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White v. City of St. Louis

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

December 31, 2019

JAMAL WHITE, Plaintiff(s),
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al., Defendant(s).



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Daniel Isom's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [124]. The Court grants the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 6, 2018, Plaintiff Jamal White filed a complaint in this Court alleging Defendant Adam Feaman, a police officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, used excessive force against White in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. White alleges Feaman struck White in his jaw and cranium with a flashlight. For a complete procedural history of the case, the Court refers to its Memorandum and Order, dated November 14, 2019, dismissing the claims against Feaman and Isom, in their official capacities, and the City of St. Louis. Doc. 131.

         White brought his claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and asserted that the City has two policies and a custom that are the “moving force” behind the alleged unconstitutional conduct. He first alleged the two policies: (1) the “Normal” policy pursuant to which the City “normally” charges suspects on whom excessive force is used with resisting arrest in municipal court (rather than state court); and (2) the “Rec” policy under which municipal prosecutors will plea bargain and “recommend” dismissal of municipal-court-resisting-arrest charges only if a defendant will sign a liability waiver releasing the City from any civil lawsuits. Doc. 62, ¶¶ 22-24. White then alleged St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (“SLMPD”) has a “custom” of “using unjustified force with impunity in any case that an offender runs, pulls away, or protest [sic].” Doc. 62, ¶ 55. White labeled the “custom” as “you run, you pay” (“YRYP”). Doc. 99. In dismissing the claims against the City and Feaman and Isom in their official capacities, the Court found White did not plausibly plead a pattern of misconduct and did not plead any facts from which the Court could infer a direct causal link between the Rec & Normal policies, the YRYP custom, and Feaman's conduct towards White. The remaining count against Isom is Count II for failure to train and supervise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in his individual capacity.

         II. STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The notice pleading standard of FRCP 8(a)(2) requires a plaintiff to give “a short and plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To meet this standard and to survive a FRCP 12(b)(6) 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citation omitted). This requirement of facial plausibility means the factual content of the plaintiff's allegations must “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Park Irmat Drug Corp. v. Express Scripts Holding Co., 911 F.3d 505, 512 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The Court must grant all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Lustgraaf v. Behrens, 619 F.3d 867, 872-73 (8th Cir. 2010).

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must liberally construe a complaint in favor of the plaintiff. Huggins v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 592 F.3d 853, 862 (8th Cir. 2010). However, if a claim fails to allege one of the elements necessary to recovery on a legal theory, the Court must dismiss that claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Crest Constr. II, Inc. v. Doe, 660 F.3d 346, 355 (8th Cir. 2011). Threadbare recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. “A pleading that merely pleads labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of factual enhancement will not suffice.” Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d 816, 817 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations omitted). Although courts must accept all factual allegations as true, they are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations and citation omitted); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78.


         Here, the Court summarizes all of White's allegations, factual and conclusory, to provide context to the Court's analysis below. The Court focuses on the allegations relevant to Isom.

         White alleges, that on August 14, 2016, Feaman, a patrol officer, sought to place White under arrest. As White moved backward from Feaman, White questioned his impending arrest. Feaman struck White with his flashlight, cracking White's jaw, and again struck White in the cranium. According to White, as a result of Feaman's actions, White required extensive medical care, sustained significant injuries, and suffered severe emotional and psychological distress.

         White alleges the excessive force Feaman used against him was the result of a widespread custom in the SLMPD of “you run, you pay” that was caused by the “Rec & Normal” policies. According to White, the “Rec & Normal” policies were created in 2012, when the SLMPD Chief of Police, Isom, updated a special order and trained officers to “normally” charge any resisting-arrest charge in municipal court rather than state court when the offender did not use force or threaten to use force, i.e. the “Normal” policy. White alleges the City also enforced a mandatory policy, called the “Rec Policy.” In exchange for a city prosecutor's recommendation to dismiss a resisting-arrest charge in municipal court, the defendant signs a release of any civil liability that the City may have for use of excessive force against the defendant.

         The written “Normal” policy states, in part:

Under normal circumstances, the defendant will be charged with a city ordinance violation of resisting arrest or interfering with an officer. The information application will ...

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