Wesley v. Campbell, No. 16-5431 (6th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Wesley was an elementary school counselor in Covington, Kentucky. Seven-year-old J.S., who suffered from psychological problems, told his mother that Wesley had sexually assaulted him. Campbell, a social worker, talked to J.S. and contacted Detective Rigney, Rigney and Campbell interviewed 32 other students who had contact with Wesley; none disclosed any inappropriate behavior. A medical exam of J.S. did not reveal any evidence of abuse. Rigney obtained a warrant for Wesley’s arrest. Rigney did not interview employees who worked near Wesley’s office, although the sexual abuse allegedly occurred in Wesley’s office, with the door ajar and others able to see inside. The charges were dismissed. In Wesley’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the jury found that Rigney lacked probable cause to secure an arrest warrant; facts misrepresented in or omitted from Rigney’s affidavit and warrant application were material; and the misrepresentations or omissions were done intentionally, deliberately, or with reckless disregard for the truth. The jury awarded Wesley $589,000 in compensatory and $500,000 in punitive damages. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Rigney’s arguments concerning failure to instruct the jury adequately about qualified immunity; the court’s reference to J.S.’s psychological history during the probable-cause jury instruction; the denial of a motion regarding the availability of punitive damages; and the court’s refusal to remit the damage awards.