Rohlfing v. City of St. Charles, Missouri et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss 4 Count I based on qualified immunity is DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II is GRANTED. Count II is DISMISSED, without p rejudice. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint if he wishes to do so. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count III isGRANTED. Count III is DISMISSED, with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge Shirley P. Mensah on 4/26/13. (ARL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
DAVID ROHLFING, SR.,
CITY OF ST. CHARLES, MISSOURI,
Case No. 4:12-CV-01670-SPM
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendants City of St. Charles (the
“City”) and police officers Rachel Croce and Lisa Schweppe (the “Officers”) to dismiss
Plaintiff’s claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 4). Plaintiff, David Rohlfing, Sr.,
claims he is entitled to recover under section 1983 because the Officers arrested, booked and
detained him for Assault, Second Degree, without a warrant and without probable cause.
Defendants contend that Counts I and II of the Complaint should be dismissed based upon the
doctrine of qualified immunity. Defendants further contend that Plaintiff’s claims against the
City brought under theories of failure to train or supervise (Count II) and respondeat superior
(Count III) fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because Plaintiff’s Complaint
does not, on its face, establish that the Officers are entitled to qualified immunity, the Court
denies Defendants’ motion as to Count I. However, for the reasons detailed below, the Court
will grant Defendants’ motion as to Counts II (failure to train) and III (respondeat superior)
because they fail to state a claim for which relief can be granted.1
The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 636(c)(1). (Doc. 13).
On June 29, 2011, Plaintiff and his wife went to a Hucks gas station in St. Charles to
purchase fuel for Plaintiff’s vehicle. As Plaintiff pulled his vehicle forward toward a gas pump,
he saw that an individual, Travis A. Hume, was standing in the way. Plaintiff asked Hume to
move, and Hume asserted that he was “saving” the spot for his girlfriend. Plaintiff and Hume
exchanged words, and ultimately Hume relented and vacated his place on the lot. Plaintiff then
moved forward, parked, purchased fuel, and left the Hucks premises without further incident.
Forty-five minutes after the incident and after Hume was told by his mother to contact the
police, Hume summoned police and alleged that Plaintiff had struck Hume with Plaintiff’s
vehicle. Hume alleged that Plaintiff drove forward and hit him, forcing him onto the top of
Plaintiff’s vehicle, and that Plaintiff continued to drive forward with Hume still on his hood.
Hume was not injured. This event was allegedly accompanied by loud statements between
Plaintiff and Hume; however, no one called the police or otherwise intervened. One of the
officers spoke to the on-duty manager to ascertain whether there were any tapes of the event;
however, the officer did not ask any questions about whether the on-duty manager or anyone else
employed by Hucks saw what happened. The officers did not attempt to locate or contact any
other witnesses to the event who were customers of Hucks.
After leaving Hucks, Plaintiff and his wife drove to a nearby restaurant to meet out-oftown relatives. Plaintiff’s wife left Plaintiff there, and she returned to their home. After
Plaintiff’s wife had been home for about fifteen minutes, she was summoned to the door by a
knock. She opened the door and encountered three police officers: Defendants Rachel Croce and
Lisa Schweppe, and, approximately twenty yards away, a man who appeared to be a supervisor.
The Court’s recitation of the facts is taken from the allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint
(Doc. 1), which the Court accepts as true for purposes of this motion to dismiss.
The officers asked for David Rohlfing, and his wife told them that she had left him at a
Culpepper’s restaurant. The officers were aware that Plaintiff’s wife was a potential witness to
the incident between Plaintiff and Hume, but they did not interview her. They also had the
opportunity to inspect the vehicle allegedly used to strike Hume, but they did not do so. The
After the officers left, at least two of them, Croce and Schweppe, went to Culpepper’s,
located Plaintiff, and arrested him. They handcuffed him in the middle of the restaurant, in front
of his friends and family members and in public. They arrested him without any questioning of
him. They conducted this arrest at the direction of, or with the knowledge and approval of, at
least one supervisor. After taking Plaintiff into custody, the officers transported Plaintiff to the
St. Charles police department, where he was booked, processed, and detained in jail until he was
released pending application for a warrant. Plaintiff was booked for Assault, Second Degree,
which is a class C felony in Missouri.
A. COUNT I: LIABILITY OF THE OFFICERS FOR ARREST WITHOUT PROBABLE CAUSE
In Count I, Plaintiff brings an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Officers
deprived him of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they arrested him
without a warrant and without probable cause. Specifically, he claims that they failed to conduct
a reasonably thorough investigation in that they relied solely on the alleged victim’s report,
which was not credible; they did not interview potential witnesses or examine the car used in the
alleged assault, despite having the opportunity to do so; and there were no exigent circumstances
that would have excused the failure to conduct a more thorough investigation.
1. Applicable Legal Standard for Evaluating Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Defendants contend that the Officers are entitled to qualified immunity and ask this Court
to dismiss Count I for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). However,
Defendants cite no cases in which courts have treated qualified immunity as a question of subject
matter jurisdiction. Indeed, in the only case Defendants cite in which the court addressed a
motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity, the court evaluated it as a 12(b)(6) motion for
failure to state a claim. (Doc. 5, at 6 (citing Ulrich v. Pope County, No. 12-148 (DWF/LIB),
2012 WL 2603210, at *2-*3 (D. Minn. July 5, 2012))). Consistent with that case, this Court’s
independent review of the relevant case law demonstrates that courts within the Eighth Circuit do
not treat qualified immunity as a subject matter jurisdiction issue, but rather as a Rule 12(b)(6)
See, e.g., Mathers v. Wright, 636 F.3d 396, 397-401 (8th Cir. 2010); Bradford v.
Huckabee, 394 F.3d 1012, 1015-16 (8th Cir. 2005); Hafley v. Lohman, 90 F.3d 264, 266-67 (8th
Cir. 1996); Bailey v. Calvin, No. 4:11CV414 DDN, 2012 WL 4092456, at *1-*3 (E.D. Mo. Sept.
17, 2012); Davis v. Webb, No. 4:11-CV-1906-JAR, 2012 WL 3984514, at *1-*4 (E.D. Mo. Sept.
11, 2012); Johnson v. Bd. of Police Comm’rs, 370 F. Supp. 2d 892, 897-901 (E.D. Mo. 2005).
Thus, this Court rejects Defendants’ suggestion that the qualified immunity issue
implicates this Court’s subject matter jurisdiction. This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s
claims because Plaintiff alleges a colorable claim arising under the Constitution and laws of the
United States—a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment
rights were violated when he was arrested without probable cause. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The
district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States.”); Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 513, 126 S. Ct.
1235, 1244, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006) (“A plaintiff properly invokes § 1331 jurisdiction when
she pleads a colorable claim ‘arising under’ the Constitution or laws of the United States.” (citing
Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 681-85, 66 S. Ct. 773, 90 L. Ed. 939 (1946))).
In the alternative, Defendants argue that Count I must be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6)
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 11, at 4-5). When ruling on
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the
complaint, “no matter how skeptical the court may be.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 696,
129 S. Ct. 1937, 1959, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).
To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.’” Id. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); accord
B & B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Indus., Inc., 569 F.3d 383, 387 (8th Cir. 2009).
differently, “a complaint must contain factual allegations sufficient ‘to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level . . . .’” Parkhurst v. Tabor, 569 F.3d 861, 865 (8th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d
614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007) (examining federal pleading standards).
This standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,’ but it demands more than
an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Neither “labels and conclusions,” a “formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action,” nor “naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement”
will suffice. Id. A claim satisfies the plausibility standard “when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. To prevail on a claim of qualified immunity at the motion to dismiss
stage, the defendant “must show that [he or she] is entitled to qualified immunity on the face of
the complaint.” Mathers, 636 F.3d at 399.
2. Plaintiff’s Complaint, Standing Alone, Does Not Establish That Defendants Are
Entitled to Qualified Immunity.
Defendants argue that the “well-pled” facts in Plaintiff’s Complaint establish that the
Officers are entitled to qualified immunity. “Qualified immunity shields a government official
from liability and the burdens of litigation unless his conduct violates ‘clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Loch v. City
of Litchfield, 689 F.3d 961, 965 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818, 102 S. Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982)). “An official is entitled to qualified immunity
unless (1) the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, establishes a violation
of a constitutional or statutory right, and (2) the right was clearly established at the time of the
violation.” Id. “To be clearly established, a right must be sufficiently clear that every reasonable
official would [have understood] that what he is doing violates that right.” Reichle v. Howards,
132 S. Ct. 2088, 2093, 182 L.Ed.2d 985 (2012) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
‘“It is well established that a warrantless arrest without probable cause violates an
individual’s constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.”’ Marksmeier
v. Davie, 622 F.3d 896, 900 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hannah v. City of Overland, Mo., 795 F.2d
1385, 1389 (8th Cir. 1986)). On the other hand, “‘[a] warrantless arrest is consistent with the
Fourth Amendment if it is supported by probable cause.’” Royster v. Nichols, 698 F.3d 681,
687-88 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fisher v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 619 F.3d 811, 816 (8th Cir.
2010)). “‘An officer has probable cause to make a warrantless arrest when the facts and
circumstances are sufficient to lead a reasonable person to believe that the defendant has
committed or is committing an offense.’” Id. Probable cause is determined at the moment the
arrest was made; and, in determining whether probable cause existed, the court must look at all
of the information available to the officers at the time of the arrest and decide whether, given the
totality of the circumstances, a prudent person would believe the suspect had committed or was
committing a crime. Id. at 688.
Defendants in the present case assert that the facts in the Complaint establish the
existence of probable cause, and thus, qualified immunity, because (1) the Officers’ decision to
arrest Plaintiff was predicated on the unsolicited report of Travis Hume, the alleged victim, (2)
Hume’s statement to police was sufficiently detailed, and (3) Plaintiff’s Complaint acknowledges
that exculpatory information that might have exonerated Plaintiff was not known to the Officers
at the time of Plaintiff’s arrest. In support of their position, Defendants argue that Kiser v. City
of Huron, 219 F.3d 814, 815-16 (8th Cir. 2000), controls because the facts presented in
Plaintiff’s Complaint are analogous to the facts in Kiser. I disagree.
In Kiser, a woman went to a city police station and reported, “[a]mong many other
details,” her ex-boyfriend had confronted her in a local parking lot, taken her car keys, seized her
by force, and driven her to a remote location against her will. Id. at 815. Based solely on the
strength of the woman’s representations in her interview, the officer arrested the suspect without
a warrant. Id. The suspect filed suit alleging that the officer had violated his constitutional
rights by arresting him without probable cause, arguing that the officer should have conducted
additional investigation before arresting him. Id. at 815-16. The Court found that a reasonably
prudent officer in the defendant’s position “would have sufficient grounds to believe that [the
plaintiff] had committed a serious criminal offense,” and that therefore probable cause supported
the warrantless arrest. Id. at 816. The court emphasized that the officer had “received a credible
and unsolicited report from the alleged victim” and that that report “contained sufficient detail to
suggest that the complainant spoke truthfully.” Id. The court therefore affirmed the district
court’s grant of summary judgment. Id.
In this instance, Kiser does not control for several reasons. First, Kiser was decided at
the summary judgment stage. As such, the court had the benefit of being able to evaluate the
“many” details in the victim’s statement to find that it contained “sufficient detail to suggest that
the complainant spoke truthfully”—the primary factor on which the court relied in determining
whether probable cause was present. Id. at 816. Here, Plaintiff’s Complaint does not include a
detailed recitation of Hume’s statement to police. Instead, it asserts in general terms that Hume
“summoned the police and alleged that Plaintiff had struck [Hume] with Plaintiff’s vehicle.”
(Doc. 1, ¶ 18). The Complaint then goes on assert that Hume’s account to police of what
occurred “included” allegations that “when Plaintiff drove forward, he hit Hume, ‘forcing Hume
onto the top of [Plaintiff’s] hood” and that “[Plaintiff] continued to drive forward with Hume still
on his hood.” Id. at ¶ 28. Thus, it is clear from the face of the Complaint that it does not reflect
the totality of the circumstances known to the Officers at the time of Plaintiff’s arrest. Although,
as discussed in more detail below, the Complaint alleges sufficient facts to plausibly support a
claim that the warrantless arrest violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, given the paucity of
facts detailing everything Hume told police, Defendants have not met their burden of
establishing that they are entitled to qualified immunity based solely on the allegations in the
Even assuming for the sake of argument that the Complaint comprises the totality of the
circumstances known to the Officers at the time of the arrest, Kiser is not controlling. Looking
solely at the facts alleged in the Complaint, Hume’s account of the incident is unlike the victim’s
detailed account given to police in Kiser. The account Hume gave to the Officers in this case—
namely, that Plaintiff struck him with Plaintiff’s vehicle, forcing him onto the top of his hood,
and continued to drive forward, and that this event was accompanied by loud statements between
Plaintiff and Hume—was not particularly detailed and, standing alone, does not warrant the
conclusion that there was probable cause to believe Plaintiff had committed the felony offense of
Assault, Second Degree.3
In addition, unlike the situation in Kiser, the Complaint here alleges that the Officers
were aware of facts that significantly undermined the credibility of Hume’s report. For example,
the Officers were aware of, but did not consider, the fact that Hume was not injured, despite his
allegation that he was allegedly hit by a car hard enough to force him onto the car’s hood. They
were also aware of, but did not consider, the fact that no one had called the police or otherwise
intervened, despite the fact that the alleged incident happened in a public place and was
accompanied by loud statements from Plaintiff and Hume.
The facts alleged in Plaintiff’s Complaint also suggest that, unlike the officer in Kiser, the
Officers here failed to conduct even a basic, minimal investigation despite having ample
opportunities to do so and despite the absence of exigent circumstances. For example, the
Officers here actually spoke with several potential eyewitnesses prior to the arrest—the on-duty
manager at the gas station, Plaintiff’s wife, and Plaintiff himself—yet failed to ask them any
questions about what happened. Accepting as true Plaintiff’s allegations regarding what actually
Under Missouri law, a person commits the crime of assault in the second degree if he or she:
(1) Attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another
person under the influence of sudden passion arising out of adequate cause; (2) Attempts to
cause or knowingly causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or
dangerous instrument; (3) Recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person; (4) while
in an intoxicated condition or under the influence of controlled substances or drugs, operates a
motor vehicle and acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to any other person; (5)
Recklessly causes physical injury to another person by means of discharge of a firearm; or (6)
Operates a motor vehicle in violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. 304.022(2) and when so operating, acts
with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to any person authorized to operate an
emergency vehicle, while such person is in the performance of official duties. Mo. Rev. Stat.
happened, it is a reasonable inference that one or more of these witnesses, if interviewed, would
have offered exculpatory evidence.
Plaintiff’s allegation that there were no exigent
circumstances that would have precluded a more thorough investigation is bolstered by the
additional facts that Plaintiff was at a restaurant and his wife readily told the Officers about his
Defendants unsuccessfully attempt to sidestep the foregoing facts, which clearly
distinguish this case from Kiser. First, Defendants argue that these distinguishing facts are mere
conclusions which the Court need not consider in ruling on the motion to dismiss. However, the
assertions in the Complaint which distinguish this case from Kiser are sufficiently detailed and
go well beyond the sort of “labels and conclusions” and “naked assertions” that the Supreme
Court has authorized courts to ignore when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Defendants next argue that Plaintiff’s Complaint “expressly
acknowledges” that these distinguishing facts were not known to the Officers at the time of
Plaintiff’s arrest. Notwithstanding Defendants’ arguments to the contrary, Plaintiff’s Complaint
does not so assert. Rather, it states that Defendants “were required to consider the totality of the
circumstances presented to them” and that they did not “consider” these circumstances before
making their arrest. (Doc. 1, ¶ 28) (emphasis added). The Complaint sufficiently alleges that the
Officers were aware of these circumstances.
The Eighth Circuit has previously held that an officer who performs an arrest based on a
victim’s report without conducting a reasonably thorough investigation—such as interviewing
readily available witnesses at the scene who have exculpatory information—is not entitled to
qualified immunity in a suit based on a lack of probable cause for the arrest. In Kuehl v. Burtis,
173 F.3d 646 (8th Cir. 1999), an officer arrested a suspect based on the report of a victim and
other eyewitnesses. The officer spoke only briefly with the suspect and ignored her account of
what happened, declined to interview an eyewitness who had seen the entire incident and who
attempted to explain what had happened, and ignored visible physical evidence supporting the
suspect’s story. Id. at 648-49. The suspect brought a section 1983 action alleging that she was
arrested without probable cause, and the defendant moved for summary judgment on the basis of
qualified immunity. Id. at 648. In affirming the district court’s denial of summary judgment, the
court held that “[a]n officer contemplating an arrest is not free to disregard plainly exculpatory
evidence, even if substantial inculpatory evidence (standing by itself) suggests that probable
cause exists. Id. at 650. It further held that “law enforcement officers have a duty to conduct a
reasonably thorough investigation prior to arresting a suspect, at least in the absence of exigent
circumstances and so long as ‘law enforcement would not [be] unduly hampered . . . if the agents
. . . wait to obtain more facts before seeking to arrest.’”
Id. (quoting United States v.
Woolbright, 831 F.2d 1390, 1394 (8th Cir. 1987)).
Other courts have given similar guidance. See Amrine v. Brooks, 522 F.3d 823, 832-33
(8th Cir. 2008) (“[I]n the absence of exigent circumstances an officer who unreasonably fails to
investigate an incident sufficiently before arresting a suspect is not entitled to qualified
immunity.”); Logsdon v. Hains, 492 F.3d 334, 343-44 (6th Cir. 2007) (reversing the district
court’s dismissal based on qualified immunity and stating, “Officers initially assessing probable
cause to arrest may not off-handedly disregard potentially exculpatory information made readily
available by witnesses on the scene”); Romero v. Fay, 45 F.3d 1472, 1476-77 (10th Cir. 1995)
(“[T]he cases state that the probable cause standard of the Fourth Amendment requires officers to
reasonably interview witnesses readily available at the scene, investigate basic evidence, or
otherwise inquire if a crime has been committed at all before invoking the power of warrantless
arrest and detention.”), quoted with approval in Kuehl, 173 F.3d at 650; Sevigny v. Dicksey, 846
F.2d 953, 957 n.5 (4th Cir. 1988) (“[Objective inquiry into the reasonableness of an officer’s
perception of the critical facts leading to an arrest . . . must charge him with possession of all the
information reasonably discoverable by an officer acting reasonably under the circumstances.”),
cited with approval in Kuehl, 173 F.3d at 650; BeVier v. Hucal, 806 F.2d 123, 128 (7th Cir.
1986) (“A police officer may not close her or his eyes to facts that would help clarify the
circumstances of an arrest. Reasonable avenues of investigation must be pursued especially
when, as here, it is unclear whether a crime had even taken place.”), cited with approval in
Kuehl, 173 F.3d at 650.
Kuehl and the cases it cites clearly establish that an officer may not conduct a warrantless
arrest based solely on a victim’s report without conducting at least some minimal investigation,
at least where, as Plaintiff alleges here, the victim’s report shows signs that it was not credible,
there are obvious witnesses readily available to the officers who could contradict (or corroborate)
the victim’s report, and questioning those witnesses would not unduly hamper law enforcement.
Taking Plaintiff’s allegations as true (and with no other facts available), a reasonable police
officer would have understood that arresting Plaintiff based on Hume’s statements without any
additional investigation, would violate Plaintiff’s rights. Thus, although Defendants are certainly
entitled to seek summary judgment should discovery reveal additional evidence in support of
their position, dismissal is not warranted at this stage of the litigation because the Officers have
not shown that they are entitled to qualified immunity based on the face of Plaintiff’s Complaint.
B. COUNT II:
In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that the City deprived him of his rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments, because the Officers “were not properly trained in the law of arrest and
because they were not properly supervised in the event giving rise to this cause of action.” (Doc.
1, ¶ 36).
Defendants move to dismiss this claim, first arguing that because the Officer Defendants
did not violate Plaintiff’s constitutional rights (as Defendants asserted in their motion to dismiss
Count I), Count II must be dismissed. Defendants are correct that “in order for municipal
liability to attach, individual liability first must be found on an underlying substantive claim.”
Brockinton v. City of Sherwood, Ark., 503 F.3d 667, 674 (8th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks
omitted); see also Kiser v. City of Huron, 219 F.3d 814, 816 (8th Cir. 2000) (“We have
previously held that when a § 1983 plaintiff seeks to hold a municipality liable based on its
alleged inadequate training and supervision of its police officers that plaintiff must first establish
that the officers’ actions were unlawful. . . . Here, because [the defendant officer] is entitled to
qualified immunity and attendant summary judgment, [plaintiff] cannot establish the requisite
underlying claim.”). However, because the Court found that Plaintiff adequately alleged a
violation of his constitutional rights in Count I, this principle is not a basis for dismissal of Count
II at the present time.
Defendants also argue, in the alternative, that Count II must be dismissed for failure to
state a claim because Plaintiff has failed to allege each element required to prevail upon his
claim. To state a claim against the City for failure to train, a Plaintiff must allege that “(1) the
city’s . . . training practices are inadequate; (2) the city was deliberately indifferent to the rights
of others in adopting them, such that the ‘failure to train reflects a deliberate or conscious choice
by a municipality’; and (3) an alleged deficiency in the city’s . . . training procedures actually
caused the plaintiff’s injury.” Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1076 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting
City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 389, 109 S. Ct. 1197, 1205, 103 L.Ed.2d 412 (1989));
Atkinson v. City of Mountain View, Mo., 709 F.3d 1201, 1216 (8th Cir. 2013) (“Under § 1983, ‘a
claim for failure to supervise requires the same analysis as a claim for failure to train.’” (quoting
Robinette v. Jones, 476 F.3d 585, 591 (8th Cir. 2007))). To show deliberate indifference, a
plaintiff “must prove that ‘the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the
inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymakers of the
[City] can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need.’” B.A.B., Jr. v.
Bd. of Educ. of City of St. Louis, 698 F.3d 1037, 1040 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting City of Canton,
489 U.S. at 389). The Court agrees with Defendants that Plaintiff has failed to allege these
First, Plaintiff has not adequately alleged that the City’s training or supervision practices
were inadequate. Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges that the Officers were not properly trained or
supervised but makes no allegations regarding the City’s general training practices.
Supreme Court has emphasized that “the focus must be on adequacy of the training program in
relation to the tasks the particular officers must perform. That a particular officer may be
unsatisfactorily trained will not alone suffice to fasten liability on the city, for the officer’s
shortcomings may have resulted from factors other than a faulty training program.” City of
Canton, 489 U.S. at 390-91. Thus, Plaintiff’s allegation that the Officers in this case were not
properly trained or supervised is insufficient.
Second, Plaintiff’s Complaint is devoid of any allegations suggesting that the City acted
with deliberate indifference to the rights of others in adopting its training procedures or that its
alleged failure to train or supervise was a deliberate or conscious choice. Plaintiff argues that it
is a “reasonable inference” from his allegation that the City’s Chief of Police was made aware of
Plaintiff’s arrest and had the opportunity to intervene to prevent Plaintiff from being booked that
the City’s training, supervision, and discipline were inadequate and that the City acted with
deliberate indifference. The Court disagrees; the Chief of Police’s failure to prevent Plaintiff
from being booked on an assault charge after his arrest in this particular situation does not in any
way imply that the City acted with deliberate indifference in adopting its training or supervision
procedures. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and
Count II will be dismissed, without prejudice.
C. COUNT III: RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR LIABILITY OF CITY OF ST. CHARLES
In Count III, Plaintiff asserts a claim against the City based on a theory of respondeat
superior. Defendants move to dismiss the claim, asserting that federal courts have consistently
refused to hold municipalities liable under a theory of respondeat superior in § 1983 actions.
It is well-established that a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 based on a
respondeat superior theory. See Connick v. Thompson, 131 S. Ct. 1360, 1359, 179 L.Ed.2d 417
(2011) (“[U]nder § 1983, local governments are responsible only for their own illegal acts. They
are not vicariously liable under § 1983 for their employees’ actions.”) (citations and quotation
marks omitted); Bd. of County Comm’rs of Bryan County, Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403
(1997) (“We have consistently refused to hold municipalities liable under a theory of respondeat
superior.”); City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 384, 109 S. Ct. 1197, 1203, 103 L.Ed. 2d
412 (1989) (“Respondeat superior or vicarious liability will not attach under § 1983.”); Loch v.
City of Litchfield, 689 F.3d 961, 967 (8th Cir. 2012) (“It is well-established, however, that a
municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.”); Dahl v. Rice
County, Minn., 621 F.3d 740, 743 (8th Cir. 2010) (“Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a governmental
entity may not be held liable for the unconstitutional acts of employees.”).
Although acknowledging this precedent, Plaintiff states that Count III is “based on a good
faith argument for an extension of existing law.” Plaintiff cites dissenting opinions in Brown and
in Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 105 S. Ct. 2427, 85 L.Ed.2d 791 (1985), in which
various justices have argued that courts should recognize respondeat superior liability against
municipalities. (Doc. 10, at 11-12).
This Court is obligated to follow existing law as established by the majority of the United
States Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit, which is plainly that municipalities cannot be held
liable in section respondeat superior (Count III) and 1983 actions based on respondeat superior.
Based on clearly established law, Count III must be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
For all of the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ motion to dismiss Count I based on
qualified immunity should be denied. However, Counts II and III fail to state claims upon which
relief may be granted; as such, Defendants’ motion should be granted with respect to those
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Count I based on
qualified immunity is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Count II is
GRANTED. Count II is DISMISSED, without prejudice. Plaintiff may file an amended
complaint if he wishes to do so.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Count III is
GRANTED. Count III is DISMISSED, with prejudice.
/s/Shirley Padmore Mensah
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dated this 26th day of April, 2013.
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