Navigating Section 1983 Liability for Municipalities: Individual/Official Capacity, Qualified Immunity and Monell Claims

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will discuss the elements of municipal liability under Section 1983 and the difference between individual, supervisory and municipal liability, including the definition of a “person” and “acting under color of state law." The program will discuss latest cases, trends, and strategies affecting §1983 litigation and best practices for defending municipalities in these claims.


Section 1983 provides a mechanism by which individuals who have had their constitutional rights violated may seek a remedy against employees or agents of a state or municipality.

While government entities are generally not liable for actions of its employees under §1983, plaintiffs can pursue Monell claims by identifying a governmental policy or custom that caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Section 1983 actions often are brought against both the employee/agent of the state or municipality and the state/municipality itself. If the individual defendant is exonerated from liability, arguably there is no violation by the state/municipality. However, states/municipalities may be held liable even when the individual defendant is not liable for the government’s role, such as inadequate policy or lack of training.

Case law developments nationwide inform the scope of liability and trends and developments are critical to the defense of these claims.

Listen as our authoritative panel of attorneys analyzes municipal liability under Section 1983 and the difference between individual, supervisory and municipal liability. The panel will discuss the definition of a “person” and “acting under color of state law” and look at the latest cases, trends and strategies affecting §1983 litigation.


  1. Element of claims
    1. Defendant acting in an individual or official capacity?
    2. Qualified immunity
    3. Statute of limitations
    4. Defenses
    5. Proof requirements
    6. Causation
    7. State of mind
  2. Latest cases and trends in Section 1983 litigation
  3. Liability of municipalities outside of individual liability


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • How have courts interpreted the definition of a “person” and “acting under color of state law”?
  • What must a plaintiff allege in order to pursue a Monell claim under Section 1983?
  • Under what circumstances can a municipality be held liable for a Section 1983 violation in the absence of a finding of liability against the individual defendant?


Samuel C. Hall, Jr., Shareholder
Crivello Carlson, Milwaukee

Mr. Hall's principal practice focuses on civil rights litigation and appellate practice. He has successfully defended hundreds of law enforcement officers, government officials and municipalities in cases involving alleged civil rights violations. He is admitted to practice and has defended law enforcement in high profile cases. His civil rights work has been covered nationally, including in publications such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Miami Herald and San Francisco Chronicle.

Sara C. Mills, Atty
Crivello Carlson, Milwaukee

Ms. Mills represents her clients in state, federal and administrative forums focusing on civil defense litigation and appellate work. She has successfully defended clients in matters involving a wide range of issues, including personal injury and premises liability, legal malpractice, and claims based on Wisconsin's Safe Place Statute, Wisconsin's Consumer Act, civil rights statutes, municipal regulations, the United States Constitution, and more. She is a frequent contributor to Crivello Carlson's blog, "On the Docket."

Rhonda R. Stowers, Senior Attorney
Plunkett Cooney, Flint, Mich.

Ms. Stowers has an extensive litigation practice that includes general liability, governmental law, commercial liability and real estate. As part of her governmental law practice, she advises and defends municipalities on a range of issues, including the Freedom of Information Act, the Open Meetings Act, federal and state constitutions, civil rights, zoning, charter amendments, ordinance drafting, and employment-related matters. She defends premises, employment, product and general liability cases on behalf of churches, employers, landlords, manufacturers and retailers. 


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