Fort v. Jonesboro Arkansas, City of et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part 13 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Because Yates has not carried his burden to show there is no genuine dispute of material fact, his motion for summary judgment is DENIED. The City's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. All claims against the City of Jonesboro, including the official capacity claims against the individual defendants, are dismissed. Signed by Judge J. Leon Holmes on 1/23/2015. (ks)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
LONNELL ISAIAH FORT
No. 4:13CV00747 JLH
CITY OF JONESBORO, ARKANSAS; et al.
OPINION AND ORDER
Lonnell Fort claims that during and after his arrest on January 2, 2011, Jonesboro police
officers Joe K. Robinson, Brett Nolen, Robert Geha, and Cody Coley violated his Fourth
Amendment right to be free from excessive force in his search and seizure, his Eighth Amendment
right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and his Fifth and Fourteen Amendment rights
to due process. He alleges that he was grabbed by the throat, slammed against a car, kicked,
stomped, and hit with a taser four times. He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Article
II, §§ 8-9 and 15 of the Arkansas Constitution and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Ark. Code Ann.
§ 16-123-101 et seq., against those four officers, in their individual and official capacities, the City
of Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Michael Yates, individually and in his official capacity as the Chief of
Police of the City of Jonesboro Police Department. The claims against the City of Jonesboro and
against Yates are for failure to train and supervise the officers.
The four officers concede there are genuine disputes of material fact and have not moved for
summary judgment in their individual capacities. The City has moved for summary judgment on
all claims against it. Yates has moved for summary judgment on the official and individual claims
against him. For the following reasons, summary judgment is granted to the City and denied to
A court should grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56. The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
dispute for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d
265 (1986). If the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with
specific facts that establish a genuine dispute of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986); Torgerson
v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). A genuine dispute of material
fact is presented only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in
favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505,
2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn
from the record. Spencer v. Jackson Cnty. Mo., 738 F.3d 907, 911 (8th Cir. 2013). If the
nonmoving party fails to present evidence sufficient to establish an essential element of a claim on
which that party bears the burden of proof, then the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S. Ct. at 2552.
Fort concedes that summary judgment is proper for all the official capacity claims and the
constitutional claims against the City of Jonesboro (Counts I and II: 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Count III:
Ark. Const., art. II, §§ 8-9 & 15 and Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-123-101 through 108). He also concedes
summary judgment is proper on the negligence claim against the City of Jonesboro and the
individual defendants in their official capacities (Counts IV and V). Therefore, summary judgment
on these claims is granted. Fort does not concede that Yates is entitled to summary judgment on the
claims against him in his official capacity.
Fort does not allege that Yates participated in his arrest or that Yates personally used
excessive force against him. Rather, Fort alleges that Yates is liable because he was the supervising
officer. A supervisor may be liable for an inferior officer’s constitutional violations only where he
directly participated in the constitutional violation, or if his failure to train or supervise the offending
actor caused the deprivation. Otey v. Marshall, 121 F.2d 1150, 1155 (8th Cir. 1997). Qualified
immunity shields government officials from liability in their individual capacity so long as the
official has not violated clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known. Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 1001 (8th Cir. 2010). A government
official is qualifiedly immune from suit unless (1) the facts, viewed in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff, demonstrate the deprivation of a constitutional or statutory right; and (2) the right was
clearly established at the time of the deprivation. Id. at 1001-02.
To show that Yates is liable for a failure to supervise these officers, Fort must show that
1) Received notice of a pattern of unconstitutional acts committed by subordinates;
2) Demonstrated deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the offensive acts;
3) Failed to take sufficient remedial action; and
4) That such failure proximately caused injury to [Fort].
Jane Doe A v. Special Sch. Dist. Of St. Louis Cnty., 901 F.2d 642, 645 (8th Cir. 1990). To
demonstrate a failure to train, the training must be inadequate, the supervisor must have been
deliberately indifferent to the rights of others, and the deficiency in training must have caused the
plaintiff’s injuries. Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1076 (8th Cir. 1996).
In his complaint, Fort alleges two incidents to demonstrate a pattern of unconstitutional acts
On or about November 4, 2008, at the very same apartment complex where
Plaintiff was beaten, Jonesboro Police allegedly assaulted several students
and local citizens who had gathered to celebrate President Barack Obama’s
electoral victory. According to eyewitnesses, at least one black man was
thrown to the ground, where he was continuously kicked in the stomach and
head by an officer.
On July 29, 2012, Chavis Carter was found dead in the back of a Jonesboro
Police cruiser due to a gunshot wound to the right side of his head. Despite
being handcuffed, being left-handed, and having been searched twice by
Jonesboro Police before being placed in the car, Carter’s death was somehow
ruled a suicide.
Document #1 at 11 ¶ 52. In support of his motion for summary judgment, Fort also has presented
reports of use-of-force incidents involving the officers involved in his arrest. Forty-seven reports
have been presented. Twenty-nine of those involved suspects who were African-American males,
and a taser was used in twenty of those incidents. Over that same period of time, a taser was used
against other suspects only fourteen times. Document #18-1. According to Fort, Yates must have
known of these incidents, yet he failed to take supervisory action to correct their behavior or to
require the officers to take additional training.
Yates did not address those incidents in his action for summary judgment, nor has he
provided evidence that he was unaware of the occurrences. While the officers had received
Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy certificates for fully training and qualified law
enforcement officers in Arkansas, there is no evidence that additional training was required or
provided in light of this history of alleged use of excessive force, nor is there evidence of any
supervisory action in response to these incidents. Fort has made a prima facie case of showing that
Yates may be liable for failure to train and supervise officers, and the rights at issue were clearly
established at the time of these events. The motion for summary judgment is denied.
Because Yates has not carried his burden to show there is no genuine dispute of material fact,
his motion for summary judgment is DENIED. Document #13. The City’s motion for summary
judgment is GRANTED. Id. All claims against the City of Jonesboro, including the official
capacity claims against the individual defendants, are dismissed.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 23rd day of January, 2015.
J. LEON HOLMES
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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