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Copeland v. Wicks

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

July 21, 2015

DEANNA COPELAND, Appellant,
v.
LUCAS WICKS, Respondent

Page 887

Editorial Note:

Not Final until expiration of the rehearing period. See MO R RCP Rule 84.16 regarding unpublished opinions.

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LINCOLN COUNTY. The Honorable David Ash, Judge.

Copeland was represented by John D. James of James Law Group LLC in St. Peters.

Wicks was represented by Joel D. Brett and Katherine R. Moore, attorneys in St. Charles.

Mary R. Russell, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Page 888

Mary R. Russell, Judge.

Deanna Copeland (" Mother" ) appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lucas Wicks (" Detective" ) on her malicious prosecution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims. She argues Detective was not entitled to summary judgment because the statements he made in his probable cause affidavit were intentionally false or made with a reckless disregard for the truth. Because there was no evidence that Detective acted with malice, he was entitled to judgment on the malicious prosecution claim. Detective was also entitled to qualified immunity on the § 1983 claim because there was probable cause to believe Mother had committed a criminal offense. The trial court's judgment is affirmed.

Factual Background

Detective, a deputy sheriff in Lincoln County, was asked by the division of family services to investigate the possible abuse of a child who was approximately two years old. DFS informed him that a children's hospital determined that the child had suffered injuries that were non-accidental.

Detective reviewed photographs of the child that showed she sustained bruises to her eye and lip and conducted a custodial interview of Mother. During this interview, she stated that, on the night the child sustained the injuries, she came home from work at 4:30 a.m. to find the child alone in the bathroom with the door shut and ripped-up toilet paper on the floor. Her boyfriend was asleep in another room, and she relayed that this situation made her angry.

Mother told Detective that she opened the door to the bathroom with " a little more force" than just " nice and gentle," and she picked up the child " a little rough." She agreed that the bruise on the child's eye was consistent with the bathroom door knob and that it was possible the child hit her eye on the door when she picked her up. Specifically, Detective asked, " [t]hen she hit her eye on the door knob?" and Mother responded, " It could have, possibly, because I just picked her up. I was so ...


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