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Gibson v. Greene County

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

February 21, 2018

SHANNON GIBSON, Plaintiff,
v.
GREENE COUNTY, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS DEFENDANTS GREENE COUNTY AND SHERIFF JAMES ARNOTT

          BETH PHILLIPS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff has filed a suit against Greene County, Cedar County, the sheriffs in both counties, and several deputies in those counties. The Amended Complaint, (Doc. 6), asserts various claims under state and federal law. Greene County and its sheriff, James Arnott, have filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, (Doc. 50), asserting that (1) the state claims should be dismissed based on various immunities arising under state law, and (2) the federal claims allege insufficient facts to state a claim against them. Plaintiff opposes these arguments. The Court concludes that Greene County and Sheriff Arnott are correct, so their motion is GRANTED and the claims against them are DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Amended Complaint, (Doc. 6), alleges that Plaintiff was “placed into detention at the Greene County Jail” on April 20, 2017, and approximately one week later was transferred to the Cedar County Jail due to overcrowding in Greene County. (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 12-13.) While in Cedar County, Deputy Austin Levine allegedly sexually assaulted Plaintiff on numerous occasions. (E.g., Doc. 6, ¶¶ 20-21.) Plaintiff also alleges (based on facts that need not be detailed here) that other jail employees in Cedar County knew what Levine was doing. (E.g., Doc. 6, ¶¶ 17, 22-25.)

         Plaintiff was transferred back to Greene County on or about May 26, 2017. Notes written by Levine to Plaintiff were discovered among her belongings, (Doc. 6, ¶ 26), and Plaintiff was placed in isolation. (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 29-33.) At some point, Lieutenant Mays (whose first name is not identified in the Amended Complaint or in Mays' Answer, (Doc 30)) told Plaintiff that she was placed in isolation because there was an investigation in the Cedar County Jail and Plaintiff could not speak with anyone else. (Doc. 6, ¶ 35.) Later, an investigator from the Missouri Highway Patrol tried to interview Plaintiff about Levine, but “Plaintiff did not want to be interviewed by the investigator and did not give full or complete answers the investigator wanted.” (Doc. 6, ¶ 36.) Mays then told Plaintiff that she would remain in isolation because of her incomplete answers and failure to cooperate with the investigation. (Doc. 6, ¶ 37.) Plaintiff alleges the conditions in solitary were deplorable and that she was denied access to her medication while there. (E.g., Doc. 6, ¶¶ 31-34, 38-41.)

         Plaintiff also alleges, in conclusory fashion, that Sheriff Arnott (among others) “institute[ed] a policy at the Cedar County jail whereby Defendant Levine was not supervised” and other Cedar County deputies ignored Levine's assaults. (Doc. 6, ¶ 56; see also Doc. 6, ¶ 75.)[1] She makes similar allegations about Greene County, contending that Greene County “either failed to prevent, or allowed Levine to sexually assault Plaintiff while she was under their control.” (Doc. 6, ¶ 73; see also Doc. 6, ¶¶ 72, 74.)

         The Amended Complaint contains eight counts, but Count VIII only asserts a claim for attorney fees, so it is not a cause of action that needs to be analyzed. The claims asserted against Sheriff Arnott are asserted against him in his individual capacity only. (Doc. 6, ¶ 5.) Greene County and Sheriff Arnott are named in Counts I through IV only; those claims are:

Count I Count I alleges that Plaintiff's Due Process rights were violated (1) when she was raped by Levine and the other Cedar County deputies failed to intervene, and (2) when Mays “lock[ed] her in solitary confinement in order to extract” her cooperation in the investigation. (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 54, 56.) Count I further alleges that all Defendants (including Greene County and Sheriff Arnott) are liable for these constitutional violations.
Count II Count II alleges that Greene County and Sheriff Arnott negligently trained, supervised, and retained employees, including Mays. (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 60-64, 66.)
Count III Count III asserts “Municipal Government Liability Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, ” seeking to hold Greene County and Cedar County liable for the constitutional violations alleged in the Amended Complaint's other counts. It alleges that both counties have a policy, practice, procedure or custom of (1) failing to adequately control male prison guards' interactions with female inmates, (2) allowing guards “such as Defendant Levine, to manage the jail population and to have unfettered access to female inmates without any supervision, ” (3) failing to prevent Plaintiff's sexual assault, and (4) “allowing Levine to sexually assault Plaintiff while she was under their control.” (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 71-74.) In addition, Count III alleges that both counties “had actual or constructive knowledge of . . . Mays [sic] conduct toward Plaintiff” and did not prevent Mays' violation of Plaintiff's rights. (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 78, 80.)
Count IV Count IV alleges that Greene County and Sheriff Arnott violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights when she “was denied access to medication and medical attention, access to running water, and access to food while in detention at the Greene County Jail. Plaintiff was also denied medication for a full week to treat her medically diagnosed conditions.” (Doc. 6, ¶ 85.)

         Greene County and Sheriff Arnott McCrary argue that the three federal claims (Counts I, III, and IV) must be dismissed[2] because Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to state a claim. Both Defendants argue that they are immune from the tort claims asserted in Count II.[3] Plaintiff disputes these contentions, and the Court resolves the parties' arguments below.

         II. DISCUSSION

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “must accept as true all of the complaint's factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff[ ].” Stodghill v. Wellston School Dist., 512 F.3d 472, 476 (8th Cir. 2008).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is facially plausible if it allows the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. E.g., Horras v. American Capital Strategies, Ltd., 729 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2013); Braden v. ...


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