from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Kentucky at Covington. No. 2:10-cv-00051-David L.
Bunning, District Judge.
Jeffrey C. Mando, ADAMS, STEPNER, WOLTERMANN & DUSING,
PLLC, Covington, Kentucky, for Appellant.
J. Hill, Covington, Kentucky, for Appellee.
Before: DAUGHTREY, CLAY, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.
CRAIG DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judge.
previously addressed aspects of this civil rights case in
Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421 (6th Cir. 2015)
(Wesley II). In Wesley II, plaintiff
Richard Wesley appealed an adverse decision by the district
court in the lawsuit he brought against Joanne Rigney, an
officer with the Covington Police Department. Wesley had
claimed that Rigney was liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for arresting him without probable cause. The district court,
concluding that probable cause existed for the arrest and
that Rigney was qualifiedly immune, granted Rigney's
motion to dismiss the claim. Wesley v. Rigney, 913
F.Supp.2d 313, 321 (E.D. Ky. 2012) (Wesley I). We
reversed that decision and remanded to the district court,
where the case proceeded to trial. After a jury determined
that Rigney did arrest Wesley unlawfully, Rigney filed a
renewed motion for a directed verdict and a motion to alter,
amend, or vacate the judgment for a new trial. The district
court denied both motions. Wesley v. Rigney, No.
10-51-DLB-JGW, 2016 WL 853505, at *14 (E.D. Ky. Mar. 3, 2016)
appeal, Rigney challenges the district court's denial of
her motion for a directed verdict on both the false-arrest
claim and her entitlement to qualified immunity. Further, she
challenges the district court's denial of her motion for
a new trial based on the district court's failure to
instruct the jury adequately about the issue of qualified
immunity, and the district court's reference to
J.S.'s psychological history during the probable-cause
jury instruction. Finally, Rigney contends that the district
court erred in denying her motion for a directed verdict
regarding the availability of punitive damages and in
refusing to remit both the punitive and compensatory damage
awards. We find no reversible error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
trial, the proof established that Wesley was a counselor and
intervention specialist at Sixth District Elementary School
in Covington, Kentucky. In this position, Wesley periodically
counseled a seven-year-old boy, "J.S., " who
suffered from psychological and behavioral problems. On
February 5, 2009, Wesley was notified that J.S. was
attempting to harm himself in the hallway. Wesley brought
J.S. into his office, where J.S. waited with two other
students while Wesley called J.S.'s mother and notified
her that J.S. needed to be taken to NorthKey Community Care,
a local mental health center. Wesley's office was located
directly next to the principal's office, in the
school's administrative hub. Peri Fischer, an administer
who sat often at the desk directly across from Wesley's
office, testified that Wesley was alone with J.S. only for a
few minutes before J.S.'s mother came to pick him up,
that Wesley's office door was fully open the entire time
he was alone with J.S., and that she was able to observe J.S.
and Wesley the entire time they were alone together.
mother picked him up from school, and the two took a cab to
NorthKey. On the way, apparently J.S. told his mother that
Wesley had sexually assaulted him in his office earlier that
day. In response to these allegations, Alison Campbell, a
social worker, came to NorthKey to talk to J.S. J.S. told
Campbell that he was in Wesley's office earlier that day
with two other children, but that after the other children
left, Wesley closed the door further-but still left it open a
crack-and then touched J.S.'s "private part"
over the top of J.S.'s clothes. J.S. reported that both
he and Wesley had their clothes on during this incident, and
that Wesley told him not to tell anyone. Based on this
allegation, Campbell contacted Joanne Rigney, a detective in
the Covington Police Department. At some point shortly after
the initial allegations, J.S.'s mother called the
Covington Police Department and told an officer a version of
events that involved Wesley taking J.S.'s penis out of
his pants. J.S. also was interviewed by the Children's
Advocacy Center regarding the alleged sexual abuse. At this
interview, J.S. testified that Wesley had sodomized him
multiple times throughout the year. He also reported that
Wesley had sexually abused two other students at the school.
the Advocacy Center interview, Rigney and Campbell
coordinated interviews of 32 other students who had contact
with Wesley. None of these children disclosed any
inappropriate behavior by Wesley. Despite visiting the
school, Rigney did not interview the employees who worked
near Wesley's office about the sexual abuse that
allegedly had occurred in Wesley's office, while the door
was ajar. Rigney arranged for J.S. to be medically examined
for any physical signs of trauma from the alleged rape. The
exam did not reveal any evidence of abuse.
April 27, 84 days after J.S.'s first allegation against
Wesley, Rigney sought a warrant for Wesley's arrest.
Prior to submitting the application for the arrest warrant,
Rigney testified that she discussed the facts of the case
with Stephanie Durstock, an assistant Kenton County
Commonwealth attorney. Durstock reviewed and approved
Rigney's draft affidavit, which stated the following:
Affiant states that on February 06, 2009, she was assigned to
investigate a Sexual Abuse in the First Degree report.
Affiant states that she was contacted by the Cabinet for
Health and Family Services in regard to a disclosure that was
made by the minor victim J.S., age 7, on February 05, 2009.
At that time, J.S. stated that the defendant had fondled his
penis while in the defendants [sic] office at 6th District
School. The defendant is employed as a school counselor at
6th District School. The minor, J.S., was then scheduled for
a forensic interview at the Children's Advocacy Center,
at that time the child stated that the defendant had put his
private part in his butt. J.S. stated that this took place in
Mr. Wesley's office. J.S. described that the defendant
pulled down the back of his pants while he was near a blue
round table. J.S. also advised that the defendant was
squeezing J.S.'s private part. J.S. stated that he was
told by the defendant that he would kick him out of school if
he told anyone. J.S. stated that this happened more than
magistrate, concluding that there was probable cause to
arrest Wesley, issued a warrant for Wesley's arrest. The
charges ultimately were dismissed.
four days of testimony, the jury found that Wesley had proven
by a preponderance of the evidence (1) that Rigney lacked
probable cause to secure a warrant for his arrest; (2) that
the facts misrepresented in or omitted from Rigney's
affidavit and warrant application were material; and (3) that
the misrepresentation or omission of material facts was done
intentionally, deliberately, or with a reckless disregard for
the truth. The jury awarded Wesley $589, 000 in compensatory
damages, and $500, 000 in punitive damages.
false arrest claim under federal law requires a plaintiff to
prove that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to
arrest the plaintiff." Sykes v. Anderson, 625
F.3d 294, 305 (6th Cir. 2010) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). Rigney argues that the district
court erred in denying her motion for a directed verdict as
to Wesley's false-arrest claim because she had probable
cause to arrest Wesley, and because she is entitled to
qualified immunity. "Qualified immunity protects public
officials from liability for civil damages if their conduct
does not violate 'clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.'" Martin v. City of Broadview
Heights, 712 F.3d 951, 957 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). We
review the district court's denial of a motion for
judgment as a matter of law de novo. Moore v.
KUKA Welding Sys. & Robot Corp., 171 F.3d 1073, 1078
(6th Cir. 1999). "Judgment as a matter of law is
appropriate only when there is a complete absence of fact to
support the verdict, so that no reasonable juror could have
found for the nonmoving party." Id. We review
the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, and "we cannot weigh the credibility of witnesses
and cannot substitute our judgment for that of the
jury." United States v. Alpine Indus., Inc.,
352 F.3d 1017, 1022 (6th Cir. 2003).
determine whether Rigney is entitled to qualified immunity,
we must determine whether the facts within the trial record
make out a violation of a constitutional right, and whether
that right was clearly established "such that a
reasonable officer would have known that [her] conduct
violated it." Martin, 712 F.3d at 957.
"These two steps may be addressed in any order."
Id. In Wesley II, we held that, based on
the allegations in Wesley's complaint, it was plausible
that Rigney was not entitled to qualified immunity.
Wesley II, 779 F.3d at 433. "After trial, if
defendants continue to urge qualified immunity, the decisive
question, ordinarily, is whether the evidence favoring the
party seeking relief is legally sufficient to overcome the
defense." Ortiz v. Jordan, 562 U.S. 180, 184
(2011) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 50).