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Date: 09-14-2023

Case Style:

Barry Michael Pratt, Jr. v. Deputy Cearly and Lieutenant Billy Perry

Case Number: 1:22-CV-1040

Judge: Barry A. Bryant

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas (Union County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: Pro Se

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Defendant's Attorney: Jason Owens

Description: El Dorado, Arkansas pro se Plaintiff without a lawyer sued the Defendants on a prisoner civil rights violation theory.

This is a civil rights action filed pro se by Plaintiff, Barry Michael Pratt, Jr., under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On November 3, 2022, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct all proceedings in this case including a jury or nonjury trial and to order the entry of a final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. (ECF No. 20).

Plaintiff names as Defendants Deputy Kyle Clearly and Lieutenant Billy Perry. Plaintiff claims Defendants violated his constitutional rights in both their individual capacities as well as official capacities. Currently before the Court, is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 30). Plaintiff responded to the Motion for Summary Judgment with a Motion to Proceed to Trial.

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Under Section 1983, a defendant may be sued in either his personal capacity, or in his official capacity, or claims may be stated against a defendant in both his personal and his official
capacities. The type of conduct that is actionable and the type of defense available depend on whether the claim is asserted against a defendant in his official or individual capacity. See Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d 907, 914 (8th Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted). “Claims against individuals in their official capacities are equivalent to claims against the entity for which they work; they require proof that a policy or custom of the entity violated the plaintiff's rights, and the only type of immunity available is one belonging to the entity itself.” Id. Personal capacity claims “are those which allege personal liability for individual actions by officials in the course of their duties; these claims do not require proof of any policy and qualified immunity may be raised as a defense” to these individual capacity claims. Id. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must allege that the defendant acted under color of state law, and that the actor violated a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dunham v. Wadley, 195 F.3d 1007, 1009 (8th Cir.1999). The deprivation must be intentional; mere negligence will not suffice to state a claim for deprivation of a constitutional right under Section 1983. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); See also Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344 (1986).

Official capacity claims are “functionally equivalent to a suit against the employing governmental entity.” Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home, 627 F.3d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 2010). To sustain an official capacity claim against such an entity a plaintiff “must show that there was a policy, custom, or official action that inflicted an actionable injury.” Johnson v. Hamilton, 452 F.3d 967, 973 (8th Cir. 2006). Thus, Plaintiff's official capacity claims against County Defendants are “functionally equivalent,” Veatch, 627 F.3d at 1257, to alleging their employer, Miller County, had “a policy, custom, or [took an] official action” that deprived him of his constitutional rights, Johnson, 452 F.3d at 973.

To establish a claim for “custom” liability, Plaintiff must demonstrate:

1) The existence of a continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct by the governmental entity's employees;

2) Deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of such conduct by the governmental entity's policymaking officials after notice to the official of that misconduct; and

3) That Plaintiff was injured by acts pursuant to the government entity's custom, i.e., that the custom was a moving force behind the constitutional violation.

Johnson v. Douglas Cty Medical Dept., 725 F.3d 825, p. 828 (8th Cir. 2013). “A single deviation from a written, official policy does not prove a conflicting custom.” Id. (quoting Wedemeier v. City of Ballwin, Mo., 931 F.2d 24, 26 (8th Cir. 1991)).

Section 1983 claims are governed by the personal injury statute of limitations of the state where the claim arose. Miller v. Norris, 247 F.3d 736, 739 (8th Cir. 2001). In Arkansas that limitation is three years. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-105 (2005); Baker v. Chisom, 501 F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 2007) (explaining the Arkansas three-year statute of limitations applies to Section 1983 excessive force claims against officers) (citing Morton v. City of Little Rock, 934 F.2d 180, 182 (8th Cir. 1991)). The Arkansas Saving Statute also applies to Section 1983 claims if an Arkansas plaintiff files a timely action and then “suffers a nonsuit.” Meaning the plaintiff “may commence a new action within one (1) year” of the dismissal of his first non-suited action. Baker, 501 F.3d at 922 (quoting Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-126). However, “only causes of action pleaded in the non-suited action are tolled by the one-year savings statute.” Id. at 922-23 (citing Dillaha v. Yamaha Motor Corp., 23 F.3d 1376, 1377-78 (8th Cir. 1994)).

Outcome: Motions for summary judgment granted.

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