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Cannon v. Hamilton County

November 1, 2007

CARLA E. CANNON, AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF MICHAEL W. EADS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HAMILTON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, HAMILTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Carla E. Cannon, as administratrix of the Estate of Michael W. Eads,*fn1 brings this action against Defendants Hamilton County, Tennessee, Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff John Cupp, Deputy Jeff Baker, and Deputy Spencer Daniels (collectively the "Defendants"), alleging causes of action for violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and for fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Plaintiff also asserts causes of action against the Defendants under Tennessee state law for negligence, negligence per se, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and res ipsa loquitor, and under the Tennessee Constitution for inhumane and unduly harsh treatment of a prisoner.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons explained below, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE

Before turning to the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court will address a preliminary issue. Defendants have filed a Motion to Strike [Court Doc. No. 26] the affidavits of Jack Kennedy, M.D. and David Murray submitted in support of Plaintiff's response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to strike is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

A. Affidavit of Jack Kennedy, M.D.

Defendants move to strike the affidavit of Jack Kennedy, M.D. on the grounds that portions of his affidavit are hearsay. Defendants argue that "[t]o the extent that Dr. Kennedy's affidavit is offered to suggest how this event occurred, and based on what Mr. Eads supposedly said to his doctor, it is inadmissible." (Court Doc. No. 27 at 2.) Plaintiff claims that Dr. Kennedy's affidavit is admissible under Rule 803(4) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. (Court Doc. No. 29.)

The Court cannot consider hearsay evidence in connection with a motion for summary judgment. Carter v. University of Toledo, 349 F.3d 269, 274 (6th Cir. 2003). Rule 803(4) outlines an exception to the hearsay rule for: "Statements made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment and describing medical history, or past or present symptoms, pain or sensations, or the inception or general character of the cause or external source thereof insofar as reasonably pertinent to diagnosis or treatment." Dr. Kennedy's affidavit states that he was Plaintiff's primary care physician. (Court Doc. No. 21.) Dr. Kennedy's progress notes are attached to his affidavit.

The Court finds that Dr. Kennedy's affidavit and progress notes, including any statements made by the Plaintiff, were "made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment" and that they describe the "general character of the cause" of the pain and injuries to Plaintiff. Accordingly, Dr. Kennedy's affidavit and progress notes fall into Rule 803(4)'s exception to the hearsay rule and therefore may be considered by the Court in connection with the instant Motion for Summary Judgment.

Defendants' motion to strike [Court Doc. No. 26] Dr. Kennedy's affidavit and progress notes is DENIED.

B. Affidavit of David Murray

In support of his response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff submitted an affidavit from David Murray, a close friend of Plaintiff. Murray's affidavit relates information that he obtained during a phone call with Plaintiff prior to Plaintiff's arrest. (Court Doc. No. 19-3 ¶ 3.) It also contains information obtained during a phone call with McClendon and Deputy Baker after the Plaintiff was under arrest and in the patrol car. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Murray also states that he got Plaintiff out of jail the day after the arrest, observed Plaintiff's injuries, and walked through Plaintiff's house with him while Plaintiff described how he was "man handled" by the deputies. (Court Doc. No. 19-3 ¶¶ 7-11.)

Murray was not on the scene when the arrest occurred and does not purport to have any personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Murray's description of the phone call with Plaintiff is hearsay. Any statements that Murray attributes to McClendon are hearsay. Murray's description of what Plaintiff told him about the arrest the next day is also based on hearsay. None of these statements will be considered by the Court on summary judgment. See Carter v. University of Toledo, 349 F.3d 269, 274 (6th Cir. 2003).

The Court will consider only the portions of Murray's affidavit that reflect what he said, what he observed, and what the deputies said to him. Murray's recollection of statements that he had previously made are not hearsay as prior statements of a witness under Rule 801(d)(1). Deputy Baker's statement is an admission of a party opponent and not hearsay under Rule 801(d)(2). The Court will consider Murray's statements regarding Plaintiff's injuries because he was able to personally observe the injuries.

Accordingly, Defendants' motion to strike [Court Doc. No. 26] the affidavit of David Murray is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court STRIKES paragraphs 3, 5, 9, and 10 in their entirety. The Court also STRIKES McClendon's statements in paragraph 6 and Plaintiff's description of the events in paragraph 10. All non-stricken portions of Mr. Murray's affidavit will be considered by the Court in connection with Defendants' instant Motion for Summary Judgment

II. STANDARD

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 that can be drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. 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 that no genuine issue of material facts 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 that 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).

In the instant case, Defendants have filed a properly-supported motion for summary judgment, thus shifting to the Plaintiff the burden to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Plaintiff is therefore required to come forward with some significant and probative evidence to support his claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 324. As indicated above, inadmissible hearsay evidence may not be used to support or oppose a motion for summary judgment, see Carter v. University of Toledo, 349 F.3d 269, 274 (6th Cir. 2003), and the Court will not consider any such evidence.

II. FACTS

This dispute arises out of the arrest of Plaintiff on charges of domestic assault and vandalism. At the outset, the Court observes that Plaintiff's complaint is not verified and therefore cannot serve as an affidavit in opposition to a summary judgment motion. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(e). The only evidence that Plaintiff has provided to support his claim is an affidavit from David Murray, a close friend of Plaintiff, and an affidavit and accompanying medical records from Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Jack Kennedy. As stated above, the Court has stricken portions of Murray's affidavit as based on hearsay and therefore improper to be considered on summary judgment. See Carter v. University of Toledo, 349 F.3d 269, 274 (6th Cir. 2003).

Plaintiff has presented no admissible evidence related to events occurring before or at the time of the arrest. The Court must therefore base the majority of its analysis on the only evidence available in the record that describes the circumstances of Plaintiff's arrest, the affidavit of Deputy Baker, one of the arresting officers. The Court will, however, construe the facts before it, and draw all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. 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). Those facts and inferences are as follows.

In March 2005, Patricia McClendon was at the home of her boyfriend, Plaintiff Michael W. Eads. They got into an argument and McClendon left the house. Plaintiff followed her out. McClendon got into her car and Plaintiff stood behind the car in the driveway. Plaintiff then came to the door of McClendon's car, opened it, and struck the windshield twice.

McClendon called 911 on her cellular telephone. Plaintiff grabbed the phone and threw it into the yard. McClendon went back into Plaintiff's house to use his telephone to call 911. Plaintiff came into the house and took that telephone from McClendon. McClendon ran out of the house, retrieved her cell phone from the yard, and ran across the street to a neighbor's driveway. She again called the police from her cell phone. Plaintiff went to McClendon's car and took the keys. Plaintiff called McClendon on her cell phone and told her that he had left the keys on the hood of the car. McClendon informed Plaintiff that she had called the police. Plaintiff then went into his house and turned off the lights. (Court Doc. No. 16-2 ("Baker Aff.") at 5.)

Deputies Jeff Baker and Spencer Daniels were dispatched in response to McClendon's report of domestic violence. When they arrived, McClendon was in the street in front of Plaintiff's house. She told them what had previously occurred. (Baker Aff. ¶ 3.) Baker and Daniels went to Plaintiff's door but he did not respond. They had the police dispatcher call his home telephone but he did not answer. (Id. at ¶ 4.)

Baker and Daniels went around to the side of the house and saw that Plaintiff's sliding glass door was partially open. Deputy Baker saw a rifle propped up against the door jamb and took possession of it. The deputies saw Plaintiff inside the house, sitting on his couch with his hands tucked into the cushions. They instructed Plaintiff to show his hands but Plaintiff did not respond. They drew their weapons, entered Plaintiff's home, and commanded Plaintiff to show his hands. Plaintiff raised his hands, demonstrating that he was unarmed. At the deputies request, Plaintiff stood, but would not answer questions about the incident with McClendon. (Id.)

Baker and Daniels told Plaintiff that he was under arrest and attempted to handcuff him but he pulled away. Both Baker and Daniels used an arm-bar technique to restrain Plaintiff and get him in handcuffs. During the scuffle, Plaintiff suffered a scrape on his forehead and a broken wrist. Plaintiff smelled of alcohol and his responses to the deputies were erratic. Plaintiff refused to walk under his own power and the deputies dragged him by the handcuffs to the patrol car. (Id. at ¶ 5.)

When he was in the patrol car, Plaintiff realized that he did not have identification on him. Deputy Daniels returned to Plaintiff's house to try to find identification but was unable to locate it. The deputies then escorted Plaintiff back into his house to get his identification. The deputies took off Plaintiff's handcuffs and allowed him to stand in his kitchen and smoke a cigarette. They then escorted Plaintiff back to the patrol car and placed the handcuffs on him again, this time in the front of his body. McClendon was not in Plaintiff's house during the arrest but appeared when he was in the patrol car to protest against the deputies arresting Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 6.)

Deputy Baker took Plaintiff to Hamilton County Jail. Plaintiff declined emergency treatment but was seen by a nurse at the jail before he was cleared for booking. The nurse cleaned and bandaged the scrape on Plaintiff's forehead. The nurse did not notice, and was not made aware of, any other injuries, including a broken wrist that was later diagnosed by Plaintiff's doctor. Plaintiff signed a form indicating that he was not in need of emergency medical attention and was not suicidal. (Court Doc. No. 16-3 at 1-2, 5.)

Following the arrest, Plaintiff had a broken left wrist, scrapes and bruising on his elbows and knees, and pain in his shoulder. (Court Doc. No. 21.) A week later, Plaintiff complained of fatigue and pain in his lower back and was experiencing numbness in his legs and fingers. (Id.)

III. ANALYSIS

Defendants seek summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claims against them on several grounds.

A. Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Section 1983 states in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2000). "Section 1983 makes liable only those who, while acting under color of state law, deprive another of a right secured by the Constitution or federal law." Romanski v. Detroit Entm't, L.L.C., 428 F.3d 629, 636 (6th Cir. 2005).

To establish a claim pursuant to § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate two elements: "(1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) that he was subjected or caused to be subjected to this deprivation by a person acting under color of state law." Gregory v. Shelby County, 220 F.3d 433, 441 (6th Cir. 2000). Section 1983 "creates no substantive rights; it merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere." Gardenhire v. Schubert, 205 F.3d 303, 310 (6th Cir. 2000).

Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were violated. (Court Doc. No. 1, ¶ 44.) At the outset, the Court notes that the Eighth Amendment's protections apply only to post-conviction inmates. Miller v. Calhoun County, 408 F.3d 803, 812 (6th Cir. 2005); Barber v. City of Salem, 953 F.2d 232, 235 (6th Cir. 1992). As Plaintiff's § 1983 claims relate only to his arrest and not to any post-conviction treatment, Plaintiff cannot sustain an Eighth Amendment claim. Accordingly, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims under the Eighth Amendment are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

With respect to Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Defendants in their official capacities, the Court notes that "[a] suit against an individual in his official capacity is the equivalent of a suit against the governmental entity." Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994); see also Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985). Thus, the § 1983 claims against Deputies Baker and Daniels in their official capacities, and against Sheriff John Cupp in his official capacity, are actually claims against Hamilton County and are redundant in light of identical claims brought against the County. Therefore, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Baker and Daniels in their official capacities and against Sheriff John Cupp in his official capacity are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

1. Individual Claims against Deputies Baker and Daniels With respect to Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Baker and Daniels in their individual capacities, Defendants contend that such claims should be dismissed because Baker and Daniels are entitled to qualified immunity. (Court Doc. No. 16 at 7-8.)

The doctrine of qualified immunity shields " 'government officials performing discretionary functions . . . from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.' " Ewolski v. City of Brunswick, 287 F.3d 492, 501 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). The United States Supreme Court has articulated a two-part test for determining whether a law enforcement officer is entitled to qualified immunity. See Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 125 S.Ct. 596, 598 (2004); Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). Under this test, district courts must: consider whether "the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right." If the plaintiff ...


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