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Franklin v. Franklin County

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

April 19, 2019

CLAYTON FRANKLIN, as Administrator for the Estate of Cody J. Franklin PLAINTIFF



         Separate 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.

         Separate 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 PART.

         I. Background

         On May 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).

         The 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).

         Deputy 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.

         Franklin 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. Id.

         Plaintiff 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).

         Deputy 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.[1] 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.[2] 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.

         Both 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).

         II. Legal Standard

         When a 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.

         III. Wrongful Death Recovery

         As a 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.

         In 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).

         Though 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 statue.

         The 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.

         IV. ...

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