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Denial v. City of Flagstaff

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 13, 2018

Carly Denial, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Flagstaff, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DOMINIC W. LANZA UNITED SLATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants City of Flagstaff and Melanie Montano have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). (Doc. 14.) At the request of the Court (Doc. 46), the parties provided supplemental briefing regarding whether Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on the § 1983 claim, and if so, how to resolve the remaining state-law claims. (Docs. 51, 52.) For the reasons below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion with regard to the § 1983 claim, will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims, and thus will remand those claims to the Coconino County Superior Court.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant City of Flagstaff is a municipal corporation organized under the laws of the State of Arizona. (Doc. 1-1 at Ex. A ¶ 2.) Defendant Melanie Montano (“Officer Montano”) was employed by the City of Flagstaff as a police officer during all times relevant to the complaint. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff Carly Denial was a resident of the City of Flagstaff during all times relevant to the complaint. (Id. ¶ 1.) The relevant facts as alleged by Plaintiff are as follows.

         On February 6, 2017, Officer Montano responded to an alleged shoplifting incident at Sportsman's Warehouse in Flagstaff. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Sportsman's Warehouse advised Officer Montano that two individuals had stolen merchandise totaling nearly $800. (Id. ¶ 9.) Officer Montano arrested both individuals: Josh Kieffer and Plaintiff's sister, Nicole Renee Denial (“Nicole”). (Id. ¶¶ 8, 13.)

         Officer Montano identified Josh Kieffer using documentary evidence issued by the State of Arizona. (Id. ¶10.) However, Nicole was unable to produce any evidence of her identity. (Id. ¶ 11.) Nicole falsely identified herself as Plaintiff, Carly Denial. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.) Officer Montano accepted Nicole's representation that she was Plaintiff based solely upon her verbal statement of identity. (Id. ¶ 11.) Officer Montano did not request any documentation from Nicole regarding her identity, even after Officer Montano accompanied Nicole to her residence. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         After reading Nicole her Miranda rights, Officer Montano ran a search to determine whether there were any other arrests or outstanding warrants for “Carly Denial.” (Id. ¶ 15.) Finding none, Officer Montano issued a citation to Nicole, which included Plaintiff's social security and driver's license numbers. (Id. ¶ 16.) Officer Montano then released Nicole after she signed the citation issued in Plaintiff Carly Denial's name, promising that she would appear in court. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)

         On May 11, 2017, the Arizona Department of Public Safety pulled over Plaintiff on Interstate Highway 17 for a traffic violation. (Id. ¶ 21.) The officer discovered that an outstanding arrest warrant had been issued for Plaintiff for her failure to appear in court relating to the incident at Sportsman's Warehouse. (Id.) The officer placed Plaintiff under arrest and took her to the Fourth Avenue Jail. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff was released the next day, having spent approximately twelve hours in the jail's custody. (Id.)

         On November 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a notice of claim with the City of Flagstaff and Officer Montano. (Doc. 14-1 at Ex. 3; Doc. 1-1 at Ex. A ¶ 30.)

         On February 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit in the Coconino County Superior Court. (Doc. 1-1 at Ex. A.) The complaint alleges four counts: (1) gross negligence; (2) a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (4) instigating or participating in unlawful arrest. (Id.)

         On March 23, 2018, Defendants removed this action to federal court. (Doc. 1.)

         On April 3, 2018, Defendants filed their answer. (Doc. 7.) It alleges several affirmative defenses, including qualified immunity. (Doc. 7 at 8.)

         On May 7, 2018, Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on all four counts. (Doc. 14.)

         On November 16, 2018, the Court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefing on two issues: (1) whether the § 1983 claim should be dismissed with prejudice because Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; and (2) whether, in the event of a dismissal of the § 1983 claim, the remaining state-law ...


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