United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division
ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANT CHRISTOPHER KIMMEL'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
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 purportedly 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”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Count IX is a claim for loss of consortium brought by
Plaintiff Jennifer Stewart (“Jennifer”).
Christopher Kimmel is an officer with the North Kansas City
Police Department. He has filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment, contending the undisputed facts demonstrate that he
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiffs
contend that there are disputed issues of material fact that
preclude judgment as a matter of law. As set forth below,
Kimmel's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 69), is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
outset the Court addresses some general matters to explain
why they are not discussed in greater detail in this Order.
First, some aspects of Plaintiffs' claims refer to
incidents that Kimmel was not involved in and that form the
basis for Plaintiffs' claims against other Defendants.
Each side disputes the other's characterization of these
events but the Court should not delve deeply into those
disputes because, as stated, Kimmel was not involved in them
and they do not form the basis for Plaintiffs' claims
against Kimmel. The Court can provide sufficient context for
Plaintiffs' claims against Kimmel by discussing those
other matters generally, without detail.
in some instances Plaintiffs attempt to dispute facts by
discussing unrelated facts that have nothing to do with the
proposition originally advanced by Kimmel. 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. The Court will not point out all such occasions,
and will provide citations to the Record as necessary.
Events Giving Rise to Plaintiffs' Claims Against
was arrested outside a convenience store in Lathrop,
Missouri, on August 8, 2014; the arresting officer (David
Speiser, of the Lathrop Police Department) administered force
in the course of arresting Michael. He was then taken to the
Clinton County Jail; there, he was involved in another
physical altercation. At some point thereafter, Michael was
transported to the Hospital by ambulance. Two deputies from
Clinton County (John Patterson and Jeffrey Parton) and
Speiser came to the Hospital as well. An incident occurred
when the officers removed Plaintiff from the ambulance, after
which Speiser signed a complaint alleging that he was
assaulted by Michael. Speiser did not have authority to
arrest Michael (because he was not a law enforcement officer
for North Kansas City or Clay County), so Gary Ficken - an
off-duty North Kansas City police officer who was working as
a security officer at the Hospital - directed that Michael be
arrested when he was discharged from the Hospital. The arrest
was effectuated by Kimmel.
to Michael, when Kimmel put the handcuffs on “he
slapped the handcuff on” and Michael “said
‘Ow, could you do that a little bit harder next
time?' and he did. He smacked on [sic] the right
side.” (Doc. 101-1, p. 36 (Michael Stewart Depo., p.
134).) Michael further testified that “[i]f you slap
the handcuff from a distance, it hurts . . . and that was
done.” (Doc. 101-1, p. 36 (Michael Stewart Depo., p.
police station, Michael refused to answer questions asked by
Kimmel and told him to talk to his attorney; the two
eventually became “verbally aggressive” in their
exchange. (Doc. 101-1, p. 38 (Michael Stewart Depo., p.
141).) However, there is no suggestion that Michael was
physically aggressive; the evidence viewed in the light most
favorably to Plaintiffs suggests that Michael was
uncooperative, perhaps belligerent, and refused to answer
certain questions. After the booking process was completed,
Kimmel told Michael that he was “going into the tank,
” grabbed him, and began escorting him to a cell.
According to Michael, when the pair reached the doorway to
the cell, Kimmel stepped back, hit Michael from behind, and
knocked him into the wall. (Doc. 101-1, p. 38 (Michael
Stewart Depo., p. 143).) Michael described the contact as
similar to a football player running into another from
behind, and stated the force was sufficient to knock him off
of his feet and into the wall head-first, at which point
Michael fell to the ground. (Doc. 101-1, pp. 38-39 (Michael
Stewart Depo., pp. 143-45).) Michael then asked for an
ambulance to return him to the Hospital, and this was done.
summarized earlier, Michael was involved in several
altercations with law enforcement on August 8 prior to the
incident with Kimmel. The Record contains some evidence
regarding Michael's injuries, but there is little
evidence that would allow a factfinder to attribute a
specific injury to a particular incident. Michael testified
that his collision with the cell's wall caused a knot on
his head. (Doc. 101-1, p. 39 (Michael Stewart Depo., p.
146).) Jennifer testified that at the end of the day Michael
“looked disheveled, like he had been in a fight,
bruis[ed], ” “had a mark on his face and he had a
huge bump on his head and he complained of a headache,
” and his [w]hole body hurt.” (Doc. 101-5, p. 40
(Jennifer Stewart Depo., pp. 150-51).) Records from the
Hospital on his return visit indicate that Michael complained
of a sore throat and swelling on his side and neck from being
choked earlier in the day (not by Kimmel), but nothing
specifically related to the incident at the North Kansas City
Police Department. (Doc. 101-5, p. 4.) He was not treated for
head trauma or wrist pain at the Hospital. Michael saw Dr.
Braden Dunbar approximately twelve days later; a CT scan was
performed but the results were normal. (Doc. 70-6, pp. 1-2.)
He returned to Dr. Dunbar in November 2014, complaining of
injuries from the events of August 8 (including “being
pushed forcefully unto the jail cell where he struck his head
on the wall losing consciousness”); those injuries
consisted of frequent severe headaches and pain in his neck
and wrist. An MRI was normal. (Doc. 70-6, p.
Plaintiffs' claims do not involve Kimmel, but the Court
will list them because Plaintiffs allege that Kimmel
conspired to commit the violations in all of the claims in
the Amended Complaint. Count I asserts Michael was subjected
to excessive force before he was brought to the Hospital.
Count II alleges that Michael's arrest outside the
convenience store in Lathrop was not supported by probable
cause. Count III asserts that law enforcement officers failed
to protect Michael from excessive force. Count VI is a
specific attempt to impose liability on Lathrop and Clinton
County. Kimmel is not a defendant in any of these claims.
is named as a Defendant in Counts IV, VII, and
Count IV is a conspiracy claim, which asserts that all or
most of the law enforcement officers (including Kimmel)
conspired with each other to violate Michael's civil
rights as set forth in the Amended Complaint's other
claims. Count VII alleges that Kimmel employed excessive
force. Count IX is a loss of consortium claim asserted by
Jennifer; Kimmel is a defendant on this derivative claim to
the extent that he is a defendant in Counts IV and
argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity on Counts IV
and VII because the uncontroverted facts demonstrate that (1)
he did not apply excessive force and that he did not form an
agreement with any of the other Defendants to violate
Michael's civil rights, and (2) even if he did, a
reasonable officer in his position would not have known that
he was violating Michael's constitutional rights. He
further contends that he cannot be liable to Jennifer under
Count IX if he is not liable under either Count IV or Count
VII. Plaintiffs oppose summary judgment. In the course of the
Court's analysis additional facts will be discussed, but
as detailed below Kimmel's Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED IN PART.
moving party is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only
upon a showing that “there is no genuine issue of
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” See generally
Williams v. City of St. Louis, 783 F.2d 114, 115 (8th
Cir. 1986). “[W]hile the materiality determination
rests on the substantive law, it is the substantive law's
identification of which facts are critical and which facts
are irrelevant that governs.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus,
“[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Wierman v.
Casey's Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir.
2011) (quotation omitted). In applying this standard, the
Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, giving that party the benefit of all
inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Tyler v. Harper, 744
F.2d 653, 655 (8th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 470