Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against department of correction officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983 after their son died while in custody. In this appeal, defendants challenged a jury verdict in favor of plaintiffs. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of judgment as a matter of law, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support a reasonable inference sustaining the award of damages for pain and suffering. The court affirmed the denial of plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, holding that the close-observation policy in this case was ministerial and defendants were not entitled to official immunity; evidence of what medical staff thought but did not disclose was irrelevant and inadmissable; and defendants waived further evidentiary arguments. View "Letterman v. Lammers" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's application of a tort-reform act, the Nebraska Hospital Medical Liability Act, to reduce the verdict by 90% in a case where a jury awarded $17 million to a child born with severe brain damage. The court held that notice was not a requirement for qualification under the Act, but rather a requirement imposed on those already qualified; Bellevue did not lose the Act's protections even if it failed to properly post notice; and Nebraska's cap did not violate the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial nor the Fifth Amendment; the child failed to show a denial of access to the courts; the Act did not violate the child's right to equal protection of the laws; and the district court did not err in rejecting the child's substantive due process challenge. The court affirmed the district court's denial of Bellevue's motion for a new trial and rejected Bellevue's challenges to the district court's jury instructions and verdict. View "S.S. v. Bellevue Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Skybridge, alleging claims under federal and state law based on Skybridge's denial of a promotion and ultimate termination of plaintiff based on his age. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Skybridge, holding that the CEO's statement that the company was looking for a "New Face" was facially and contextually neutral when made to plaintiff. Under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis, Skybridge articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for selecting another person over plaintiff for the CTO position and for ultimately terminating plaintiff. In this case, plaintiff's position as IT director of fulfillment became superfluous. The court rejected plaintiff's two remaining claims of intentional misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation. View "Aulick v. Skybridge Americas, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Brossarts filed suit against Deputy Sheriff Braathen, his supervisor, Sheriff Kelly Janke, and Nelson County, asserting federal claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The charges stemmed from confrontations at the Brossart family farmstead that extended over two days. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the grant of qualified immunity to Braathen and Janke on Rodney Brossart's excessive force claim where there was no Fourth Amendment violation, and even if Braathen's repeated use of a taser was unreasonable, it did not violate clearly established law; affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' claims that Deputy Braathen used constitutionally excessive force in tasing Rodney and Thomas Brossart; and rejected plaintiffs' claim for supervisory liability against Janke. The court also held that plaintiffs' failure to train claim against Nelson County was foreclosed by the court's conclusion that Braathen's tasing of Rodney and Thomas did not constitute excessive force; the absence of prior complaints to Nelson County of improper taser use meant there was no pattern of constitutional violations; and the state law claims were properly dismissed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment in its entirety. View "Brossart v. Janke" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a corporal in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss claims related to the search of a residence. The district court determined that defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable officer would have known that a warrant should not have issued based on the information he provided to the issuing court. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that it was not entirely unreasonable for defendant to believe that his affidavit established sufficient indicia of probable cause for the search and seizure of the items listed in the warrant. In this case, the affidavit provided probable cause to seize a deer, based on an anonymous tip and a recorded jailhouse call. Furthermore, the items described in the warrant were relevant to the criminal offense under investigation, as they directly related to the existence, capture, and maintaining of a pet deer. View "Kiesling v. Spurlock" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer on plaintiff's claim of retaliatory discharge in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA). The court held that there was no genuine issue for trial because no rational trier of fact could conclude on this record that plaintiff's protected activity was causally connected to his termination. Therefore, the district court thus did not err in concluding that plaintiff failed to satisfy his initial burden of establishing a causal connection between his protected activity and his termination sufficient to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the MWA. Even assuming that plaintiff had established a prima facie case of retaliation, he has not shown that Plant Engineering's stated reason for terminating his employment—unsatisfactory job performance—was pretext for retaliation. View "Mervine v. Plant Engineering Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City and three police officers, alleging that they beat him while he was handcuffed. A jury found for the officers. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not clearly err by denying plaintiff's Batson challenge where the officers offered a race-neutral rationale that the district court found credible; the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting hospital records that were cumulative and harmless; the district court did not err by excluding evidence of racist emails sent and received by an officer given the minimal probative value of the officer's bias and the potential unfair prejudice to the other defendant officers who were not associated with the emails; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to sanction the officers with an adverse inference instruction for spoliation of evidence. View "Davis v. White" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against multiple defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims of excessive force, illegal arrest, and illegal search, as well as tort claims under Arkansas law. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of summary judgment to the defendants who took part in the incident, holding that the district court did not err in holding that Defendant Wolfe violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force because her use of force was objectively unreasonable as a matter of law. In this case, plaintiff was stopped and questioned while he was at a car wash and he did not commit any crimes. Furthermore, defendant was not resisting arrest, and was not acting aggressively towards Defendant Clark or threatening Clark's safety. Finally, plaintiff's right to be free from such excessive force was clearly established at the time. Therefore, defendants were not entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity. View "Perry v. Wolfe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against an Arkansas state police officer, alleging that the officer used excessive force by pepper spraying and choking him in the course of arresting him for taking eight pairs of shorts from a department store. The district court denied the officer qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit held that a jury could find that the officer used an unreasonable amount of force when he pepper sprayed plaintiff. In this case, the officer used force on a non-resisting, non-fleeing individual suspected of a completed, non-violent misdemeanor. The court explained that, while some use of force was reasonable here, it was not reasonable to immediately use significant force. The district court erred in concluding that plaintiff's right not to be pepper sprayed was clearly established. The court also held that defendant unreasonably used excessive force by choking plaintiff, and plaintiff's right to be free from such force was clearly established at the time. Therefore, the district court correctly denied qualified immunity on the chocking claim. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Tatum v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Forest Service's determination that an 85-fold increase in predicted drilling in the Ozark–St. Francis National Forests did not require a "correction, supplement, or revision" to the original environmental analysis. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the suit based on lack of jurisdiction, holding that plaintiffs failed to identify any particular member who stands to be harmed by the government action it challenges, and that plaintiffs lack a concrete interest in this dispute. View "Ozark Society v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law