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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CENTRAL DIVISION

MARY A. RATLIFF
Plaintiff,

VS.

CITY OF COLUMBIA and,
OFFICERS ROB SANDERS,
MIKE MCFARLAND, and
DENNIS VEACH
(in their official capacity as
Columbia Police Officers only)
Defendants.

COMPLAINT

COMES NOW Plaintiff, Mary A. Ratliff, by and through her attorney, Matthew B. Woods, and for her cause of action against the City of Columbia and officers Rob Sanders, Mike McFarland and Dennis Veach for damages arising out of the unlawful seizure of Mary Ratliff's person, unconstitutional policies and actions, and common law claims arising out of the conduct of defendants on February 6, 1996 states:

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

1. Plaintiff brings this action against defendants to redress the deprivation of rights secured her by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the common law.

2. This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

3. Plaintiff also invokes supplemental jurisdiction of this Court over plaintiff's state claims against defendants for common law violations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 as the common law claims form part of the same case and controversy.

4. Venue is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

PARTIES

5. Plaintiff is a resident of the City of Columbia, Boone County, Missouri.

6. Defendant City of Columbia, a duly organized municipality existing under the laws of the State of Missouri, operates and governs the City of Columbia Police Department pursuant to the laws of the State of Missouri.

7. The City of Columbia may be served by service of process on its Mayor Darwin Hindman or on its City Manager Ray Beck.

8. Defendant officer Rob Sanders, Mike McFarland and Dennis Veach are sued in their official capacity only. At all times pertinent hereto, defendant officers were employed by the City of Columbia Police Department. Defendants can be served by service of process at the City of Columbia Police Department.

9. At the time of the alleged incident and at all times pertinent hereto, the defendants acted under color of law, of a statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage.

FACTS

10. At approximately 5:15 p.m., on or about Tuesday February 6, 1996 plaintiff, Mary Ratliff, received a phone call from Lisa Thornton who was located at the Touch of Elegance Hair and Beauty Salon at 108 Austin. Ms. Thornton informed her that her daughter, Pamela Hardin, and grandson were involved in a discussion with some police officers concerning her grandson's alleged act of vandalism, She also told Mrs. Ratliff that Ms. Hardin had requested someone to please summon her to the Touch of Elegance Hair and Beauty Salon located at 108 Austin, Columbia, Boone County, Missouri. Mrs. Ratliff owns the property located at 108 Austin.

11. Upon her arrival to 108 Austin, Mrs. Ratliff could see her daughter and her grandson standing in the driveway talking to officer Kent Unterseher.

12. Mrs. Ratliff began to approach her daughter and grandson in order to inquire as to what the situation was and why the policer officer was on Mrs. Ratliff's private property without her consent.

13. As Mrs. Ratliff approached the scene, officer Rob Sanders, who had arrived on the scene and was on Mrs. Ratliff's property, cut her off by pointing his finger at her and told her to get back, by staying off of the driveway portion of her property and to shut up.

14. Mrs. Ratliff, speaking in her normal tone of voice and at a sufficient distance so as not to be interfering, asked the officers what was going on and why were they talking to her daughter and grandson.

15. Sanders and Unterseher refused to answer and Sanders again told Mrs.Ratliff to get back and shut up. Sanders then made derogatory and racially motivated remarks by stated that every time something like this happens, there is always a gathering.

16. Mrs. Ratliff kept her distance from the scene, neither approaching or making contact with the officers or her daughter and grandson. She continued to inquire as to what exactly the situation was and why the officers were located on her property without her consent.

17. After several minutes of patient inquiry with no response other than "get back" and "shut up" from Sanders, Mrs. Ratliff explained to Sanders that she felt that the treatment she, her daughter and grandson were receiving was because of their color of skin and because they had supported former Columbia Police Department officer Bobby Williams.

18. Mrs. Ratliff retreated from the scene into the salon to make a complaint. As she was leaving, she informed Officer Sanders that she was going to call Chief of Police Barbee in order to sort the whole thing out and to complain regarding the handeling of the incident.

19. Mrs. Ratliff went into the salon where she remained on the phone attempting to contact someone who could help resolve the situation.

20. Sanders came up onto the front porch of the salon without Mrs. Ratliff's contsent and yelled through the screen door to Mrs. Ratliff demanding that she come outside.

21. Mrs. Ratliff informed the officer that she was on the phone and would not be coming outside so that he could arrest her for interfering with a government operation and resisting arrest by physical force and fleeing.

22. Mrs. Ratliff informed Sanders to go ahead and get a warrant because that was the only way she was coming out of the salon and that he had no authority to come into her place of business. At that time, Sanders stormed off the porch and left the scene allegedly to get a warrant.

23. Upon finishing her phone conversation, Mrs. Ratliff left the salon and went to the Columbia Police Station to check on their daughter and grandson and to file a formal complaint against Sanders.

24. When she arrived at the police station, Mrs. Ratliff was initially neither placed under arrest or told that she was going to be arrested. Instead she was shown to the captain's office where she discussed the matter further with Deputy Chief Veach and Sergeant Mike McFarland.

25. After a few minutes Veach and McFarland left Mr. and Mrs. Ratliff and did not return for a substantial amount of time. They went to speak with the officers who were at the scene and to discuss what if any action they wished to take.

26. It was decided by either Veach, McFarland or Sanders, while acting in the scope of their employment with the City of Columbia, that Mrs. Ratliff would be arrested on a city white summons rather than state charges.

27. Mrs. Ratliff was served with the white summons by Sanders and after some time was released from the Police Department with no bond.

28. The entire matter culminated on October 24, 1996 when Mrs. Ratliff was forced to endure a criminal trial in which she was the named defendant. The jury of her peers returned a not guilty verdict in favor of Mrs. Ratliff, but the damage made to her reputation and self esteem by the prosecution of this matter was already done and could not be undone by a simple verdict.

29. At all times pertinent to these allegations, Mrs. Ratliff was cooperative. She did not interfere with anyone's investigations, nor did she resist arrest using either physical force or flight to aid her. She merely wished to inquire as to the circumstances surrounding her daughter and grandson's contact with the Columbia Police Department.

30. At no time pertinent hereto and prior to Sanders serving Mrs. Ratliff with the two white city summons did Sanders or any other officer of the Columbia Police Department inform Mrs. Ratliff that she was under arrest or not free to leave the area.

31. At no time pertinent hereto did Sanders or any other Columbia Police officer, acting within the scope of their employment with the City of Columbia, have probable cause to believe Mrs. Ratliff was resisting arrest or interfering in any officer's investigation.

32. At no time pertinent hereto did the Prosecutors office of the City of Columbia have any probable cause to believe that Mrs. Ratliff had committed either the crime of resisting arrest using physical force or resisting arrest by fleeing the scene.

33. Therefore, City of Columbia, by and through its agents and/or employees acting within the scope of their employment with the City of Columbia, decided to prosecute the matter against Mrs. Ratliff without the existence of any sort of probable cause to lead them to believe she had committed any crime.

34. In months following, the City of Columbia continued to prosecute the matter and eventually took the it to trial on October 24, 1996 only to receive a not guilty verdict in favor of Mrs. Ratliff.

35. In the months which followed her arrest, Mrs. Ratliff was pledged by media attention concerning the arrest and prosecution. This attention resulted in significant damage to her public persona and to her reputation causing a stigma which could not be undone solely by a not guilty verdict in her favor.

36. Officers Sanders, Veach and McFarland acted with actual malice toward Mrs. Ratliff and with wilful and wanton indifference to and deliberate disregard for the statutory and constitutional rights of Mrs. Ratliff. Their actions constituted an unreasonable seizure of Mrs. Ratliff's person.

37. Upon information and belief, at all times pertinent hereto, the City of Columbia Police Department did, with deliberate indifference to and concious disregard ofthe rights guaranteed Mrs. Ratliff and those private citizens like her under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, train, permit and tolerate a pattern and practice of unreasonable seizure's on private citizens' person.

38. Upon information and belief, the City of Columbia Police Department made a deliberate and concious choice to maintain a system of review of police conduct which is so untimely and cursory as to be ineffective and to permit and tolerate the unreasonable seizure of private citizens' persons.

39. The deliberate acts, omissions, systemic flaws, policies, and customs of the City of Columbia Police Department caused police officers of the City of Columbia and in particular officers Sanders, Veach and McFarland to believe that unreasonable seizures of private citizens' person would not be aggressively, honestly, and properly investigated, with the foreseeable result that officers are more likely to conduct unreasonable seizures of private citizens such as plaintiff and others in the future.

COUNT 1: VIOLATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

40. Plaintiff incorporates herein by reference the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 39.

41. Plaintiff was deprived of her Fourth Amendment rights in that defendant City of Columbia caused Mrs. Ratliff to be subjected to and in that defendants Sanders, Veach and McFarland did subject plaintiff to an unlawful and unreasonable seizure of her person.

42. Defendant City of Columbia owes Mrs. Ratliff the rights guaranteed her under the Constitution of the United States and the Fourth Amendment to that Constitution.

43. Defendant Sanders, acting within the scope of his employment as an agent of the City of Columbia and pursuant to the official policies and practices of the City of Columbia, owes Mrs. Ratliff her rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States and the Fourth Amendment to that Constitution.

44. Defendants deprived Mrs. Ratliff of her Fourth Amendment rights and protections by, through, and including, but not limited to the following ways:

    a. Defendants Sanders, Veach and McFarland acting within the scope oftheir employment as agents of the City of Columbia and pursuant to the policies and practices of the City of Columbia, did make an arrest of Mrs. Ratliff without a warrant or probable cause to believe that Mrs. Ratliff was attempting to resist arrest by use of physical force or flight. Such an arrest not founded upon probable cause constituted an unreasonable seizure of Mrs. Ratliff's person.
    b. Defendant City of Columbia did, with deliberate indifference to and concious disregard of the rights guaranteed Mrs. Ratliff and those private citizens like her under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, fail to property train and supervise the City of Columbia Police Department officers and in the course of that improper training did instruct such officers wrongly on how to proceed in situations, such as the one presented here, where an individuals Constitutional rights are in jeopardy.
45. As a direct and proximate result of defendants' conduct and said activities, Mrs. Ratliff has suffered mental anguish, loss of business, cost and fees associated with her defense and loss of reputation.

46. Mrs. Ratliff has and will continue to incur attorney's fees and costs as a direct and proximate result of the conduct of defendants and therefore, defendants should be made to pay Mrs. Ratliff's attorney's fees and costs.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays that this court find that defendants violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights and grant judgment against defendants, holding defendants jointly and severably liable for such judgment, judgment against defendants as the court deems reasonable for attorney's fees and costs which plaintiff has incurred, and will continue to incur pursuing this action, and any other relief that the court deems just and reasonable under the circumstances.

COUNT II: VIOLATION OF 42 U.S.C. § 1983

47. Plaintiff hereinafter incorporates by reference as if fully set forth herein, all the allegations contained in the preceding paragraphs of Count I and all general allegations as previously set forth in the Parties, Facts and Jurisdiction sections.

48. Defendants intentionally engaged in conduct which deprived Mrs. Ratliff of her Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures of her person and thereby engaged in conduct in violation of Title 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 by and through, and including, but not limited to, the following ways:

    a. Defendants Sanders, Veach and McFarland acting within the scope of their employment as agents of the City of Columbia and pursuant to the policies and practices of the City of Columbia, did make an arrest of Mrs. Ratliff without a warrant or probable cause to believe that Mrs. Ratliff was attempting to resist arrest by use of physical force or flight. Such an arrest not founded upon probable cause constituted an unreasonable seizure of Mrs. Ratliff's person.
    b. Defendant City of Columbia did, with deliberate indifference to and concious disregard of the rights guaranteed Mrs. Ratliff and those private citizens like her under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, fail to properly train and supervise the City of Columbia Police Department officers and in the course of that improper training did instruct such officers wrongly on how to proceed in situations, such as the one presented here, where an individuals Constitutional rights are in jeopardy.
49. Defendants were, at said times, acting under the color of federal and state law, of statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage.

50. As a direct and proximate result of defendants' conduct and said activities, Mrs. Ratliff has suffered mental anguish, loss of business, the costs and fees associated with her defense and loss of reputation.

51. Mrs. Ratliff has and will continue to incur attorney's fees and costs as a direct and proximate result of the conduct of defendants and therefore, defendants should be made to pay Mrs. Ratliff's attorney's fees and costs.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays that this court find that defendants violated plaintiff's rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and grant judgment against defendants, holding defendants jointly and severably liable for such judgment, judgment against defendants as the court deems reasonable for attorney's fees and costs which plaintiff has incurred, and will continue to incur pursuing this action, and any other relief that the court deems just and reasonable under the circumstances.

COUNT III: MALICIOUS PROSECUTION

52. Plaintiff hereinafter incorporates by reference as if fully set forth herein all the allegations contained in the paragraphs of Count 1, 11, and all general allegations previously set forth in the Parties, Facts, and Jurisdictions sections.

53. On or about February 6, 1996, defendant Sanders made a complaint with the City of Columbia Police Department falsely accusing Mrs. Ratliff of having committed the crimes of resisting arrest by use of physical force and by flight.

54. Defendant City of Columbia thereafter filed a criminal complaint against Mrs. Ratliff in the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri.

55. At a trial held in said court on October 24, 1996, Mrs. Ratliff was found to be not guilty, and the case was therefore determined finally in Mrs. Ratliff's favor.

56. The prosecution of Mrs. Ratliff was commenced and instituted by defendants without probable cause or reasonable basis, and was therefore done maliciously and with intent to harm Mrs. Ratliff.

57. As a direct and proximate result of the malicious prosecution by defendants, Mrs. Ratliff has suffered mental anguish, loss of reputation, loss of business, costs and fees associated with her defense and was otherwise damaged.

58. Plaintiff has, and will continue to incur attorney's fees and costs as a direct and proximate result of the malicious prosecution by defendants and therefore, defendants should be made to pay her reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays that this court find that defendants did maliciously prosecute plaintiff and grant judgment against defendants, holding defendants jointly and severably liable for such judgment, judgment against defendants as the court deems reasonable for attorney's fees and costs which plaintiff has incurred, and will continue to incur pursuing this action, and any other relief that the court deems just and reasonable under the circumstances.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew B. Woods
Missouri Bar No. 34740
ENG & WOODS
903 East Ash Street
Columbia, Missouri 65202

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

Pursuant to Rule 38 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff demands a trial by jury.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew B. Woods
Missouri Bar No. 34740
ENG & WOODS
903 East Ash Street

 

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