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Clark v. Robertson

February 12, 2007

DALLAS M. CLARK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPUTY DOUG ROBERTSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A MEMBER OF THE BLEDSOE COUNTY, TN SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, BOB SWAFFORD, AS SHERIFF OF BLEDSOE COUNTY, TN, AND BLEDSOE COUNTY, TN DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Defendants Deputy Doug Roberson,*fn1 Sheriff Bob Swafford, and Bledsoe County, TN's (collectively "Defendants") motion for partial summary judgment (Court File No. 30). Although Plaintiff Dallas Clark ("Plaintiff") filed a response (Court File No. 31) and brief (Court File No. 33) in opposition to Defendants' motion, the Court will not consider either in resolving this motion since both were untimely filed. Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiff's response (Court File No. 36). For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendants' motion (Court File No. 30).

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts contained in the record and all inferences which can be drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). The Court cannot weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of any matter in dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To refute such a showing, the nonmoving party must present some significant, probative evidence indicating the necessity of a trial for resolving a material factual dispute. Id. at 322. A mere scintilla of evidence is not enough. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; McLean v. Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). The Court's role is limited to determining whether the case contains sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49; Nat'l Satellite Sports, 253 F.3d at 907. If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the Court concludes a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party based on the evidence presented, it may enter a summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52; Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994).

II. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In Clark v. Robertson, et.al., No. 1:03-CV-268 (E.D. Tenn. 2004)*fn2 , Plaintiff filed an almost identical complaint to the one in this action.*fn3 In the prior action, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Court granted, and all of Plaintiff's claims were dismissed with prejudice. Clark v. Robertson, et.al, No. 1:03-CV-268, Court File Nos. 19, 20 (E.D. Tenn. 2004). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration to set aside the order granting summary judgment. Id. at Court File No. 21. The Court granted Plaintiff's motion in part and set aside its findings that Defendant Roberson ("Roberson") had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for domestic abuse of an adult on August 6, 2002 and its finding Roberson was entitled to qualified immunity for that arrest. Id. at Court File Nos. 26, 27. On January 5, 2005, the parties entered into a stipulation of dismissal without prejudice pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(ii). Id. at Court File No. 51.

The pertinent facts have not changed since the parties voluntarily dismissed the prior action. Therefore, the Court will start by adopting the recitation of facts from the Memorandum issued in conjunction with the Order granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment in Clark, No. 1:03-CV-268, Court File No. 19 at 2-8. On June 1, 2005, Plaintiff filed a new complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1988, alleging Defendants violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when he was arrested on August 6, 2002. Plaintiff also alleges violations of state statutory and common law. Defendants move for partial summary judgment on all claims that were dismissed in the Court's order granting summary judgment in the previous case.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff asserts several claims stemming from his arrest and detention in jail. Plaintiff claims (1) Roberson, individually and in his capacity as a member of the Bledsoe County Sheriff's Department, falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned, and maliciously prosecuted him in violation of his rights as guaranteed under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the laws of the State of Tennessee, and the common law. He also alleges Roberson is guilty of intentional assault. Finally, he alleges Defendants Swafford ("Swafford") and Bledsoe County, Tennessee are liable for the actions of their officers since they failed to properly train and supervise the officers; and (2) due to the conditions of confinement at the Bledsoe County Jail, he suffered injuries. Plaintiff claims Swafford and Bledsoe County, Tennessee are liable for his injuries since they were aware of the dangerousness of the jail.

Defendants move for partial summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims, except the claims that remained after the Court granted, in part, Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. Much of Defendants' argument mistakenly rests on the theory of res judicata, based on the Court's prior ruling on Defendants' motion for summary judgment in Clark , No. 1:03-CV-268, Court File Nos. 19, 20. Defendants erroneously assume this case is a separate case from the earlier one. The error of Defendants' assumption is demonstrated by an examination of the elements of res judicata. This defense bars future litigation based upon prior litigation only if each of the following elements is met:

(1) a final decision on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) a subsequent action between the same parties or their "privies"; (3) an issue in the subsequent action which was litigated or which should have been litigated in the prior action; and (4) an identity of the causes of action.

Browning v. Levy, 283 F.3d 761, 771 (6th Cir.2002) (quoting Bittinger v. Tecumseh Prods. Co., 123 F.3d 877, 880 (6th Cir.1997)).

In this case, obviously none of the elements of res judicata is met. In the prior action, this Court did not issue a final decision on the merits insofar as it granted summary judgment. Ohio Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320, 325 (6th Cir.1990). There has been no "subsequent action" between the parties, no "prior action," and ...


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