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Haltom v. Parks

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

February 21, 2018

JOHN V. HALTOM, Plaintiff,
KAREN PARKS, et al., Defendants.


          John M. Gerrard United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment (filing 122) filed by Premier Psychiatric Group, LLC; Dr. Walter Duffy, Stanley Carlock, Ann Williams, and Kate Steffen (collectively, the Premier Defendants). The Court will grant their motion and dismiss the claims against them with prejudice.


         The plaintiff's allegations are briefly summarized as follows. In 2009, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) began investigating domestic disputes between the plaintiff, John Haltom, and his former wife. Filing 6 at 18-19. That investigation resulted in the adjudication of Haltom's children in Nebraska juvenile court. Filing 6 at 9.

         Haltom claims that as part of its investigation, DHHS conspired with private health practitioners to violate Haltom's constitutional rights and, ultimately, take away his children. These actions were purportedly motivated by DHHS's "long standing resentment" of Haltom, stemming from past litigation, his operation of adult entertainment businesses, and his "political ambitions within the State of Nebraska and its state departments." Filing 6 at 3, 8, 9. To accomplish its goals, at least according to Haltom, DHHS and the other defendants-all acting "under color of state law"-partook in widespread misconduct ranging from the production of false medical evaluations to unwarranted "invasions" into Haltom's home. Filing 6 at 5-6, 12. As a result, Haltom says he has experienced "extreme emotional and physical distress" and is "[unable] to function in society." Filing 6 at 5.

         The Nebraska juvenile court, finding that Haltom's ex-wife had "successfully corrected the conditions adjudicated in this case[, ]" terminated its jurisdiction (and thus, the juvenile case) on June 24, 2011. Filing 117-1 at 11.[1] That order expressly relieved DHHS of responsibility for the children. Filing 117-1 at 11. Haltom initiated this lawsuit on November 21, 2015. Filing 1. In his operative pleading, Haltom asserts 37 separate purported claims for relief against 49 named and 7 unnamed defendants, all premised on alleged federal constitutional violations brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(2), 1985(3), or 1986.[2] See filing 6. Some defendants have already been dismissed on motions to dismiss, filing 81, and others have been dismissed for failure to serve process, filing 97.

         The remaining defendants include the Premier Defendants. See filing 6. According to Haltom, DHHS directed him to see Premier Psychiatric for evaluation. Filing 6 at 14. Haltom alleges that the Premier Defendants were provided with "biased, pejorative information" by DHHS and, because they accepted "tainted information, " their evaluation was biased. Filing 6 at 28-29. And, he claims, the Premier Defendants designed Haltom's drug and alcohol testing protocol poorly, and revealed confidential information about him. Filing 6 at 48-51.

         Duffy is a psychiatrist who was employed by Premier Psychiatric, while Carlock, Williams, and Steffen were non-physician employees of Premier Psychiatric. Filing 124 at 7. Premier Psychiatric was asked by DHHS, on April 7, 2009, to conduct a comprehensive family assessment of Haltom. Filing 124 at 7. Duffy conducted a mental health evaluation of Haltom on April 10, 2009, and provided his findings and recommendations to DHHS. Filing 124 at 3. And, as noted above, the juvenile court proceedings in their entirety terminated on June 24, 2011, filing 117-1 at 11, and this lawsuit was filed on November 21, 2015, filing 1. The Premier Defendants move for summary judgment arguing, among other things, that Haltom's claims are time-barred. Filing 123 at 14-15.


         Summary judgment is proper if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for the motion, and must identify those portions of the record which the movant believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). If the movant does so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

         On a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts. Id. Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the evidence are jury functions, not those of a judge. Id. But the nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id. Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Id.


         Although the Premier Defendants raise several issues, the Court does not need to go farther than the statute of limitations. To begin with, § 1983 claims are generally governed by the personal injury statute of limitations of the state where the claim arose. Bridgeman v. Nebraska State Pen, 849 F.2d 1076, 1077 (8th Cir. 1988); see City of Rancho Palos Verdes, Cal. v. Abrams, 544 U.S. 113, 123 n.5 (2005). Here, that's a four-year statute of limitations. Jacob v. Schlichtman, 198 F.3d 250 (8th Cir. 1999) (citing Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-207); see Bridgeman, 849 F.2d at 1077.

         Section 1983 claims accrue, for the purpose of the statute of limitations, when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of his action. Johnson v. Johnson Cty. Comm'n Bd., 925 F.2d 1299, 1301 (10th Cir. 1991); seeDavis v. Ross, 995 F.2d 137, 138 (8th Cir. 1993); Kaster v. Iowa, 975 F.2d 1381, 1382 (8th Cir. 1992). Accrual occurs when the plaintiff has a complete and present cause of action, that is, when the plaintiff can file suit and obtain relief. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007). And the evidence establishes conclusively that no act of misconduct occurred ...

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