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Craig v. City of Alcoa

United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville

December 17, 2014

CITY OF ALCOA, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.


Thomas A. Varlan Chief United States District Judge

This civil action is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants City of Alcoa, Tennessee, and Dustin Cook [Doc. 20]. Defendants move the Court to dismiss the action because there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and, as a matter of law, defendants are entitled to summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition [Docs. 27, 28], and defendants replied [Doc. 30]. After careful examination of the record and the relevant law, the Court finds summary judgment appropriate and will dismiss this action.

I. Background[1]

On May 2, 2012, upon the request of Detective Rodrigo Fernandez of the City of Maryville, Tennessee, officers from the City of Alcoa Police Department went to the Texas Roadhouse Restaurant in Alcoa, Tennessee, to assist with the service of a felony arrest warrant upon plaintiff Ryan Darres Craig, who was working at the restaurant [Doc. 27-2 p. 15–18]. Officer Caldwell of the Alcoa Police Department informed Officer Dustin Cook that, a couple weeks before, the suspect had resisted officers or fled from officers, but he did not inform Officer Cook that the felonies were violent [Id. at 16, 18]. Upon arrival at the restaurant, Alcoa police officers, including Officer Cook, established a perimeter around the restaurant [Id. at 19–20]. Then, two detectives entered the restaurant to serve the felony arrest warrant [Doc. 37-3 p. 40].

Craig’s manager indicated that two individuals were at the restaurant to see him [Id.]. Craig recognized the individuals as detectives because of their firearms [Id. at 40– 41], and he proceeded to flee from the detectives by running out the front door of the restaurant [Id. at 14–16, 40, 44]. Officer Caldwell made a radio call announcing that Craig had fled through the restaurant’s front door [Doc. 27-2 p. 25]. Officer Cook heard this announcement [Id.].

Officer Cook then observed Craig running toward a hotel near the restaurant and proceeded to drive his police vehicle toward another nearby restaurant [Id.]. He stopped his vehicle and pursued Craig on foot [Id.]. During this pursuit, officers announced their presence and instructed Craig to stop [Doc. 27-2 p. 31–32; Doc. 27-3 p. 14–16]. Officer Cook, though, never made such announcement or instruction [Doc. 27-2 p. 31].

While Craig has no memory after reaching the nearby restaurant [Doc. 27-3 p. 14], Officer Cook saw Craig reach into his pants pocket with his hand [Doc. 27-2 p. 29]. Officer Cook believed that Craig was reaching for a weapon [Id.]. Craig also looked back at Officer Cook [Id. at 29]. During this time, there were restaurant patrons nearby, and plaintiff was running toward cars [Id. at 33–34].

During Craig’s attempt to flee, Officer Cook pulled his taser and aimed it at Craig’s back, below his shoulder blades [Id. at 45–46]. Officer Cook saw Craig look back at him and make a maneuver to evade the taser [Id. at 46–47]. Officer Cook deployed the taser as the two were running, and the taser prongs struck Craig in the lower back and the head [Id. at 44–47, 51]. Craig fell to the pavement, face first, as the taser cycled for five seconds [Id. at 49–51].

Craig was examined by Alcoa police officers, who determined Craig lost consciousness [Id. at 53]. As Craig regained consciousness, he became resistive to the efforts of the officers as they rendered care [Doc. 23]. The officers restrained Craig, but did not strike him [Id.]. Craig was placed in an ambulance and taken to the hospital [Id.]. He suffered a fractured skull and his optic nerve was severed, rendering him blind in his right eye [Doc. 27-3 p. 23, 47].[2]

Craig filed this action, asserting claims for excessive use of force, deliberate indifference, and corporate liability under the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as state-law claims [Doc. 1]. Defendants the City of Alcoa, Tennessee, and Dustin Cook, in his individual and official capacities, move the Court for summary judgment [Doc. 20].

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issues of material fact exist. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986); Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 339 (6th Cir. 1993). All facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 301 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002).

Yet, “[o]nce the moving party presents evidence sufficient to support a motion under Rule 56, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of allegations.” Curtis Through Curtis v. Universal Match Corp., 778 F.Supp. 1421, 1423 (E.D. Tenn. 1991) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the nonmoving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable finder of fact could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The Court’s function at the point of summary judgment is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper question for the factfinder. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The Court does not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter. Id. at 249. Nor does the Court search the record “to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479–80 (6th Cir. 1989). Thus, “the inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for a trial—whether, in other words, there are any genuine ...

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