United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
JERICA MOORE-JONES, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of DEL MOORE PLAINTIFF
COLONEL BILL BRYANT, Director, Arkansas State Police; and ANTHONY TODD QUICK, Trooper, Arkansas State Police DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Moore-Jones commenced this action on her own behalf and on
behalf of her minor daughter against Colonel Bill Bryant, in
his official capacity as Director of the Arkansas State
Police, and Anthony Todd Quick, individually and in his
official capacity as a trooper for the Arkansas State Police.
Moore-Jones alleges that Bryant inadequately supervised and
trained troopers and that Quick used excessive force in
violation of the United States and Arkansas constitutions.
The amended complaint alleges a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for use of excessive force in violation of the due
process clause of the fourteenth amendment; a claim under the
Arkansas Civil Rights Act and Article 2, § 9 of the Arkansas
Constitution for use of excessive force; and a common-law
claim for assault and battery. Moore-Jones seeks compensatory
and punitive damages.
defendants have moved to dismiss the amended complaint
arguing that: (1) sovereign immunity shields Bryant and Quick
in their official capacity; (2) the section 1983 claim fails
because Quick, in his individual capacity, is entitled to
qualified immunity; and (3) the state-law claims fail because
Quick, in his individual capacity, did not lose his statutory
immunity by acting maliciously. For the reasons explained
below, the defendants' motion is granted in part and
denied in part. Document #10.
survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although
detailed factual allegations are not required, the complaint
must set forth “enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167
L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173
L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The court must accept as true all of the
factual allegations contained in the complaint and must draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.
Gorog v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 760 F.3d 787, 792 (8th
Cir. 2014). The complaint must contain more than labels,
conclusions, or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action, which means that the court is “not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555,
127 S.Ct. at 1965.
amended complaint alleges:
13. On November 7, 2015, at 8:24pm, Jerica Moore-Jones was
the subject of a traffic stop for expired tags and while
attempting to find a safe place with adequate lighting to
stop her vehicle in response to the lights flashing on the
ASP cruiser, that as she reduced her speed, the defendant
Trooper Quick rammed his police cruiser (in a
“pit” maneuver) into her vehicle and caused it to
crash causing property damage and personal injury as herein
after [sic] alleged.
14. At all times before the crash caused by Trooper Quick,
Trooper Quick was aware that plaintiff, Jerica Moore-Jones,
was attempting to find a safe lighted place to stop and
despite that knowledge and within 52 seconds of initiating
the traffic stop, chose to ram her vehicle and cause it to
crash demonstrating extreme indifference for the health and
safety of Jerica Moore-Jones and her daughter, Dela.
Document #8 at 5-6.
noted, Moore-Jones sued Bryant in his official capacity for
inadequately training and supervising Arkansas State Troopers
and Quick in his official and individual capacities for
violating her rights under the United States and Arkansas
constitutions. Moore-Jones now concedes that her
official-capacity claim against Bryant should be dismissed.
Document #11. She does not agree, however, that her claims
against Quick in his official and individual capacities
should be dismissed.
claims against a state employee in his official capacity are
barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Andrus ex rel. Andrus
v. Arkansas, 197 F.3d 953, 955 (8th Cir. 1999).
Moore-Jones seeks only monetary relief. Her claims against
Bryant and Quick in their official capacity, therefore, must
Quick is immune from suit in his individual capacity,
however, presents a different issue. With respect to the
federal claims, Quick claims qualified immunity. “The
doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials
‘from liability for civil damages insofar as their
conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.'” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 815, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009) (quoting
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct.
2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982)). Qualified immunity provides
immunity from suit, not just immunity from liability.
Hayek v. City of St. Paul, 488 F.3d 1049, 1054 (8th
Cir. 2007). A government official is entitled to qualified
immunity if (1) the facts alleged do not amount to violation
of a constitutional right, or (2) the constitutional right
was not clearly established at the time of the alleged
violation. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232, 129 S.Ct. at
815-16. This Court has discretion to address either of these
inquiries first. Id. at 236, 129 S.Ct. at 818.
alleges that Quick violated section 1983 by using excessive
force to effectuate the traffic stop. Quick's decision to
ram Moore-Jones's vehicle off the road constituted a
“seizure” under the fourth amendment. See
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381, 127 S.Ct. 1769,
1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007); Brower v. Cty. of
Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596-97, 109 S.Ct. 1378, 1381, 103
L.Ed.2d 628 (1989) (“[A] Fourth Amendment seizure
[occurs] . . . when there is a governmental termination of
freedom of movement through means intentionally
applied.”). A claim that excessive force was used
in seizing a person is analyzed under the fourth
amendment's objective reasonableness requirement.
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395, 109 S.Ct. 1865,
1871, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). Although it is clear that an
unreasonable use of force is unconstitutional, it is not
always apparent what constitutes an unreasonable use of
force. That determination demands a “careful
balancing” of the individual's liberty interests
against the government's countervailing interests.
Id. at 396, 109 S.Ct. at 1871 (citation omitted).
This balancing “requires careful attention to the facts
and circumstances of each particular case, including the
severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an
immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and
whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to
evade arrest by flight.” Id., 109 S.Ct. at
1872. Additionally, an officer's use of force is not
assessed based on hindsight but must be reasonable as judged
from the vantage of a reasonable officer on the scene.
argues that his decision to use the PIT maneuver was
objectively reasonable. Document #10 at 9. In addressing uses
of force, courts routinely begin the analysis with the
factors set forth in Graham: the severity of the
crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat
to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is
actively resisting arrest or attempting to flee. See,
e.g., Montoya v. City of Flandreau, 669 F.3d
867, 871 (8th Cir. 2012); Cook v. City of Bella
Villa, 582 F.3d 840, 849 (8th Cir. 2009); Brown v.
City of Golden Valley, 574 F.3d 491, 496 (8th Cir.
2009). Application of these factors produces the following
principle: the use of force is least justified against
nonviolent misdemeanants who pose little or no threat to the
safety of officers or others and who do not actively resist
arrest or flee. Montoya, 669 F.3d at 871.
Notwithstanding, courts are mindful that the totality of the
circumstances must be considered. Id.
Quick initiated a traffic stop because Moore-Jones was
driving with expired tags, a nonviolent misdemeanor offense.
See Ark. Code Ann. § 27-14-304. Moore-Jones was
not operating her vehicle in a reckless or dangerous manner,
nor was she threatening the safety of Quick or others. She
slowed her vehicle and began searching for a safe place to
pull over. After less than one minute of pursuit, Quick
decided to use the PIT maneuver to stop her vehicle forcibly.
Assuming as true the facts alleged in the complaint, a
reasonable officer in Quick's position would not
interpret Moore-Jones's conduct as actively resisting
arrest or fleeing. Cf. Wertish v. Krueger, 433 F.3d
1062, 1066 (8th Cir. 2006) (concluding that officer could