Ingram v. Kubik

Decision Date07 April 2022
Docket Number20-11310
Citation30 F.4th 1241
Parties Kirby INGRAM, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Louis KUBIK, Blake Dorning, Kevin Turner, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Henry F. Sherrod, III, Henry F. Sherrod III, PC, Florence, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Grace Graham, James Bentley Owens, III, Ellis Head Owens Justice & Arnold, Columbiana, AL, for Defendant-Appellee Louis Kubik.

George W. Royer, Jr., David J. Canupp, Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne, PC, Huntsville, AL, for Defendants-Appellees Blake Dorning and Kevin Turner.

Samuel Weiss, Rights Behind Bars, Washington, DC, for Amici Curiae The National Police Accountability Project, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, and Rights Behind Bars.

Before William Pryor, Chief Judge, Jordan, Circuit Judge, and Brown,* District Judge.

William Pryor, Chief Judge:

Kirby Ingram appeals the dismissal of his complaint for failure to state a claim, FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), against a sheriff's deputy and his supervisor for unlawful seizure and excessive force, see 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ; U.S. CONST. amends. IV, XIV, and against the Sheriff for vicarious liability under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, see 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Ingram, an Iraq War veteran, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Two Sheriff's deputies conducted a welfare check after a report that Ingram slit his wrist with a knife. When the deputies arrived, Ingram was calm and posed no threat to them. Although Ingram expressed his willingness to be arrested, one of the deputies suddenly body slammed him headfirst, causing him a serious neck injury. We affirm the dismissal of Ingram's claim for unlawful seizure but reverse the dismissal of his claim of excessive force and supervisory liability. And "[b]ecause vicarious liability is not available for claims under Title II," Jones v. City of Detroit , 20 F.4th 1117, 1118 (6th Cir. 2021), we affirm the dismissal of that claim.


This appeal is from a dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim, see FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), so we recount the factual allegations in the complaint, accept them as true, and construe them in the light most favorable to Ingram, see Darrisaw v. Pa. Higher Educ. Assistance Agency , 949 F.3d 1302, 1303 (11th Cir. 2020).

Ingram is an Iraq War veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In October 2017, while suffering from a mental-health crisis, Ingram cut his wrist with a knife at his home. His girlfriend called the Veterans Affairs suicide hotline, which contacted law enforcement. Deputy Louis Kubik and another deputy from Madison County, Alabama, were dispatched to assist Ingram.

When the deputies arrived, Ingram was calm. The deputies searched him multiple times. They confiscated the knife with which Ingram had cut himself. After the search, the deputies knew that he was unarmed.

"Ingram assured the deputies [that] he was no longer suicidal" and "never expressed any desire to harm himself or any other person during his encounter with the deputies." He "insisted that the deputies either arrest him or leave." Both the deputies and Ingram's mother "tried to convince Ingram to let them take him to a residential program through ... [Veterans Affairs] that Ingram's mother wanted him to attend." When Ingram asked the deputies if he was under arrest, the "deputies told [him] ... that he was not." Ingram reiterated "that he would cooperate with any arrest if that [was] what they wanted to do."

Because the deputies would not leave, Ingram left through the back door "on his third try." "Ingram ran into a cotton field behind the house, and the deputies followed." Ingram eventually stopped running and "let the deputies catch up to him." "The deputies told Ingram that if he would go back to his house and refuse medical treatment," the deputies would leave. "Ingram agreed to walk back to the house ... and speak directly with [medical] personnel." As they walked back, Ingram stated "multiple times that if he was being arrested, the[ deputies] should ... let him know and he would go voluntarily," but "[t]he deputies repeatedly told Ingram he was not under arrest."

When they reached the yard, "Ingram held his hands over his head and told [medical] personnel ... that he was refusing medical treatment." The deputies knew that Ingram was unarmed and posed no threat to them. "Without warning, Kubik then grabbed Ingram under his armpits, picked Ingram up, and slammed Ingram to the ground head first, causing Ingram to suffer a serious neck injury." Ingram alleges that Kubik's decision to body slam "Ingram was motivated by hostility toward Ingram due to Ingram's mental illness." Ingram was taken to the hospital. "A surgeon removed Ingram's C-2 vertebra and replaced it with a metal rod. The surgeon also fused Ingram's C-3 and C-4 vertebrae."

"Despite widespread knowledge of th[is] incident up the chain of command" that included then-Sheriff Blake Dorning, "the incident was not ... investigated, and the deputy was not disciplined." Failure to investigate excessive force incidents "ha[d] been Dorning's standard operating procedure"; "[e]ven obviously-unconstitutional ... actions of his deputies [were] immune from investigation and discipline." Ingram's lawyer learned from discovery in other lawsuits "that formal internal investigations of officer misconduct were not conducted," and after he requested "records of internal investigations of deputy misconduct," he was "told no such records existed." During Dorning's tenure, the Sheriff's website "identified no person or division to contact with a complaint [against] a deputy."

The complaint provides examples of excessive force that were allegedly not investigated. In one "well-publicized revenge beating," "Dorning refused to investigate and discipline the deputies involved," despite being "fully informed" of the incident, "including the revenge beating and cover-up." "Dorning learned that numerous deputies of various ranks were involved in the beating or its planning, in the cover-up, or in both." Despite that knowledge, and even though a policy and procedure manual required him to investigate, "Dorning took no action against any of the involved deputies" and "did not ... initiate an internal affairs investigation." Dorning similarly "refused to investigate serious allegations related to [six] deaths at the Madison County Jail." And Ingram points to five other incidents that were "approved as a matter of routine through the chain of command without any investigation."

Dorning's inaction was "a matter of routine and de facto policy" of "approv[ing] the force used and never initiat[ing] further investigation." "Thus, no officer was disciplined, let alone terminated, for excessive force or for otherwise violating a citizen's constitutional rights during Dorning's 16-year tenure." As a result of that policy, "[d]eputies under Dorning's command learned that their justifications for using force and other unlawful actions would never be questioned and that they could act with impunity." Ingram alleges that "[t]hrough explicit instruction and long-established custom, Dorning established a custom or policy that incidents of possible, likely, or known misconduct were not investigated, with the foreseeable result that deputies like Kubik believed they could get away with violating Ingram's rights." Kubik believed that "he would not have to face any investigation and that he could act with impunity."

Ingram filed a civil-rights action, see 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Kubik and Dorning in their individual capacities, for an unlawful seizure and the use of excessive force in violation of Ingram's constitutional rights, see U.S. CONST. amends. IV, XIV. Ingram also sued the current Sherriff, Kevin Turner, in his official capacity, for violating section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, see 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, see 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Ingram alleged that he "suffered from impairments that substantially limited one or more of his major life activities" and that he "had a disability within the meaning of" both Acts. He also alleged that "the Madison County Sheriff, through the actions of his officers, failed to accommodate Ingram, a disabled person, and discriminated against him by seizing and assaulting Ingram." Later in the litigation, Ingram voluntarily dismissed his claim under section 504 and proceeded against Turner only under Title II.

After Dorning, Kubik, and Turner moved to dismiss the claims against them, the district court granted their motions. The district court held that there was no unlawful seizure because Kubik had probable cause to seize Ingram. On the excessive-force claim, the district court held that Kubik was entitled to qualified immunity because Ingram "ha[d] not shown that his constitutional right was clearly established at the time of the seizure," so there was "no need to decide if his constitutional right was violated." The district court held that Ingram had "failed to plausibly establish a causal connection between" Dorning's actions and the alleged excessive force to which Ingram was subjected. The district court reasoned that the examples of misconduct alleged in the complaint "at best indicate isolated events of alleged wrongdoing and do not suffice to indicate a ‘custom or policy’ in the department." And the district court held that Ingram's Title II claim against Turner requires that he allege "deliberate indifference"; that deliberate indifference requires having "actual knowledge of discrimination in the entity's programs and fail[ing] adequately to respond," Silberman v. Miami Dade Transit , 927 F.3d 1123, 1134 (11th Cir. 2019) (alteration adopted); and that Ingram "failed to allege that Turner had any actual knowledge of discrimination against people with disabilities in his department." The district court did not decide whether Title II applies to police encounters or whether...

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