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Bry v. City of Frontenac

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 18, 2015

ROBERT M. BRY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF FRONTENAC, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendants City of Frontenac and Frontenac Police Officers Matthew Brune, Timothy Barnett, Rex Bamgartner, Jeremy Newton, James Ford, Matthew Loveless, and Bryan Wuertz's Joint Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (ECF No. 18). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND[1]

On September 13, 2013, Plaintiff Robert M. Bry ("Robert" or "Plaintiff') called 911 to report that he had been attacked with a knife by his then spouse Robin W. Bry ("Robin"). (First Amended Complaint ("Complaint" or "Compl.", ECF No. 22, ¶8). Robert told the police officers that his wife had chased him out of the house with a knife. (Compl., ¶9). Robert said he re-entered the house but he was chased out again and injured by his knife-wielding spouse, causing his right hand to bleed. (Compl., ¶¶9, 10) Robert claims that he was detained, arrested, and incarcerated by the Frontenac City Police Department ("Police Department") without cause or justification, and that the Police Department fabricated a police report to justify their actions. (Campi., ¶¶ 11-12). The Police Department and the Frontenac City Prosecutor then initiated a Felony" Assault Charge against Robert and recommended a "cash only" bond of $75, 000.00. (Campi., ¶13). They also recommended as a condition of release that he have no contact with Robin. (Campi., ¶14).

The St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office charged Robert in St. Louis Circuit Court, State of Missouri, with a felony assault charge (State of Missouri v. Robert Bry, Cause No. 13SL-CR9269-01). The St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office also recommended the bond amount and bond conditions suggested by the Police Department and Frontenac City Prosecutor. (Campi., ¶14). The charges against Robert were dismissed by the Court on June 23, 2014. (Campi., ¶15).

Robert filed this action on August 29, 2014. Robert filed a First Amended Complaint on January 20, 2015, alleging claims for Violation of Plaintiff's Rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by Police Officer Defendants (Count I), Liability of the City of Frontenac, Missouri for Violation of Plaintiff's Rights Under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution (Count II), False Arrest (Count III), Malicious Prosecution (Count IV), and Conspiracy to Violate the Constitutional Rights of Plaintiff (Count V).

STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the Complaint liberally in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Luney v. SGS Auto Servs., 432 F.3d 866, 867 (8th Cir. 2005)). Additionally, the Court "must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Huang v. Gateway Hotel Holdings, 520 F.Supp.2d 1137, 1140 (E.D. Mo. 2007).

DISCUSSION

I. Individual Frontenac Defendants

A. Probable Cause The essence of all of Defendants' arguments in support of its motion to dismiss is that

Plaintiffs arrest was supported by probable cause based upon the mere fact that he was indicted. Defendants argue that the indictment against Robert, filed on October 30, 2013, validates the existence of probable cause. (ECF No. 19 at 6) (citing Hazlett v. City of Pine Lawn, No. 4:12-CV-1715 JAR, 2014 WL 2441372, at *4 (E.D. Mo. May 30, 2014)). Therefore, Defendants claim there can be no claims against the individual defendants under Section 1983, for false arrest, or for malicious prosecution because there was no constitutional violation and the individual defendants are protected by qualified immunity.

Under Eighth Circuit law, an indictment constitutes prima facie evidence of probable cause, which the plaintiff bears the burden to rebut. Zike v. Advance Am., Cash Advance Centers of Missouri, Inc., 646 F.3d 504, 510 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Kvasnicka v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 350 Mo. 360, 166 S.W.2d 503, 505 (1942) ("In this case the plaintiff recognized that the burden of proof was upon her to overcome the prima facie presumption of probable cause arising out of the indictment....")). A plaintiff can rebut this prima facie evidence of probable cause by demonstrating, for instance, that the probable cause finding was procured through false or fraudulent testimony. Zike, 646 F.3d at 511,

Here, Plaintiff has alleged that "[t]he City Police Department conspired to concoct and fabricate the substance of a police report that was patently false, misleading, contained fabricated and completely unreliable evidence, and omitted all evidence that would have clearly exonerated Mr. Bry." (Compl., ¶12). In reply, Defendants refine their argument and assert that the allegations in Plaintiffs Complaint "fail[] to allege which individual officer acted or failed to act in what specific manner, and falls short of federal pleading requirements[.]" (ECF No. 28).[2] The Court, however, finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged his claims at this time and that the any purported pleading deficiencies can be addressed through discovery. That is, Plaintiff has alleged a violation of his constitutional ...


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