Aldridge v. City of St. Louis, Missouri, 75 F.4th 895 (8th Cir. 2023)
Protesters protesting the acquittal of a police officer on first-degree murder charges sued police officers and the City of St. Louis after being pepper sprayed by an officer. They alleged claims for First Amendment retaliation. One protester yelled he was going to “f*** up” the officer and an unidentified protester shouted something to the effect of “shut this motherf***er down” or “shoot these mother***ers.” Thereafter, the officer, without warning, deployed his pepper spray on the crowd, spraying side to side in a sweeping motion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants confirming the protesters failed to establish a “retaliatory animus” to support a First Amendment retaliation claim because they could not demonstrate they were singled out due to their protected expression due to the officer using a sweeping motion on the crowd and not pepper spraying a specific protester. Monell claims therefore failed for the lack of individual liability on an underlying claim.
Estate of Brown through Brewer v. E.C. West, 76 F.4th 1078 (8th Cir. 2023).
Passenger in a car that led police on a dangerous high-speed chase was shot and killed and his estate sued alleging excessive force and state-created danger. The driver failed to stop and ultimately stopped after hitting a police car head on. The passenger sat in the car with his hands up. When an officer approached, the driver reversed the car hitting another police car and dragged the officer alongside the car, running over his legs Multiple officers shot at the driver and both the driver and the passenger were killed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The use of force was determined to be objectively reasonable under the circumstances because it was the driver, not the police officers, who put the passenger in extreme danger, eliminating the state-created danger claim.
Buschmann v. Kansas City Board of Police, 76 F.4th 1081 (8th Cir. 2023).
Dog owners alleged violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments after an officer shot and killed their dog. Law enforcement was dispatched to the residence because a neighbor believed a domestic disturbance was occurring. The neighbor advised there was a dog but that he did not think he was likely to attack. Police officers knocked on the door and heard a dog approaching with barking and growling noises. When the door was opened, the dog ran directly toward the officer who fired a shot at the dog. The dog turned away from the shooting officer and ran toward the other officer, so a second shot was fired. The owner was at the door but the officers did not see her. Upon further investigation, it was determined that the noises reported by the neighbor did not come from the house in question so they officers left. Shooting a dog is a seizure of a person’s property but it was determined to be reasonable in this case given the behavior of the dog and the failure of the owner to control the dog at the doorway. Officers were entitled to qualified immunity.
Cheeks v. Belmar, 80 F.4th 872 (8th Cir. 2023).
Driver’s estate sued police officers after the driver crashed into a tree and died. Police were pursuing the driver for an alleged red-light violation and claim the driver lost control of the vehicle during the pursuit. The estate alleged the officers performed a “PIT” maneuver causing the car to go into a spin and crash. The estate alleged the officers violated the Fourteenth Amendment because they did not render aid by calling 911, even though a bystander had called 911 within 30 seconds of the accident. The driver died at the scene. Officers were denied qualified immunity because they placed the driver in custody by the use of the “PIT” maneuver that left the driver unable to care for himself, and failing to call 911 was a denial of medical treatment.
Rebecca L. Mann
Rebecca L. Mann is a partner at Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson, & Ashmore, LLP, licensed to practice in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. She specializes in workers’ compensation, insurance defense, and civil rights/governmental tort liability. Rebecca routinely practices in state and federal courts as well as administrative tribunals.