United States District Court, D. Kansas
FLORA GILPATRICK and DAREN MOON, Individually and on behalf of the Heirs at law of BRET DALLAS MOON, and SAVANNAH MOON, Administrator of the ESTATE OF BRET DALLAS MOON, Plaintiffs,
HARPER COUNTY, KANSAS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. BROOMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case comes before the court on Defendants' motion to
dismiss (Doc. 23). The motion has been fully briefed and is
ripe for decision. (Docs. 24, 28, 30.) Defendants' motion
is GRANTED for the reasons stated herein.
following facts are taken from the allegations in the
complaint. On May 19, 2018, Bret Moon was booked into the
Harper County Jail (“the jail”). On May 22, Moon
was sent to Larned State Hospital (“Larned”) by
court order “because of his medical condition.”
(Doc. 1 at 14.) Larned provides mental health services and is
the largest psychiatric facility in Kansas. Moon was released
from Larned on May 25 with “instructions that he remain
on his medications.” (Id.) On May 26, Moon was
booked into the jail and placed in a single-person cell. Moon
was not placed on suicide watch.
29, Moon was found unresponsive. Moon was hanging from the
top bunk with a long plastic trash bag drawstring tied around
his neck. Moon was taken to the hospital but later pronounced
bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Moon's
serious medical needs. Plaintiffs further allege that
Defendants failed to implement appropriate policies and
failed to train the officers. Plaintiffs also bring a claim
of wrongful death under state law.
action is brought by the following Plaintiffs: Moon's
estate, through Savannah Moon, the administrator of
Moon's estate; Flora Gilpatrick, Moon's mother; and
Daren Moon, Moon's brother. Plaintiffs have filed this
action against Harper County and the Harper County
Sheriff's Department. Plaintiffs have also named as
Defendants numerous individuals in both their official and
individual capacities including: Tracy Chance, the sheriff of
Harper County; Justin Carey, the administrator of the jail;
and Tom Burns, the undersheriff of Harper County. Plaintiffs
have also named the following jail officers in both their
official and individual capacities: Kenny Hodson; Dallas
Murphy; Deborah Murphy; Travis Peterson; Vance Williams;
Ellen Yoder; Drake Chance; Alex Crawley; Tamara Crawley;
Julie Harris; Samuel Porter; and Sam Rothenbush. Plaintiffs
have also named the following commissioners of Harper County
in both their individual and official capacities: Brian
Waldschmidt; Carla Pence; Lee Adams; and Ruth Elliott.
move to dismiss the complaint on the basis that it fails to
state a claim and the individual Defendants are entitled to
qualified immunity. Defendants raise additional arguments
regarding the dismissal of the Sheriff's Department and
the state law claims.
12(b)(6). In order to withstand a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain enough
allegations of fact to state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face. Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d
1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)). All
well-pleaded facts and the reasonable inferences derived from
those facts are viewed in the light most favorable to
Plaintiffs. Archuleta v. Wagner, 523 F.3d 1278, 1283
(10th Cir. 2008). Conclusory allegations, however, have no
bearing upon the court's consideration. Shero v. City
of Grove, Okla., 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007).
1983 Qualified Immunity. The individual Defendants move
for dismissal on the basis of qualified immunity.
“Individual defendants named in a § 1983 action
may raise a defense of qualified immunity.” Cillo
v. City of Greenwood Vill., 739 F.3d 451, 460 (10th Cir.
2013). Qualified immunity “shields public officials ...
from damages actions unless their conduct was unreasonable in
light of clearly established law.” Gann v.
Cline, 519 F.3d 1090, 1092 (10th Cir. 2008) (quotations
omitted). When the defense of qualified immunity is asserted,
a plaintiff must show: “(1) that the defendant's
actions violated a federal constitutional or statutory right,
and, if so, (2) that the right was clearly established at the
time of the defendant's unlawful conduct.”
Cillo, 739 F.3d at 460.
Liability. Vicarious liability is inapplicable to
section 1983 claims. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. As
such, “a plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official's own
individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”
Id. A plaintiff may also plead a claim against a
“defendant-supervisor who creates, promulgates,
implements, or in some other way possesses responsibility for
the continued operation of a policy” which caused the
constitutional harm. Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d
1185, 1199 (10th Cir. 2010). Therefore, personal liability
includes both personal involvement or supervisory liability
due to a policy. Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152,
1164-1165 (10th Cir. 2011) (Personal liability through
“his personal participation” “or the
promulgation of a policy.”).
basis of liability is a policy, Plaintiffs must prove that
“(1) the defendant promulgated, created, implemented or
possessed responsibility for the continued operation of a
policy that (2) caused the complained of constitutional harm,
and (3) acted with the state of mind required to establish
the alleged constitutional deprivation.”
Dodds, 614 F.3d at 1199. “An affirmative link
must exist between the constitutional deprivation and the
supervisor's personal participation, exercise of control
or direction, or failure to supervise.” Quint v.
Cox, 348 F.Supp.2d 1243, 1250 (D. Kan. 2004).
Liability. Municipal liability requires more than a
violation by one of the municipality's officers.
Plaintiffs must sufficiently allege: (1) that a violation was
committed by an officer; (2) that there is a municipal policy
or custom; and (3) a “direct causal link between the
policy or custom and the injury alleged.” Graves v.
Thomas, 450 F.3d 1215, 1218 (10th Cir. 2006). A policy
or custom includes the following: 1) a “formal
regulation or policy statement;” 2) an informal custom
that amounts to a widespread and well-settled practice; 3) a
decision of an employee with final policymaking authority; 4)
ratification by a final policymaker of a subordinate's
decision; or 5) “failure to adequately train ...