not indicate Plaintiffs' intent to sue them in their
individual capacities. “[I]n order to sue a public
official in his or her individual capacity, a plaintiff must
expressly and unambiguously state so in the pleadings.”
Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535
(8th Cir. 1999). Without such a statement, “the suit is
construed as being against the defendants in their official
capacity.” Id. Suing a public employee in his
official capacity “is merely a suit against the public
Amended Complaint does not expressly and unambiguously state
whether Plaintiffs are suing Defendants in their individual
or official capacities, alleging only that “Defendants
. . . were employed by the City of Duluth.” (Am. Compl.
¶ 3.) The Court thus construes this suit as an
official-capacity suit. But Plaintiffs did not include
Defendants' employer, the City of Duluth, as a party in
this matter. Consequently, Counts I and II must be dismissed
because Plaintiffs failed to include the proper parties. In
the alternative, Plaintiffs did not properly plead those
claims if they intended to sue Defendants only in their
next argue that the Amended Complaint fails to allege the
requisite facts to support a valid state-law claim. Counts
III and IV do not identify any specific tort claims, and
instead only claim invasion of “Plaintiffs' Rights
to Privacy” and “Infliction of Emotional
Distress.” (Am. Compl. at 3.) Plaintiffs do not dispute
Defendants' characterization of Count III as a cause of
action for intrusion upon seclusion and Count IV as a claim
for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
of intrusion upon seclusion includes three elements:
“(a) an intrusion; (b) that is highly offensive; and
(c) into some matter in which a person has a legitimate
expectation of privacy.” Swarthout v. Mut. Serv.
Life Ins. Co., 632 N.W.2d 741, 744 (Minn.Ct.App. 2001).
To recover on an intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress
claim, Plaintiffs must establish four elements: “(1)
the conduct must be extreme and outrageous; (2) the conduct
must be intentional or reckless; (3) it must cause emotional
distress; and (4) the distress must be severe.”
Hubbard v. United Press Int'l, Inc., 330 N.W.2d
428, 438-39 (Minn. 1983). Additionally, subject to enumerated
exceptions, municipalities may only be liable for the torts
of their employees acting within the scope of their
employment or duties. See Minn. Stat. § 466.02.
Plaintiffs only allege that Defendants “were dispatched
to investigate a disturbance” located around
Plaintiffs' house. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 5.) But
they do not allege that Defendants acted within the scope of
their employment by entering their home. On this basis alone,
Plaintiffs' state tort claims fail. Additionally,
regarding the emotional distress claim, the Amended Complaint
alleges that Defendants acted maliciously, that
“Plaintiffs' reputations as caring responsible
parents were harmed, ” and that they “have
suffered irreparable harm up to the time of trial and more
than likely, will suffer irreparable harm in the
future.” (Id. ¶¶ 18-21.) These
allegations are insufficient to maintain an actionable claim
of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
argue that they satisfied the elements of intentional
infliction of emotional distress because the conduct alleged
was “outrageous” and without basis. (Pls.'
Supp. Mem. (Docket No. 33) at 3.) But based on the facts
alleged, the Court can only speculate that Defendants'
conduct was extreme and outrageous, and that Plaintiffs'
emotional distress is severe. Additionally, the Amended
Complaint contains no allegation that Defendants' conduct
was intentional or reckless. Indeed, the Amended Complaint
alleges that Defendants acted “negligently and
carelessly” regarding the very same conduct that forms
the basis for Plaintiffs' emotional ...