Barton v. Taber

Citation820 F.3d 958
Decision Date27 April 2016
Docket NumberNo. 14–3280.,14–3280.
PartiesRegina BARTON, as personal representative for the Estate of Jeffry Alan Barton, Plaintiff–Appellee v. Donnie TABER, individually and in his official capacity as the Malvern Chief of Police; Tim Callison, individually and in his official capacity as a Malvern Police Officer; Chad Ledbetter, individually as the Hot Spring County Sheriff; George Wright, individually and in his official capacity as Hot Spring County Jail Administrator; Amie Martin, individually and in her official capacity as Hot Spring County Deputy; Brian Orrell, individually and in his official capacity as Hot Spring County Deputy, Defendants Zachary Owens, individually and in his official capacity as a Arkansas State Trooper, Defendant–Appellant Hot Springs County, Arkansas ; City of Malvern, Arkansas; State of Arkansas, Defendants.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)

820 F.3d 958

Regina BARTON, as personal representative for the Estate of Jeffry Alan Barton, Plaintiff–Appellee
v.
Donnie TABER, individually and in his official capacity as the Malvern Chief of Police; Tim Callison, individually and in his official capacity as a Malvern Police Officer; Chad Ledbetter, individually as the Hot Spring County Sheriff; George Wright, individually and in his official capacity as Hot Spring County Jail Administrator; Amie Martin, individually and in her official capacity as Hot Spring County Deputy; Brian Orrell, individually and in his official capacity as Hot Spring County Deputy, Defendants

Zachary Owens, individually and in his official capacity as a Arkansas State Trooper, Defendant–Appellant

Hot Springs County, Arkansas ; City of Malvern, Arkansas; State of Arkansas, Defendants.

No. 14–3280.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Submitted: Sept. 21, 2015.
Filed: April 27, 2016.

Corrected: May 24, 2016.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied July 15, 2016.
*


820 F.3d 962

Jonathan Quentin Warren, AAG, argued, Gary L. Sullivan, AAG, on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for Defendant–Appellant.

Stephanie Ann Linam, argued, Charles Darwin Davidson, Sr., Stephanie Ann Linam, on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for Plaintiff–Appellee.

Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.

Regina Barton, as personal representative for the Estate of Jeffry Alan Barton (Barton), filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (ACRA), Ark.Code Ann. § 16–123–105, alleging that Arkansas State Trooper Zachary Owens and other defendants denied Barton medical care, in violation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Trooper Owens appeals from the district court's1 denial of his motion to dismiss on the basis of qualified and statutory immunity. We affirm.

I.

On September 12, 2011, Barton was involved in a single-vehicle accident at an overpass located on U.S. Highway 270. Owens arrived at the accident scene, along with Malvern, Arkansas, Police Officer Tim Callison and other law enforcement officials. After the officers arrived, Barton almost fell to the ground on multiple occasions. He swayed and used his truck to steady himself. After a portable breath test indicated that Barton's blood-alcohol concentration was .11, the officers placed Barton under arrest. During the search of his person, Barton fell to the ground and was not responsive. Callison checked Barton for a pulse after he did not respond to questions or commands. Because Barton could not stand on his own, Callison

820 F.3d 963

and Owens lifted Barton and placed him into Owens's patrol car.2

Owens transported Barton to the Hot Spring County Detention Center. Barton was unable to answer questions during the booking process, and when he did speak, his speech was slurred. At one point during the booking process, Barton fell off a bench onto the floor.

Barton was incarcerated in the Detention Center as a pretrial detainee and placed in a holding room, to which he was unable to walk without being assisted by jail trustees. Barton was found dead in the holding room shortly after midnight on September 13, 2011. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be a heart condition—anomalous right coronary artery, fatty infiltration of right ventricle and atrium of heart. The autopsy also revealed a small amount of ethanol, a small amount of hydrocodone, and a non-toxic level of an anti-anxiety medication.

Owens moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), asserting that he was entitled to qualified immunity from the federal claim and statutory immunity from the ACRA claim, Ark.Code Ann. § 19–10–305(a). The district court dismissed the claims against Owens in his official capacity, but otherwise denied the motion, leading Owens to file this appeal.

II.

Although ordinarily a denial of a pretrial motion is not appealable, interlocutory appeals from the denial of qualified and statutory immunity are permitted under the collateral-order doctrine. Burton v. Ark. Sec'y of State, 737 F.3d 1219, 1228 (8th Cir.2013). We review de novo the denial of a motion to dismiss based on qualified and statutory immunity. Hager v. Ark. Dep't of Health, 735 F.3d 1009, 1013 (8th Cir.2013). “Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and viewed most favorably to the plaintiff.” Hager, 735 F.3d at 1013 (citing Gross v. Weber, 186 F.3d 1089, 1090 (8th Cir.1999) ).

A. Qualified Immunity

State officials are entitled to qualified immunity for their discretionary acts unless those acts “violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). We thus ask: “(1) [whether] the facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, demonstrate the deprivation of a constitutional or statutory right; and (2) [whether] the right was clearly established at the time of the deprivation.” Howard v. Kan. City Police Dep't, 570 F.3d 984, 988 (8th Cir.2009).

1. Constitutional Violation

Owens argues that the facts alleged in the complaint do not establish that he violated Barton's constitutional rights. A complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Federal Rules require more than “ ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.’ ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting

820 F.3d 964

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. We thus accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id.

Owens argues that the claim against him is not facially plausible, because the complaint mentions him in only four paragraphs, which he says do not allege a constitutional violation. The paragraphs allege that Owens had direct contact with Barton in the hours leading up to his death, responded to the scene of the accident, helped Callison lift Barton from the ground and place him in his patrol car, and transported Barton to the detention center. J.A. 3, 4–5. When those paragraphs are read in the context of the full complaint, however, the complaint states a facially plausible claim against Owens. As set forth above, the complaint alleges that Barton became unconscious at the scene of a vehicle accident, that Callison checked Barton's pulse because he was not responsive, that Barton could not stand or walk on his own, and that Barton could not answer questions and fell off the bench onto the floor at the detention center. J.A. 4–5. Accepting these allegations as true, it is reasonable to infer that Owens observed Barton's symptoms both at the scene of the accident and at the detention center. Thus, the proper inquiry is whether, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Owens's failure to take some action to secure medical care for Barton violated Barton's constitutional rights. As we discuss below, we conclude that it does.

To determine whether Owens's failure to seek medical care for Barton violated Barton's constitutional rights, we apply the Eighth Amendment “deliberate indifference” standard.3 See Jackson v. Buckman, 756 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir.2014) (applying the Eighth Amendment deliberate-indifference standard to a pretrial detainee's claim of failure to provide medical care in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). The deliberate-indifference standard requires “both an objective and subjective analysis.” Hall v. Ramsey County, 801 F.3d 912, 920 (8th Cir.2015) (quoting Scott v. Benson, 742 F.3d 335, 340 (8th Cir.2014) ).

To meet the objective component of the deliberate-indifference standard, the complaint must plead facts sufficient to demonstrate that Barton suffered from an objectively serious medical need. See Grayson v. Ross, 454 F.3d 802, 808–09 (8th Cir.2006). “To be objectively serious, a medical need must have been ‘diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment’ or must be ‘so obvious that even a layperson would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.’ ” Jackson, 756 F.3d at 1065 (quoting Scott, 742 F.3d at 340 ). Owens argues that the complaint does not

820 F.3d 965

plead an objectively serious medical need because Barton's behavior would not indicate to a layperson that he was suffering from a heart condition that would later kill him. But the complaint was not required to allege that...

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