Woodruff v. O'Kelly et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION granting 28 Motion for Summary Judgment as to each individual defendant based on qualified immunity. It is further Ordered that summary judgment is granted as to the City of Springdale and each defendant in their official capacities. Signed by Honorable Jimm Larry Hendren on July 9, 2012. (adw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Civil No. 11-5089
KATHY O’KELLY; CHAD WILSON;
OVERTON MEYER-HESLER; and
CITY OF SPRINGDALE, ARKANSAS
Now on this 9th day of July, 2012, comes on for consideration
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (document #28), and from
said motion, response, and reply thereto, the Court finds and
orders as follows:
This case arises from a traffic stop during which
intoxicated. Ms. Woodruff brings this action against defendants in
their individual and official capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, asserting that defendants violated her rights under the
Fourth, Eighth,1 and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, she
(a) that defendants violated her Fourth Amendment rights
by arresting her without probable cause; by failing to transport
The Eighth Amendment is not implicated here because Ms. Woodruff was not a
convicted prisoner at any time relevant to the complaint. However, because the
Fourteenth Amendment affords pre-trial detainees at least as much protection as the
Eighth Amendment affords to convicted prisoners, the Eighth Amendment’s deliberateindifference standard applies to Ms. Woodruff’s claims. See Grayson v. Ross, 454 F.3d
802, 808 (8th Cir. 2006).
her to a hospital for medical treatment when they knew or should
have known that medical treatment was necessary; and by denying
her a phone call to seek help;
(b) that defendants were deliberately indifferent to and
attention for her serious medical condition while she was in
(c) that Chief Kathy O’Kelly improperly trained and
investigate the incident after it occurred; and
(d) that the City of Springdale is vicariously liable
for the acts of the other defendants.
These are the undisputed material facts.
Ms. Woodruff underwent surgery on November 9, 2009, to
remove a brain tumor.
Following the surgery, Ms. Woodruff spent three days in
the hospital before being discharged, after which she felt fine.
On November 19, 2009, Ms. Woodruff’s surgical staples
were removed by her doctor in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
On or about November 20, 2009, having been cleared for
Springdale, Arkansas, to visit her stepdaughter and grandchildren.
She felt well and even stayed the night at a casino and gambled
before arriving in Springdale.
On November 21, 2009, the morning after she arrived in
Springdale, Ms. Woodruff drove herself to the emergency room with
complaints of a headache. She had taken the narcotic painkiller
hydrocodone the night before.
The hospital performed a CT scan and gave Ms. Woodruff
a morphine drip. Dr. Linda McGhee, the emergency-room doctor who
treated Ms. Woodruff, could not conclusively determine whether Ms.
Woodruff was experiencing any brain swelling.
Dr. McGhee gave Ms. Woodruff an initial dose of steroids
as a precautionary measure and prescribed further steroids as a
“tapering” dose. Additionally, Dr. McGhee prescribed the narcotic
Ms. Woodruff was released from the emergency room around
noon on November 21, 2009, but she did not fill her prescriptions
at that time. Ms. Woodruff was advised not to drive for ten hours.
attempted to drive herself to Walgreen’s Pharmacy to fill the
prescription for Percocet. She had not done so earlier because she
had forgotten about it and felt fine throughout the day.
Ms. Woodruff claims that, while driving to Walgreen’s,
she got lost.
At that time, Ms. Woodruff was stopped by a sheriff’s
deputy near Prairie Grove, Arkansas. She did not know how she had
gotten there and did not remember getting on the interstate. The
deputy issued her a warning for careless driving.
Woodruff’s vehicle. Officer Wilson told Ms. Woodruff that he
stopped her because she had crossed left of center at least three
At this point, despite having a global positioning
system in her car, Ms. Woodruff was on the opposite side of
Springdale heading in the opposite direction of where she stated
she intended to go.
Officer Wilson noted that Ms. Woodruff’s purse contained
bottles of pills later identified as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and
During the stop, Officer Wilson performed the horizontal
gaze nystagmus field-sobriety test, through which Ms. Woodruff
exhibited no clues of intoxication.
Nor did Ms. Woodruff exhibit any signs of a head injury.
The Springdale Police Department trains its officers that head
influence.” In the case of head injuries or strokes, officers are
[b]ecause the injury usually affects one side of the
brain more than the other, disparities usually will be
evident in the subject’s eyes. Look at the pupils, and
observe whether they are obviously different in size.
Check the eyes’ tracking ability, and see whether they
are dissimilar, e.g., one eye moving smoothly while the
other jerks noticeably. Check the eyelids to see if one
droops while the other appears normal.
Here, Ms. Woodruff’s pupils were the same size, her eyes had equal
tracking, and they were not dissimilar. Neither of her eyelids
drooped, and both appeared normal.
Next, Officer Wilson administered the “walk and turn”
field-sobriety test. Ms. Woodruff failed this test, exhibiting six
out of eight possible clues.
Finally, Officer Wilson administered the “one-leg stand”
test, which Ms. Woodruff also failed. She exhibited three out of
four possible clues.
Officer Wilson placed Ms. Woodruff under arrest and took
her to the Springdale Police Department.
Upon arrival at the police department, Officer Wilson
administered a blood-alcohol breath test. Ms. Woodruff registered
recognition expert, conducted a drug-influence evaluation of Ms.
influence of a narcotic drug.
Officer Meyer-Hesler noted, as had Officer Wilson, Ms.
Woodruff’s statement that she had gone to the hospital earlier for
brain swelling and that she had a tumor removed two weeks prior.
Officer Meyer-Hesler also noted no2 abnormal conditions
in Ms. Woodruff’s eyes, such as obviously different pupils,
dissimilar tracking ability of the eyes, one eye moving smoothly
while the other jerks noticeably, or drooping eyelids.
Following the drug-influence evaluation, Officer Wilson
transported Ms. Woodruff to the Northwest Medical Center in
A nurse observed Ms. Woodruff throughout the process of
collecting the urine sample. Ms. Woodruff did not advise the nurse
that she needed any medical assistance.
During the collection of the blood sample, both Officer
Wilson and the phlebotomist observed Ms. Woodruff. She did not
advise the phlebotomist that she needed any medical attention, nor
did anyone at the hospital advise Officer Wilson that Ms. Woodruff
was in need of medical care.
Officer Wilson then transported Ms. Woodruff back to the
Springdale Police Department, where she was held in the booking
area while completing the booking process.
Ms. Woodruff was released on her own recognizance at
7:20 a.m. on November 22, 2009.
Although Defendants’ Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (document #30) states
that Officer Meyer-Hesler “noted abnormalities in [Ms. Woodruff’s] eyes,” this appears
to have been a typographical error. The supporting documentation, as well as defendants’
brief (document #29), indicate that the officer did not note any abnormalities in Ms.
Woodruff’s eyes. Defendants note the error in their reply brief (document #35).
Despite the numerous agreed facts in this case, almost
all of what occurred immediately before and after the arrest is in
repeatedly that she needed medical attention for swelling on her
brain and to have pleaded with them for medical treatment. She
also claims to have received medical treatment after her release
from jail (although she offers no diagnosis of brain swelling).
Further, she claims to have been diagnosed with emotional trauma
as a result of the incident. Defendants deny these allegations.
AUTHENTICATION OF SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS
authentication of several of defendants’ supporting documents,
including the officers’ dash-cam videos, the arrest report, and
procedures manual. The basis of her challenge is that these
documents are not sworn statements and are not authenticated by
affidavits. Therefore, she argues, those documents should not be
considered at the summary-judgment stage. In making this argument,
Ms. Woodruff relies on an outdated version of Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56 and case law stemming from that version. Rule
56 was amended in 2010 and no longer requires sworn statements for
the purposes of authentication. Under the current rule, a party
seeking summary judgment must support its assertions by
(a) citing to particular parts of materials in the
(b) by showing that the materials cited do not establish
admissible evidence to support a fact.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (2012).
The documents offered by defendants to support their
process and were attached as exhibits to the motion for summary
judgment. Thus, the documents are properly in the record and may
be considered with this motion. Even so, defendants have submitted
authenticating affidavits for the disputed documents with their
reply brief (document #35).
The individual defendants argue that they are entitled
to summary judgment based on the undisputed facts and the doctrine
of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects government
officials, such as police officers, from individual liability
under § 1983, unless their conduct violated clearly established
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known. Baribeau v. City of Minneapolis, 596 F.3d 465, 473–74 (8th
Cir. 2010). To overcome a claim of qualified immunity, a plaintiff
must show that
(a) the facts asserted by the plaintiff demonstrate that
the defendants deprived the plaintiff of a constitutional right;
(b) the right was clearly established at the time of the
Id. at 474. When considering the issue of qualified immunity at
the summary judgment stage, the Court must view the facts in the
light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. See
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). However, when opposing
parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly
contradicted by the record, the Court is not required to adopt
that version of the facts for purposes of summary judgment. Id. at
primary issues: whether there was sufficient probable cause for
her arrest and whether, after her arrest, the officers were
deliberately indifferent to her serious medical need. Her claims
against Chief O’Kelly and the City of Springdale are secondary and
turn on whether there was a custom or policy of overlooking
constitutional violations such as those alleged in this case. The
Court will address each claim and each party in turn. See Handt v.
Lynch, No. 11-1829, slip op. at 5, 8 (8th Cir. June 14, 2012).
Officer Chad Wilson
Under the first step of the qualified-immunity analysis,
the Court must determine whether Officer Wilson violated Ms.
Woodruff’s constitutional rights.
(a) Ms. Woodruff first alleges that Officer Wilson
lacked probable cause for her arrest. The Fourth Amendment, as
applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, requires
that an officer have probable cause before making a warrantless
arrest. Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home, 627 F.3d 1254, 1257 (8th
circumstances is such that a prudent person would believe the
arrestee had committed a crime. Kuehl v. Burtis, 173 F.3d 646, 650
(8th Cir. 1999). However, an officer contemplating arrest cannot
disregard plainly exculpatory evidence. Id.
Ms. Woodruff claims that she told Officer Wilson her brain
was swelling and that this information should have excused any law
disagrees. The undisputed facts indicate that Officer Wilson
acknowledged Ms. Woodruff’s statement about having undergone brain
surgery and that he specifically looked for signs of a brain
injury while performing the field-sobriety tests. He saw no such
signs. Thus, it is clear that Officer Wilson did not disregard
plainly exculpatory evidence.
Furthermore, although Ms. Woodruff claims to have practically
begged Officer Wilson to take her to a hospital, this is blatantly
contradicted by the dash-cam video. In the video, which captured
the entire traffic stop and most of the dialogue between Ms.
flustered, giggly, and unsteady. But she does not appear to be in
great distress, nor does she ask repeatedly for medical treatment.
assertions when they are blatantly contradicted by the record.
Based on these facts, the Court finds that Officer Wilson had
sufficient probable cause to arrest Ms. Woodruff. Therefore, the
arrest created no Fourth Amendment violation, and Officer Wilson
is entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.
(b) Next, the Court will consider whether Officer Wilson
indifference to a serious medical need after he had placed Ms.
Woodruff under arrest. To establish a constitutional violation for
the denial of medical treatment, Ms. Woodruff must show that
(1) she suffered from an objectively serious medical
disregarded that need.
Williams v. Kelso, 201 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2000); Coleman v.
Rahija, 114 F.3d 778, 784 (8th Cir. 1997). A “serious medical
need” is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating
treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would
easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention. Grayson
v. Ross, 454 F.3d 802, 809 (8th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff’s self-
diagnosis alone cannot establish a serious medical need. See
Kayser v. Caspari, 16 F.3d 280, 281 (8th Cir. 1994).
The facts in this case, even viewed in the light most
favorable to Ms. Woodruff, do not show that Ms. Woodruff suffered
from an objectively serious medical need on the night of her
arrest. The only medical evidence offered was inconclusive as to
whether Ms. Woodruff had any brain swelling. In fact, Ms. Woodruff
was released from the emergency room the morning before her arrest
and admittedly felt fine throughout the rest of the day. Although
she claims to have experienced headaches and disorientation later
that night, Ms. Woodruff has offered no evidence that this was
caused by brain swelling. Nor has she offered any evidence of a
medical diagnosis of brain swelling following her release from
jail the next morning.
Moreover, Ms. Woodruff did not display any signs of a medical
need that a lay person would easily recognize. The size of her
pupils were not dissimilar, neither side of her face drooped any
more than the other, she had no obvious bleeding or wounds, and
she was able to competently communicate with the officers. Indeed,
the deposition testimony indicates that even a physician would
Woodruff’s appearance and behavior that night.
support her assertions, Ms. Woodruff has not shown that she
suffered from an objectively serious medical need. Thus, she has
not established that Officer Wilson violated a constitutional
right. Officer Wilson is entitled to qualified immunity on this
claim, as well.
Because Ms. Woodruff has failed to show that Officer Wilson
deprived her of any constitutional right, the Court need not
proceed to the second step of the analysis. Officer Wilson is
entitled to qualified immunity from Ms. Woodruff’s suit.
Officer Overton Meyer-Hesler
The Court will employ the same analysis to the claims
against Officer Meyer-Hesler, first with regard to the claim of
arrest without probable cause. This claim must fail as to Officer
Meyer-Hesler because, although he was present prior to and during
the arrest, the evidence is undisputed that it was Officer Wilson,
not Officer Meyer-Hesler, who actually placed Ms. Woodruff under
With regard to the deliberate indifference claim against
discussed above in reference to Officer Wilson. Officer MeyerHesler performed his own evaluation of Ms. Woodruff and found no
Woodruff’s self-diagnosis is not enough to establish a serious
medical need. Taking the facts as Ms. Woodruff has presented them,
the Court finds insufficient evidence that she suffered from an
objectively serious medical need, i.e., brain swelling, on the
night of her arrest.
As with Officer Wilson, the Court finds no need to proceed to
the second step of the qualified-immunity analysis. Ms. Woodruff
has failed to show that Officer Meyer-Hesler deprived her of a
constitutional right; thus, he is entitled to qualified immunity
on all claims.
Chief Kathy O’Kelly
The Court now turns to the claims against Chief O’Kelly
in her individual capacity. Ms. Woodruff accuses Chief O’Kelly of
failing to properly train and supervise the officers under her
command and of failing to properly investigate the incident that
led to this suit. Chief O’Kelly asserts qualified immunity.
(a) The Court must first determine whether Chief O’Kelly
has violated a constitutional right. Government officials may not
be held responsible for the unconstitutional conduct of their
employees under a theory of respondeat superior. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). A plaintiff naming such an
official as a defendant must show that the official has violated
the Constitution through her own individual actions. Id. If
alleging that the official failed to properly train or supervise
her employees, the plaintiff must show that the official was
deliberately indifferent to or tacitly authorized the offending
acts. Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1078 (8th Cir. 1996). The
plaintiff must show that the official had notice that the training
procedures and supervision were inadequate and likely to result in
a constitutional violation. Id.
Ms. Woodruff attempts to circumvent vicarious liability by
claiming that Chief O’Kelly personally violated her rights by not
properly training and supervising the officers. Yet she has
offered no proof of such violations beyond mere assertions. Ms.
Woodruff argues that these officers’ alleged failure to follow
certain policies and procedures during her arrest could only be a
result of a lack of training. The Court rejects this argument
since, as noted above, the Court has concluded that the officers
in question did not act with deliberate indifference or otherwise
Even if the Court had not so concluded, her
logic is flawed since——even if the allegations are true——a single
incident is not indicative of an overall lack of training and
would not support the claim against Chief O'Kelly.
The Court further notes that, even if it were to be assumed
that the allegations are true,
nothing shown here would rule out
other factors that might have led to the violations. Thus, without
more, the notion that poor training was the sole (or even a
contributing) cause of the incident would be nothing more than
Accordingly, Ms. Woodruff's claim that Chief O’Kelly failed
to properly train or supervise the officers must fail.
(b) Ms. Woodruff also asserts a claim against Chief
O'Kelly for her alleged failure to investigate the incident in
question. With regard to such an allegation, the official may be
subject to individual liability under § 1983 if
unconstitutional acts committed by employees;
(2) the official demonstrated a deliberate indifference
to or tacit authorization of the offensive acts;
(3) the official failed to take sufficient remedial
There is no proof in the record that Chief O’Kelly ignored a
pattern of unconstitutional acts on the part of her subordinates.
Even if it could be shown that Chief O’Kelly ignored violations in
this particular incident (a matter very much in dispute), such a
showing would not be sufficient to demonstrate a constitutional
violation under the foregoing criteria.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Ms.
Woodruff, as the Court is required to do, the Court concludes that
Ms. Woodruff has failed to demonstrate a constitutional violation
by Chief O’Kelly. Because no violation has been established, it is
unnecessary to proceed to the second step of the analysis. Chief
O’Kelly is entitled to qualified immunity.
City of Springdale
Finally, the Court will consider the claims against the
City of Springdale and the other defendants in their official
capacities. Ms. Woodruff claims that officers for the City of
Springdale, while acting in their official capacities, routinely
and customarily commit constitutional violations such as the ones
alleged in this action. Therefore, she argues, the City itself is
responsible for the officers’ actions.
A suit against a governmental employee in his official
government itself. Dornheim v. Sholes, 430 F.3d 919, 926 (8th
Cir.2005). A local government may not be sued under § 1983 on the
theory of respondeat superior. Lansdown v. Chadwick, 152 F. Supp.
2d 1128, 1146 (W.D. Ark. 2000) aff'd, 258 F.3d 754 (8th Cir.
2001). However, the entity may be liable under § 1983 when its
official policy, statement, or decision can be causally related to
the allegedly unconstitutional conduct of its employees. Id. A
custom or pattern of constitutional violations can also create the
basis for liability, even if such custom has not received official
Ms. Woodruff has presented no evidence——beyond her mere
accusations——that any Springdale officer has exhibited a pattern
of constitutional violations. Nor has she shown that the City has
any custom or policy of permitting such violations. Without
evidence to support these claims, summary judgment is proper. The
Court, therefore, finds that summary judgment should be granted as
to the City of Springdale and the other defendants in their
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment (document #28) is granted as to each individual defendant
based on qualified immunity.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that summary judgment is granted as to
the City of Springdale and each defendant in their official
capacities. This matter will be dismissed by a separate order.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Jimm Larry Hendren
JIMM LARRY HENDREN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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