Louisiana Record

Friday, September 20, 2019

Court dismisses part of woman's sexual assault case against Slidell Police Dept.

By Charmaine Little | Feb 9, 2019

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana has partially dismissed a case involving a Slidell police officer accused of sexual assault.

Judge Carl J. Barbier made his decision on January 8.

A woman claimed that Slidell police officer Luke Irwin was extremely violent toward her and used physical and verbal threats to coerce her to be intimate with him. The police department, Chief Randy Smith and the City of Slidell (defendants) were also sued.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the woman’s amended complaint, which provides more detail about her alleged interactions with Irwin than her original complaint. Those details include an incident in which Irwin allegedly assaulted the defendant, and her interactions with Smith, who the woman said should have been very aware of Irwin’s alleged conduct.

The court dismissed the woman’s claims against Chief Smith in his official capacity, saying they are duplicative as he was sued in his official and individual capacities. “Because official capacity suits are really suits against the governmental entity, [plaintiff’s] attempt to hold [former Chief Smith] liable for failing to train and supervise if in his official capacity, is subsumed within her identical claim against [the city],” the court pointed out.

As for her section 1983 claims, the plaintiff sued Chief Smith and the city for allegedly not training Irwin properly. The court applied the state’s 1-year statute of limitations, ruling that the defendants can’t be sued for events that happened before April 26, 2016. The court found that her claims weren’t time-barred because each alleged sexual assault was its own injury that created another cause of action. Also, the statute of limitations timeframe only begins when the plaintiff recognizes they’ve suffered an injury.

The plaintiff said she was sexually assaulted on May 5, 2016. Even if she sued the city or Smith for other injuries before then, the date she said the sexual assault actually happened wasn’t until May 5, 2016. She had one year to file the lawsuit, which she did.

Smith also had to face the lawsuit in his individual capacity, even though the case was dismissed in his official capacity. The court noted the plaintiff’s claims that Irwin threatened her with things like having her probation or custody of her children revoked so that he could benefit from sexual favors. “The court is similarly unwilling to say that former Chief Smith’s inaction did not cause plaintiff’s injury,” the court said as it denied the motion to dismiss this part of the case.

The court also didn’t dismiss the woman’s section 1983 lawsuit against the city. It took the same stand it did on Smith’s allegations in his individual capacity. Still, it dismissed her section 1983 claims against Smith in his individual capacity and against the city for all events that happened before April 26, 2016.

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana