827 F.2d 1102 (6th Cir. 1987), 85-5828, Jones v. Sherrill

Docket Nº:85-5828.
Citation:827 F.2d 1102
Party Name:Janice JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Charles E. SHERRILL, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:September 02, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 1102

827 F.2d 1102 (6th Cir. 1987)

Janice JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Charles E. SHERRILL, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 85-5828.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 2, 1987

Argued April 30, 1987.

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James L. Charles, Richard M. Riebeling, Susan Emery McGannon, Nashville, Tenn., for defendants-appellees.

Charles E. Sherrill, pro se.

Vance Cramb, Jr. (argued), Sandra F. Jones, Nashville, Tenn., for plaintiff-appellant.

Before ENGEL and BOGGS, Circuit Judges, and HOLSCHUH, District Judge. [*]

BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

This action arose out of a highspeed car chase in which plaintiff's husband, Audie Gaston Jones, was killed. Two police officers of White House, Tennessee, were attempting to apprehend Charles Sherrill, a traffic offender, when Sherrill's car crossed the center line of the highway and collided with Jones's car. Sherrill had been furloughed that day from the Nashville and Davidson County Metropolitan Jail. Janice Jones brought suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 against Sherrill and a host of officials and agencies involved in the furlough and chase. 1

The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P., holding that none of the defendants except Sherrill were the proximate cause of the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights. The court also dismissed the action against Sherrill without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Sherrill was not acting "under color of law." Jones appeals the district court's dismissal of the official defendants. We hold that the complaint did not state a claim for violation of any of plaintiff's constitutional rights, and consequently, affirm the district court's dismissal of the complaint.


A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether a claim has been adequately stated in the complaint. In reviewing a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint. Windsor v. The Tennessean, 719 F.2d 155, 158 (6th Cir.1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 826, 105 S.Ct. 105, 83 L.Ed.2d 50 (1984). The motion to dismiss must be denied unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim which would entitle her to relief. Id. at 158; Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).

Jones's complaint alleged that Sherrill was incarcerated in the Nashville and Davidson County Metropolitan Jail, under the care of Sheriff Fate Thomas, and that Thomas, the unknown Sheriff's Department employee, and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County allowed Sherrill to be furloughed despite the fact that they knew, or should have known, that Sherrill "had a propensity for criminal, reckless and dangerous conduct, including but not limited to, violence, drinking and driving under the influence." The complaint further alleges that while on furlough, Sherrill obtained an automobile despite his license being revoked, and proceeded to operate that automobile while under the influence of alcohol. The automobile was reported by police bulletin to have been involved in a property damage accident.

The complaint alleges that shortly before the fatal accident, Officers Spain and Gibson spotted a car which resembled the reported vehicle and was being driven in an unsafe manner. The officers tried to stop the driver of this vehicle, which turned out

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to be Sherrill, but he fled. The officers pursued Sherrill about nine miles from White House to Millersville. Plaintiff alleges that in the course of the pursuit, the vehicles were driven at speeds of 120-135 miles per hour in traffic and in city limits, and that the chasing police cars were following in a manner too close for safety. The complaint alleges that Police Chief Fisher was in radio contact with the officers and was following them on the chase route in his own vehicle. Finally, the complaint alleges that as a result of the pursuit, Sherrill's car crossed the center line of the highway and collided with Jones's car, causing Jones's death.

Plaintiff asserts that the officers operated their vehicles "in a negligent, careless and wanton manner and with reckless disregard for the public" and that their pursuit of Sherrill was a proximate cause of Jones's death, "in violation of his rights under the laws and Constitution of the United States." The complaint further alleges that the failure of the defendants, City of White House, Mayor Hobbs, and Police Chief Fisher, to provide adequate training and supervision regarding the pursuit of suspects amounted to gross negligence and deliberate indifference to the public safety. The complaint also alleges that the failure of the defendants, Metropolitan Government of...

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