White v. Jackson, 4:14CV1490 HEA

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
Decision Date16 March 2015
Docket NumberNo. 4:14CV1490 HEA,4:14CV1490 HEA
PartiesTRACEY WHITE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. THOMAS JACKSON, et al., Defendants.

TRACEY WHITE, et al., Plaintiffs,
THOMAS JACKSON, et al., Defendants.

No. 4:14CV1490 HEA


March 16, 2015


This matter is before the Court on the St. Louis County Defendants' six separate Motions to Dismiss, which were joined by the Ferguson Defendants [Doc. Nos. 42-47]; the Ferguson Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 50]; and the St. Louis County Defendants' Motion to Sever, which was joined by the Ferguson Defendants [Doc. No. 35]. Plaintiffs oppose these Motions. For the reasons set forth below, the St. Louis County Defendants' Motions to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part, the Ferguson Defendants' Motions to Dismiss will be denied, and the Motion to Sever will be denied.

Facts and Background1

Michael Brown, Jr. was shot and killed by a police officer on August 9, 2014, in the City of Ferguson, Missouri. In the hours and days that followed, large crowds gathered in Ferguson to protest Brown's death. The pleadings assert the protests "subsequently led to civil unrest in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri when [officers from the City of Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Departments] took up arms and, in militaristic displays of force and weaponry, engaged U.S. Citizens as if they were war combatants." [Doc. No. 41 at ¶ 23].

Page 2

Plaintiffs are individuals who claim to have suffered violations of various rights between August 11 and August 13, 2014 in Ferguson. Named as Defendants are the City of Ferguson; Thomas Jackson (the City of Ferguson Chief of Police); Justin Cosma (a City of Ferguson police officer) (collectively the "Ferguson Defendants"); St. Louis County; Jon Belmar (the St. Louis County Chief of Police) (collectively the "St. Louis County Defendants"); and John Does (police officers from the City of Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments).

Plaintiffs initiated this action on August 28, 2014, and filed their Second Amended Complaint on December 2, 2014. Plaintiffs bring federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of their civil rights and for failure to train, supervise, and discipline. Plaintiffs bring state law claims for false arrest, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision.


A complaint must set out a "short and plain statement of [a plaintiff's] claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). To test the legal sufficiency of a complaint, a defendant may file a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In other words, a plaintiff must plead facts from which the court can draw a "reasonable inference" of liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations" but must contain more than mere "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements" or "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. An "unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation" will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "While legal conclusions can

Page 3

provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations," id. at 679, which "raise a right to relief above the speculative level," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

Under Twombly and Iqbal, "[a] plaintiff . . . must plead facts sufficient to show that her claim has substantive plausibility." Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct. 346, 347 (2014). If the plaintiff "inform[s] the [defendant] of the factual basis for [her] complaint, [she] [is] required to do no more to stave off threshold dismissal for want of an adequate statement of [her] claim." Id.

In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court can "choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Turning to any "well-pleaded factual allegations," the court should "assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. The court may only consider the initial pleadings. Brooks v. Midwest Heart Grp., 655 F.3d 796, 799 (8th Cir. 2011).


Defendants contend that Plaintiffs failed to state claims for § 1983 violations against Defendants Belmar, Jackson, St. Louis County and the City of Ferguson. As to Plaintiffs' state law claims, Defendants argue that all Plaintiffs failed to adequately allege an exception to sovereign immunity, and failed to state claims for negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Further, Defendants assert that certain Plaintiffs failed to state claims for assault and battery and false arrest. As discussed below, the Court finds that Plaintiffs stated substantively plausible § 1983 claims; that Plaintiffs adequately alleged an exception to sovereign immunity; that Plaintiffs failed to state claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress; that Plaintiffs failed to state claims for negligent supervision; and that Plaintiff Davis failed to state a clam for assault and battery. Further, the Court will deny the Motion to Sever.

A. Section 1983 Claims

Page 4

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to state § 1983 claims against Defendants Belmar, Jackson, St. Louis County, and Ferguson. The Court disagrees.

1. Belmar and Jackson

Plaintiffs set forth claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Belmar and Jackson in their individual and official capacities for their failure to properly train, supervise, control, direct, monitor and discipline officers in their respective departments.2

"To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." Cook v. City of Bella Villa, 582 F.3d 840, 848-49 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). It is well established that for municipalities, or supervisory defendants sued in their individual capacities, respondeat superior or vicarious liability will not attach under § 1983. City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989); Livers v. Shenck, 700 F.3d 340, 355 (8th Cir. 2012). Rather, a supervisory defendant-sued in his individual capacity—may be liable under § 1983 "if he directly participates in the constitutional violation or if he fails to train or supervise the subordinate who caused the

Page 5

violation." Brockinton v. City of Sherwood, 503 F.3d 667, 673 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing Tilson v. Forrest City Police Dep't, 28 F.3d 802, 806 (8th Cir. 1994)).3

The Eighth Circuit recognizes the following elements for supervisory liability under § 1983 for failure to train or supervise: (1) notice of a pattern of unconstitutional acts committed by subordinates; (2) deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of those acts; (3) failure to take sufficient remedial action; and (4) proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury. Livers, 700 F.3d at 355. "In order to show deliberate indifference or tacit authorization, [the plaintiff] must allege and ultimately prove [the supervisory defendant] 'had notice that the training procedures and supervision were inadequate and likely to result in a constitutional violation.'" Id. at 355-56 (quoting Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1078 (8th Cir. 1996)).

Plaintiffs' factual allegations against Defendants Jackson and Belmar are sufficient to state a substantively plausible claim through which the Court can draw a reasonable inference of liability. Plaintiffs allege that the John Doe police officers were "acting under the direction and control, and pursuant to the practices and customs of Defendants City of Ferguson and St. Louis County implemented by Defendants Belmar and [Jackson]," when they "took up arms and, in militaristic displays of force and weaponry, engaged U.S. Citizens as if they were war combatants." [Doc. No. 41 at ¶¶ 23, 43] [emphasis added]. In this regard, Plaintiffs allege various instances of being subjected to "wanton and excessive force," as well as being arrested without probable cause in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiffs' specific factual allegations during this period range from being shot with rubber bullets, to being physically assaulted, to being sprayed with mace. Given the temporal relation of these individual allegations (August 11-13, 2013), as well as the alleged shared objective of the officers—namely,

Page 6

responding to protests and civil unrest following Michael Brown's death—Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that Defendants Belmar and Jackson knew or should have known of the pattern of unconstitutional acts committed by the John Doe officers and were deliberately indifferent to, or tacitly authorized those acts, which resulted in Plaintiffs suffering various injuries. Livers, 700 F.3d at 355.

Accordingly, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the § 1983 claims against Defendants Belmar and Jackson are denied.

2. St. Louis County and the City of Ferguson

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants St. Louis County and the City of Ferguson had customs, policies, and practices in place regarding the training, supervision, control, monitoring and disciplining of their officers that exhibited deliberate indifference to the care and safety of citizens, which led to Plaintiffs' injuries.

"A local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy . . . inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT