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Denton v. Rievley

November 12, 2008


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


Before the Court is Defendant Steve Rievley's motion for summary judgment (Court File No. 42) and pro se Plaintiff Roy L. Denton's motion for reconsideration of his motion for partial summary judgment (Court File No. 34). Having considered the parties' briefs, the evidence, and the applicable law, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Defendant'smotion for summary judgment (Court File No. 42) and DENY Plaintiff'smotion for reconsideration (Court File No. 34).


Defendant is a police officer for the city of Dayton, Tennessee. He was working an overnight shift in the early morning hours of September 9, 2006 when he was dispatched to a domestic violence call at about 1:39 a.m. Brandon Denton, the son of Plaintiff, had gone to the local jail to make a complaint about his father (Plaintiff) and brother (Dustin Denton).

According to Defendant, Brandon informed him he worked at a local Taco Bell until midnight. Sometime after midnight, his friend and co-worker gave him a ride to his father's house. According to the affidavit of complaint, Dustin started hitting Brandon and broke his eyeglasses. Brandon told Defendant that Plaintiff became involved in the fight, and grabbed Brandon around the neck, strangling him. Defendant observed red marks on Brandon's neck consistent with strangulation and abrasions on his arms and forehead. Defendant called Brandon's co-worker, who told him Brandon did not have any injuries or abrasions when she had dropped him off at the house sometime after midnight. Plaintiff denies attacking Brandon, and the criminal charges arising from this incident were apparently dismissed.

Defendant drove to Plaintiff's home, accompanied by two or three other officers, none of whom is a party to this case. Defendant walked to the door and saw a pair of broken eyeglasses on the front porch. Plaintiff, who was dressed for bed wearing only silk sleeping shorts, opened the door. Plaintiff states he was standing three feet inside his home and "never crossed the threshold stepping onto the porch at any time." Defendant testified via affidavit for this case he asked Plaintiff if he had a son named Brandon, and Plaintiff replied he did not. Defendant wrote in his affidavit of complaint that he asked Plaintiff what happened with his son, and Plaintiff would not answer.

Defendant told Plaintiff he was under arrest. After a short discussion, in which Defendant asked about Dustin, Plaintiff turned away from the officers. Defendant grabbed Plaintiff's right arm, and handcuffed his right hand, and then managed to handcuff Plaintiff's left hand. Defendant then located Dustin in a bedroom in the house and arrested him.


Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

First, the moving party must demonstrate no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003). The Court views the evidence, including all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). However, the non-movant is not entitled to a trial based solely on its allegations, but must submit significant probative evidence to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; McLean v. Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the non-movant fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element for which it bears the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In short, if the Court concludes a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of the non-movant based on the record, the Court may enter summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986); Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994).


In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendant, acting under color of law, subjected him to an unreasonable search and seizure, deprived him of liberty without due process, used excessive force, and falsely arrested him. Plaintiff also alleges Defendant assaulted him, in violation of Tennessee common law, by "slapping a lit cigarette out of his mouth," forcibly grabbing Plaintiff's arm and wrestling for his other arm. Defendant moves for summary judgment, contending he had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, the warrantless arrest was proper, he did not use excessive force, he is protected by qualified immunity, and he cannot be sued for assault.*fn2

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees: " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff may seek money damages from a government official who violates his Fourth Amendment rights. Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999).

A. False Arrest

Defendant contends he had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff. Plaintiff disputes this, ...

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