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Ackley v. Richardson

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 10, 2017

LINDSAY A. ACKLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY NEPHI RICHARDSON, In his Individual Capacity; BARBER COUNTY, KANSAS; COMANCHE COUNTY, KANSAS; KIOWA COUNTY, KANSAS; DODGE CITY, KANSAS; CITY OF COLDWATER, KANSAS; and DOES 1-10, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. THOMAS MARTEN, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Lindsay Ackley filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming her constitutional rights were violated in connection with the initial stop of a vehicle in which she was a passenger, an ensuing high speed chase, and her subsequent detention. Additionally, she asserts claims of negligence and “taking of personal property” against defendant Dodge City, Kansas. The latter claims relate to plaintiff's four dogs, which were in the vehicle with plaintiff during the car chase, and which were later turned over to the Dodge City Animal Shelter. Plaintiff alleges the dogs were then “transferred to another organization with their disposition unknown, ” and contends Dodge City is liable under Kansas law for negligently failing to safeguard the dogs and for transferring them. The matter is now before the court on a motion to dismiss by Dodge City. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Summary of Complaint.

         The following allegations are taken from the complaint.[1] Plaintiff Lindsay Ackley was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped on the highway by Barber County Sheriff's Deputy Nephi Richardson on the night of May 20, 2015. At some point during the stop, the driver of the vehicle decided to drive off, taking plaintiff and plaintiff's four dogs in the car with him. Following a high speed chase involving several law enforcement officers, one or more Comanche County Sheriff's Deputies executed a “pit maneuver, ” which caused the fleeing car to flip over several times before landing upside down in a ditch.

         Plaintiff was handcuffed and taken to Comanche County Memorial Hospital, where she was kept overnight. The next day, both plaintiff and the driver, who had an outstanding California warrant for his arrest, were taken to the Kiowa County Jail in Greensburg, Kansas. Plaintiff contends that on the way there, officers “caused her emotional distress by telling her that her dogs would be euthanized if she was not out of jail in three … days.” Plaintiff was booked into the jail and was allegedly held for nineteen days without ever being brought before a judge or being provided an attorney.

         Plaintiff was released from the jail on June 9, 2015. The complaint alleges:

38. DANNY, an employee of COLDWATER, took control of the dogs on or about May 21, 2015 and initially told LINDSAY that the “the dogs would be euthanized”. DANNY and / or another employee [Bradley Gossett] then indicated in the COLDWATER animal records that the dogs were either abandoned or surrendered by owner. On or about June 18, 2015 the City of Coldwater transferred custody of the four (4) dogs to Dodge City Animal Shelter. The record at the Dodge City Animal Shelter shows that each of the four (4) dogs were the result of an OWNER SURRENDER. Dodge City did nothing to verify the representations made by COLDWATER even though the four (4) dogs suddenly showed up after a high-speed chase which was in the local newspapers.
39. Despite numerous calls to DODGE Animal Shelter, the dogs were still marked as “OWNER SURRENDER” and transferred the four (4) dogs to a rescue organization on or about June 19, 2015.
40. During the time LINDSAY was falsely imprisoned she was unable to inquire of the four (4) dogs. After LINDSAY'S release after being falsely imprisoned for nineteen (19) days, a Dodge City Animal Shelter told LINDSAY “the dogs are gone”.
* * *
44. She then travelled to Corpus Christi, Texas on June 12, 2015 and then on July 7, 2015 travelled to home in West Hills, California since upon her release, LINDSAY could not go directly to California since her mother was out of the country LINDSAY contacted the DODGE Animal Shelter on June 10, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19, 23, and 24 of 2015 and additional telephone calls through January, 2017 until counsel for DODGE instructed her not call his client after “Notice” was provided pursuant to the Kansas Tort Claims Act. The DODGE Animal shelter did absolutely nothing to assist her and refused to give her any information pertaining to the four (4) dogs. Based on information and belief the DODGE Animal Shelter transferred ownership to another Organization even though the DODGE Animal Shelter knew she was the owner, wanted her dogs back, and knew of her numerous inquiries.

         Plaintiff alleges that Dodge City “had a duty to safeguard the four (4) dogs until [plaintiff] was released from jail and a reasonable time thereafter, ” Dkt. 1 at 17, that Dodge City employees breached this duty despite numerous calls from plaintiff, that the dogs were transferred to another organization, with their disposition unknown, and that plaintiff was thereby damaged.

         II. Motion to Dismiss.

         Dodge City argues the complaint fails to state a claim for negligence because Dodge City did not owe plaintiff any legal duty. It further contends there was no breach of a duty, even assuming one existed, because it was reasonable for Dodge City to transfer the dogs to the local humane society. As for plaintiff's claim for the “taking of personal property, ” Dodge City contends the ...


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