United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
CLAYTON FRANKLIN, as Administrator for the Estate of Cody J. Franklin PLAINTIFF
FRANKLIN COUNTY, ARKANSAS, et al. DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Defendants Anthony Boen, in his official capacity as Franklin
County Sheriff; Franklin County Sheriff's Department;
Franklin County, Arkansas; Nicholas James, individually and
in his capacity as a Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy;
and James Taylor Molton (“County Defendants”)
filed a motion (Doc. 43) for summary judgment, brief (Doc.
44) in support, and statement of facts (Doc. 45). Plaintiff
Clayton Franklin filed a response (Doc. 49) in opposition, a
brief (Doc. 50) in support, and a response (Doc. 51) in
opposition to the County Defendants' statement of facts.
The County Defendants filed a reply (Doc. 73). The County
Defendants' motion will be GRANTED.
Defendants Joseph Griffith; Nathan Griffith; and the City of
Ozark, Arkansas (“City Defendants”) also filed a
motion (Doc. 53) for summary judgment, a brief (Doc. 54) in
support, and a statement of facts (Doc. 55). Clayton Franklin
filed a response (Doc. 60) in opposition, a brief (Doc. 61)
in support of his response, and a response (Doc. 62) to the
City Defendants' statement of facts. The City
Defendants' filed a reply (Doc. 66). The City
Defendants' motion will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
10, 2016, at 7:16 p.m., the Franklin County Sheriff's
Office received a call from William Jones that a suspicious
person was “swinging a stick like a sword” and
“going up driveways and walking up and down the
road.” (Doc. 51, ¶ 9). Franklin County
Sheriff's Office dispatched Deputy Matt Young to
investigate. Id., ¶ 10. Deputy Young found the
suspicious person in a ditch off of Westview Road waving a
long walking stick around. (Doc. 45, p. 49). Deputy Young
identified the suspicious person as Cody Franklin.
Id. Franklin was twenty years old, six feet tall,
and weighed two hundred pounds. (Doc. 55-3, pp. 1-2). Deputy
Young questioned Franklin about his location and where he was
staying and noted that Franklin made multiple inconsistent
statements regarding his previous criminal history and his
reasoning for being in a ditch. (Doc. 45, p. 50). Deputy
Young placed Franklin under arrest for obstructing
governmental operations. (Doc. 51, ¶ 12). Deputy Young
drove Franklin to the Franklin County Detention Center. (Doc.
51, ¶ 13). Upon arrival, Deputy James Taylor Molton
processed Franklin into the detention center. Id.
Franklin was allowed to make several calls to seek assistance
in paying bail to be released from the detention center.
(Doc. 51, ¶ 14). One of the calls Franklin made during
this time was to his girlfriend, Leanna Crowley. (Doc. 51,
¶ 15). Franklin told Crowley that if he stayed in the
detention center over night, he would “tear”
[the] motherfucker apart, ” and that if he was in there
another 15 minutes it would “take them three fucking
dart guns, at least” to control him. (Doc. 51, ¶
15). Franklin was unable to make bail and was placed into the
general population pod by Deputy Molton. (Doc. 51, ¶
16). Deputy Molton then went off duty and was replaced by
Deputy Nicholas James. (Doc. 51, ¶ 17).
Plaintiff and Defendants' stories regarding the
subsequent events diverge once Franklin was placed in the
general population pod. Defendants claim that around
midnight, in the early morning of May 11, 2016, Deputy James
went to “inspect the sounds of an altercation in the
general population pod, ” and that other inmates
informed him that Franklin was starting fights with inmates
who were sleeping. (Doc. 45, ¶ 18; Doc. 45, p. 16).
Conversely, Clayton Franklin produces evidence from an inmate
detained in the detention center that evening that law
enforcement officers at the Franklin County Detention Center
told inmates that they “had a fighter coming” and
had encouraged the altercations. (Doc. 51, ¶ 18; Doc.
50-10, p. 1). Deputy James observed Franklin throwing his
mat, blanket and clothes, and cursing in the general
population pod, causing other inmates to lock themselves into
their cell areas. (Doc. 45, ¶ 19; Doc. 45, p. 17).
Deputy James decided to move Franklin to an isolated cell
because of Franklin's aggressive behavior and apparent
intoxication from drugs. (Doc. 45, p. 17). Deputy James
requested assistance to move Franklin to an isolated cell and
Officer Nathan Griffith of the Ozark Police Department
arrived at the detention center to assist Deputy James. (Doc.
45, p. 76).
James opened the cell door and asked Franklin to “come
with [him].” (Doc. 45, p. 79). However, Franklin
refused to go anywhere and stated “come on, ”
“lets go, ” and “I done fucked one dude
up!” while crouching in a fighting stance.
(Id; Doc. 55-1, p. 4). James tried to calm Franklin
by telling him that he did not want to fight; however,
Franklin responded by placing several items on his mat,
rolling it into a ball, and throwing it at Deputy James.
(Doc. 55-1, p. 4). The mat hit Deputy James in the head.
Id. Franklin attempted to grab Deputy James's
wrist and pull him into the cell. Id. Franklin
finally exited the cell, slammed the door, and stated,
“I'm not going anywhere I'm going to sleep
right here.” (Doc. 45, p. 80). Franklin then grabbed
Deputy James's shirt. Id. Officer Griffith
stepped in to separate Deputy James from Franklin.
Id. Officer Griffith grabbed Franklin around his
waist and moved Franklin against the cell wall. (Doc. 55-1,
p. 5). Franklin, however, was able to push himself away from
the wall and Officer Griffith maneuvered Franklin to the
floor. Id. Franklin then kicked his legs and pushed
Officer Griffith off of him. Id. Franklin was able
to return to his feet. Id. In response, Officer
Griffith fired his electronic control device
(“taser”) and Franklin fell to the ground.
Id. Officer Griffith instructed Franklin to roll
over on his stomach and place his hands behind his back when
the taser cycle was over. (Doc. 45, p. 228). However, when
the cycle ended, Franklin started to stand up. Id.
Officer Griffith then pulled the taser trigger, initiating a
second taser cycle, and commanded Franklin to roll over on
his stomach and place his hands behind his back. Id.
Franklin did not comply, and Officer Griffith initiated a
third taser cycle against Franklin. Id. The third
taser cycle appeared to have no effect on Franklin, as he was
able to reach a standing position. Id. Griffith
initiated a taser cycle two more times, but the taser
appeared to have no effect on Franklin. Id.
then walked toward Deputy James and Officer Griffith again.
Id. Officer Griffith grabbed Franklin around his
head and arm and again maneuvered Franklin to the ground.
(Doc. 55-1, p. 5). Deputy James then handcuffed Franklin.
Id. Deputy James and Officer Griffith attempted to
stand Franklin up to walk him to the isolation cell.
Id. However, Franklin refused to stand, so the
officers had to drag him by his arms to the cell.
Id. Deputy James and Officer Griffith claim that
Franklin was attempting to kick them the entire time.
presents evidence that the officers dragged Franklin to the
isolation cell not because of Franklin's resistance, but
because the officers had choked Franklin out until he was
unconscious during the struggle in the hallway. (Doc. 50-10,
p. 2). Regardless, the isolation cell video demonstrates that
Franklin regained consciousness before entering the isolation
cell. (Doc. 45, Ex. 13).
James and Officer Griffith then placed Franklin in the
isolation cell. (Doc. 45, p. 81). Around this time, Sergeant
Joseph Griffith of the Ozark Police Department arrived to
assist Deputy James and Officer Griffith in removing the
handcuffs from Franklin for his time in the isolation cell.
Id. Officer Griffith placed his knee on
Franklin's back between Franklin's shoulder blades.
(Doc. 55-1, p. 5). Deputy James held Franklin's legs to
prevent him from kicking. Id. Sergeant Griffith
secured Franklin's hip area with his hands. Id.
Franklin continued to struggle and Sergeant Griffith grabbed
Officer Griffith's taser and warned Franklin that he
would deploy the taser again if he kept resisting.
Id. Franklin did not stop struggling, so Sergeant
Griffith tased Franklin in drive-stun mode. Id.
Sergeant Griffith claims he believed that this tasing had
“little effect, ” so he tased Franklin a second
time. Id., p. 6. Franklin continued to struggle and
Sergeant Griffith used the taser a third time. Id.
After the third tasing, Franklin “stopped fighting and
relaxed his arms” allowing the officers to remove the
handcuffs. Id. The officers checked Franklin's
wrist and neck for a pulse and signs that Franklin was
breathing before exiting the cell. Id. The officers
then returned to the dispatch room and watched Franklin on a
monitor for a few minutes, during which time Franklin was not
moving. Id. Sergeant Griffith then told Debbie Ross,
dispatcher at the Franklin County Detention Center, to call
Emergency Medical Services to provide medical assistance for
Franklin. The officers returned to the isolation cell and
again checked Franklin for a pulse. Id. Finding
none, Officer Griffith started chest compressions and then
assisted EMTs in getting Franklin to the ambulance when they
arrived. Franklin was taken by EMS to Mercy Hospital in town,
and at 3:13 a.m., he was pronounced dead. The medical
examiner's report showed that Franklin had “a toxic
level methamphetamine” in his system at the time of
death. (Doc. 61-7, p. 12). The medical examiner stated that
the cause of death was “methamphetamine intoxication,
exertion, struggle, restraint, and multiple electro muscular
disruption device applications.” Id., p. 1.
Franklin County and the City of Ozark had policies regarding
detention and use of force procedures, including the use of
tasers on detainees. (Doc. 45, p. 239; Doc. 55-11). Franklin
County Deputy Nicholas James had received Arkansas Crime
Information Center (“ACIC”) Level I training, was
provided with the Franklin County Detention Center Rules and
Procedures, and was trained in-person at the detention
facility. City of Ozark Officer Nathan Griffith and Sergeant
Joseph Griffith graduated from police academy and received
training on the use of tasers from the Taser Training
Academy. (Doc. 55, Ex. L).
party moves for summary judgment, the party must establish
both the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and
that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986);
Nat'l Bank of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow
Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 606 (8thCir. 1999). In order
for there to be a genuine issue of material fact, the
nonmoving party must produce evidence “such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28
F.3d 64, 66-67 (8th Cir. 1994) (citing Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Only
facts “that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law” need be considered.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “[T]he non-movant
must make a sufficient showing on every essential element of
its claim on which it bears the burden of proof.”
P.H. v. Sch. Dist. of Kan. City, Mo., 265 F.3d 653,
658 (8th Cir. 2001). Facts asserted by the nonmoving party
“must be properly supported by the record, ” in
which case those “facts and the inferences to be drawn
from them [are viewed] in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party.” Id. at 656-57.
Wrongful Death Recovery
threshold matter, the City Defendants assert that Plaintiff
cannot bring a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
violations of Franklin's constitutional rights through
the Arkansas Wrongful Death statute and Plaintiff's
claims should be dismissed as a matter of law. The question
of which damages are available in a § 1983 action has
been subject to considerable debate. See Carringer v.
Rodgers, 331 F.3d 844, 850 n.9 (11th Cir. 2003) (noting
the different ways circuits have handled wrongful death
claims under § 1983). “Although Congress clearly
envisioned § 1983 to serve as a remedy for wrongful
killings that resulted from proscribed conduct, the statute
itself does not provide a mechanism to implement such a
remedy.” Berry v. City of Muskogee, 900 F.2d
1489, 1502 (10th Cir. 1990). When a constitutional violation
results in death, “§ 1983 does not specify whether
the cause of action it creates survives death, who are the
injured parties, the nature of the claims that may be pursued
or who may pursue them, or the types of damages
recoverable.” Id. In these cases, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988 “authorizes federal courts to undertake a
three-step process to determine whether to borrow law from
another source to aid their enforcement of federal civil
rights statutes.” Id. The Court must: (1) look
to federal law if such laws are suitable to carry the statute
into effect; (2) in the absence of such a federal law, the
court must consider borrowing the law of the forum state; and
(3) the court must reject any state law that is
“inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the
United States.” 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Andrews v. Neer, 253 F.3d 1052 (8th Cir. 2001), the
Eighth Circuit considered whether, in a § 1983 action, a
plaintiff could recover damages for injuries she personally
suffered as a result of her father's death by borrowing
the remedies available under the Missouri wrongful death
statute. Adopting the Tenth Circuit's reasoning in
Berry, the Eighth Circuit answered the question in
the negative. Id. at 1063-64. Under Missouri's
wrongful death statute, family members could recover for
their own injuries, and such an action “would
impermissibly broaden the types of injuries for which
Congress intended recovery to be available under §
1983's authorization of liability ‘to the party
injured.'” Id. at 1064 (citing 48 U.S.C.
§ 1983). Because the statute provided a mechanism for
the plaintiff to assert a claim for a violation of her own
constitutional rights, and pursue a state law wrongful death
claim, permitting wrongful death damages in a § 1983
action would “shoehorn” recovery available under
state wrongful death statutes into the recovery under §
1983 for the decedent's injuries. Id. State law
wrongful death actions are “not suitable to carry out
the full effects intended for § 1983 cases ending in
death of the victim.” Berry, 900 F.2d at 1506.
Though “federal courts must fashion a federal remedy to
be applied to § 1983 death cases. . . . [that] remedy
should be a survival action, brought by the estate of
deceased victim, in accord with § 1983's express
statement that the liability is ‘to the party
injured.'” Id. at 1506-07 (quoting 42
U.S.C. § 1983).
the amended complaint explicitly references only the Arkansas
wrongful death statute, a party need not expressly invoke a
claim to survive federal pleading standards. See Johnson
v. City of Shelby, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). All that
is required is that a plaintiff plead facts sufficient to
support a claim for recovery. Id. (“Having
informed [the defendant] of the factual basis for their
complaint, they were required to do no more to stave off
threshold dismissal for want of an adequate statement of
their claim.”). Plaintiff's claim sufficiently
details a § 1983 claim for his damages for injuries
Franklin suffered - including pain and suffering, funeral
expenses, loss of life, and lost wages - under the survival
amended complaint also seeks damages for, among other things,
termination of the parent-child relationship, including the
loss of companionship, and the mental anguish suffered by the
parents and sibling as a result of Franklin's death.
(Doc. 6, ¶ 46(A)-(B)). These damages are available to
beneficiaries for their own injuries following the death of
the decedent by virtue of the Arkansas wrongful death
statute. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-62-102(f). The estate acts
as “a conduit through which to channel [state law
wrongful death] claims” to the estate's
beneficiaries. Howard W. Brill, Ark. Law of Damages §
34:1 (5th Ed. 2018). Damages for injuries suffered by
individuals other than the decedent are not recoverable by
the decedent's estate for the decedent, as these claims
are inconsistent with purposes of § 1983. See
Andrews, 253 F.3d at 1064. However, because the
complaint also brings an Arkansas state law tort claim for
the wrongful death of Franklin (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 42-44),
and because this Court exercises supplemental jurisdiction
over that claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, Clayton
Franklin (as administrator of Franklin's estate) may
pursue wrongful death remedies separate from Franklin's
§ 1983 claim.