United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
FURLANDARE SINGLETON, et al. PLAINTIFFS
ARKANSAS HOUSING AUTHORITIES PROPERTY & CASUALTY SELF-INSURED FUND, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
KRISTINE G. BAKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by separate
defendants Wayne Taylor, Larry Hamsher, Chris McDonald, Tony
Southerland, Dewan Lewis, the City of Jacksonville, Arkansas,
and the Jacksonville Fire Department (collectively,
“City defendants”) (Dkt. No. 135). Plaintiff
Marilyn Beavers and separate plaintiffs Furlandare Singleton
and Clyde Hatchet filed responses to the City defendants'
motion for summary judgement (Dkt. Nos. 141; 147). The City
defendants replied to plaintiffs' responses (Dkt. Nos.
149; 150). In the early morning hours of March 22, 2012, Ms.
Beavers and her children, Haylee Singleton, Dequan Singleton,
Emily Beavers, and Syndi Singleton, died after a fire in the
kitchen of their apartment in Jacksonville. These events are
unimaginably tragic. This Court has studied carefully and
thoroughly the filings and record evidence in this case. For
the following reasons, the Court grants the City
defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismisses
with prejudice all of plaintiffs' claims against the City
defendants (Dkt. No. 135).
preliminary matter, the Court notes that Ms. Beavers'
requested a hearing on the City defendants' motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. No. 141, ¶ 4). Through informal
communications, Ms. Beavers withdrew her request for a
hearing. Therefore, the Court denies as moot Ms. Beavers'
request for a hearing.
judgment is proper if the evidence, when viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that the defendant is
entitled to entry of judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence
could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either
party. Miner v. Local 373, 513 F.3d 854, 860 (8th
Cir. 2008). “The mere existence of a factual dispute is
insufficient alone to bar summary judgment; rather, the
dispute must be outcome determinative under the prevailing
law.” Holloway v. Pigman, 884 F.2d 365, 366
(8th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted).
opposing a summary judgment motion may not rest merely upon
the allegations in their pleadings. Buford v.
Tremayne, 747 F.2d 445, 447 (8th Cir. 1984). The initial
burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477
U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to
establish that there is a genuine issue to be determined at
trial. Prudential Ins. Co. v. Hinkel, 121 F.3d 364,
366 (8th Cir. 1997).
nonmoving party “must respond by submitting evidentiary
materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial” and “must do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts.” Gannon Int'l, Ltd. v.
Blocker, 684 F.3d 785, 792 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing
Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042
(8th Cir. 2011) (en banc)). “The evidence of the
non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences
are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citation
otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from Ms.
Beavers' response to the City defendants' statement
of facts (Dkt. No. 143). On March 22, 2012, Ms. Beavers,
Haylee Singleton, Dequan Singleton, Emily Beavers, and Syndi
Singleton died of soot and smoke inhalation resulting from an
accidental house fire in Ms. Beavers' apartment.
Plaintiffs claim that “at or around 2:00 a.m., [Ms.]
Beavers . . . shared a telephone conversation with her
fiance, Furlandare Singleton, and the children, Decedents
Dequan Singleton, Syndi Singleton Haylee Singleton, and Emily
Beavers” (Dkt. No. 27, ¶ 34). Plaintiffs allege
that the fire ignited in Ms. Beavers' kitchen and that
the fire ignited “moments after” this
conversation (Id., ¶ 35).
a.m. on March 22, 2012, Jennifer Gray, Ms. Beavers'
neighbor, called 911 to report that she smelled smoke towards
the back of her apartment (Dkt. No. 143, at 2). Ms. Gray told
the dispatcher that the smell of smoke was strong towards the
back of the apartment, and indicated that it could be coming
from her neighbor's apartment (Id.). Ms.
Gray's apartment shared a common wall with Ms.
Beavers' apartment, which was a mirror image of Ms.
Gray's apartment (Id., at 9).
Ms. Gray called 911, the Jacksonville Fire Department was
fighting a fire approximately a half mile from Ms. Gray's
apartment (Id., at 3). The dispatcher informed Ms.
Gray that the smell of smoke could be coming from that fire,
but Ms. Gray insisted “that she smelled smoke inside
her home and she only smelled it in her daughter's room
and her bathroom” (Id., at 4). The dispatcher
told Ms. Gray to remove her daughter from the apartment and
to determine whether she could smell smoke outside.
(Id.). After Ms. Gray reported that she did not
smell smoke outside the apartment, the dispatcher told her
that she would send a fire engine to her apartment as soon as
Jacksonville Fire Department was dispatched to Ms. Gray's
home at 5:50 a.m (Id.). At 6:00 a.m., Officer
Southerland and Officer McDonald, who had been attending to
the fire a half mile away from Ms. Gray's home, arrived
at Ms. Gray's apartment in an ambulance (Id.).
Captain Hamsher and Lieutenant Taylor arrived in a fire
engine two minutes after Officer Southerland and Officer
McDonald (Id.). Officer Southerland, Officer
McDonald, Captain Hamsher, and Lieutenant Taylor investigated
Ms. Gray's apartment and did not find signs of a fire
(Id., at 7-11). They knocked on the front door of
Ms. Beavers' apartment, but no one answered the door and
they did not detect any movement inside the apartment
(Id., at 12). The firefighters conducted a thermal
image scan of the interior of Ms. Gray's apartment, the
attic, and the perimeter of Ms. Gray and Ms. Beavers'
building (Id., at 16). The firefighters concluded
that there was not a fire in the building and left the scene
23 minutes after arriving (Id., at
allege that Officer Southerland, Officer McDonald, Captain
Hamsher, and Lieutenant Taylor did not conduct a sufficient
investigation of the suspected fire, which resulted in the
deaths of Marilyn Beavers, Haylee Singleton, Dequan
Singleton, Emily Beavers, and Syndi Singleton. They contend
that the City of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Fire
Department, and Dewan Lewis failed to train properly and
supervise the responding firefighters. Plaintiffs bring
claims against the City Defendants for alleged constitutional
violations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 and for tort
claims under Arkansas law. The City defendants move for
summary judgment on all claims.
City defendants argue that all of plaintiffs' claims fail
because, “[r]egardless of the claim, the Plaintiffs
must establish a causal connection between the City's
actions and the deaths of Ms. Beavers and her children[,
]” and that the plaintiffs have no evidence to meet
their burden (Dkt. No. 136, at 9). Ms. Beavers does not
address this argument in her response to the City
defendants' motion for summary judgment. Mr. Singleton
and Mr. Hatchett argue that summary judgment is improper
because “[r]easonable minds could differ as to the time
of the death of Ms. Beavers and her children” (Dkt. No.
148, at 5).
each of their claims against the City defendants, Mr.
Singleton, Mr. Hatchett, and Ms. Beavers have the burden to
prove that the City defendants' actions caused harm to
Marilyn Beavers, Haylee Singleton, Dequan Singleton, Emily
Beavers, and Syndi Singleton. See Mayorga v.
Missouri, 442 F.3d 1128, 1132 (8th Cir. 2006)
(“Liability under section 1983 requires a causal link
to, and direct responsibility for, the deprivation of
rights.”) (quoting Madewell v. Roberts, 909
F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990)); Stauch v. City of
Columbia Heights, 212 F.3d 425, 429 (8th Cir. 2000)
(“In a section 1983 suit against a municipality, we
must determine two separate issues: ‘(1) whether
plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional
violation, and (2) if so, whether the city is responsible for
that violation.'”) (quoting Collins v. City of
Harker Heights,503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992)); Scott v.
Cent. Arkansas Nursing Centers, Inc., 278 S.W.3d 587,
595 (Ark. App. 2008) (“In a wrongful-death case, the
plaintiff must show that the defendant's negligence was
the proximate ...