FAYETTEVILLE -- Springdale officials have asked a judge to throw out a federal lawsuit filed by four daughters of Jim Bob Duggar over the release of documents. The officials argue that they have immunity and the lawsuit fails to state a claim.
The four women sued Northwest Arkansas officials in May, claiming the officials improperly released police investigation documents to a magazine that published the information. The police investigation determined that Josh Duggar, the family's oldest child, fondled the girls and at least one other girl.
No charges were filed against Josh Duggar because by the time officials learned about the incident, the statute of limitations had run out.
The sisters' lawsuit was filed in federal court in Fayetteville. Claims include invasion of privacy, outrage and violation of the right to due process. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial.
Defendants in the lawsuit include Springdale, Washington County, former Springdale Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley, Springdale City Attorney Ernest Cate, Maj. Rick Hoyt with the Washington County sheriff's office, former Washington County Attorney Steve Zega and Bauer Media Group, which published In Touch Weekly magazine and related social media sites. The lawsuit also lists 10 unidentified "Doe" defendants, believed to be employees of the defendants.
The four sisters -- Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy Duggar -- are members of the family featured in 19 Kids and Counting, the TLC cable channel show that drew 3.6 million viewers as recently as May 2015. Reruns of the show were pulled after In Touch released a report May 21, 2015, that Josh Duggar had been the subject of a Springdale police investigation that he fondled young girls in his home. TLC later canceled the show.
Josh Duggar, then 14, revealed in March 2002 to his parents that he had run his hands over young girls in the family home as they slept, the parents said in an interview aired June 3, 2015, by Fox News. The parents told the girls about the incident, disciplined their son and took precautions to prevent a recurrence but didn't seek outside assistance, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said.
The motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed on behalf of O'Kelley, Cate and Springdale, collectively referred to as the Springdale defendants. It contends that O'Kelley and Cate are entitled to immunity from being sued.
"In their complaint against the Springdale defendants the plaintiffs use such turns of phrase as 'contrary to the bounds of human decency' and 'basic notions of civility and personal dignity' and 'horrible and blatant re-victimization' in order to advance claims for damages," according to a brief.
"The allegations of fact in the complaint, rather than the hyperbolic turns of phrase, are assumed to be true at this stage, yet a close examination of the alleged facts reveals that individual Springdale defendants acted not outrageously, but well within the protection provided by the doctrine of qualified immunity," the brief states.
The motion argues that the lawsuit fails to make a constitutional claim against the city and fails to allege intentional conduct on the part of the defendants as required for tort claims.
A tort is an act injuring someone, and the injured person may sue the wrongdoer for damages.
The Springdale defendants also want all pretrial proceedings put on hold until a judge resolves the statutory and qualified immunity issues, and to allow time for any subsequent appeals.
State Desk on 07/01/2017