Moore et al v. Ferguson Police Department et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 30 MOTION to Dismiss Case filed by Defendant James Knowles, III, Defendant Michael White, Defendant William Ballard, Defendant Keith Kallstrom, Defendant David Conway, Defendant Mark J. Byrne, Defendant Fe rguson, Missouri, City of, Defendant Kim Tihen, Defendant Brian Kaminski, Defendant Tim Larson, Defendant Ferguson Police Department, Defendant Matthew Bebe, Defendant Dwayne T. James, Defendant Thomas Jackson. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defen dants' partial motion to dismiss (#30) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim pertaining to the Eighth Amendment is DISMISSED. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 7/27/15. (CSG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
TINA MOORE, individually and as
Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF )
JASON MOORE, et al.,
CITY OF FERGUSON, MISSOURI, et al., )
No. 4:14-cv-1443 SNLJ
No. 4:14-cv-1447 SNLJ
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
Plaintiffs’ decedent, Jason Moore, died during an altercation with police in
Ferguson, Missouri. Plaintiffs are decedent’s relatives; they have filed this lawsuit
against the City of Ferguson, certain police officers, and other city officials. Defendants
have filed a partial motion to dismiss (#30). The matter has been fully briefed and is now
ripe for disposition.
Plaintiffs allege that Jason Moore was a 31-year-old man weighting approximately
135 pounds when he encountered police in the early morning of September 17, 2011.
Mr. Moore was near his Ferguson, Missouri home when he took his clothes off and ran
naked down the street yelling “God is good,” “glory to God,” and “I am Jesus.”
Individuals nearby informed the Ferguson Police Department, and officers were
dispatched. Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Moore was obviously unarmed and suffering from
mental illness. When Mr. Moore moved toward defendant Brian Kaminski, defendant
Kaminski shot a TASER device into Mr. Moore’s chest and right thigh. Mr. Moore fell
face-first onto the ground. While Mr. Moore lay on the ground, defendant Kaminski used
the TASER device several more times; plaintiffs allege that defendant did so for the
express purpose of inflicting pain. Another police officer, defendant Michael White,
pulled Mr. Moore’s arms behind his back and handcuffed him. Defendants White and
Kaminski allegedly left Mr. Moore in a prone position on the pavement without turning
him over or monitoring his breathing or medical status. Defendant officers William
Ballard and Matthew Bebe arrived on the scene and left Mr. Moore in that position and
did not monitor his medical status. It was eventually determined that Mr. Moore had
stopped breathing; paramedics were called, and Mr. Moore was transported to a hospital,
where he was pronounced dead.
Plaintiffs’ complaint brings three counts against the defendants. Count I is for
violation of decedent’s Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs claim defendants Kaminski, White,
Ballard, and Bebe unreasonably seized and used excessive force against Mr. Moore in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs claim the same four
defendants violated Mr. Moore’s rights to have his serious medical needs addressed
pursuant to the Eighth and Amendments.
Count II is for municipal liability for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs claim that the Ferguson police
department’s policies, customs, practices, and usages caused the constitutional
deprivations complained about. Plaintiffs claim that defendants City of Ferguson, James
Knowles, III, Mark J. Byrne, Kim Tihen, Dwayne T. James, Tim Larson, David Conway,
and Keith Hallstrom maintained the unconstitutional policies, customs, practices, and
usages that are violative of individuals’ civil rights. Count III is for wrongful death
against defendants Kaminski and White.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the Eighth Amendment claim in Count I and
all of Count III.
The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to
test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally
flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of
unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627
(8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). “To survive a
motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the ‘factual content. . .
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.’” Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court must “accept the
allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor
of the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir.
2005)). However, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported
by mere conclusory statements,” will not pass muster. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
The two components of defendants’ motion will be discussed in turn.
Count I --- Eighth Amendment Claim
Section 1983 is a statute that allows a person acting under “color of” state law to
be held liable for the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and its laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Eighth Amendment protects
individuals who have been convicted of crimes from the imposition of cruel and unusual
punishment. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 318 (1986). Although plaintiffs claim here
that defendants violated their decedent’s Eighth Amendment rights, defendants argue that
claim must be dismissed because Mr. Moore had not been convicted of a crime at the
time of the alleged misconduct. Because Mr. Moore was not a prisoner, they say, the
Eighth Amendment does not apply.
Plaintiffs respond that Mr. Moore had the right to be free from deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs, and, although those rights are typically asserted
by prisoners under the Eighth Amendment, a similar analysis may be made for a pre-trial
detainee under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although
defendants correct plaintiffs’ identification of the decedent as an apprehended suspect
(who has not been charged with a crime) rather than a pretrial detainee, the parties are
essentially in agreement: “The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
requires that the police must provide medical care to ‘persons ... who have been injured
while being apprehended by the police.’” Teasley v. Forler, 548 F. Supp. 2d 694, 709
(E.D. Mo. 2008) (quoting City of Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983)).
The Eighth Amendment therefore does not apply to plaintiffs’ claim and will be
Defendants contend that Count III for wrongful death should be dismissed in its
entirety because they believe official immunity applies. Official immunity insulates
public officials “from suit in their individual capacities when liability arises from
discretionary acts or omissions” taken by them. Teasley, 548 F. Supp. 2d at 709-10.
Official immunity does not insulate public officials (such as police officers) from
“ministerial acts,” which are of a clerical nature. Id. at 710. Defendants suggest that
because plaintiffs’ allegations are about only discretionary acts --- which are defined as
acts requiring “the exercise of reasons in the adaption of means to an end and discretion
in determining how or whether an act should be done,” id. --- and not ministerial acts,
Count III for wrongful death should be dismissed.
Missouri law is clear, however, that official immunity does not apply to
discretionary acts that were performed “in bad faith or with malice.” Id. (citing Blue v.
Harrah’s N. Kansas City, LLC, 170 S.W.3d 466, 479 (Mo. App. W.D. 2005)). Plaintiffs’
complaint has ample allegations going to bad faith or malice. For example, the complaint
states that defendant officers used the TASER on Mr. Moore without any legitimate
police purpose and only to inflict pain. (#26 at ¶ 29.) Notably, defendants do not address
Count III or their argument for its dismissal at all in their reply memorandum. The
defendants’ motion to dismiss Count III will be denied.
Defendants’ motion will be granted in part and denied in part. Count I’s claim for
violation of decedent’s Eighth Amendment rights will be dismissed, but Count I’s claims
for violation of decedent’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights remain. Counts II
and III remain in their entirety.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ partial motion to dismiss (#30) is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs’ 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim pertaining
to the Eighth Amendment is DISMISSED.
Dated this 27th day of July, 2015.
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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