99 F.3d 262 (8th Cir. 1996), 95-3571, Bell v. Fowler

Docket Nº:95-3571.
Citation:99 F.3d 262
Party Name:Bonnie BELL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Randy Alan FOWLER, individually and in his capacity as an officer with the City of North Sioux City, South Dakota; Scott Price, individually and in his capacity as former Chief of Police of the City of North Sioux City, South Dakota Police Department; William C. Merrill, individually and in his capacity as Mayor
Case Date:October 23, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 262

99 F.3d 262 (8th Cir. 1996)

Bonnie BELL, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Randy Alan FOWLER, individually and in his capacity as an

officer with the City of North Sioux City, South Dakota;

Scott Price, individually and in his capacity as former

Chief of Police of the City of North Sioux City, South

Dakota Police Department; William C. Merrill, individually

and in his capacity as Mayor of the City of North Sioux

City, South Dakota; City of North Sioux City, South Dakota,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 95-3571.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 23, 1996

Submitted June 13, 1996.

Page 263

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 264

Michael F. Marlow, Yankton, SD, argued (Shane D. Buntrock, on the brief), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Timothy R. Shattuck, Souix Falls, SD, argued (Gary P. Thimsen and Tim R. Shattuck, on the brief), for Defendants-Appellees Price, Merrill and City of North Souix City, S.D.

Mark W. Haigh, Souix Falls, SD, on the brief, for Defendant-Appellee Fowler.

Page 265

Before HANSEN, ROSS, and JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judges.

HANSEN, Circuit Judge.

Bonnie Bell filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), based on an incident where she was sexually assaulted by former police officer Randy Alan Fowler, and the other defendants' subsequent failure to investigate her charges against Fowler. Bell also alleged several pendent South Dakota state law claims based on the incident. The district court 1 concluded that all of Bell's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and accordingly granted summary judgment for the defendants. Bell appeals, arguing that the defendants should be equitably estopped from asserting the statute of limitations defense, that her § 1983 claim alleging the department's failure to investigate her charges of sexual assault and her § 1985(3) conspiracy claim are not barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and that the district court erred in denying her motion for additional discovery. We affirm.

I.

In the early morning hours of July 7, 1991, Bonnie Bell was sexually assaulted by Randy Fowler, who at that time was a uniformed police officer in North Sioux City, South Dakota. Fowler sexually assaulted Bell at the police station under threats that he could charge her with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated if she did not cooperate with his advances. Fowler was later prosecuted for this assault, and the Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed his convictions for attempted second degree rape, simple assault, and sexual contact. State v. Fowler, 552 N.W.2d 391 (S.D.1996).

On July 13, 1994, Bell commenced the present civil rights action against Fowler, former Chief of Police Scott Price, various unknown police officers, Mayor William Merrill, and the city of North Sioux City. Bell asserted a § 1983 cause of action, claiming that the defendants subjected her to excessive force through the sexual abuse and the threats of criminal charges, and that they interfered with her right to seek redress for her injuries by covering up the officer's misconduct. Bell asserted a § 1985(3) cause of action, claiming that the defendants conspired to deprive her of equal protection of the laws. Bell also asserted South Dakota state law claims of assault and battery, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and negligence.

The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, concluding that Bell's claims are barred by the applicable three-year South Dakota statute of limitations. In so ruling, the district court rejected Bell's arguments that the defendants should be equitably estopped from asserting the statute of limitations. Also, the district court denied in part Bell's motion to take additional depositions. Bell, now represented by different counsel, appeals.

II.

"We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the district court and examining the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Barge v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 87 F.3d 256, 258 (8th Cir.1996). Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Disesa v. St. Louis Community College, 79 F.3d 92, 94 (8th Cir.1996). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment is also appropriate when the plaintiff has failed to make a sufficient showing of the existence of an essential element of her case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-53, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

A.

Bell contends that the district court erred in concluding that her action is barred by the statute of limitations, though she concedes that her state law assault and battery claim is barred by a two-year state law statute of limitations. Neither § 1983 nor § 1985(3) contains a specific statute of limitations.

Page 266

The Supreme Court has instructed courts to apply the most analogous state statute of limitations to claims made under these provisions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266-68, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1941-43, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985). In South Dakota, a specific statute provides that civil rights actions must be brought within three years after the alleged constitutional deprivation occurred or the action will be barred. See S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 15-2-15.2 (Michie Supp.1996).

It is undisputed that Fowler assaulted Bell in the early morning hours of July 7, 1991. Bell filed the instant action on July 13, 1994, six days beyond the applicable three-year limitations period. Thus, the straightforward application of the limitations period results in a conclusion that Bell's cause of action is time-barred to the extent her claims rest on the actual sexual assault.

Bell attempts to defeat the limitations period by asserting that the defendants should be estopped from raising the statute of limitations defense by reason of their misleading conduct toward her. She claims that during a May 1994 interview with then Police Chief Ensley concerning the assault, she informed Ensley that she did not know the date of the attack, but she knew that it had occurred immediately after a street dance. Bell contends that Ensley contacted the city finance officer, Liesel Hallwas, who said that the date of the dance was July 17, 1991; Bell also contends that Ensley in turn provided her with this date. Hallwas later discovered, however, that in fact the date of the dance was July 6, 1991. This means that the assault occurred in the early morning hours of July 7, 1991. Hallwas informed Ensley of her error prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations in this case, but Ensley did not relay this information to Bell. Bell contends that the defendants should be equitably estopped from asserting the statute of limitations defense because Ensley failed to provide her with the correct date of the dance.

The district court rejected Bell's argument, concluding that Bell was not entitled to equitable estoppel under either South Dakota law, which the court determined required a showing of fraud, or federal law. Bell argues that only federal equitable estoppel principles apply and that in any event, the district court incorrectly required a...

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