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Stewart v. Speiser

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division

January 29, 2018

MICHAEL STEWART, et al., Plaintiffs,
DAVID SPEISER, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, (Doc. 34), asserts nine claims against law enforcement officers from the Lathrop Police Department, the Clinton County Sheriff's Department, the North Kansas City Police Department, and a security guard at the North Kansas City Hospital, (“the Hospital”). All defendants are sued in their individual and official capacities. (Doc. 34, ¶¶ 9-10.) The first eight counts are claimed civil rights violations, brought by Plaintiff Michael Stewart (“Michael”)[1] pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count IX is a claim for loss of consortium brought by Plaintiff Jennifer Stewart (“Jennifer”).

         Pending is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by the Lathrop and Clinton County Defendants. The Lathrop Defendants are Chief John Wilson and Officer David Speiser of the Lathrop Police Department, [2] and the Clinton County Defendants are Sheriff Porter Henson, Major Nicholas Neill, [3] and Deputies Jeff Parton and John Patterson of the Clinton County Sheriff's Office. All Defendants are named in their individual and official capacities (which means that Lathrop and Clinton County are also Defendants, e.g., Baker v. Chisom, 501 F.3d 920, 925 (8th Cir. 2007)), and these Defendants are named in Counts I through VI and Count IX. They seek summary judgment on some, but not all of the claims asserted against them. Plaintiffs contend that there are disputed issues of material fact that preclude judgment as a matter of law. As set forth below, the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, (Doc. 87), is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court begins by addressing some general matters. First, in many instances Plaintiffs respond to Defendants' proffered statements of uncontroverted facts by discussing unrelated facts that have nothing to do with the proposition originally advanced by Defendants and that have no bearing on the legal issues to be decided. The Court finds it unnecessary to discuss these extraneous allegations. Relatedly, there are several occasions in which Plaintiffs attempt to dispute a fact with a contention that is not supported by the portion of the Record cited by Plaintiffs. In some instances, Plaintiffs cite to exhibits that they have not supplied to the Court. Where necessary, the Court has supplied citations to the Record for the facts recited in this Order. In other instances, Plaintiffs attempt to controvert facts by contending that they lack sufficient information to admit or deny the facts in question. This is not an appropriate response to a motion for summary judgment; the non-moving party must point to evidence in the Record that creates a factual dispute. E.g., Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Conseco Life Ins. Co. v. Williams, 620 F.3d 902, 909-10 (8th Cir. 2010). In these instances, the matters are effectively admitted.

         A. The Events of August 8, 2014 Relevant to This Motion

         On the evening of August 8, 2014, Michael was arrested outside a convenience store in Lathrop, Missouri by Speiser, and was initially charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor. One felony charge was dismissed and the other was reduced to a misdemeanor. He was eventually convicted of assaulting a law enforcement officer and driving while intoxicated (a Class A misdemeanor and a Class B misdemeanor, respectively), and the convictions were affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

         Speiser administered force in order to remove Michael from his car, and at some point Michael lost consciousness; there is no need to detail these facts because Speiser does not seek summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims related to this use of force. Parton and Patterson arrived on the scene after Michael had already been removed from his car; they obviously did not see anything that occurred before they arrived, and they also did not see Speiser administer any force after they arrived. (Doc. 88-5, ¶¶ 3-6; Doc. 88-6, ¶¶ 3-6.) Michael regained consciousness while Speiser was transporting him to the Clinton County Jail, and he remained conscious for the duration of the trip. Plaintiffs allege that Speiser administered excessive force in removing Michael from the police car at the Clinton County Jail; again, these facts need not be detailed because Speiser does not seek summary judgment on this claim. Importantly, Plaintiffs concede that none of the other Defendants was present at the time of this incident. (Doc. 103, p. 7 (Plaintiffs' response to Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted Fact # 18).)[4]

         Michael again lost consciousness, and when he regained consciousness he found himself on the floor in a holding cell. He asked that an ambulance be summoned, and one was called for him. While the ambulance was en route, Michael was placed on a bench outside of his cell. He was then transported by ambulance to the Hospital. Neill was present at the jail for at least part of the time Michael was there. However, he never touched Michael, and he never saw anyone use inappropriate or excessive force on Michael. (Doc. 88-7, ¶ 5.) Patterson and Parton were also present at the jail for part of the time that Michael was there; Plaintiffs admit that Patterson and Parton did not use force on Michael, and the Record establishes that Patterson and Parton also did not see anyone subject Michael to excessive or inappropriate force. (Doc. 88-5, ¶¶ 7-8; Doc. 88-6, ¶¶ 7-8.)[5] Henson was not present at the jail when Michael was there. Similarly, Wilson had no dealings with Michael on August 8.

         Speiser, Patterson, and Parton went with the ambulance to the Hospital. Plaintiffs allege that Michael was subjected to excessive force when he was removed from the ambulance; Speiser, Patterson, and Parton do not seek summary judgment on this claim, so the Court need not discuss the surrounding facts. Later, acting on a complaint signed by Speiser alleging that he was assaulted by Michael at the Hospital, Officer Christopher Kimmel of the North Kansas City Police Department arrested Michael. There are additional facts surrounding Plaintiffs' claims, but they involve Plaintiffs' claims against other Defendants and need not be discussed in this Order.

         C. Additional Facts about Policies, Practices and Customs

         Prior to Plaintiffs' complaint in this case, Chief Wilson had received no allegations of excessive force involving members of the Lathrop Police Department. The police department's policy was for all officers to use no more force than necessary to effect an arrest. All officers (including Speiser) were required to complete POST training through the State of Missouri[6] and also received on-the-job training.

         Similarly, Clinton County - through Sheriff Henson - has a written policy regarding the use of force, which requires deputies and other Sheriff's Office employees to use the minimum amount of force necessary to effectuate arrests, overcome resistance, prevent escapes, or otherwise accomplish the lawful performance of duty. Use of Force reports are required whenever force is utilized, and those who utilize excessive force are subject to discipline. Use of Force reports are reviewed by supervisors, and the reviewing supervisor(s) are responsible for bringing incidents of excessive force to Henson's attention. There have been occasions in which Henson has disciplined deputies for using excessive force. (Doc. 88-8.) Clinton County also has a policy requiring law enforcement personnel to protect members of the public from harm, and officers are expected to intervene to prevent the use of excessive force. Finally, Neill, Parton and Patterson all underwent POST training and received on-the-job training.

         Plaintiffs attempt to create factual disputes on some of these points, but their efforts are unavailing. They stress that excessive force was used in this case, but even if this is true it does not alter the fact that (1) these policies exist and (2) deputies have been disciplined for administering excessive force. Plaintiffs also contend that other individuals have been subjected to excessive force and identify Kerrie Mick, Troy Thompson, and Steven Turner.[7] However, the material they cite for Mick is Exhibit 20, and there is no Exhibit 20 - nor is there any other exhibit that appears to be related to Mick. Exhibits 6 and 7 are affidavits from Turner and Thompson. Turner's affidavit primarily discusses the Daviess/DeKalb County Regional Jail.

         (Doc. 103-6.) Thompson's affidavit discusses both the Clinton Jail and the Daviess/DeKalb County Regional Jail. It also, as Defendants point out, relies on hearsay to describe other incidents at the Clinton County Jail, and hearsay cannot be used to create a factual dispute. E.g., Jenkins v. Winter, 540 F.3d 742, 748 (8th Cir. 2008). Neither affidavit says anything about the Lathrop Police Department, and the competent evidence in the affidavits does not establish that any force used at the Clinton County Jail was excessive or otherwise unconstitutional.

         D. Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint

         The following counts have been asserted against the moving Defendants.

• Count I alleges that Patterson, Parton, and Speiser violated Michael's constitutional rights by using excessive force (1) when Michael was arrested outside the convenience store and (2) when he was first brought to the Clinton County Jail.
• Count II alleges that Patterson, Parton, and Speiser violated Michael's constitutional rights by arresting him outside the convenience store without probable cause.
• Count III alleges that Patterson, Parton, Wilson, Hanson, Neill, and Speiser all violated their constitutional obligations to protect Michael from the use of excessive force alleged in Counts I and V.
• Count IV alleges that all of the Defendants conspired with each other to violate Michael's constitutional rights.
• Count V alleges that Patterson, Parton, and Speiser administered excessive force at the Hospital.
• Count VI contains only “official capacity” claims and thus is construed as asserting claims against the City ...

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