Bates v. Helder et al
OPINION granting 8 Motion to Dismiss filed by Sheriff Helder. Separate Defendant Sheriff Helder's claims are dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Honorable P. K. Holmes, III on May 24, 2017. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
BRADY STEVEN BATES
Civil No. 5:16-cv-05240
SHERIFF TIM HELDER;
DEPUTY R. MARSH; and
CORPORAL S. SMITH
Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma
pauperis. Currently before the Court is the motion to dismiss (Doc. 8) for failure to state a claim
filed by Separate Defendant, Sheriff Helder, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff is incarcerated in the Washington County Detention Center. On December 10,
2015, Plaintiff was taken to Washington Regional Medical Center where he alleges Deputy Marsh
and Corporal Smith held him down while a nurse forcibly inserted a catheter. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff
contends Deputy Marsh and Corporal Smith used excessive force against him when they held him
down despite his begging them not to do so. (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff has sued Deputy Marsh and Corporal Smith in both their individual and official
capacities. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff lists Sheriff Helder as a Defendant, but he does not mention him in
the statement of his claim. (Doc. 1). In a supplement (Doc. 17) to the Complaint, Plaintiff does
not list Sheriff Helder as a Defendant or mention him in the statement of his claim. (Doc. 17).
Instead, he only asserts a claim for “trespass against [his] property” based on the December 10,
2015, actions of Deputy Marsh and Corporal Smith. (Doc. 17). In the supplement, Plaintiff also
states that he was taken to the emergency room of the Springdale Hospital rather than Washington
Regional. (Doc. 17).
Rule 8(a) contains the general pleading rules and requires a complaint to present “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). “In order to meet this standard, and survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), ‘a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Braden v. Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations omitted)). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S.
at 678. While the Court will liberally construe a pro se plaintiff’s complaint, the plaintiff must
allege sufficient facts to support his claims. See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004).
Sheriff Helder argues the even accepting Plaintiff’s allegations as true, the Complaint fails
to state facts showing the he conducted any wrongful activity or caused any alleged damage or
injury. Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of
a citizen's "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United
States. In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff must allege that defendant acted
under color of state law and that he violated a right secured by the Constitution. West v. Atkins,
487 U.S. 42 (1988); Dunham v. Wadley, 195 F.3d 1007, 1009 (8th Cir.1999). The deprivation
must be intentional; mere negligence will not suffice to state a claim for deprivation of a
constitutional right under § 1983. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Davidson v. Cannon,
474 U.S. 344 (1986).
A claim of deprivation of a constitutional right cannot be based on a respondeat superior
theory of liability. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 654, 694 (1978). “[A]
supervisor is not vicariously liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an employee’s unconstitutional
activity.” White v. Holmes, 21 F.3d 277, 280 (8th Cir. 1994); see also Whitson v. Stone County
Jail, 602 F.3d 920, 928 (8th Cir. 2010) (“In a § 1983 case, an official is only liable for his own
misconduct and is not accountable for the misdeeds of his agents under a theory such as respondeat
superior or supervisor liability”) (internal quotations omitted); Keeper v. King, 130 F.3d 1309,
1314 (8th Cir. 1997) (“general responsibility for supervising the operations of a prison is
insufficient to establish the personal involvement required to support liability”).
“Liability under section 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the
deprivation of rights. To establish personal liability of the supervisory defendant, [Plaintiff] must
allege specific facts of personal involvement in, or direct responsibility for, a deprivation of his
constitutional rights.” Clemmons v. Armontrout, 477 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Mayorga v. Missouri, 442 F.3d 1128, 1132 (8th Cir. 2006)); Keeper v. King, 130 F.3d 1309, 1314
(8th Cir. 1997) (no evidence that the defendants were doctors or were personally involved in
making medical decisions about treatment); Mark v. Nix, 983 F.2d 138, 139-40 (8th Cir. 1993)
(section 1983 liability requires some personal involvement or responsibility). Here, Plaintiff has
not alleged the Sheriff was present at the hospital, involved in the decision to take Plaintiff to the
hospital, or was even aware that Plaintiff was taken to the hospital. Plaintiff has established no
causal link or direct responsibility of Sheriff Helder to the alleged deprivation of rights. Sheriff
Helder is not liable in his individual capacity for his staff's actions.
Official capacity claims are “functionally equivalent to a suit against the employing
governmental entity.” Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home, 627 F.3d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 2010). In
this case, the official capacity claims against Sheriff Helder are treated as claims against
Washington County. See Murray v. Lene, 595 F.3d 868, 873 (8th Cir. 2010).
A Plaintiff “seeking to impose liability on a municipality under § 1983 [must] identify [an
unconstitutional] policy or custom that caused the plaintiff’s injury.”
Board of County
Commissioners of Bryan County, Oklahoma v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997). “There are two
basic circumstances under which municipal liability will attach: (1) where a particular municipal
policy or custom itself violates federal law, or directs an employee to do so; and (2) where a facially
lawful municipal policy or custom was adopted with ‘deliberate indifference’ to its known or
obvious consequences.” Moyle v. Anderson, 571 F.3d 814, 817-18 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation
Plaintiff has not alleged a plausible “policy” claim, as he has not pointed to “any officially
accepted guiding principle or procedure that was constitutionally inadequate.” Jenkins v. County
of Hennepin, 557 F.3d 628, 633 (8th Cir. 2009).
Merely alleging a use of excessive force is
insufficient. Plaintiff has not pointed to a “deliberate choice of a guiding principle or procedure
made by the institution’s official who has final authority in such matters.” Id.
“[A] custom can be shown only by adducing evidence of a continuing, widespread,
persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct.” Id. at 634 (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Plaintiff has not asserted facts sufficient to state a plausible claim that there was any
widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional conduct. The official capacity claims against
Sheriff Helder should be dismissed.
For these reasons, Separate Defendant Sheriff Helder’s motion to dismiss (Doc. 8) is
GRANTED, and all claims against him are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 24th day of May, 2017.
P. K. HOLMES, III
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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