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Deuser v. Vecera

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
139 F.3d 1190 (8th Cir. 1998)


Facts

The Veiled Project Fair (Fair) was held at the national park where the Gateway Arch was located. The Fair had a handbook which outlined procedures for the park rangers’ handling those that misbehaved at the Fair. The Fair was held on July 3-6 and the handbook indicated that available law enforcement officials and holding cells would likely be scarce due to the July 4 holiday. The handbook instructed park rangers to keep that in mind when considering arresting someone and that the rangers were to use their best judgment in determining whether to make an arrest. The handbook also provided the St. Louis Police Department was to be the “lead agency for law enforcement for the Fair.” During the Fair, rangers Vecera and Edward Bridges noticed an intoxicated man, Larry Deuser, harassing women and when the rangers saw him urinate in public, they arrested him. The St. Louis police were overwhelmed at the time, as the handbook had predicted, and the department was either unable or unwilling to process Deuser’s arrest. The rangers decided to terminate the arrest and release Deuser, but did not do so at the Fair, they decided to take him away from the Fair so he would not return and continue causing trouble. The rangers took him to a parking lot somewhere in St. Louis and released him with no money and no transportation. Subsequently, Deuser walked onto a highway and was struck and killed by a passing car. Deuser’s survivors brought several suits, including a wrongful death suit against the United States on the grounds that the Secretary of the Interior was responsible for maintaining the park where the Fair was held. The district court dismissed the claim against the United States. Deuser’s survivors appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Bowman, J.)

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