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Iowa: Lawsuit Against Halfway House Over Attack by Resident Dismissed

by Christopher Zoukis

The Eighth Circuit of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against an Iowa halfway house and several state officials over injuries caused by a halfway house resident.

Tamela Montgomery alleged that Angenaldo Bailey, who was staying at the Curt Forbes Residential Center in Ames, broke into her house and shot her three times. She also claimed that she had a protective order against Bailey, and local police and the halfway house were aware of the order.

According to Montgomery, police officials and staff at the center knew about the protective order because Bailey violated it multiple times on the same day he shot her. It was undisputed that Montgomery contacted the police to report the violations and even warned them that Bailey would try to kill her if the police questioned him but did not arrest him.

She was correct. After being questioned by police officers about the protective order violations, but not arrested, Bailey returned to Montgomery’s residence, shot her three times and then shot himself in the head.

Montgomery sued the City of Ames; several Ames police officers; the Curt Forbes Residential Center; John McPherson, the center’s manager; the State of Iowa; and John Baldwin, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections. She argued the defendants had violated her constitutional rights by acting in a deliberately indifferent manner to the danger presented by Bailey.

The district court found there was insufficient evidence that McPherson and his subordinates at the halfway house were deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm to Montgomery. The court noted that none of the defendants’ actions created a new danger or increased the danger that Bailey posed, because the danger existed prior to Bailey residing at the center and would have continued after his release from the halfway house.

The district court also held that the state and the center were immune from lawsuits for damages under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Montgomery appealed, and on July 20, 2016 the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claims based on the findings of the lower court. See: Montgomery v. City of Ames, 829 F.3d 968 (8th Cir. 2016), cert. denied. 

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Related legal case

Montgomery v. City of Ames