B.A. et al v. Bruce Normile Juvenile Justice Center et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER (See Full Order) IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant Christopher Wright's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 28 ] is granted in part and denied in part. Counts I, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, and XV are dismissed against Christopher Wright in his official capacity only, but the counts remain pending against Wright in his individual capacity. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on 1/11/17. (EAB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
B.A., as Parent and next friend of
JANE DOE, a minor,
2nd JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF THE
STATE OF MISSOURI, et al.,
Case No. 2:16 CV 72 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff B.A., as parent and next friend of minor Jane Doe, brings this suit
for damages arising from the alleged rape and sexual assault of Jane Doe by
defendant Christopher Wright, which allegedly occurred while Doe was at a staterun residential treatment center where Wright worked as a counselor. In addition
to Wright, the fifteen-count amended complaint seeks relief against the Second
Judicial Circuit, which ran the treatment center, and five other employees at the
facility. The claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, state tort law, and state
statutes, including the Missouri Human Rights Act.
All defendants other than Christopher Wright answered the amended
complaint. Wright moves to dismiss the eight counts brought against him for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), Fed. R. Civ. P. Wright, who is
no longer employed by the State, argues that the amended complaint only asserts
claims against him in his official capacity and that these claims are barred or
limited by the Eleventh Amendment, or should be dismissed as redundant.
The amended complaint alleges that all the individual defendants acted both
individually and within the scope of their employment. Because this is a sufficient
allegation to show that plaintiff is suing Wright in both his individual and official
capacities, I will grant the motion only to the extent it seeks to dismiss the officialcapacity claims against Wright, and will deny it as to all the claims brought against
him in his individual capacity.
The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is to allow the court to address the
threshold question of jurisdiction, as “judicial economy demands that the issue be
decided at the outset rather than deferring it until trial.” Osborn v. United States,
918 F.2d 724, 729 (8th Cir. 1990). The “Eleventh Amendment presents a
jurisdictional limit on federal courts in civil rights cases against states and their
employees.” Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1989); see Murphy v.
State of Ark., 127 F.3d 750, 755 (8th Cir. 1997).
Where, as here, the motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
raises a facial challenge to jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), the court applies the
same standards as those for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Titus v.
Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 & n. 1 (8th Cir. 1993); Osborn v. U.S., 918 F.2d 724, 729
n. 6 (8th Cir. 1990). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes the
factual allegations of a complaint are true and construes them in favor of the
plaintiff. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326–27 (1989). To survive a motion
to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough factual allegations, accepted as true,
to state a claim for relief “that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Plaintiff brings eight counts against Wright in the amended complaint.
Count I is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Doe’s Fourteenth
Amendment right to equal protection. Counts IX, X, XI, XIII, and XIV are tort
claims for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault and
battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment. Count
XII is brought under a Missouri state statute for sexual abuse of a minor. Finally,
Count XV is brought under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), Mo. Rev.
Stat. § 213.010 et seq., for sexual harassment in places of public accommodation.
Plaintiff’s amended complaint states that at all times relevant to the counts alleged,
Wright was employed by defendant Second Judicial Circuit, a state entity.
Wright reads the amended complaint as only seeking liability against him in
his official capacity. Plaintiff responds that all eight counts are brought against
Wright in both his individual and official capacities. Plaintiff points to a paragraph
of the amended complaint, which is incorporated into all counts of the complaint
and states that Wright acted “both individually and within the scope of his
employment.” ECF No. 19 at ¶ 13. Construing the amended complaint in favor of
the plaintiff, as I must on a motion to dismiss, I conclude that the counts brought
against Wright are brought in both his individual and official capacities. Wright is
not entitled to dismissal of the individual-capacity claims.
Because the complaint also alleges that Wright acted in his official capacity,
I will consider the motion to dismiss as to those claims. The Eleventh Amendment
bars suits against non-consenting states by their own citizens, citizens of other
states, citizens of foreign states, or foreign nations. U.S. Const. Amend. XI;
Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 97-98 (1984). This bar
extends to suits against state officials when the state is the real party in interest. Id.
at 101. In an official capacity suit, the state is considered the real party in interest
if the decision would operate against the state treasury, interfere with public
administration, or restrain the state from acting. Coller v. State of Mo., Dep’t of
Econ. Dev., 965 F.Supp. 1270, 1276 (W.D. Mo. 1997) (citing Pennhurst, 465 U.S.
at 101). There is an exception to the Eleventh Amendment immunity bar when the
suit alleges unconstitutional acts by the state official in violation of federal law.
Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101-02 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)). In
such a case, the court could award injunctive relief against the official, but not
monetary damages. Id. at 102-03.
Wright, however, is no longer employed by the state of Missouri. ECF No.
34-1. The court cannot grant injunctive relief concerning an official’s future
conduct when he is no longer employed by the state. Coller, 965 F.Supp. at 1276.
Count I will be dismissed against Wright in his official capacity.
All the other counts brought against Wright in his official capacity are also
brought against his previous employer, Second Judicial Circuit. Because “a suit
against a supervisor in his or her official capacity is treated as a suit against the
employer itself,” these counts will be dismissed against Wright in his official
capacity as duplicative or redundant. See Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home, 627
F.3d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 2010); Bonenberger v. City of St. Louis, No. 4:16CV788
PLC, 2016 WL 5341113, at * 2 (E.D. Mo. September 23, 2016); Coller, 965
F.Supp. at 1275.1
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant Christopher Wright’s Motion
to Dismiss [ECF No. 28] is granted in part and denied in part. Counts I, IX, X, XI,
Plaintiff cites Bergfeld v. Board of Election Commissioners for City of St. Louis, No.
4:06CV1025 DDN, 2007 WL 5110310 (E.D. Mo. April 5, 2007), in an attempt to argue that the
dismissal of claims as duplicative applies to claims brought under Title VII but not the MHRA.
This argument is misplaced because the Bergfeld court only allowed claims brought under the
MHRA to proceed as to individual liability, not official capacity claims. Id. at *3.
XII, XIII, XIV, and XV are dismissed against Christopher Wright in his official
capacity only, but the counts remain pending against Wright in his individual
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 11th day of January, 2017.
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