Humphrey v. Snell et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Susan O. Hickey on May 22, 2014. (cnn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
EL DORADO DIVISION
SCOTT SNELL, in his individual
and official capacities; DARREN
MARTIN, in his individual and
official capacities; STEVE ADAMS,
in his individual and official capacities;
RICKY ROBERTS; in his individual
and official capacities; BILLY WHITE,
in his individual and official capacities;
EL DORADO POLICE DEPARTMENT;
and CITY OF EL DORADO, ARKANSAS
Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21) filed on behalf of the
Defendants El Dorado Police Department; the City of El Dorado; Billy White and Ricky Roberts
in their individual and official capacities; and Steve Adams, Darren Martin, and Scott Snell in
their official capacities.
Additionally, before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 25) filed on behalf of Defendants Steve Adams, Darren Martin, and Scott
Snell in their individual capacities. Plaintiff Reid Humphrey has responded. (ECF Nos. 40 &
43). Defendants have replied. (ECF No. 46). The Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.
This case arises out of a March 24, 2012 incident with the El Dorado Police Department
(“EDPD”). On that date, an individual called EDPD to report an unconscious female in the
driver’s seat of a vehicle in the parking lot of the Econo Lodge in El Dorado, Arkansas. Sergeant
Darren Martin, Officer Scott Snell, and Corporal Steve Adams were dispatched to the scene. At
the time of the incident, Sergeant Martin was the supervising officer.
When they arrived, Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams made contact
with the female and identified her as Felicia Talley (“Talley”). Reid Humphrey (“Humphrey”),
Talley’s boyfriend, then approached the officers. The officers asked Humphrey to step away
from the scene. At their request, Humphrey stepped to the edge of the parking lot but continued
to observe the officers with Talley. Sergeant Martin then asked Humphrey to retrieve the keys to
Talley’s car. Humphrey went inside the Econo Lodge to retrieve the keys. He returned to the
parking lot shortly thereafter and gave the keys to Sergeant Martin. Humphrey then returned to
the edge of the parking lot.
The officers arrested Talley and placed her in the patrol car. After they secured Talley in
the patrol car, Sergeant Martin approached Humphrey and again asked him to leave the scene.
Humphrey then turned and started walking toward the Econo Lodge. Sergeant Martin claims
that, as Humphrey turned, he stated, “I don’t know why it takes four f**king police officers.”
However, Humphrey denies making the statement.
Immediately after Humphrey turned, Sergeant Martin grabbed Humphrey and threw him
against the patrol car. Corporal Adams and Officer Snell joined Sergeant Martin and helped him
pin Humphrey against the patrol car. Sergeant Martin then punched and kneed Humphrey.
Officer Snell then struck Humphrey six times. After Snell administered the strikes, the officers
handcuffed Humphrey and arrested him for obstructing government operations, disorderly
conduct, and refusal to submit to arrest. Unbeknownst to the officers, the Econo Lodge’s
surveillance camera recorded the incident. The recording has both visual and audio footage.
However, the audio footage is of poor quality.
After they arrested Humphrey, the officers took him to EDPD and detained him
overnight. The next morning he was released on bond. Humphrey did not file a complaint with
EDPD regarding the incident.
On December 7, 2012, Union County tried Humphrey for the charges. The EDPD police
chief, Ricky Roberts, was out of town on that date. Therefore, he sent Captain Kevin Holt to
observe the trial in his place. At the trial, Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams
testified, and the surveillance recording was shown.
At the conclusion of the evidence,
Humphrey’s attorney moved to dismiss the charges, and the judge granted the motion.
After the trial, Captain Holt reported to Chief Roberts the details of the surveillance
footage. Captain Holt advised Chief Roberts that an investigation into the matter was necessary.
Upon Captain Holt’s recommendation, Chief Roberts commenced an internal review of the
March 24, 2012 incident.
On December 24, 2012, the EDPD Review Board reviewed the case. The Review Board
concluded that Humphrey complied with all the officers’ requests and did not resist arrest. The
Review Board further concluded that the officers did not have probable cause to arrest
On January 7, 2013, the EDPD Bureau of Efficiency evaluated the Review Board’s
findings. It disagreed with the Review Board and determined that the officers had probable
cause to arrest Humphrey. The Bureau of Efficiency also concluded that the officers used force
because Humphrey was resisting arrest and the force stopped once the officers had control over
Humphrey. However, the Bureau of Efficiency concluded that Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell,
and Corporal Adams failed to provide accurate, complete, and truthful documentation of the
incident, and for the poor documentation, the Bureau of Efficiency suspended Sergeant Martin,
Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams. Following the internal review, Chief Billy White replaced
Chief Roberts as EDPD’s police chief.
On March 22, 2013, Humphrey filed suit against the City of El Dorado and Chief
Roberts, Chief White, Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams in their individual
and official capacities. 1
In his complaint, Humphrey alleges violations of the Federal
Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution as well as state law torts.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The standard of review for summary judgment is well established. The Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure provide that when a party moves for summary judgment: “The court shall grant
summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Krenik v. Cty.
of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953 (8th Cir. 1995). The Supreme Court has issued the following guidelines
for trial courts to determine whether this standard has been satisfied:
The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there
is a need for trial—whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues
that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may
reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). See also Agristor Leasing v. Farrow,
826 F.2d 732 (8th Cir. 1987); Niagara of Wis. Paper Corp. v. Paper Indus. Union-Mgmt.
Humphrey originally brought suit against EDPD. However, in his response, Humphrey concedes that EDPD should
be dismissed because it is not a legal entity subject to suit. Accordingly, Humphrey’s claims against EDPD are
Pension Fund, 800 F.2d 742, 746 (8th Cir. 1986). A fact is material only when its resolution
affects the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine if the evidence
is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Id. at 252.
The Court must view the evidence and the inferences that may be reasonably drawn from
the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank, 92
F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. The
nonmoving party must then demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record that create a
genuine issue for trial. Krenik, 47 F.3d at 957. A party opposing a properly supported motion
for summary judgment may not rest upon mere allegations or denials but must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
1. Claims against the City of El Dorado and Official Capacity Claims
An official capacity claim is a claim against the entity. Monell v. N.Y., City Dept. of Soc.
Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S. Ct. 2018, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978). Thus, the Court will treat
Humphrey’s claims against Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, Corporal Adams, Chief Roberts, and
Chief White in their official capacities as a claim against the City of El Dorado (“the City
Defendants”). Humphrey alleges the following claims against the City Defendants: (1) § 1983
claims for violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights; 2 (2) an Arkansas Civil Rights
Act (“ACRA”) claim; (3) a battery claim; and (5) an outrage claim. 3
A. Section 1983 Claims and ACRA Claim
Claims under ACRA are analyzed in the same manner as § 1983 claims. Sylvester v.
Fogley, 383 F. Supp. 2d 1135, 1139 (W.D. Ark. 2005).
Thus, the Court will analyze
Humphrey’s ACRA claim and his § 1983 claim together.
Section 1983 liability for a constitutional violation may attach to a municipality if the
plaintiff can show that the alleged violation resulted from: (1) an official municipal policy; (2)
an unofficial custom; or (3) a deliberately indifferent failure to train or supervise. Atkinson v.
City of Mountain View, Mo., 709 F.3d 1201, 1215 (8th Cir. 2013) (internal citations omitted). In
this case, Humphrey asserts that municipal liability attaches because the City Defendants have an
unofficial custom of encouraging the use of excessive force and arrests without probable cause. 4
Humphrey asserts that this custom is evidenced by the fact that Sergeant Martin, the supervisory
officer, initiated the alleged excessive force and Chief Roberts did not investigate the incident for
The City Defendants assert that Humphrey misunderstands the standard for
demonstrating a custom. Specifically, the City Defendants argue that Humphrey must establish a
history of misconduct, not just misconduct in the case at bar.
Humphrey additionally asserted violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights for the March 24, 2012
arrest. However, “[w]here as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest . . . of a free citizen, it
is most properly characterized as one invoking protections of the Fourth Amendment.” Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S.
386, 394, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989); Brown v. City of Golden Valley, 574 F.3d 491, 496 (8th Cir.
In his complaint, Humphrey also alleges a negligence claim against the City Defendants. However, in his response,
Humphrey concedes that the City of El Dorado is immune from the tort of negligence. Accordingly, as to the
negligence claim, the City Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED.
Within his unofficial custom arguments, Humphrey also appears to assert that the City Defendants failed to
adequately train. To establish a constitutional violation resulting from a deliberately indifferent failure to train, “the
plaintiff must demonstrate that the [city] had notice that its procedures were inadequate and likely to result in a
violation of constitutional rights.” Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 998 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations omitted).
In this case, Humphrey asserts that the City Defendants failed to train officers but offers no evidence that the City
Defendants had notice that their training procedures were likely to result in a violation of constitution rights.
Accordingly, Humphrey has not established that his alleged constitutional violations resulted from a failure to train.
The Court agrees with the City Defendants. To establish a custom, the plaintiff must
prove that the municipality engaged in a continuing pattern of unconstitutional misconduct.
Marksmeir v. Davie, 622 F.3d 896, 902 (8th Cir. 2012). Liability for an unconstitutional custom
or usage cannot arise from a single act. McGautha v. Jackson Cnty., 36 F.3d 53, 56-57 (8th Cir.
1994). In this case, Humphrey attempts to prove custom by arguing the facts of this specific
incident. However, he points to no other incident or claim that shows that the City Defendants
maintained a custom of violating constitutional rights. Therefore, the Court concludes that
Humphrey has not established that his alleged constitutional violations resulted from an
unofficial custom. Accordingly, his ACRA and § 1983 claims against the City Defendants fail.
B. Battery and Outrage Claims
Humphrey alleges a battery claim and an outrage claim against the City Defendants for
the alleged misconduct of Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams. The City
Defendants assert that they are immune from liability for intentional torts pursuant to Ark. Code
Ann. § 21-9-301. However, “[t]he Arkansas Supreme Court has ‘consistently held that § 21-9301 provides city employees with immunity from civil liability for negligent acts, but not for
intentional acts.’” Ulrich v. Thornton, No. 10-4024, 2012 WL 1933078, at *4 (W.D. Ark. May
29, 2012) (quoting City of Farmington v. Smith, 366 Ark. 473, 478, 237 S.W.3d 1, 5 (2006)).
Accordingly, the City Defendants are not immune from the torts of outrage and battery.
The City Defendants argue that even if they are not immune, they are not liable for
battery and outrage because the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply. Specifically, the
City Defendants argue that it was not foreseeable that Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and
Corporal Adams would use excessive force when arresting Humphrey. Humphrey argues that
the fact that the City Defendants distribute a regulations manual, which prohibits the use of
excessive force, establishes that the torts of battery and outrage were foreseeable.
The Court disagrees with Humphrey. Under Arkansas law, liability under the doctrine of
respondeat superior attaches when an employee commits a foreseeable act within the scope of
his employment. Costner v. Adams, 82 Ark. App. 148, 154, 121 S.W.3d 164, 169 (2003). This
Court has held that “[i]t is unforeseeable that an officer would use excessive force in effectuating
an arrest unless his employer was on notice that the officer was prone to such tendencies.”
Patton v. City of Camden, Ark., No. 03-CV-1169, 2006 WL 508092, at *5 (W.D. Ark. March 1,
2006). In this case, Humphrey has not offered any evidence that the City Defendants were on
notice that Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams were prone to use excessive
force. Therefore, the City Defendants cannot be held liable under a respondeat superior theory
for battery or outrage allegedly committed by Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal
2. Claims against Chief Roberts and Chief White in Their Individual Capacities
Humphrey asserts that Chief Roberts and Chief White are liable in their individual
capacities for the alleged misconduct of Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams.
Specifically, Humphrey asserts they are liable under § 1983 for violations of his First and Fourth
Amendment rights and ACRA for violations of his rights under the Arkansas Constitution.5
Chief Roberts and Chief White assert that Humphrey’s claims against them fail because
Humphrey provides no evidence of how their supervision and training caused a deprivation of
his constitutional rights.
As stated, claims under ACRA are analyzed in the same manner as § 1983 claims. Sylvester v. Fogley, 383 F.
Supp. 2d 1135, 1139 (W.D. Ark. 2005). Thus, the Court will analyze Humphrey’s ACRA claim and his § 1983
A supervising officer can be liable for an inferior officer’s constitutional violation only if
he directly participated in the constitutional violation or if his failure to train or supervise the
offending actor caused the deprivation. Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 1002 (8th Cir. 2010)
(internal citations omitted). The parties do not dispute that neither Chief Roberts nor Chief
White participated in the alleged constitutional violations. Thus, Chief Roberts and Chief White
can only be liable if their failure to train or supervise Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and
Corporal Adams caused the alleged deprivation.
To demonstrate a failure to supervise, the plaintiff must show that the supervisory officer:
(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 the
plaintiff. Id. Similarly, to demonstrate a failure to train, “‘the plaintiff must demonstrate that the
[supervisory officer] had notice that [his training] procedures were inadequate and likely to result
in a violation of constitutional rights.’” Otey v. Marshall, 121 F.3d 1150, 1156 (8th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1076 (8th Cir. 1996)). In this case, Humphrey
asserts that Chief White and Chief Roberts inadequately trained and supervised their
subordinates. However, he does not offer evidence that they received notice of unconstitutional
acts committed by a subordinate or notice that their training procedures were likely to result in a
violation of constitution rights. Accordingly, Humphrey’s § 1983 and ARCA claims against
Chief White and Roberts in their individual capacities fail.
3. Claims against Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams in Their
Humphrey asserts Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams are liable in their
individual capacities under § 1983 for violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights and
ACRA for violations of his Arkansas Constitutional rights. Additionally, Humphrey asserts they
are liable for the torts of battery, outrage, and negligence. Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and
Corporal Adams did not move to dismiss the § 1983 claim for violation of Humphrey’s Fourth
Amendment rights, the ACRA claim, the battery claim, or the negligence claim in their Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment. Accordingly, those claims will proceed to trial. However, they
did move to dismiss Humphrey’s § 1983 claims for violations of his First Amendment Rights
and his outrage claim. Accordingly, the Court will address their arguments on those claims.
A. Section 1983 Claim for Violations of First Amendment Rights
Humphrey asserts that Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams violated his
First Amendment rights when they arrested him. Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal
Adams respond that they are entitled to qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity shields government officials from liability in a § 1983 action unless
the official’s conduct violates a clearly established constitutional or statutory right of which a
reasonable person would have known. Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 752 (2002); Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S 800, 818 (1982); Henderson v. Munn, 439 F.3d 497, 501 (8th Cir. 2006). A
qualified immunity analysis involves a two-step inquiry: (1) whether the facts shown by the
plaintiff make out a violation of a constitutional or statutory right; and (2) whether the right was
clearly established at the time of the defendant’s alleged misconduct. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 223, 121 S. Ct. 215, 150 L. Ed. 2d 272 (2001); see also Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223,
242, 129 S. Ct. 808, 172 L. Ed. 2d 565 (2009) (holding that courts may exercise their discretion
in deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed
first). The Court will first address whether the facts shown by Humphrey establish a violation of
his First Amendment rights.
To prevail on a First Amendment retaliation claim, the plaintiff must show that: (1) he
engaged in a constitutionally protected activity; (2) the defendants’ action caused an injury to the
plaintiff that would chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in the activity;
and (3) the adverse action was motivated in part by the plaintiff’s exercise of his constitutional
rights. Scheffler v. Molin, 743 F.3d 619, 621 (8th Cir. 2014). In this case, Humphrey fails to
show that he engaged in a constitutionally protected activity. His complaint is devoid of any
statement he made to Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, or Corporal Adams. Humphrey alludes to a
conversation between himself and Sergeant Martin just prior to the arrest. However, he does not
offer any evidence of the actual statements, and the Court could not glean any statements from
the surveillance footage. The Court notes that Sergeant Martin claims that Humphrey stated: “I
don’t know why it takes four f**king police officers.” However, Humphrey denies making the
statement. Accordingly, because he offers no evidence that he engaged in a constitutionally
protected activity, Humphrey has not established a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Thus, Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams are entitled to qualified immunity for
B. Outrage Claim
Humphrey asserts that Sergeant Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams committed
the tort of outrage when they arrested him without probable cause and beat him.
Martin, Officer Snell, and Corporal Adams argue that Humphrey’s outrage claim fails because
he has not presented evidence that he suffered severe emotional distress.
In Arkansas, the tort of outrage has four elements: “(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 the 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.” Kiersey v. Jeffrey, 369
Ark. 220, 222, 253 S.W.3d 438, 441 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). Arkansas has a narrow
view of the tort of outrage and requires “clear-cut proof to establish” the elements. Id. “Merely
describing the conduct as outrageous does not make it so.” Id.
In this case, the Court concludes that Humphrey has failed to establish a claim for outrage
because he has not alleged that the emotional distress he suffered was so severe that no
reasonable person could be expected to endure it. Humphrey states that after the incident, he has
not sought counseling, and he admits the only emotional repercussion is his inability to trust.
The Court concludes that this emotional damage does not rise to a level sufficient to support a
claim for outrage.
For the reasons stated above, the Court finds that the Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 21) filed on behalf of the Defendants the City of El Dorado; Billy White and Ricky
Roberts in their individual and official capacities; and Steve Adams, Darren Martin, and Scott
Snell in their official capacities should be and hereby is GRANTED. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s
claims against these Defendants are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
As to the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 25) filed on behalf of
Defendants Steve Adams, Darren Martin, and Scott Snell in the individual capacities, the Court
finds that that the motion should be and hereby is GRANTED. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s § 1983
claim for violations of his First Amendment rights and outrage claim are DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE. Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights, ACRA
claim, battery claim, and negligence claim against Defendants Steve Adams, Darren Martin, and
Scott Snell in their individual capacities remain and will proceed to trial. An order of even date
consistent with this Opinion shall issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 22nd day of May, 2014.
/s/ Susan O. Hickey
Susan O. Hickey
United States District Judge
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