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Butler v. City of Englewood

August 25, 2008

SHERRI LYNN BUTLER PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF ENGLEWOOD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff brings this action against various individual and municipal defendants seeking damages, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, for violation of her civil rights and injuries sustained when she was arrested on May 17, 2007 for driving under the influence of alcohol. Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants City of Englewood, Chief Daniel Blake, Lieutenant Darrel Wright, and Officer Randy Gabrel [Court Doc. No. 47]. Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff's federal and state causes of action, discussed infra.

For the reasons explained below, the Court will DENY Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's excessive force claim with respect to Defendant Gabrel. The Court will DENY Defendant Gabrel's qualified immunity claim. The Court will also DENY Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claim of negligence, assault, and battery with respect to Defendant Gabrel.

The Court will GRANT Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claim of excessive force with respect to Defendants Blake, Wright, and the City of Englewood. The Court will GRANT Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claims of negligence, assault, and battery with respect to Defendants Blake, Wright, and the City of Englewood.

The Court will GRANT Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claims of excessive force, excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence per se. The Court will also GRANT Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claims pursuant to the Tennessee constitution. The Court will GRANT Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claim of municipal or official capacity liability.

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT 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).

II. FACTS

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

On May 17, 2007, Plaintiff was in a vehicle collision while en route to a doctor's appointment in the city of Englewood, Tennessee. (Court Doc. No. 72-1, Pl.'s Resp. Br. 2). At the Plaintiff's suggestion, the two drivers moved their cars to the parking lot of a nearby gas station. (Id.) Defendant Gabrel arrived at this location to investigate the collision. (Id.) Although Defendant Gabrel allowed the other driver to leave the scene, he asked Plaintiff to perform a field sobriety test. (Id. at 3). After Defendant Gabrel concluded that Plaintiff failed the field sobriety test, he requested Plaintiff's consent to search her vehicle. (Id.) Plaintiff consented to the search. (Court Doc. No. 1, Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 17.)

During the search, Co-Defendants Chief Blake and Lieutenant Wright arrived on the scene. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Defendant Blake conducted additional field sobriety tests, which Plaintiff also failed. (Court Doc. No. 48-1, Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 4). Plaintiff was arrested for driving under the influence, handcuffed, and escorted by Defendant Gabrel toward his patrol vehicle. (Id.) Plaintiff has no issue with the manner in which she was handcuffed. (Id.)

Defendant Gabrel pushed and shoved Plaintiff while escorting her toward his patrol vehicle. (Pl.'s Resp. Br. 4.) Defendant Gabrel also stomped on Plaintiff's foot. (Id.) Plaintiff was in handcuffs and was not physically resisting arrest. (Id.) Plaintiff admits, however, that she "started mouthing off," cursing at Defendant Gabrel, and "flipping out about the way" Defendants Wright and Blake were searching her vehicle. (Court Doc. No. 72-18, Butler Dep. 133, 135.) After arriving at the patrol car, Defendant Gabrel slammed Plaintiff against the side and back of his patrol car several times. (Id. at 139.) This resulted in Plaintiff sustaining knee and elbow injuries. (Id. at 143.) After the vehicle's door was opened, Plaintiff slid into the patrol vehicle. (Id. at 149.) Plaintiff has no issue with the manner in which this movement was conducted. (Id.)

Defendants Wright and Blake did not render aid while Officer Gabrel pushed, shoved, and stomped on Plaintiff's foot while escorting her toward his patrol car. (Compl. ¶ 34.) Additionally, Defendants Wright and Blake did not render aid when Defendant Gabrel pushed Plaintiff against the side and back of his patrol car. (Id.) Defendants Blake and Wright, Gabrel's supervisors at the time, were talking to each other "off to the side" while they were conducting a search of Plaintiff's vehicle during this portion of her arrest. (Pl. Resp. Br. 18; Butler Dep. 138-139.)

Defendant Gabrel took Plaintiff to Woods Memorial Hospital to obtain a blood test pursuant to Tennessee's implied consent law. (Butler Dep. 149, 152; Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 6.) Plaintiff refused chemical testing at the hospital, however, and was charged with violating Tennessee's implied consent law and transported to McMinn County Jail by Defendant Gabrel. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 6.)

The next day, Plaintiff's bond was set by Judge Watson in McMinn County. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 6.) Plaintiff posted bond and was released from jail three days after she was arrested. (Pl.'s Resp. Br. 5; Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 6-7.) Plaintiff pled guilty to violating the Tennessee implied consent Law. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 7.) Her DUI charge was dismissed. (Id.)Randy Ballew, Plaintiff's boyfriend at the time of her arrest, attempted to file a complaint regarding Defendants' conduct with the City of Englewood. (Pl.'s Resp. Br. 7.) Defendant Blake refused to Mr. Ballew's request to file a complaint and Mr. Ballew's request for an investigation into Defendants' conduct during Plaintiff's arrest. (Id.)

III. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff asserts several causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Tennessee state law. Plaintiff's causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 include: excessive force (Compl. ¶ 50.a.), false arrest (id. ¶ 50.a.), cruel and unusual punishment (id. ¶ 50.c.), unreasonable bail (id. ¶ 44.c.), and official capacity and municipal liability (id. ¶ 46). Plaintiff also asserts certain state law claims against Defendants. Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated Article 1, §§ 13 and 32 of the Tennessee Constitution. (Id. ¶ 50.e.) In addition, Plaintiff alleges negligence (id. Count III), negligence per se (id. Count IV), assault and battery (id. Count V), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. Count VI) claims against Defendants.

Defendants contend Plaintiff's federal and state law claims are not meritorious. In the alternative, Defendants assert qualified immunity. (Court Doc. No. 7, Defs.' Answer ¶ 62.) Defendants also invoke all applicable defenses pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act with respect to Plaintiff's state law tort claims. (Id. ¶ 63.) Defendant City of Englewood asserts that it is immune from Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotion distress claim under Tenn Code Ann. § 29-20-205. (Id. ¶ 64.)

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2), Defendants sought summary judgment for Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotion distress claim, negligence per se claim, and Tennessee constitutional claims, on the grounds that in the face of their properly supported motion, Plaintiff has failed to come forward with evidentiary support sufficient to preserve the bare allegations of her complaint for trial. (Court Doc. No. 76, Def.'s Reply Br. 2.) The Court agrees that Plaintiff has failed to preserve these claims because Plaintiff's opposition brief is silent on each of these causes of action. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). Accordingly, Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotion distress claim, negligence per se claim, and Tennessee constitutional claim, pursuant to Article 1, §§ 13 and 32 of the Tennessee Constitution are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

The Court will address Plaintiff's remaining causes of action below.

A. 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. "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).

1. False Arrest

Plaintiff's first claims that she was falsely arrested by Defendants.*fn1

A claim asserting the Fourth Amendment right against false arrest under § 1983 hinges on whether the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff. Fridley v. Horrighs, 291 F.3d 867, 872 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Painter v. Robertson, 185 F.3d 557, 569 (6th Cir. 1999)). Probable cause exists where the "facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge . . . are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense." Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 37 (1979).

The Supreme Court has made clear that there is no precise formula for determining the existence or nonexistence of probable cause; rather, a reviewing court is to take into account the "factual and practical considerations of everyday life" that would lead a reasonable person to determine that there ...


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