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Klebe v. City of West Fargo

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

April 10, 2015

John Allen Klebe, Plaintiff,
v.
City of West Fargo, Skyler Dutton, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, James P. Baluik, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, Ryan M. Woullet, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, Joseph D. Birrenkott, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, Gerald K. Boyer, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, Derek A. Cruff, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, Timothy A. Runcorn, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, Trent J. Stanton, West Fargo Police Department Officer, in his individual capacity, Gregory C. Warren, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND ORDER

ALICE R. SENECHAL, Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A because Plaintiff John Allen Klebe (Klebe is a prisoner seeking redress from governmental actors. Klebe alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by nine officers of the West Fargo Police Department (WFPD). The violations alleged are use of excessive force in removing Klebe from a vehicle that crashed during a police pursuit, and failure to prevent a neck injury during removal from the vehicle. Klebe named each of nine officers, solely in their individual capacities, as defendants. Additionally, Klebe named the City of West Fargo as a defendant, asserting its police officers were not properly trained.

Summary of Recommendations and Order

Because the complaint does not plead a plausible claim against six of the nine WFPD officers, it is RECOMMENDED that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety as against those six individuals. Similarly, the complaint does not plead a plausible claim against the City of West Fargo, and it is RECOMMENDED that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety as against the City.

Liberally construed, the complaint alleges a plausible claim against Officer Sklyer Dutton, Officer Ryan Wuollet, and Officer Joe Birrenkott for use of excessive force in removing Klebe from his vehicle. Service on those three defendants will therefore be ORDERED. But, it is RECOMMENDED that the complaint against those three officers, insofar as it alleges failure to prevent a neck injury, be dismissed.

Facts

Although, generally, only the facts alleged in the complaint are considered in determining whether it states a claim, documents attached to the complaint may be considered in construing the sufficiency of the complaint. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir.1986); Hughes v. Banks, 290 F.Appx. 960, 961 n.1 (8th Cir. 2008) (per curiam); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c) (stating a copy of a written instrument attached to a pleading is part of the pleading for all purposes). The following facts are therefore summarized from the complaint and its attachments.

On September 10, 2012, Klebe was the driver of a vehicle that was the subject of a WFPD pursuit. It is not apparent from the complaint what led to initiation of the pursuit. During the pursuit, Klebe's vehicle first crashed into a WFPD vehicle and later crashed into a cement truck near a sidewalk construction site. After the second crash, Klebe and his passenger were removed from the vehicle, and F-M Ambulance personnel transported Klebe to a local hospital.

Klebe alleges that the defendants used excessive force in removing him from his vehicle after the crash, resulting in ankle and neck injuries. Klebe makes the following statement of his claims:

Plaintiff was an arrestee at the scene on September 10th, 2012, by the Defendants. Plaintiff's foot was lodged in the foot pedal area of his crashed and wrecked automobile. Defendant[]s failed to call or wait for the proper extraction personnel and equipment and forcefully pried Plaintiff's foot from the lodged position, and in doing so broke Plaintiff's ankle. This injury resulted directly and only from the use of force that was excessive to the need and this force was objectively unreasonable. Any reasonable officer in this situation would have known that breaking Plaintiff's ankle, in order to place Plaintiff under arrest, was not justified by any legitimate law enforcement management need, as Plaintiff was hand-cuffed, and this brutality was completely out of proportion to that need and any reasonable officer would know or reasonably should have known, the breaking of Plaintiff's ankle would cause a constitutional violation. There was no need for force or brutality and such is repugnant to the conscience of mankind. Law Enforcement caused serious and needless harm to Plaintiff. See, Exhibit-#1, Page-3, Narrative, which states: "... had obvious swelling and deformity to right ankle TIB FIB AREA."
....
An unknown[] West Fargo Police Department officer placed a C-collar upon Plaintiff, but nobody was holding C-spine. See, Exhibit-#1, Page-3, Narrative, which states: "... was in a C-collar, but nobody was holding C-spine[.]" This failure to hold and immobilize Plaintiff's C-spine was objectively unreasonable, and now Plaintiff has headaches, neck pain, upper back pain and daily trouble focusing and concentrating on day to day tasks and duties. The City of West Fargo had a duty to properly train their officer[]s as First Responder[]s, and the failure to properly train and the Defendant's eagerness to arrest Plaintiff has caused serious and needless harm. Clearly there was a lack of training or supervising, and this was a constitutional violation, which Defendant should have known was unreasonable.

(Doc. #6 at 7-9).

Attached to the complaint are four WFPD reports about the events surrounding the vehicle crash. None of those reports refer to Klebe's foot being lodged in the foot pedal area of his vehicle. One of the reports states the following regarding Klebe's removal from his vehicle:

I then approached the vehicle and attempted to provide medical care for the driver and passenger who at the time were both very groggy and unresponsive. The driver was identified as a JOHN ALLEN KLEBE and passenger was identified as an ELLRIC ALFRED GIROUX II. I attempted to open the driver's door, but it was stuck, and I then leaned JOHN back into his seat as he was slouched over and appeared to be having respiratory problems. When I leaned him back he started to breathe normally and at that point became responsive, but very groggy. I then went over to the passenger, ELLRIC, and held his neck and head stable until ...

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