Ratliff v. Shannon Hills, City of et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting defendants' 19 motion for summary judgment in its entirety and denying plaintiff's 31 motion to strike. Ms. Ratliff's claims are dismissed. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 09/16/2014. (rhm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 4:13-cv-00167-KGB
CITY OF SHANNON HILLS, et al.
OPINION AND ORDER
On March 22, 2013, plaintiff Diony Ratliff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act (“ACRA”), Ark. Code Ann. § 16-123-101 et seq., alleging
that she was arrested based on her race in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
and the Arkansas Constitution (Dkt. No. 1). Ms. Ratliff also alleged several state law claims.
Specifically, Ms. Ratliff brings claims against Bobby Hale, the former chief of the Shannon Hills
Police Department (the “Department”), and Joe Lucky, a police officer with the Department,
alleging (1) violations of her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to §
1983; (2) violations of her rights under the Arkansas Constitution pursuant to the ACRA; and (3)
malicious prosecution, false arrest, and outrage under Arkansas law. Ms. Ratliff brings claims
against the City of Shannon Hills, Arkansas (the “City”); Mike Kemp, mayor of the City; and
current or former members of the City Council, alleging (1) violations of her rights under the
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment based on a municipal custom; (2) violations of her rights
under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment based on deficient hiring, training, and supervising
police officers; and (3) vicarious liability stemming from her state law claims of malicious
prosecution, false arrest, and outrage.
On July 22, 2014, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 19). Ms.
Ratliff filed a response (Dkt. No. 35), to which defendants filed a reply (Dkt. No. 46). Ms.
Ratliff also filed a motion to strike four of the eight exhibits that defendants filed in support of
their motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 31). Defendants filed a response to Ms. Ratliff’s
motion to strike (Dkt. No. 33). For the following reasons, the Court denies Ms. Ratliff’s motion
to strike and grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment in its entirety.
Unless otherwise noted and specified by citation, the following facts are undisputed and
taken from defendants’ amended statement of uncontested facts (Dkt. No. 22), Ms. Ratliff’s
response to defendants’ statement of uncontested fact (Dkt. No. 32), and defendants’ reply (Dkt.
Ms. Ratliff resides with her husband, grandson, and parents in Shannon Hills. At around
6:00 or 7:00 p.m. on May 6, 2012, Officer Lucky investigated two unidentified persons on four
wheelers who fled from him when he activated his emergency lights and siren. One person, who
was riding a yellow four wheeler, left the city street and traveled down a rocky trail where
Officer Lucky could not follow. Officer Lucky contacted Chief Hale, who joined Officer Lucky
in the search for the persons and four wheelers.
During their search, Chief Hale and Officer Lucky made multiple visits to Ms. Ratliff’s
home. The only person who could speak English in the home at that time was Ms. Ratliff’s 11year-old grandson. Chief Hale and Officer Lucky questioned the boy, who attempted at some
point during that exchange to translate for his Spanish-speaking great-grandparents.
questioning upset the boy and his great-grandparents. The boy admitted that the four wheelers
belonged to his uncle. Officer Lucky left the boy the non-emergency phone number for the
Saline County dispatch center and told him to have an English-speaking adult call as soon
At approximately 8:30 p.m. on May 6, 2012, Officer Lucky contacted Ms. Ratliff, who
had left her number for Officer Lucky with Saline County dispatchers. Ms. Ratliff requested
Officer Lucky return to her home so that they could discuss in person the earlier investigation.
Before Officer Lucky arrived at Ms. Ratliff’s home, Ms. Ratliff had made four calls to the nonemergency dispatch number and one call to 911. Saline County dispatchers, who field both the
non-emergency and 911 calls, advised Chief Hale and Officer Lucky of the calls. Officer Lucky
states in his police report regarding the incident that dispatchers also told him that Ms. Ratliff
“was being placed on hold due to emergency calls coming in, and would hang up and call again”
(Dkt. No. 19-1, at 2-3). Though Ms. Ratliff admitted in her deposition that, before she made the
911 call, dispatchers told her she was being put on hold because she was “disrupting and
destructing” incoming 911 calls (Dkt. No. 19-1, at 7), Ms. Ratliff’s moves to strike Officer
Lucky’s police report. The Court will resolve this issue below.
That night, Officer Lucky returned to Ms. Ratliff’s home and began to explain the earlier
investigation to Ms. Ratliff. Chief Hale arrived a short time after. When Chief Hale asked Ms.
Ratliff if she had called 911, she replied, “Yes.” Chief Hale instructed Officer Lucky to arrest
her. She was placed under arrest and booked at the county jail in Benton, Arkansas. She bonded
out approximately three to five hours later. On July 2, 2012, Ms. Ratliff pleaded not guilty to the
charge of interfering with emergency communications, Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-60-125.
On August 21, 2012, the Court granted a Motion to Nolle Prosequi.
Before being hired by the City and before the events described above occurred, Chief
Hale and Officer Lucky satisfactorily completed certain coursework at the Arkansas Law
Enforcement Training Academy, though apparently they did not complete training in racial
profiling before this incident. As of May 6, 2012, the City had in a place a policy prohibiting
police officers from violating any person’s constitutional rights and prohibiting officers from
engaging in racial profiling.
Ms. Ratliff’s Motion To Strike
Ms. Ratliff moves to strike four exhibits that defendants filed in support of their motion
for summary judgment: Officer Lucky’s police report (Dkt. No. 19-1, at 1); excerpts from Ms.
Ratliff’s deposition (Id. at 4); training documents and certificates of Chief Hale (Dkt. No. 19-2,
at 8); and training documents and certificates of Officer Lucky (Id. at 18). The standard that
guides the Court’s consideration of evidence at the summary judgment stage of the proceeding is
not whether the evidence would be admissible at trial—“it is whether it could be presented at
trial in an admissible form.” Gannon Int’l, Ltd. v. Blocker, 684 F.3d 785, 793 (8th Cir. 2012).
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to object to evidence cited by the
other party at the summary judgment stage and requires the Court to make a determination
regarding whether the evidence could be presented at trial in an admissible form. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c)(2). For the following reasons, the Court denies Ms. Ratliff’s motion to strike as to
all four exhibits.
First, Ms. Ratliff argues that the police report and training documents and certificates
must be struck because they were not authenticated as required by Federal Rule of Evidence 901.
Defendants respond that the report need not be authenticated under Rule 901 because it is selfauthenticating evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 902. Regardless, in response to Ms.
Ratliff’s motion to strike and before Ms. Ratliff responded to defendants’ motion for summary
judgment, defendants provided copies of the exhibits that were properly authenticated under
Rule 901 (Dkt. No. 33-1). The Court determines this evidence could be presented at trial in an
Second, Ms. Ratliff similarly argues that excerpts from her deposition must be struck
because they were not authenticated by the court reporter nor signed by the deponent. However,
while a court reporter must certify a deposition transcript, he or she must only deliver the
certified original to the party who sought the deposition—in this case the defendants. Fed. R.
Civ. P. 30(f)(1).
Defendants provided the court reporter’s certification of Ms. Ratliff’s
deposition (Dkt. No. 33-1, at 10). Moreover, Ms. Ratliff points to no rule that a deponent must
sign a deposition before it is used in court and submits no errata sheet for this deposition for the
Court’s consideration. The Court determines this evidence from Ms. Ratliff’s deposition could
be presented at trial in an admissible form.
Third, Ms. Ratliff argues that Officer Lucky’s police report, including the dispatcher’s
statements recorded in writing by Officer Lucky in the police narrative, is inadmissible evidence
because it is hearsay precluded by Federal Rule of Evidence 802. Federal Rule of Evidence
803(8), to which Ms. Ratliff cites as support for the proposition that investigative reports by
police and law enforcement officers are not within the public records and report exception to the
hearsay rule, only applies to criminal cases. Generally, police reports are admissible “to the
extent to which they incorporate firsthand observations of the officer.” United States v. Taylor,
462 F.3d 1023, 1026 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed. R. Evid. 803 advisory committee’s note); see
Foster v. Gen. Motors Corp., 20 F.3d 838, 839 (8th Cir. 1994) (per curiam) (holding that police
report prepared by investigating officer who was experienced in such investigations, conducted a
neutral investigation shortly after the accident occurred, and prepared the report the next day was
“clearly admissible under the hearsay exception for public records”). As for the dispatcher’s
statements recorded by Officer Lucky, those statements are not hearsay because they are not
offered for the truth of the matter asserted but to show their effect on the “hearer.” Even if the
dispatcher’s statements are hearsay, they still are admissible to show probable cause. See
Carpenter v. Gage, 686 F.3d 644, 649 (8th Cir. 2012) (holding that “officials may rely on
hearsay statements to determine that probable cause exists” and that “[t]he report from the
dispatcher provided reasonably trustworthy information that [plaintiff] had assaulted the first
responders, so the deputies had probable cause to arrest him”). The Court determines this
evidence could be presented at trial in an admissible form.
For these reasons, the Court denies Ms. Ratliff’s motion to strike.
Defendants’ Motion For Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is proper if the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the defendant
is entitled to entry of judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence could cause a reasonable
jury to return a verdict for either party. Miner v. Local 373, 513 F.3d 854, 860 (8th Cir. 2008).
“The mere existence of a factual dispute is insufficient alone to bar summary judgment; rather,
the dispute must be outcome determinative under the prevailing law.” Holloway v. Pigman, 884
F.2d 365, 366 (8th Cir. 1989). However, parties opposing a summary judgment motion may not
rest merely upon the allegations in their pleadings. Buford v. Tremayne, 747 F.2d 445, 447 (8th
Cir. 1984). The initial burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving
party to establish that there is a genuine issue to be determined at trial. Prudential Ins. Co. v.
Hinkel, 121 F.3d 364, 366 (8th Cir. 2008). “The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed,
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citation omitted).
Ms. Ratliff’s Claims Against Individual Officers
Ms. Ratliff brings constitutional claims against Chief Hale and Officer Lucky under §
1983 and the ACRA, as well as tort claims under Arkansas law.
Section 1983 Claims
A government official sued in his individual capacity may raise the defense of qualified
immunity to § 1983 claims filed. The doctrine of qualified immunity “protects government
officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Stepnes v. Ritschel, 663 F.3d 952, 960 (8th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted) (internal quotation
marks omitted). “The concern of the immunity inquiry is to acknowledge that reasonable
mistakes can be made as to the legal constraints on particular police conduct.” Saucier v. Katz,
533 U.S. 194, 205 (2001). “The qualified immunity standard ‘gives ample room for mistaken
judgments’ by protecting ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the
law.’” Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 229 (1991) (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341
(1986)). To determine if a qualified immunity defense applies, the Court must conduct a twoprong inquiry by examining: “(1) whether the facts that a plaintiff has alleged . . . make out a
violation of a constitutional right and (2) whether the constitutional right violated was clearly
established at the time of defendant’s alleged misconduct.” Stepnes, 663 F.3d at 960 (alteration
in original) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “Unless the answer to both of these questions is yes, the defendants are entitled to
qualified immunity.” Krout v. Goemmer, 583 F.3d 557, 564 (8th Cir. 2009).
First the Court will consider whether the facts alleged by Ms. Ratliff make out a violation
of a constitutional right. Ms. Ratliff’s remaining § 1983 claims are that Chief Hale and Officer
Lucky violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.1 A Fourth Amendment false arrest
claim under § 1983 fails as a matter of law where the officer had probable cause to make the
arrest because such an arrest does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Rose v. City of Mulberry,
533 F.3d 678, 680 (8th Cir. 2008); Anderson v. Larson, 327 F.3d 762, 770 (8th Cir. 2003); Kurtz
v. City of Shrewsbury, 245 F.3d 753, 758 (8th Cir. 2001). This is true even in the absence of
statutory authorization because state laws governing warrantless arrests do not limit or expand
the scope of the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. Rose, 533 F.3d at 680 (citing
Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 176 (2008)). Moreover, even if actual probable cause does not
exist, an officer is entitled to qualified immunity for a warrantless arrest if the arrest was
supported by at least “arguable probable cause.” Joseph v. Allen, 712 F.3d 1222, 1226 (8th Cir.
2013) (quoting Borgman v. Kedley, 646 F.3d 518, 522-23 (8th Cir. 2011)).
To determine whether probable cause exists to make a warrantless arrest, a court
considers whether, based on the totality of the circumstances, “the facts would justify a
reasonably cautious police officer’s belief that the individual arrested has committed or was
committing an offense.” Marksmeier v. Davie, 622 F.3d 896, 900 (8th Cir. 2010). “Probable
cause does not require the same type of specific evidence of each element of the offense as
would be needed to support a conviction.” Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 149 (1972) (citing
Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 311-12 (1959)). “Arguable probable cause exists even
where an officer mistakenly arrests a suspect believing it is based on probable cause if the
mistake is ‘objectively reasonable.’” Joseph, 712 F.3d at 1226.
Defendants also brief Ms. Ratliff’s § 1983 malicious prosecution claim, but the Court
previously dismissed this claim in its Order on defendants’ motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 16).
Here, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Chief Hale and Officer
Lucky had probable cause to arrest Ms. Ratliff for violation of Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-60125. The record before the Court justifies a reasonably cautious police officer’s belief that Ms.
Ratliff committed an offense. Ms. Ratliff admitted to calling 911. Saline County dispatchers
advised Chief Hale and Officer Lucky that Ms. Ratliff had placed multiple calls to the nonemergency dispatcher before calling 911 and that she “was being placed on hold due to
emergency calls coming in, and would hang up and call again” (Dkt. No. 19-1, at 2-3). The
dispatchers explained to Ms. Ratliff she was “disrupting and destructing” incoming 911 calls
before she made her 911 call (Dkt. No. 19-1, at 7). Based on the reports from the dispatchers
and their own knowledge of the situation, Chief Hale and Officer Lucky’s belief that Ms. Ratliff
interfered with emergency communications by calling 911 for a non-emergency was reasonable.
Even if Chief Hale and Officer Lucky did not have probable cause, arguable probable cause
existed for qualified immunity purposes.
As for Ms. Ratliff’s Fourteenth Amendment claim that Chief Hale and Officer Lucky
arrested her because of her race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, she must prove that
they “exercised [their] discretion to enforce the . . . law on account of her race, which requires
proof of both discriminatory effect and discriminatory purpose.” Johnson v. Crooks, 326 F.3d
995, 999-1000 (8th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).
To establish discriminatory effect, “the
claimant must show people of another race violated the law and the law was not enforced against
them.” United States v. Bell, 86 F.3d 820, 823 (8th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted); see Johnson,
326 F.3d at 1000 (stating that, to show the requisite discriminatory effect and purpose, “the
plaintiff must normally prove that similarly situated individuals were not stopped or arrested”).
To establish discriminatory purpose, “the claimant must show the official’s decision to enforce
the law was at least partially based on race.” Bell, 86 F.3d at 823 (citation omitted). Although a
racially-motivated arrest claim does not require proof that the plaintiff was arrested without
probable cause, Johnson. 326 F.3d at 1000, the existence of objectively reasonable probable
cause militates against a claim that an arrest was motivated by racial animus, as “the subjective
motivations of the arresting police officers are irrelevant,” Hannah v. City of Overland, 795 F.2d
1385, 1390 (8th Cir. 1986). “If the claimant shows both discriminatory effect and purpose, the
burden shifts to the Government to show that the same enforcement decision would have been
made even if the discriminatory purpose had not been considered.” Id. (citation omitted).
Here, Ms. Ratliff has not submitted sufficient evidence that, even when all of the record
evidence is construed in her favor, would permit a reasonable juror to find that Chief Hale and
Officer Lucky exercised their discretion to enforce the law on account of Ms. Ratliff’s race. She
has not raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding discriminatory effect or purpose. Ms.
Ratliff does not identify a similarly situated individual of another race who arguably violated the
same law without being arrested. Instead, she points to evidence showing that no other person
has been “booked in” for calling 911 one time and purportedly showing racial disparities in
arrests between 2010 and 2012 (Dkt. No. 37, at 7). A reasonable juror could not find that this
evidence establishes discriminatory effect or purpose on the part of Chief Hale or Officer Lucky.
Ms. Ratliff also makes conclusory statements regarding Chief Hale’s alleged racial profiling and
alleges that Chief Hale and Officer Lucky violated Department policies by arresting her without
a warrant. However, Department policy authorizes officers to make warrantless arrests pursuant
to Rule 4.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure (Dkt. No. 47-15, at 8), and Rule
4.1(a)(v) permits warrantless arrests if “otherwise authorized be law.” Because there is no
genuine issue of material fact as to whether Chief Hale and Officer Lucky had probable cause to
arrest Ms. Ratliff, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Arkansas law otherwise
authorized the arrest. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-81-116 (“If a law enforcement officer had probable
cause to believe a person has violated . . . § 5-60-125, the officer may arrest the person without a
warrant if the incident did not take place in the presence of the officer if the officer has probable
cause to believe the person violated the section within the preceding . . . four (4) hours . . . .”).
Lastly, the fact that Chief Hale and Officer Lucky had objectively reasonable probable cause to
arrest Ms. Ratliff militates against her claim that her arrest was motivated by racial animus.
Hannah, 795 F.2d at 1390.
For these reasons, and based on the record before the Court, a reasonable juror could not
find that Ms. Ratliff made out a violation of a constitutional right. Accordingly, Chief Hale and
Officer Lucky are entitled to qualified immunity as to Ms. Ratliff’s § 1983 claims, and the Court
need not determine whether Ms. Ratliff’s constitutional rights were clearly established. Even so,
the Court notes that in regard to warrantless arrests for misdemeanor offenses, “any ‘in the
presence’ requirement is far from clearly established.” Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home, 627
F.3d 1254, 1258-59 (8th Cir. 2010) (stating that, although the weight of authority holds that the
Fourth Amendment does not impose an “in the presence” of the arresting officer requirement for
a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor, neither the Supreme Court nor the Eighth Circuit have
decided the point). Because Chief Hale and Officer Lucky are entitled to qualified immunity,
and because Ms. Ratliff has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding her § 1983
claims against them, the Court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Ms.
Ratliff’s § 1983 claims against Chief Hale and Officer Lucky.
Pursuant to the ACRA, Ms. Ratliff alleges an unreasonable seizure claim in violation of
the Arkansas Constitution, Article II, Section 15 and an equal protection claim in violation of the
Arkansas Constitution, Article II, Sections 2, 3, and 18. In analyzing claims under the ACRA,
courts give persuasive authority to state and federal decisions interpreting § 1983. See Ark.
Code Ann. § 16-123-105(c). Accordingly, Article 2, Section 15 claims are analyzed in the same
way as similar claims rooted in the Fourth Amendments. Mullinax v. State, 938 S.W.2d 801, 805
(Ark. 1997) (“We thus interpret Article 2, Section 15 in the same manner as the United States
Supreme Court interprets the Fourth Amendment”). Further, Ms. Ratliff does not argue that the
Arkansas Constitution and the ACRA are more protective than the Fourteenth Amendment and §
1983. See Lewis v. Jacks, 486 F.3d 1025, 1029-30 (8th Cir. 2007) (holding that district court did
not err in dismissing state law claims as well as § 1983 claims on the merits when plaintiff did
not argue that his state law claims required separate analysis). Thus, based on the § 1983
analysis above, the Court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Ratliff’s
Ms. Ratliff asserts three tort claims against Chief Hale and Officer Lucky under Arkansas
law: malicious prosecution, false arrest, and outrage. Arkansas law requires a plaintiff claiming
malicious prosecution to prove: “(1) a proceeding instituted or continued by the defendant
against the plaintiff; (2) termination of the proceeding in favor of the plaintiff; (3) absence of
probable cause for the proceeding; (4) malice on the part of the defendant; and (5) damages.”
Brooks v. First State Bank, N.A., 374 S.W.3d 846, 849 (Ark. 2010) (citations omitted). For the
reasons explained above, Ms. Ratliff cannot prove absence of probable cause for her arrest based
on the record before the Court. For those same reasons, she cannot prove absence of probable
cause for the commencement and continuation of the legal proceedings against her. Sundeen v.
Kroger, 133 S.W.3d 393, 396 (Ark. 2003) (“In the context of a malicious prosecution action, the
existence of probable cause is to be determined by the facts and circumstances surrounding the
commencement and continuation of the legal proceedings.”). The Court grants defendants’
motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Ratliff’s malicious prosecution claim. Id. at 398
(stating that summary judgment should be granted as to a malicious prosecution claim where the
plaintiff cannot prove absence of probable cause).
To establish a claim of false arrest, also known as false imprisonment under Arkansas
law, a plaintiff must show an “unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another consisting of
detention without sufficient legal authority.” Headrick v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 738 S.W.2d
418, 420 (Ark. 1987) (citations omitted). As a matter of law, probable cause defeats an action
for false arrest. Mendenhall v. Skaggs Cos., 685 S.W.2d 805, 807 (Ark. 1985). Again, Chief
Hale and Officer Lucky had probable cause to arrest Ms. Ratliff based on the record before the
Court, so the Court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Ratliff’s false
Under Arkansas law, the tort of outrage requires plaintiff to establish that
(1) the actor intended to inflict emotional distress or knew or should have known
that emotional distress was the likely result of his conduct; (2) the conduct was
extreme and outrageous, was beyond all possible bounds of decency, and was
utterly intolerable in a civilized community; (3) the actions of the defendant were
the cause of plaintiff’s distress; and (4) the emotional distress sustained by the
plaintiff was so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.
Faulkner v. Ark. Children’s Hosp., 69 S.W.3d 393, 403-04 (Ark. 2002) (citations omitted)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “Merely describing the conduct as outrageous does not make
it so,” and “the tort of outrage should not and does not open the doors of the courts to every
slight insult or indignity one must endure in life.” Kiersey v. Jeffrey, 253 S.W.3d 438, 441
(2007) (citation omitted). The Court determines that a reasonable juror could not find that an
arrest based on probable cause, even considering the other facts Ms. Ratliff alleges regarding
Chief Hale and Officer Lucky’s conduct, “extreme and outrageous.” See Miles v. City of
Hartford, 719 F. Supp. 2d 207, 218 (D. Conn. 2010), aff’d, 445 F. App’x 379 (2d Cir. 2011)
(citation omitted) (stating that an arrest with probable cause may “lack the severity of
outrageousness that a viable claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress requires” but
that there were too many disputed issues of material fact to grant summary judgment on probable
cause grounds (citation omitted)); Hullender v. City of Kings Mountain, No. 1:01-CV-41-C, 2002
WL 1919560, at *6 (W.D.N.C. Aug 16, 2002) (citation omitted) (explaining “[t]here simply is no
way that an arrest based upon probable cause can, standing alone, exceed all bounds of decency
or could be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community” (citations
omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted)). For these reasons, the Court grants defendants’
motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Ratliff’s outrage claim.
Ms. Ratliff’s Claims Against The City And Its Officials
Ms. Ratliff alleges the City and its officials violated her Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. Specifically, Ms. Ratliff claims that the City had a municipal custom of
targeting minorities for stops, arrests, and prosecution and that its officials were deficient in
hiring, training, and supervising police officers. Ms. Ratliff also alleges that the City and its
officials are vicariously liable for the intentional tort claims against Chief Hale and Officer
Lucky. Official capacity claims are tantamount to claims against the entity for which the official
is an agent. Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d 907, 914 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502
U.S. 21, 25 (1991)).
Likewise, the analysis for claims of deficient hiring, training, and
supervising against city officials in their individual capacity is identical to that for official
capacity claims against the same city officials. Morris v. Crawford Cnty., 299 F.3d 919, 921 (8th
Cir. 2002). Thus, the Court will analyze such claims against the City and its officials together.
To establish § 1983 liability against the City based on a municipal custom, Ms. Ratliff
must establish that a violation of her constitutional rights occurred and that the custom was a
moving force behind the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City
of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); see City of Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986)
(holding that, if an individual police officer did not inflict a constitutional injury on plaintiff,
then it is inconceivable that a city and its police commissioner could be liable to respondent
because, “[i]f a person has suffered no constitutional injury at the hands of the individual police
officer, the fact that the departmental regulations might have authorized the use of
constitutionally excessive force is quite beside the point.”). Because as discussed above a
reasonable juror could not find an underlying violation of Ms. Ratliff’s constitutional rights
based on the record before the Court, the City cannot be held liable based on an allegedly
unconstitutional municipal custom.
Moreover, even if Ms. Ratliff could prove an underlying violation of her constitutional
rights, liability for an unconstitutional custom cannot arise from a single act. Wedemeier v. City
of Ballwin, 931 F.2d 24, 26 (8th Cir. 1991) (finding that “a single deviation from a written,
official policy does not prove a conflicting custom or usage” (citations omitted)). To base
liability on a municipal custom, a plaintiff must show the existence of a “prior pattern of
unconstitutional conduct that is so ‘persistent and widespread’ as to have the effect and force of
law.” Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1075 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 691).
Even when this Court considers Ms. Ratliff’s evidence regarding the racial makeup of the City’s
arrestees and detainees, it does not establish a prior pattern of unconstitutional conduct, as it
provides no insight into the constitutionality of those arrests or whether they were based on race.
The Court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Ratliff’s municipal
Deficient Hiring, Training, And Supervising
Similarly, the Court determines that Ms. Ratliff’s deficient hiring, training, and
supervising claims cannot stand because a reasonable juror could not find an underlying
violation of Ms. Ratliff’s constitutional rights. See City of Los Angeles, 475 U.S. at 799 (“[The
city and its police commissioner] were sued only because they were thought legally responsible
for [an individual officer’s] actions; if the latter inflicted no constitutional injury on [plaintiff], it
is inconceivable that [the city and its police commissioner] could be liable to [plaintiff].”)
Again, even if the Court assumes for purposes of this analysis an underlying violation of
Ms. Ratliff’s constitutional rights, a reasonable juror could not find based on the record before
the Court that the City and its officials were deficient in hiring, training, and supervising police
officers. Ms. Ratliff has failed to present any evidence showing a close connection between the
City’s decision to hire Chief Hale or Officer Lucky and her alleged constitutional injury. Morris,
299 F.3d at 923 (“[A] plaintiff must show that the hiring decision and the plaintiff’s alleged
constitutional injury are closely connected—an applicant’s background is that causal link.”); see
also Schaub v. VonWald, 638 F.3d 905, 921 (8th Cir. 2011) (“[W]here the causal link is so
tenuous as to justify taking it from the trier of fact, a court may decide the issue as a matter of
law.” (citation omitted)). Likewise, Ms. Ratliff has not presented evidence that the City and its
officials “had notice that its procedures were inadequate and likely to result in a violation of
constitutional rights” such that “the policymakers of the city can reasonably be said to have been
deliberately indifferent to the need” for more training or supervision.” Andrews, 98 F.3d at 1076
(citation omitted) (discussing a failure to train claim); see Atkinson v. City of Mountain View,
709 F.3d 1201, 1216-17 (8th Cir. 2013) (stating that failure to supervise claim requires the same
analysis as a failure to train claim in that “[n]either claim can succeed without evidence the
municipality [r]eceived notice of a pattern of unconstitutional acts committed by [its
employees]” (second and third alterations in original) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks
omitted)). The Court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Ratliff’s
deficient hiring, training, and supervising claims.
Ms. Ratliff attempts to impute liability for the allegedly intentional tortious actions of
Chief Hale and Officer Lucky to the remaining defendants based on the principles of vicarious
liability. However, because the Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to
Ms. Ratliff’s intentional tort claims against Chief Hale and Officer Lucky, the remaining
defendants cannot be held vicariously liable. See Rhodes v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 820
S.W.2d 293, 295 (Ark. Ct. App. 1991) (“[W]hen the servant is not liable, the master for whom he
was acting at the time should not be liable.” (citation omitted)). The Court grants defendants’
motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Ratliff’s vicarious liability claim against the City and
In sum, the Court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment in its entirety. Ms.
Ratliff’s claims are dismissed.
SO ORDERED this the 16th day of September, 2014.
KRISTINE G. BAKER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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