770 F.2d 578 (6th Cir. 1985), 82-1362, Wilson v. Beebe

Docket Nº:82-1362, 82-1385.
Citation:770 F.2d 578
Party Name:Larry T. WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant, v. Thomas L. BEEBE, Defendant-Appellant, Cross-Appellee.
Case Date:August 12, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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770 F.2d 578 (6th Cir. 1985)

Larry T. WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant,


Thomas L. BEEBE, Defendant-Appellant, Cross-Appellee.

Nos. 82-1362, 82-1385.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 12, 1985

Re-Argued Jan. 14, 1985.

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Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen. of Michigan, Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., Thomas A. Kulick, Thomas L. Casey, (argued), Lansing, Mich., for defendant-appellant, cross-appellee.

David R. Skinner (argued), Bay City, Michigan, Richard B. Gustafson, Bay City, Mich., for plaintiff-appellee, cross-appellant.

John A. Obee (argued), Cooperating Counsel for ACLU Fund of Mich., Southfield, Mich., for amicus curiae.


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and MILBURN, Circuit Judges; and EDWARDS, Senior Circuit Judge. [*]

LIVELY, Chief Judge.

The principal question before the court is whether the rule of Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981), applies to actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 (1982) for damages resulting from the negligent deprivation of a liberty interest. The Supreme Court held in Parratt that there is no cause of action under Sec. 1983 for the random, unauthorized acts of a state official which deprive a person of property if the state provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy. Since Vicory v. Walton, 721 F.2d 1062 (6th Cir.1983), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 105 S.Ct. 125, 83 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984), this court has interpreted Parratt as applying only to Sec. 1983 cases where the claimed deprivation is one of procedural due process. In Brandon v. Allen, 719 F.2d 151 (6th Cir.1983), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Brandon v. Holt, --- U.S. ----, 105 S.Ct. 873, 83 L.Ed.2d 878 (1985), we recognized a cause of action under Sec. 1983 for the intentional deprivation of a liberty interest by one acting under color of state law. The officer who committed the intentional act in Brandon did not defend, and no issue was presented as to whether the inquiry of Parratt v. Taylor should be made to determine whether the state provided an adequate post-deprivation remedy. Now we consider a case where the negligent act of a state officer deprived a person of a liberty interest and the law of the state provided a remedy in damages.




The plaintiff, Larry Wilson, was grievously injured when the service revolver of the defendant, Thomas Beebe, a Michigan state police officer, discharged as Beebe was attempting to handcuff Wilson after placing him under arrest. Wilson sued Beebe and others, including the State of Michigan, in the district court, seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 (1982) and under a pendent state claim of negligence. In an interlocutory appeal this court affirmed the district court's dismissal of counts pertaining to Beebe's supervisors on the grounds that the complaint did not allege that the supervisors had any personal role in the incident or that they failed in their supervisory or training duties. Wilson v. Beebe, 612 F.2d 275 (6th Cir.1980).

The case then returned to the district court where it was tried by agreement before a magistrate, with Beebe as the only defendant. The magistrate found that Beebe was negligent in attempting to handcuff Wilson while holding his cocked revolver and that this negligence was the proximate cause of Wilson's injuries. The magistrate also specifically found that "Beebe did not intend to fire the gun and does not know why the gun fired." Despite this finding of negligence and proximate cause, the magistrate concluded that Wilson's complaint did not state a claim upon which relief could be granted under Sec. 1983 because of the rule enunciated in Parratt v. Taylor. However, the magistrate found that Wilson was entitled to recover under his pendent state negligence claim and recommended a judgment awarding damages for permanent injuries, past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, and loss of earning capacity.

Both parties filed objections and, after de novo review, the district court agreed with the magistrate that there was no cause of action under Sec. 1983, but that Wilson was entitled to recover under his pendent state claim. The district court entered judgment in Wilson's favor for $2,569,638, and both parties appealed.

A panel of this court reversed the dismissal of the Sec. 1983 claim, affirmed the finding that Beebe is liable for negligence under Michigan law and remanded for the

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addition of statutory interest. Wilson v. Beebe, 743 F.2d 342 (6th Cir.1984). Judge Merritt dissented in part, stating that the complaint did not set forth a claim for negligence under state law and that the district court erred in not considering any defense of qualified immunity Beebe might have under Sec. 1983, an issue which the district court did not reach because it found no cause of action under the federal statute. Id. at 351. A majority of the judges in active service voted to rehear the case en banc, thus vacating the panel opinion and the previous judgment of the court. Rule 14, Rules of the Sixth Circuit. Following supplemental briefing the case was argued before the full court.


The facts surrounding Wilson's injuries are set forth in some detail in the panel opinion. Briefly, while investigating a breaking and entering report Beebe encountered Wilson walking along a dark rural road. Beebe knew from a radio report that guns and ammunition had been taken during the burglary. Beebe was alone in his patrol car when he spotted Wilson who fit the description of the suspect. Beebe made several attempts to summon other officers, but was unsuccessful. Beebe ordered Wilson to walk to the patrol car where he conducted a frisk and found no weapons. While holding his cocked revolver in one hand, Beebe was attempting to handcuff Wilson when his revolver discharged. The magistrate found that all four of Beebe's fingers were wrapped around the handle of the pistol, with his thumb overlapping the fingers; his index finger was not in the trigger area. While he found that Beebe did not intend to fire the gun the magistrate also found that Beebe acted contrary to his training as a Michigan State Police Department Officer in cocking his revolver during the arrest and handcuffing of Wilson and that this conduct was negligent.



In Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961), the Supreme Court found that Congress had three principal aims in enacting the 1871 civil rights act which is now 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983: (1) to override "invidious legislation" by the states which impaired rights and privileges of citizens of the United States; (2) to provide a remedy for infringement of such rights and privileges where state law was inadequate; and (3) to provide a federal remedy where a state remedy was adequate in theory but not in actual practice. Id. at 173-74, 81 S.Ct. at 476-77.

It is abundantly clear that one reason the legislation was passed was to afford a federal right in federal courts because, by reason of prejudice, passion, neglect, intolerance or otherwise, state laws might not be enforced and the claims of citizens to the enjoyment of rights, privleges, and immunities guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment might be denied by the state agencies.

Id. at 180, 81 S.Ct. at 480.

Monroe v. Pape involved a claim for damages for a Fourth Amendment violation, a warrantless search conducted with callous disregard for the rights of the occupants of the place searched. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs had no cause of action under Sec. 1983 because the state officers did not act in accordance with state law. On the contrary, since Illinois by its constitution and laws made unreasonable searches and seizures illegal, the offending officers acted in contravention of state law. This being the case, the defendants argued that they had not acted "under color of state law," since an officer acts under color of state law only when he acts in accordance with a state law, not when he acts in violation of such law. Thus, the defendants contended, they should have been sued in state court for violation of state laws, not in federal court under Sec. 1983.

It was in response to this argument that Justice Douglas wrote for the Court:

It is no answer that the State has a law which if enforced would give relief. The

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federal remedy is supplementary to the state remedy, and the latter need not be first sought and refused before the federal one is invoked. Hence the fact that Illinois by its constitution and laws outlaws unreasonable searches and seizures is no barrier to the present suit in the federal court.

Id. at 183, 81 S.Ct. at 482. This statement disposed of any argument that exhaustion of state remedies is required, as in habeas corpus, before a claim may be made under Sec. 1983. It appears also to hold that when a person acting under color of state law violates rights embodied in a substantive guarantee of the Constitution, such as the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures, it makes no difference that the state affords a remedy; the victim may choose to pursue his federal remedy under Sec. 1983 without resorting to the courts of the state.

Justice Douglas also wrote in Monroe v. Pape that "[s]ection [1983] should be read against the background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for the natural consequences of his actions." Id. at 187, 81 S.Ct. at 484. However, in Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 146, 99 S.Ct. 2689, 2695, 61 L.Ed.2d 433 (1979), the Court held that Sec. 1983 does not impose liability for violations of duties which arise out of tort...

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