189 F.3d 695 (8th Cir. 1999), 98-3581, Hawkins v. City of Farmington

Docket Nº:98-3581
Citation:189 F.3d 695
Party Name:Donald Hawkins; Amy Hawkins; Plaintiffs-Appellants; v. City of Farmington;Defendant-Appellee; Farmington Police Department; Defendant; Robert L. Walters, individually and in his official capacity as officer of the Farmington Police Department; Defendant-Appellee; Missouri State Highway Patrol; John Doe, and all other unknown and unnamed officers an
Case Date:August 16, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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189 F.3d 695 (8th Cir. 1999)

Donald Hawkins; Amy Hawkins; Plaintiffs-Appellants;

v.

City of Farmington;Defendant-Appellee; Farmington Police Department; Defendant; Robert L. Walters, individually and in his official capacity as officer of the Farmington Police Department; Defendant-Appellee; Missouri State Highway Patrol; John Doe, and all other unknown and unnamed officers and employees of the City of Farmington Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol; Defendants.

No. 98-3581

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 16, 1999

Submitted: June 18, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for theEastern District of Missouri.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Before BOWMAN, HEANEY, Circuit Judges, and LONGSTAFF, District Judge.1

HEANEY, Circuit Judge.

Donald and Amy Hawkins appeal an award of summary judgment in favor of the City of Farmington and the City of Farmington Police Department, as well as a grant of judgment as a matter of law in favor of Farmington Police Officer Robert Walters. We reverse in part, affirm in

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part, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

I. Background

Donald Hawkins ("Hawkins") was severely injured in a collision between a police car and the motorcycle Hawkins was driving. In Count I of the First Amended Complaint, Hawkins brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Farmington (the "City"), the City of Farmington Police Department (the "Department"), and Robert Walters ("Walters"), individually and in his official capacity as a Farmington police officer, alleging violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. In Count II, Hawkins asserts pendant Missouri law claims of negligence against the City, the Department, and Walters. In Count III, Amy Hawkins, Hawkins' spouse, asserts a companion claim for loss of consortium against the City, the Department, and Walters.

Undisputed Facts

While conversing with a senior ranking police sergeant in the Farmington High School parking lot, Walters overheard a police radio dispatch from a trooper of the Missouri Highway Patrol stating that the trooper was attempting to overtake a motorcycle that was traveling along Highway 67. Walters did not immediately respond to this dispatch. A few minutes later, Walters' dispatcher notified him that the Highway Patrol was in pursuit of a motorcycle and that the Patrol had made a generalized request for assistance. This dispatch gave the proximate location of the vehicles.

Without receiving any information as to the description of either the motorcycle or its operator, Walters left the high school parking lot and drove to the area of the Bray Road/Maple Road intersection with Highway 67. 2 The police sergeant with whom Walters had been conversing received the same radio transmissions and did not comment on them to Walters, nor did he accompany Walters as Walters left the parking lot. Upon arriving at Highway 67, Walters positioned his vehicle in the median and waited for any southbound motorcycle to appear, during which time Walters overheard another Missouri State Patrol radio report stating that a motorcycle was being pursued along southbound Highway 67. Approximately one-half mile to the north of Walters' stationary position there was a full sweeping curve in the highway. After Walters had waited at idle for approximately two minutes, a southbound motorcycle (operated by Hawkins) traveling in the lefthand lane, closest to the median, emerged from around the bend and appeared for the first time in Walters' line of sight.

From the time Walters first saw Hawkins come around the bend on Highway 67 until the time of the collision, there were no reported vehicles in front or back of Hawkins, and the only people to witness the collision were Hawkins and Walters themselves. Also, although there was a reported high-speed chase of a motorcycle miles back, there is no evidence presented in the record that the motorcycle being chased was the same one Hawkins was operating. What actually transpired in the six or seven seconds immediately preceding the collision is, not surprisingly, subject to differing testimony between Hawkins and Walters.

B. Hawkins' Testimony

Hawkins testified that at no point during his journey along Highway 67 did he hear police sirens or exceed the posted speed limit, nor had he, prior to coming upon Walters' police car, seen activated emergency police lights. As Hawkins was traveling

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in the left passing lane along southbound Highway 67, he came around the bend and proceeded toward the Bray Road intersection with Highway 67. Hawkins first became aware of the police car when the distance between Hawkins and the as of yet unmoving police car had diminished to roughly thirty yards. When Hawkins saw the police car, it was sitting in the cut-through median between southbound and northbound Highway 67 facing west (in the direction of, and perpendicular to, the southbound lanes).

Very shortly thereafter, Hawkins noticed that the police car had activated its emergency lights and had begun to move. At this point, Hawkins thought the vehicle was going to turn onto the left lane and travel southbound on Highway 67, so Hawkins changed lanes to the right lane. The police car, however, kept coming straight across southbound Highway 67, into Hawkins' lane and hit Hawkins' motorcycle and Hawkins' person on the left side. (Tr. I at 19-20.) Hawkins, who was wearing a helmet, landed head-first on the concrete, lost consciousness, and came to a stop in a ditch over 165 feet away from the point of collision.

Hawkins was transported to Mineral Area Regional Medical Center where he remained for five days before being transported to St. Louis University Hospital due to the seriousness of his injuries. Of the numerous injuries Hawkins sustained as a result of the collision, the two most serious were a broken back and the subsequent amputation of his left leg slightly below the knee. (Tr. I at 56-86.)

Hawkins' expert accident reconstruction witness testified as to his conclusion that the right front corner of the police car ran into the left side of the motorcycle's front wheel around the area of the front disk brake. (Tr. II at 231-32.)

C. Walters' Testimony

Walters testified that while still parked in the median, he saw a motorcycle come around the bend, about a half mile to Walters' north, at which time Walters activated his vehicle's overhead emergency lights and siren. When the motorcycle came into view, it was approaching Walters at a high rate of speed. Walters estimated that it took the motorcycle about seven seconds to travel the approximate half-mile distance as measured from rounding the bend in the highway to the site of the collision.3 After the motorcycle came into view, Walters decided that he would slow it down, or possibly get it to stop, by pulling slowly into the passing lane of southbound Highway 67.

After activating the warning devices, Walters placed the car in drive and began rolling out onto the highway, looking up the road toward the motorcycle. The police car slowly moved onto the road at an idle because Walters neither accelerated nor touched the car's accelerator. Walters testified that he intended to slow down or stop the motorcycle by means of rolling his police car onto the highway in front of it.4

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Walters stated that he determined the motorcycle to be approaching him at a high rate of speed (see Tr. II at 379, 383, 386), and that he, nevertheless, pulled onto the highway and occupied, at little more than a crawl (see Tr. II at 374-76), the very lane that Walters observed the motorcycle already to be occupying (see Tr. II at 383-84).

As Walters began rolling out into the lefthand lane, he continued to look to the right at the approaching motorcycle, until he lost sight of it due to the interior supportof the car's roof and prisoner cage. (See Tr. II at 380-83.) A second or two after Walters lost sight of the motorcycle, the collision occurred. Walters testified that it was his intention to stop the motorcycle.5 Walters also testified that he did not intentionally attempt to ram the motorcycle with his police car.6.

II. The District Court's Rulings

The district court granted summary judgment to the City and the Department as to all counts of Hawkins' complaint, but proceeded to a trial before the jury with respect to the allegations against Walters. However, after the plaintiffs presented their evidence over a two-and-a-half-day period, Walters moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Walters argued, inter alia, that Hawkins' evidence failed to establish that Walters had seized Hawkins for purposes of a Fourth Amendment claim under § 1983. Walters also contended that plaintiffs failed to make a submissible negligence claim under Missouri common law because the doctrine of official immunity barred Hawkins' claim.

The district court granted Walters judgment as a matter of law on both Counts I and II. (See App. at 135.) Amy Hawkins' derivative claim of loss of spousal consortium was also dismissed.7 Subsequently, Hawkins filed a notice of appeal, the adequacy of which is an issue before this court.

III. Discussion

A. Hawkins' Fourth Amendment Claim Against Walters

We review judgments as a matter of law de novo. Judgment as a matter of law should be granted where the facts

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and inferences point so strongly and overwhelmingly in favor of one party that the court believes that reasonable persons cannot arrive at a contrary verdict. See Lam v. University of Mo. at K.C. Dental Sch., 122 F.3d 654, 656 (8th Cir. 1997). However, the evidence must be considered in the light and with all reasonable inferences most favorable to the party opposed to the motion, and the court must not engage in the...

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