McCoy v. City of Monticello

Decision Date16 June 2005
Docket NumberNo. 03-3668.,03-3668.
Citation411 F.3d 920
PartiesRonnie McCOY; Lori McCoy, Appellants, v. CITY OF MONTICELLO; Harold West, Mayor; Monticello Police Department; Sam Norris; Ken Ouelette, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Chuck S. Gibson, argued, Dermott, Arkansas, for appellant.

Erida Gee Ross, argued, North Little Rock, Arkansas (David Hoffman, on the brief), for appellee.

Before RILEY, JOHN R. GIBSON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

RILEY, Circuit Judge.

On December 31, 2000, Ken Ouelette (Officer Ouelette), an auxiliary police officer with the Monticello Police Department, engaged in a police pursuit of a vehicle driven by Ronnie McCoy (McCoy). The pursuit ended when the police forced McCoy's vehicle off the ice-covered road into a ditch. With his firearm drawn, Officer Ouelette ran towards McCoy's vehicle, slipped, and fell on the ice. Upon falling, Officer Ouelette's gun accidentally discharged, and a bullet struck McCoy in the chest, seriously injuring him. McCoy and his wife, Lori McCoy, (McCoys) sued the City of Monticello, Mayor Harold West, the Monticello Police Department, Police Chief Sam Norris, (collectively, City), and Officer Ouelette under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of McCoy's Fourth Amendment rights. Earlier, Officer Ouelette appealed the district court's denial of qualified immunity. Concluding no unreasonable seizure had occurred, we reversed holding Officer Ouelette was entitled to qualified immunity. McCoy v. City of Monticello, 342 F.3d 842, 848-49 (8th Cir.2003) (McCoy I). Thereafter, the district court1 granted summary judgment on the municipal liability claims. The McCoys appeal, and we affirm.

The McCoys appeal the grant of summary judgment in favor of the City on their municipal claims of unconstitutional custom and failure to train and supervise, arguing Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 105 S.Ct. 1694, 85 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985), mandates reversal. We review de novo a grant of summary judgment, giving the McCoys the most favorable reading of the record as well as the benefit of any reasonable inferences drawn from the record. Wilson ex rel. Wilson v. Gunn, 403 F.3d 524, 526 (8th Cir.2005).

A Fourth Amendment seizure requires an intentional act by an officer, and does not address "accidental effects of otherwise lawful government conduct." Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596-97, 109 S.Ct. 1378, 103 L.Ed.2d 628 (1989). We previously held Officer Ouelette's act of drawing his gun was "objectively reasonable," and the accidental discharge did not constitute an unreasonable seizure violating McCoy's constitutional rights.2 McCoy I, 342 F.3d at 847-49. Therefore, the City cannot be held liable on either an unconstitutional policy or custom theory or on a failure to train or supervise theory. This circuit has consistently recognized a general rule that, in order for municipal liability to attach, individual liability first must be found on an underlying substantive claim.3 See McVay v. Sisters of Mercy Health Sys., 399 F.3d 904, 909 (8th Cir.2005) (stating "[s]ince we have found that [the officer's] actions were not unconstitutional, McVay cannot make a prima facie case against the City under section 1983"); Turpin v. County of Rock, 262 F.3d 779, 784 (8th Cir.2001) (concluding because district court properly granted officers summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, county likewise was entitled to summary judgment); Veneklase v. City of Fargo, 248 F.3d 738, 748 (8th Cir.2001) (en banc) (declaring "where arresting police officers are absolved of liability to arrestees, the City ordinarily is not liable"); Thomas v. Dickel, 213 F.3d 1023, 1026 (8th Cir.2000) (reasoning "[b]ecause we have found that the officers' stop of the plaintiffs' car did not violate their fourth amendment [ ] rights, it follows that the plaintiffs' claim against the city (inadequate training and municipal custom) must likewise fail"); Eagle v. Morgan, 88 F.3d 620, 628 (8th Cir.1996) (declaring decision that officers' conduct did not violate plaintiff's constitutional right to privacy disposed of related claims against the city); Abbott v. City of Crocker, 30 F.3d 994, 998 (8th Cir.1994) (holding city cannot be found liable on either a failure-to-train theory or a municipal custom/policy theory unless a defendant police officer is found liable on an underlying substantive claim).

We have reviewed Tennessee v. Garner and conclude its facts are clearly distinguishable. Garner involved a police officer's intentional use of deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing, unarmed burglar. While ruling a Tennessee statute authorizing use of deadly force was not unconstitutional on its face, the Supreme Court held "[t]he use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable." Garner, 471 U.S. at 11, 105 S.Ct. 1694. The Court further declared, "[a] police officer may not seize an...

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