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Vaughn v. City of Manchester

August 13, 2008

PHILLIP VAUGHN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF MANCHESTER, TENNESSEE, AND JASON T. WALKER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Phillip Vaughn brings this action against Defendants City of Manchester and Jason T. Walker, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer for the City of Manchester, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for injuries sustained when Plaintiff was tackled by Defendant Walker during an altercation. Before the Court is Defendants' joint Motion for Summary Judgment [Court Doc. 36].

For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED.

I. 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). The moving party may bear this burden by either producing evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, or by simply " 'showing'--that is, pointing out to the district court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. To refute such a showing, the nonmoving party may not simply rest on its pleadings. Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996); see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The nonmoving party must present some significant, probative evidence indicating the necessity of a trial for resolving a material factual dispute. Celotex, 477 U.S. 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. Such a determination requires that the Court "view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden" applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254. Thus, if the plaintiff must ultimately prove his case at trial by a preponderance of the evidence, the Court must, on motion for summary judgment, determine whether a jury could reasonably find by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff's factual contentions are true. See id. 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).

II. FACTS

The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, are as follows.

On September 10, 2006, Plaintiff Phillip Vaughn and his neighbor, William Raines, got into a fist-fight in front of Plaintiff's mobile home. (Deposition of Phillip Vaughn ("Pl.'s Dep."), Court Doc. 53-2, p. 59-65.) The 911 call center for the City of Manchester received a call requesting assistance for a fight at Plaintiff's home, possibly involving a gun. (Affidavit of Tiffany Gray ("Gray Aff."), Court Doc. 42-1, ¶¶ 2, 5.) The call center sent out a police dispatch seeking assistance for the fight. (Id. ¶ 5.) The dispatch stated that there was possibly a gun involved. (Id.) Defendant Jason Walker, a police officer employed by the City of Manchester, responded to the dispatch. (Affidavit of Jason Walker ("Walker Aff."), Court Doc. 40, ¶¶ 8-9.)

When Walker arrived at Plaintiff's home, he observed two persons fighting approximately thirty yards from the street; Plaintiff was facing away from Walker while Raines was facing towards him. (Walker Aff. ¶ 11.) Walker ran towards the men and saw Plaintiff swing at Raines. (Id. ¶ 12.) Walker did not see a gun. (Id. ¶ 16.) Both of Raines's hands were in the air and visible to Walker. (Id. ¶ 13.) Walker could not, however, see Plaintiff's left hand.*fn1 (Id.) Walker also noticed that other individuals were nearby the fight, including a young girl. (Id. ¶ 18.)

Walker ran towards Plaintiff and Raines and tackled or speared Plaintiff from behind. (Pl.'s Dep. at 63; Deposition of William Raines, Court 51-2, p. 51.) Plaintiff was not aware of Walker's presence before he was tackled; he did not hear or see him arrive. (Pl.'s Dep. at 63.) Walker did not announce his presence before tackling Plaintiff and there were no lights or sirens indicating police presence. (Id. at 63-65.)

Once Plaintiff and Walker were on the ground, Walker put Plaintiff in handcuffs and told him that he would be going to jail. (Pl.'s Dep. at 80.) Plaintiff told Walker that he was hurt and needed an ambulance. (Id.) Walker called for an ambulance which took Plaintiff to the emergency room where he was treated for a broken hip. (Walker Aff. ¶ 21; Pl.'s Dep. at 79-81.)

III. ANALYSIS

As an initial matter, it is unclear from the face of the Complaint whether Plaintiff has asserted a claim against the Manchester City Police Department. (Court Doc. 1.) Manchester City Police Department is not named as a Defendant in the Complaint's caption, but the body of the Complaint states: "The Defendant, Manchester City Police Department, is responsible for the policies, practices, and customs of its police officers, as well as the hiring, training, supervision, control and discipline of all of its officers." (Id. ¶ 7.)

Construing Plaintiff's Complaint liberally, the Court finds that the Complaint purports to state a claim against the Manchester City Police Department.

A police department, however, is not a proper defendant in a § 1983 action. Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). In Tennessee, municipal police departments are not separate governmental entities but are components of the municipal government. See Metropolitan Gov't of Nashville and Davidson County v. Metropolitan Employee Benefit Bd., 2007 WL 1805151, *8 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 22, 2007). All claims brought against the Manchester City Police Department are, therefore, redundant of, and properly brought against, the City of Manchester. Accordingly, all claims against the Manchester ...


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