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Eidson v. City of Portland

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 29, 2014

GREGORY EIDSON
v.
CITY OF PORTLAND, ET AL.

Assigned on Briefs August 05, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Sumner County No. 2011CV1303 C. L. Rogers, Judge

Gregory Eidson, Whiteville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert M. Burns and Patrick J. Gray, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, City of Portland; City of Portland Police Chief, Richard Smith; FTO Chris Jones; Asst. Off. No. 1 aka JD1; and Asst. Off. No. 1 aka JD2.

Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P. J., M. S., and W. Neal McBrayer, J. joined.

OPINION

Richard H. Dinkins, Judge

I. Factual Background

This appeal arises out of a suit brought by Gregory Eidson against the City of Portland ("City"), Portland Police Chief Richard Smith, Portland Police Officer Chris Jones and two unnamed officers (collectively "the Officers" unless otherwise noted) for the Officers' conduct during his arrest on October 23, 2010, when the Officers investigated a dispute at the home of Danny Suttle, Mr. Eidson's uncle.[1] According to the unsworn police statements, the Officers found Mr. Suttle severely beaten and covered in gasoline, and determined that Mr. Eidson was responsible for Mr. Suttle's injuries; they proceeded to Mr. Edison's residence, questioned him regarding the altercation, and placed him under arrest. In the course of the arrest, Mr. Eidson was handcuffed and sprayed with mace. Mr. Eidson pled guilty to attempted second-degree homicide and aggravated assault on February 3, 2012.

Mr. Eidson, proceeding pro se, filed the instant suit on October 24, 2011, complaining of the manner by which he was arrested and alleging various federal and state constitutional, statutory, and common law claims. Separate answers were filed by the City, Chief Smith, Officer Jones, and Officers 1 and 2.

The City, Chief Smith, and the Officers thereafter moved to dismiss Mr. Eidson's complaint pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6).[2] The Officers filed a separate Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56 motion for partial summary judgment, asserting that Mr. Eidson could not prevail on his claims because there was probable cause to arrest him without a warrant, that he was not falsely imprisoned, and that his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were not violated. In support of the motion, the Officers filed, inter alia, a statement of undisputed material facts, their statements, [3] Mr. Suttle's written statement of the altercation, and a copy of Mr. Eidson's indictment. Mr. Eidson did not respond to either motion or to the statement of material facts. On March 28, 2012, the court entered an order granting Chief Smith's motion to dismiss[4], granting the Officers' motions to dismiss in part, and granting them partial summary judgment; the order stated that "[t]he only claims in Plaintiff's complaint that remain against any Defendants are his claims for excessive force and assault." The court gave Mr. Eidson 30 days to amend his complaint if he so desired.

On April 17, 2012, Mr. Eidson filed an amended complaint, which the defendants moved to strike on the grounds that it contained procedural and legal defects and included multiple claims which had previously been dismissed with prejudice; in the alternative, they moved for a more definite statement. On May 9, Mr. Eidson moved the court to vacate the previous order dismissing his claims against City, Chief Smith, and the Officers. On June 15, the court entered an order granting defendants' motion to strike and denying Mr. Eidson's motion to vacate. The court granted Mr. Eidson 30 days to file a second amended complaint to comply with the court's oral ruling; Mr. Eidson did not amend his complaint.[5]

On April 23, 2013, the City and the Officers filed a motion to dismiss the claims of excessive force and assault for failure to state a claim; the Officers also filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that they used a reasonable amount of force during Mr. Eidson's arrest; that they were entitled to qualified immunity; and that they did not assault Mr. Eidson. In support of the motion for summary judgment, the Officers attached a statement of undisputed facts, to which Mr. Eidson responded; the Officers also filed thirteen exhibits in support of their motion.[6] Of particular significance to this appeal, Mr. Eidson, by that time represented by counsel, filed two responses on May 20; the first agreed to City's second motion to dismiss and the second agreed to the Officers' second motion for summary judgment, except as to Officer Nick Hurt. A hearing on the motions was held on July 8, at which counsel for Mr. Eidson and the defendants appeared; on July 19 the court entered an order granting the City's motion to dismiss and the Officers' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.

Mr. Eidson, proceeding pro se, filed a "Motion to Alter or Amend the 'Order of Dismissal' pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59.04 and 60.02(1) and (2) Respectively" on August 16; the court entered an order ...


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