A.J., by and through her next friend Lori Dixon; D.M., by and through his next friend Shannon Mers; B.M., by and through his next friend Shannon Mers; the Estate of Robert Jason Johnson, Plaintiffs - Appellants
Donnell W. Tanksley, in his individual capacity; Matthew J. Waggoner, in his individual capacity; Perri A. Johnson, in his individual capacity, Defendants - Appellees Yolanda Diggs; Bryant Howard, Intervenors Board of Police Commissioners of the City of St. Louis; Richard Gray, in his official capacity as President of the Board of Police Commissioners of the City of St. Louis; Thomas Irwin, in his official capacity as Vice-President of the Board of Police Commissioners of the City of St. Louis; Erwin O. Switzer, in his official capacity as Purchasing Member of the Board of Police Commissioners of the City of St. Louis; Francis G. Slay, in his official capacity as Ex-Officio Member of the board of Police Commissioners of the City of St. Louis; Bettye Battle-Turner, in her official capacity as Treasurer of the board of Police Commissioners of the City of St. Louis, Defendants Deborah Lee Johnson, Intervenor Plaintiff
January 13, 2016.
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis.
A.J., by and through her next friend Lori Dixon, D.M., by and
through his next friend Shannon Mers, B.M., by and through
his next friend Shannon Mers, The Estate of Robert Jason
Johnson, Plaintiffs - Appellants: James Schottel Jr.,
Schottel & Associates, Saint Louis, MO.
Donnell W. Tanksley, in his individual capacity, Matthew J.
Waggoner, in his individual capacity, Perri A. Johnson, in
his individual capacity, Defendants - Appellees: Colleen M.
Vetter, Attorney General's Office, Saint Louis, MO.
Yolanda Diggs, Bryant Howard, Intervenors: Scott C. Harper,
Aaron I. Mandel, Brinker & Doyen, Saint Louis, MO.
LOKEN, GRUENDER, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
Jason Johnson was killed in a collision between his
motorcycle and a car, and his insurance company denied a
claim for accidental death benefits. Later, a jury found
against his estate and minor children (collectively, the
estate) in a wrongful death suit they brought against the
driver of the car. The estate then filed the present suit in
federal court against the St. Louis Board of Police, various
police board officials, and three police officers, alleging
civil rights violations stemming from the police's
handling of the accident. The district court dismissed the
police board and the police board officials from the case and
granted summary judgment in favor of the three police officer
defendants. The estate appeals the grant of summary judgment,
as well as the district court's denial of a motion for
sanctions arising out of a discovery dispute. Finding no
reversible error in the district court's rulings, we
this appeal comes to us from a grant of summary judgment to
the defendants, we summarize the relevant facts below as
favorably to the plaintiffs as the record allows. See
Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586, 129 S.Ct.
2658, 174 L.Ed.2d 490 (2009).
afternoon of June 1, 2008, St. Louis Metropolitan Police
Department Lieutenant Donnell Tanksley was driving west on
Natural Bridge Road in St. Louis in an unmarked police car
when he saw a group of motorcycles, also traveling west. In
later deposition testimony, Tanksley said that one of the
motorcycles, yellow in color, was weaving in and out of the
bicycle lane. Tanksley turned on his siren, and in response,
the yellow motorcycle pulled into the parking lot of a Shell
gas station at the corner of Natural Bridge Road and Marcus
Avenue. Tanksley followed the motorcycle into the gas
station, but as he picked up his microphone to notify the
police dispatcher of the stop, the motorcycle sped off back
onto Natural Bridge, this time traveling east. Tanksley
testified that he told the police dispatcher that he had
tried to pull over a yellow motorcycle for careless and
reckless driving, but that it had driven away. A short period
of time thereafter -- variously described by Tanksley as
" a few seconds" or " a minute or two, or
maybe moments later" -- Tanksley proceeded to drive back
onto Natural Bridge heading east, and came upon an accident
between a yellow motorcycle and a white car at the
intersection of Natural Bridge Road and Paris Avenue. The
driver of the motorcycle was Robert Jason Johnson. Tanksley
testified that he believed the yellow motorcycle involved in
the accident was the same one he had pulled over earlier.
testified that he contacted the police dispatcher to report
the accident and requested the police department's
Accident Reconstruction Unit. A number of other officers
arrived at the scene, including Officer Matthew Waggoner.
Waggoner talked to Tanksley as well as the driver of the
white car, Bryant Howard, and his front passenger, Yolanda
Diggs, and prepared an accident report with narrative
statements from Tanksley, Howard, and Diggs, and a sketch of
the accident scene. Photographs were also taken of the
scene. The accident report notes that Johnson's speed and
improper lane usage were " probable contributing
circumstances" of the accident, and states that Johnson
would be subject to charges for " Improper Lane
Usage" and " Reckless Driving by Other."
Johnson had been taken to a hospital and was unable to give a
statement to Waggoner due to his injuries. He died later that
narrative statement taken from Tanksley and included in the
accident report describes his earlier pursuit of the yellow
motorcycle, and is in its essentials consistent with the
account given above. It specifically notes that Tanksley had
told the police dispatcher that the yellow motorcycle had
been engaging in careless and reckless driving. Also in the
report is Howard's statement that he was traveling east
on Natural Bridge Road and in the process of making a right
turn onto Paris Avenue, when he saw the motorcycle enter the
intersection from the west, driving in the bicycle lane. He
said that the motorcycle clipped his front bumper, deflected
off, and flipped several times. The motorcycle driver's
body hit a utility pole on the side of the street and was
knocked off the motorcycle, landing in the street.
Diggs's statement in the report is substantially
identical to Howard's. Waggoner's supervisor,
Sergeant Perri Johnson, spoke to both Waggoner
and Tanksley before the report was complete and he later
reviewed the report and signed off on it as the reviewing
later deposition testimony, both Howard and Diggs said that
the statements attributed to them in the accident report were
accurate. Both additionally corroborated aspects of
Tanksley's story: they said that before the accident,
while eastbound on Natural Bridge Road, they had seen a
yellow motorcycle traveling west, followed by a car. After
the yellow motorcycle popped a wheelie, the car tailing the
motorcycle turned on a siren and the yellow motorcycle pulled
over at a Shell gas station. Howard testified that the yellow
motorcycle he saw pulling into the ...