United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
CRAIG E. ELLINGSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
ANTHONY C. PIERCY, et al., Defendants.
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are the Defendants’ Motions for Summary
Judgment [Docs. 228, 230, 233, 235]. In these motions, the
Defendants move for summary judgment on the following counts:
Defendant Piercy on Counts I and III; Defendants Replogle,
Johnson, Kindle, and Clardy on Count II; Defendants Kindle,
Clardy, Harris, Fick, and Stacks on Count III; Defendants
Barbour, Echternacht, and McCullough on Counts II, III, and
VI; and Defendants Eberhard and Herndon on Counts III and
Court granted a bifurcated briefing schedule on these
motions. [Doc. 265]. In an order entered on June 29, 2016,
the Court addressed Counts I, II, VI, and VII. [Doc. 292].
The Court now turns to the Defendants’ motions for
summary judgment on Count III.
following reasons, the Defendants’ motions for summary
judgment on Count III are granted.
following facts are uncontroverted for purposes of this
Brandon Ellingson’s death, Defendants Kindle, Stacks,
Eberhard, McCullough, Replogle, Herndon, and Harris were
involved in the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s
investigation of Defendant Piercy’s actions. [Doc.
275-9, p. 8; Doc. 275-25, p. 3; Doc. 275-6, p. 17; Doc.
275-17, p. 2; Doc. 275-20, p. 2]. Defendant Stacks was
appointed to lead the investigation, and in this capacity he
helped prepare evidence and witnesses in advance of the
coroner’s inquest, [Doc. 275-9, p. 7], which was
conducted by Dr. M.B. Jones with assistance from Amanda
Grellner, the special prosecutor then assigned to the case,
see [Doc. 287].
the investigative process, some information about
Piercy’s training and Brandon’s drowning was
ignored, other information was not preserved, and certain
evidence was not chosen for presentation to the jury at the
inquest. [Doc. 275-18, p. 16; Doc. 275-35, pp. 17-28; Doc.
275-6, pp. 18-19; Doc. 275-17, pp. 2, 8-9]. Plaintiffs
particularly note that evidence about the speed of
Piercy’s boat, video conversations between Piercy and
his supervisors, and a video recreation of the incident were
all omitted from the inquest; that several potential
witnesses-including Sergeant Randy Henry-were not asked to
testify; and that changes were made to an accident report
prepared by the MSHP. [Doc. 275-18, pp. 22-23; Doc. 297-2,
pp. 19, 39-40; Doc. 297-9, p. 1].
inquest was held on September 4, 2014 and resulted in a jury
verdict finding that Brandon’s death was caused by
accidental drowning. [Doc. 297-7, p. 1]. On September 8,
Grellner informed Replogle that no formal criminal charges
would be filed against Piercy. [Doc. 297-10, p. 2]. Three
months later, on December 5, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their
present civil suit. See [Doc. 1].
Count III of their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the
Defendants conspired to deprive them of their constitutional
rights in the aftermath of Brandon’s death. The purpose
of this conspiracy, Plaintiffs contend, was “to cover
up the cause of Brandon’s death while in the custody of
Defendant Piercy and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, in
order to deprive the Plaintiffs of their constitutional
rights, including but not limited to their right to seek
redress for their grievances through the courts, right to
equal protection under the law, and right to due process of
law.” [Doc. 45, p. 22, ¶ 111]. Accordingly,
Plaintiffs assert a civil conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1983, 1985, and 1986.
Court has already dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims under
Sections 1985 and 1986 as alleged against Defendants Piercy,
Kindle, Clardy, and Stacks. [Doc. 241]. Defendants
McCullough, Echternacht, Barbour, Eberhard, Herndon, Harris,
and Fick now move for summary judgment on the Section 1985
and Section 1986 claims. All Defendants move for summary
judgment on Plaintiffs’ conspiracy claim under Section
1983. In their arguments, citing Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56(a), the Defendants maintain there is no genuine
dispute regarding any material fact and they are entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
state a Section 1983 conspiracy claim, a plaintiff must
allege “that the defendant conspired with others to
deprive him or her of a constitutional right; that at least
one of the alleged co-conspirators engaged in an overt act in
furtherance of the conspiracy; and that the overt act injured
the plaintiff.” Askew v. Millerd, 191 F.3d
953, 957 (8th Cir. 1999). Further, “[t]he plaintiff is
additionally required to prove a deprivation of a
constitutional right or ...