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Guy v. Jorstad

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 21, 2014

KATHRYN GUY, as Mother, next of kin and executor of the estate of James Guy, deceased, Plaintiff,
NATHAN JORSTAD, RICHARD MYERS, Chief of Police, STEVE COX, Interim City Manager, individually and in their official capacity, and CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS, a Municipality, Defendants.


RAYMOND P. MOORE, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint ("Motion") (ECF No. 36) brought under Fed.R.Civ.P 12(b)(6). In their Motion, Defendants seek dismissal of all claims except for the individual capacity claim for damages against Defendant Nathan Jorstad based on an alleged violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court has reviewed the Amended Complaint (with Exhibits), the Motion, Plaintiff's Answer Brief ("Response"), Defendants' Reply, the Court file, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the applicable law. Upon consideration of the foregoing, Defendants' Motion is granted as stated herein.


In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks damages for claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of April 22, 2011, Defendant Nathan Jorstad, a Colorado Springs Police Department officer, was dispatched to James William Guy's ("Decedent") home in response to shots fired at that location. Plaintiff further alleges that Decedent was visibly intoxicated at a picnic table in the backyard of his home, turned and raised his unloaded, locked semi-automatic pistol in a westerly direction, with his back facing Defendant Jorstad. Suddenly, without warning, Defendant Jorstad allegedly fired at Decedent, causing his death.

Defendant Steve Cox is the Interim City Manager of Defendant City of Colorado Springs ("City"), and Defendant Richard Myers was the Chief of Police of Defendant City at the time of the shooting incident. Defendants Cox and Myers are alleged to be responsible for promulgating the orders, rules, instructions and regulations of the Police Department, including those concerning the use of deadly force and weapons. They allegedly also had authority to approve all weapons to be used by the Police Department. Defendant Myers was also allegedly in charge of the training section for the Police Department.

Defendant City, a municipal corporation, through Defendants Cox and Myers, was allegedly responsible for promulgating rules and regulations for supervising and training the Police Department and its personnel. Defendant City also allegedly had the power and duty to see that all Police Department rules and regulations promulgated were consistent with the Constitution, the laws of the City, and the laws of the State of Colorado.

As a result of the shooting incident, Plaintiff Kathryn Guy, Decedent's mother, brings the following claims:[1]

(1) Defendant Jorstad, in his individual and official capacity, alleging: Fourth Amendment violation based on the use of deadly force;
(2) Defendants Myers and Cox, in their individual and official capacities, alleging supervisory liability for: (i) failure to train and supervise Defendant Jorstad; and (ii) promulgation of the deadly force policy; and
(3) Defendant City for municipal liability, alleging: (i) the failure to appoint, promote, train and supervise the Police Department; (ii) the failure to promulgate procedures and policies for the use of firearms consistent with the Fourth and Fifth Amendments; (iii) the permitting of a custom of using unreasonable deadly force; and (iv) a formal deadly force policy.

Plaintiff attached, as exhibits to the Amended Complaint, the Police Department's General Orders 720 and 1002, and the Colorado Springs City Charter, Article IV, § 4-20.


A. Motion to Dismiss Standard.

In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P., the Court may consider the complaint and any attached exhibits. Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d. 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. Legal conclusions are not accepted as true but must be supported by facts. Id. at 678-79. All well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1162 (10th Cir. 2011).[2]

B. Plaintiff's Supervisory Liability Claims against Defendants Myers and Cox.

Defendants Myers and Cox, in their individual capacity, contend they are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's claims based on supervisory liability because of her failure to sufficiently allege the elements of causation and intent. Those claims are based on the alleged failure to train and supervise, and alleged promulgation of the deadly force policy.

Public officials enjoy qualified immunity in civil actions brought against them in their individual capacities that arise out of the performance of their duties. Pahl v. Thomas, 718 F.3d 1210, 1227 (10th Cir. 2013). "The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Generally, when a defendant asserts qualified immunity, the plaintiff carries a two-part burden to show: (1) that the defendant's actions violated a federal constitutional or statutory right, and, if so, (2) that the right was clearly established at the time of the defendant's unlawful conduct." Estate of Booker v. Gomez, Case No. 12-1496, 2014 WL 929157, at *2 (10th Cir. March 11, 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).

A defendant sued in his individual capacity may be subject to supervisory liability. Id. at *24. Section 1983, however, does not allow for liability under a theory of respondeat superior. Id. Instead, the plaintiff must show an "affirmative link" between the supervisor and the constitutional violation. Id. To do so, the plaintiff must establish: (1) the defendant-supervisor promulgated, created, implemented or possessed responsibility for the continued operation of a policy, that (2) caused the constitutional harm complained of, and (3) acted with the state ...

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