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Hamilton v. City of Hayti

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

March 2, 2017

HENRY HAMILTON, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
CITY OF HAYTI, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on separate motions to dismiss filed by each of the Defendants. Defendant City of Hayti, Missouri ("Hayti") has filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts II & III (ECF No. 9). In addition, Defendants Calvin Ragland ("Ragland") and Glenda Overbey[1]("Overbey") filed Motions to Dismiss all counts against them (ECF Nos. 11, 24). Defendant Amy Leeann Inman ("Inman") filed a Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiff s Complaint (ECF No. 18). Defendants Hayti and Ragland have also filed a Motion to Deny Certification of Class Action Status to Plaintiff and Dismiss Plaintiffs Class Claims (ECF No. 13). Finally, Plaintiff Henry Hamilton has filed a Motion to Deny Defendant City of Hayti's Motion to Dismiss as to Counts II and III or, in the Alternative, to Stay Disposition (ECF No. 35). Defendants' individual motions to dismiss are fully briefed and ready for disposition. Plaintiff did not respond to the motion to deny class certification and dismiss class claims. Defendant Hayti filed a response to Plaintiffs motion to stay; however, Plaintiff did not file a reply brief, and the time for doing so has expired.

         I. Background

         This case stems from the alleged actions by Defendants of unreasonably and unlawfully seizing, arresting, and imprisoning Plaintiff, and denying bail by imposing an excessive bond restriction. (Compl. pp. 1-2, ECF No. 1) Plaintiff brings this cause of action on behalf of himself and a putative class of individuals. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9) Plaintiff contends that on July 28, 2011, he went to the office of Cleveland Apartments in Hayti to apply for public housing. (Id. at ¶ 17) After completing and submitting his application, the apartment manager, Defendant Inman, questioned Plaintiff and accused him of falsifying the application. (Id. at ¶ 18) Inman later filed a complaint in municipal court for peace disturbance and assault, alleging that Plaintiff cursed at her and threw a pen at her. (Compl. Ex. C, ECF No. 1-3) In addition, Plaintiff contends Inman prepared a "Notice Against Trespass" prohibiting him from entering the premises of Cleveland Apartments. (Compl. ¶ 20) According to Plaintiff, Hayti police officers detained and arrested Plaintiff for a traffic violation because they did not yet have an arrest warrant. (Id. at ¶ 24)

         Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to the Pemiscot County Jail, as set forth in a letter from Defendant Overbey, the Court Administrator of the City of Hayti Municipal Court. (Compl. Ex. D, ECF No. 1-4) A warrant for assault in the third degree and peace disturbance was then issued on July 29, 2011, requiring Plaintiff to post a cash bond in the amount of $1, 022.50 and appear before the court on August 4, 2011. (Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 1-2) Plaintiff contends that Defendant Judge Ragland provided Overbey with a signature stamp and authorized her to set bonds and issue warrants without his review. (Compl. ¶ 28) Plaintiff further alleges that the actions of Ragland and Overbey of setting excess bond and holding Plaintiff in jail for 7 days were done solely to punish Plaintiff and prevent him from being released on bond. (Id. at ¶ 30)

         In addition, Plaintiff maintains that the bond schedule for Hayti is discriminates against poor individuals. (Id. at ¶ 31 A) Plaintiff contends that he was unlawfully imprisoned for 7 days and that he was then released by Ragland on Plaintiffs own recognizance. (Id. at ¶ 32) Ultimately, the Hayti prosecutor voluntarily dismissed the assault charge with prejudice, and the court ruled in favor of Plaintiff on the peace disturbance charge without imposition of any fine or period of incarceration. (Id. at ¶ 33)

         On March 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants, alleging a violation of Plaintiff s civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I) for conspiring to deprive Plaintiff of his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff maintains that Defendants violated his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, custodial arrest, and imprisonment for the alleged ordinance violations; to be free from prosecution not based on probable cause; to be released from imprisonment; to have his case heard and adjudicated before being compelled to plead guilty or prepay fines and court costs under the guise of a cash only bond; and to promptly be brought before a judge for an initial appearance and released at the time of arrest. In addition, Plaintiff alleges violations of the Missouri Constitution and Missouri Statute (Count II) for the reasons contained in Count I of the Complaint. Finally, Plaintiff brings a claim of civil conspiracy (Count III) for acting jointly and agreeing to prosecute Plaintiff, have him illegally arrested and incarcerated, deny bond by setting the amount unreasonably high, and refusing to release him on his own recognizance. Plaintiff seeks to pursue his case as a class action. He also seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages in excess of $1, 000, 000. The Defendants have filed individual motions to dismiss in this cause of action.

         Legal Standards

         With regard to motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must be dismissed if it fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While the Court cautioned that the holding does not require a heightened fact pleading of specifics, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his ' entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. In other words, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. . . ." Id. This standard simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the claim. Id. at 556.

         Courts must liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the factual allegations as true. See Id. at 555; see also Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (stating that in a motion to dismiss, courts accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint); Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (explaining that courts should liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff). Further a court should not dismiss the complaint simply because the court is doubtful that the plaintiff will be able to prove all of the necessary factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. However, "[w]here the allegations show on the face of the complaint there is some insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Benton v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 524 F.3d 866, 870 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Courts '"are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). When considering a motion to dismiss, a court can "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations to survive a motion to dismiss. Id.

         A. Defendant Hayti's Motion to Dismiss Counts II & III

         Defendant Hayti argues that Counts II and III should be dismissed because they are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. "Under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.600, public entities enjoy sovereign immunity . . . unless immunity is waived, abrogated, or modified by statute." Richardson v. City of St. Louis, 293 S.W.3d 133, 136 (Mo.Ct.App. 2009) (citation omitted). "A municipality has sovereign immunity from actions at common law tort in all but four cases." Bennartz v. City of Columbia, 300 S.W.3d 251, 259 (Mo.Ct.App. 2009). These four exceptions include:

(1) where a plaintiffs injury arises from a public employee's negligent operation of a motor vehicle in the course of his employment (section 537.600.1(1)); (2) where the injury is caused by the dangerous condition of the municipality's property (section 537.600.1(2)); (3) where the injury is caused by the municipality performing a proprietary function as opposed to a governmental function (State ex rel Board of Trustees of the City of North Kansas City Memorial Hospital, 843 S.W.2d 353, 358 (Mo. banc 1993)); and (4) to the extent the municipality has procured insurance, thereby waiving sovereign immunity up to but not beyond the policy limit and only for acts covered by the policy (section 537.610).

Id. at 259. "When bringing claims against a public entity, a plaintiff 'bears the burden of pleading with specificity facts giving rise to an exception to the rule of sovereign immunity[.]'" Warm v. St. Francois Cty., Missouri, No. 4:15CV895 CDP, 2016 WL 866089, at *7 (E.D. Mo. Mar. ...

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