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Bryant v. Ramos

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 13, 2017



          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.

         I. Facts

         According to the plaintiff's complaint, the plaintiff is an “actress, model and a reality-television star” living in Atlanta, Georgia. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. In September 2015, a friend of the plaintiff's invited her to a restaurant in downtown Milwaukee called Elsa's on the Park. Id. The plaintiff and her friend arrived at the restaurant together, but she asserts that “because [she] is famous, ” other restaurant customers “began sitting next to and around [her] to converse with her.” Id.

         At some point, a person named “Nate” called 911, and told the dispatcher that he was a bartender at Elsa's, and that there was a “rowdy crowd” that was “causing a disturbance, ” and that “almost a fight broke out.” 3. Then Brittany Wuerl, the manager of Elsa's, called 911 a second time, indicating that she was “still waiting for police assistance, ” and that she was “trying to contain the people.” Id. Wuerl told the dispatcher that “there is only one person left from that group, ” and that Wuerl wanted the police to come before that person left. Id. Wuerl indicated to the dispatcher that the plaintiff was “on the reality television show Love and Hip Hop and that ‘people know' who she is.” Id.

         Defendant Officer Jennifer Ramos went to Elsa's, and spoke with Wuerl. Id. Wuerl told the defendant that the plaintiff “refused to pay ‘the group's' bill.” Id. The defendant also spoke with Nina Dismukes, a server at Elsa's. Id. at 4. It is not clear what, if anything, Dismukes told the defendant, but the plaintiff asserts that she “did not tell [the defendant] that [the plaintiff] refused to pay for the food and beverages that she ordered.” Id. Finally, the defendant spoke with the plaintiff herself. The plaintiff “told [the defendant] that [the plaintiff] did not agree to pay for food and beverages ordered by other patrons.” She also told the defendant that “Elsa's was trying to make [the plaintiff] pay for ‘the group's bill' because she is famous.” Id.

         The defendant arrested the plaintiff, and “sought the prosecution” of the plaintiff “for absconding without paying.” Id. The complaint alleges that at the time the defendant arrested the plaintiff, the defendant “knew that [the plaintiff] was a famous person.” Id. at 6. It alleges that the plaintiff did not abscond from Elsa's without paying; rather, she “offered to pay for the food and beverages that she actually ordered.” Id. at 4. The plaintiff maintains that Wuerl was not happy with this offer, and “tried to intimidate [the plaintiff] into paying for ‘the group's' bill by telling [the plaintiff] the police were coming.” She argues that “[w]hen that did not work, Wuerl convinced [the defendant] [sic] join in the intimidation of [the plaintiff].” Finally, she argues that when the plaintiff refused to be intimidated, the defendant arrested her, “jailed her, and made a criminal referral for absconding without paying.” Id. at 5. The prosecutor declined to issue charges. Id.

         II. Allegations

         The plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated her Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983 by detaining her without reasonable suspicion. Id. She also alleged that the defendant violated her Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully arresting her. Id. at 6. Finally, she alleges that the defendant violated her Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights by treating her differently from others on the basis that she is famous. Id. at 7-8.

         III. Motion to Dismiss The defendant has asked the court to dismiss the case against the defendant under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim. Dkt. No. 5. The plaintiff-at the time, represented by counsel-opposed the motion. Dkt. No. 11.

         IV. Analysis

         A. Governing Law

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). In considering a motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id., citing Twombley, 550 U.S. at 566. In this context, “plausible, ” as opposed to “merely conceivable or speculative, ” means that the plaintiff must include “enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together.” Carlson v. CSX Transp., Inc., 758 F.3d 819, 826-27 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404-05 (7th Cir. 2010)).

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendants: 1) deprived her of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) acted under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cnty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980).

         B. Unlawful Detention Claim

         The plaintiff's complaint framed her first cause of action as “unlawful detention.” The facts alleged in the complaint are thin, but it appears that the defendant arrived at Elsa's and spoke with two people-the manager and a server-before speaking with the plaintiff. The complaint describes the exchange between the two as being brief: the plaintiff told the defendant that she did not agree to pay for food other people had ordered, and accused the restaurant of trying to make her pay because of her status as a celebrity. It appears that the defendant arrested the plaintiff immediately after this conversation occurred.

         Based on these sparse facts, it does not appear that there was any pre-arrest “detention” of the plaintiff. The defendant walked up to the plaintiff, talked to her for a few minutes, then arrested her. In order to survive a ...

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