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Roebuck v. Dale Glass

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

March 21, 2019

DALE GLASS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on defendant Dale Glass's motion to dismiss the official capacity claims against him (#40).[1] The issues have been fully briefed. For the following reasons, the motion will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis City Justice Center, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a number of defendants. Plaintiff states that he is a 59-year-old African-American male who was diagnosed with diabetes in his late teens. He has a long history of complications arising out of his diabetes, including hospitalization, hyperglycemic episodes, foot ulcers, and medication non-compliance.

         The present motion involves allegations that the City of St. Louis, through the official acts of defendant Glass, has perpetrated an unconstitutional custom of denying inmates access to off-site medical specialists for the treatment of their chronic conditions. Defendant Glass moves under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the official capacity claims against him and the City of St. Louis arguing plaintiff has not alleged facts tending to infer the existence of an unconstitutional policy or custom.


         The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally flawed in their legal premises and designed to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). “[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Jones v. Douglas County Sheriff's Dept., 915 F.3d 498, 499 (8th Cir. 2019) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Courts “do not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). A complaint must set forth factual allegations which are enough to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555.

         In addressing a motion to dismiss, a court must view the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. United States ex rel. Ambrosecchia v. Paddock Laboratories, LLC., 855 F.3d 949, 954 (8th Cir. 2017). While a complaint challenged by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must still provide the grounds for relief, and neither “labels and conclusions” nor “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will suffice. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 545 (internal citations omitted). That is to say, neither “legal conclusions” nor “conclusory statements” will “save [a] complaint” from dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Whitney v. City of St. Louis, Mo., 887 .3d 857, 860 (8th Cir. 2018).

         III. ANALYSIS

         “A plaintiff who sues public employees in their official capacities sues only the public employer and therefore must establish the municipality's liability” rather than the official's liability. Miller v. City of St. Paul, 823 F.3d 503, 506 (8th Cir. 2016). Indeed, a local government does not answer “for the injuries inflicted solely by its employees or agents, ” and thus is not subject to respondeat superior liability. Monell v. New York Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); see also Rogers v. King, 885 F.3d 1118, 1122 (8th Cir. 2018). Rather, a local government is narrowly liable for its own unconstitutional misconduct-as perpetrated through its employees-that falls under one of three categories: (1) an official policy; (2) an unofficial custom; or (3) a failure to train, “which is an extension of the same” and serves to evidence an unconstitutional policy or custom. Marsh v. Phelps County, 902 F.3d 745, 751 (8th Cir. 2018). Accordingly, rather than implicate the doctrine of respondeat superior, an official capacity claim serves only to address the conduct of a particular official in furtherance of his or her employer's unconstitutional policy or custom. See Miller, 823 F.3d at 506.

         Thus, to sustain a claim against defendant Glass in his official capacity as St. Louis City Corrections Commissioner, plaintiff “must prove that the [City of St. Louis] itself caused the constitutional violation at issue.” Marsh, 902 F.3d at 751. To prove this, plaintiff primarily relies on the second category of municipal liability-an unofficial custom-and explains in his brief that there “is a custom of inadequate medical care allowed by defendant [Glass] at [St. Louis City Justice Center].”[2] Under Eighth Circuit precedent, an unofficial custom requires a showing of three things:

(1) The existence of a continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct by the government entity's employees;
(2) Deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of such conduct by the governmental entity's policymaking officials after notice to the officials of that misconduct; and
(3) That plaintiff was injured by acts pursuant to the governmental entity's custom, i.e. that the custom was a moving force ...

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