United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS
A MATTER OF LAW AND MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
DANIEL BREEN, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 17, 2016, a jury returned a verdict for the
Defendants in this matter and judgment was entered in their
favor. (Docket Entry (“D.E.”) 231,
234.) Before the Court is the timely renewed
motion of the Plaintiffs, as supplemented, for judgment as a
matter of law (“JMOL”) and for a new trial,
pursuant to Rules 50 and 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (D.E. 239, 258.)
instant consolidated lawsuits stem from a keg party that
occurred in rural Benton County, Tennessee (the
“County”), in the summer of 2012. After receiving
a report of possible underage drinking on a farm owned by
Plaintiff Daniel Coulborn Holloran I (“Holloran
Sr.”), County law enforcement officers converged on the
property; rounded up the partygoers, many of whom fled into
nearby woods; entered the farmhouse; allegedly beat at least
two attendees; arrested over 100 persons, including Holloran
Sr., and detained them in the County jail for several hours
before releasing them. The Plaintiffs brought these actions
against the County, Benton County Sheriff Tony King and
numerous County deputies, alleging violation of their Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States
Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; violation of
the Tennessee Constitution; trespass; assault and battery;
false arrest; false imprisonment; malicious prosecution;
conspiracy; negligence; negligent infliction of emotional
distress; intentional infliction of emotional distress;
negligent hiring/supervision; and reckless, wanton and/or
deliberately indifferent conduct. In an order entered March
18, 2015, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims of
unlawful entry onto and unlawful detention of Plaintiffs on
the property; the Fourth Amendment excessive force claims of
Holloran Sr. and Aaron Roden against the County and Sheriff
King; the excessive force claims of Holloran Sr. against the
County deputies; Roden's excessive force claims against
certain deputies; claims of malicious prosecution asserted by
Holloran Sr. and his son, Daniel Coulborn Holloran II
(“Holloran Jr.”); claims for failure to intervene
to prevent the use of excessive force upon Holloran Jr.
against certain deputies; Plaintiffs' claims arising from
their confinement at the Benton County jail; and claims under
the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act and the
Tennessee Constitution. (D.E. 154.) The remaining claims
proceeded to trial.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
succeed on a motion brought in accordance with either Rule 50
or 59, a movant “must overcome the substantial
deference owed a jury verdict.” Braun v. Ultimate
Jetcharters, LLC, 828 F.3d 501, 510 (6th Cir.) (quoting
Radvansky v. City of Olmsted Falls, 496 F.3d 609,
614 (6th Cir. 2007)), reh'g en banc denied (Aug.
15, 2016). A JMOL may be granted before a case is submitted
to the jury under Rule 50(a) “[i]f a party has been
fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court
finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally
sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that
issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). If the JMOL is not granted
at that time, “the court is considered to have
submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's
later deciding the legal questions raised by the
motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). After trial, a party may
file a renewed JMOL, along with a request for new trial under
Rule 59. Id. In ruling on the renewed motion, the
court may allow judgment on the jury's verdict, order a
new trial or direct the entry of a JMOL. Id.
ruling on such motions, the district court is to “view
the evidence in the light most favorable to the [parties] who
prevailed at trial, and [it may] grant the motion only if
there was no genuine issue of material fact for the jury and
reasonable minds could reach only one conclusion --in favor
of the [movant].” Finn v. Warren Cty., Ky.,
768 F.3d 441, 450 (6th Cir. 2014), reh'g en banc
denied (Oct. 30, 2014). The court “may not at this
stage make decisions on the credibility of the witnesses,
weigh the evidence, or substitute [its] own judgment for that
of the jury.” Id. Courts are instructed that
“[i]f there is any credible evidence to support a
verdict, it should not be set aside.” Cole v. City
of Memphis, 839 F.3d 530, 542 (6th Cir. 2016),
reh'g en banc denied (Jan. 4, 2017). Stated
differently, “the decision to grant judgment as a
matter of law or to take the case away from the jury is
appropriate whenever there is a complete absence of pleading
or proof on an issue material to the cause of action or when
no disputed issues of fact exist such that reasonable minds
would not differ.” Allied Waste N. Am., Inc. v.
Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial, LLC, No.
3:13-00254, 2016 WL 7157609, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 8, 2016)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
Under Rule 59,
[a] new trial is warranted when a jury has reached a
seriously erroneous result as evidenced by: (1) the verdict
being against the weight of the evidence; (2) the damages
being excessive; or (3) the trial being unfair to the moving
party in some fashion, i.e., the proceedings being influenced
by prejudice or bias.
Farr v. Village of New Haven, __ F. App'x __,
2016 WL 7238906, at *4 (6th Cir. Dec. 14, 2016) (quoting
Balsley v. LFP, Inc., 691 F.3d 747, 761 (6th Cir.
2012)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “New trials
are not to be granted on the grounds that the verdict was
against the weight of the evidence unless that verdict was
unreasonable.” Cranpark, Inc. v. Rogers Group,
Inc., 821 F.3d 723, 737 (6th Cir.) (quoting Decker
v. GE Healthcare Inc., 770 F.3d 378, 394-95 (6th Cir.
2014)) (internal quotation marks omitted); reh'g en
banc denied (May 31, 2016); see also Innovation
Ventures, LLC v. N2G Distrib., Inc., 763 F.3d 524, 534
(6th Cir. 2014) (“[G]ranting a new trial on [weight of
the evidence] ground[s] is a rare occurrence . . . .
Therefore, we will uphold the verdict if it was one which the
jury reasonably could have reached; we cannot set it aside
simply because we think another result is more
justified.”). That is, “if a reasonable juror
could reach the challenged verdict, a new trial is
improper.” Decker, 770 F.3d at 395 (quoting
Barnes v. Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp., 201 F.3d
815, 821 (6th Cir. 2000)).
a Rule 59 motion “will not be granted unless the moving
party suffered prejudice.” Simmons v. Napier,
626 F. App'x 129, 132 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Tompkin v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 362 F.3d 882,
891 (6th Cir. 2004)). “The burden of showing harmful
prejudice rests on the party seeking the new trial. To
demonstrate prejudice stemming from evidentiary error, it is
not sufficient merely to show that the district court made a
mistake in admitting or excluding certain evidence.”
Id. (internal citations & quotation marks
omitted). “An erroneous evidentiary ruling amounts to
reversible error, justifying a new trial, only if it was not
harmless; that is, only if it affected the outcome of the
trial.” Decker, 770 F.3d at 391 (quoting
Cummins v. BIC USA, Inc., 727 F.3d 506, 510 (6th
Cir. 2013)); see also Slayton v. Ohio Dep't of Youth
Servs., 206 F.3d 669, 677 (6th Cir. 2000) (“A
reversal based on improper admission of evidence is
appropriate only when the admission interferes with
ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES AND ANALYSIS
issues raised in the instant motion are as
A. [The] trial court erred in denying Plaintiffs' oral
motion to sever prior to trial;
B. The trial court erred in denying Plaintiffs' motion
for judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs' claim that
the officers unconstitutionally entered Holloran[ Sr.]'s
home during his arrest;
C. The trial court erred in denying Plaintiffs' motion
for judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs' claim that
the officers unconstitutionally entered Holloran[ Sr.]'s
home during [a protective] sweep;
D. The trial court erred when it precluded Plaintiffs from
questioning officers regarding whether Miranda
warnings were provided before asking civilians to separate
into groups at the Holloran property;
E. The trial court erred in precluding the Plaintiffs from
offering the testimony of Sheriff Kenneth Christopher;
F. The trial court erred in denying Plaintiffs' requests
for jury instructions;
G. The trial court erred in overruling Plaintiffs'
objections to the verdict form and submitted an improper jury
H. A new trial should be granted because the verdict was
against the weight of the evidence;
I. The trial court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims
for unlawful entry onto the Holloran property and the
detention of persons on the property by order dated March 18,
(D.E. 258 at PageID 6427, 6431, 6449, 6451, 6454, 6457,
6466.) The Court will consider these claims of error in turn.
Motion to Sever
a telephone conference on the last business day prior to
trial, the Court communicated to counsel its inclination to
bifurcate the Plaintiffs' claims for compensatory and
punitive damages in order to avoid prejudice to the
Defendants with respect to evidence that might be relevant to
punitive damages but not to liability or compensatory
damages. Despite his resistance to the idea at the time,
Plaintiffs' counsel asserts in the instant motion that,
in light of the Court's statement, he “became
extremely concerned about the numerous, separate issues and
individual claims that the jury and the Court would be forced
to evaluate during trial and the prejudice that could arise
to each individual Plaintiff's claim.” (D.E. 258 at
PageID 6428.) He then orally moved to sever the cases and
continue the trial. Both requests were denied.
parties jointly moved for consolidation of these cases for
purposes of discovery on July 22, 2013. (D.E. 43.) Therein,
they agreed that
[t]he cases to be consolidated involve common questions of
fact and law with some variance for those that are claiming
use of force violations. Moreover, consolidation will serve
to eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent
rulings, conserve resources of the parties, and promote
efficiency and judicial economy.
(Id. at PageID 334.) The motion was granted the
following day. (D.E. 44.) On October 28, 2013, the parties
jointly moved to also consolidate the cases for trial, citing
the same bases proffered in support of the previous motion to
consolidate for discovery purposes. (D.E. 87.) That motion
was also granted. (D.E. 88.) Throughout the intervening three
years prior to trial, the Plaintiffs never moved to sever or
bifurcate the claims raised in this case, even though the
bases for their present assertions with respect to severance
existed from the date of consolidation. Nor did
Plaintiffs' counsel at any time voice any reservations to
the Court regarding the consolidations for which they jointly
moved. The fact that they failed to consider the issues
pointed out by the Court until the eleventh hour and, in
retrospect after having lost the case, now wish they had used
a different strategy is not the error of the Court. The
motion on this claim of error is denied.
C. Entry into the Holloran Farmhouse
these assignments of error are discussed together in the
Plaintiffs' brief, the Court will follow suit. At trial,
the Court denied the Plaintiffs' motions for JMOL as to
entries made by officers into the Holloran farmhouse on two
occasions on the night of the party. In their renewed motion,
the Plaintiffs argue that a JMOL is warranted because the
entries were unconstitutional and violated clearly
established Fourth Amendment law. At the outset, the Court
notes that the discussion contained in this section deals
only with Holloran Sr., the owner of the residence, and
Defendants Jason Lowery, Alan Bolan, Ricky Mallard, Shaun
Gary, Bryant Allen, Ricky Pafford, Bert Wells and Mike
Lockhart, the deputies who entered the house.
it is without question that searches and seizures inside a
home absent a warrant are presumptively unreasonable under
the Fourth Amendment, in some circumstances, “the
exigencies of the situation make the needs of law enforcement
so compelling that a warrantless entry is objectively
reasonable[.]” Vangel v. Szopko, __ F.
App'x __, 2016 WL 6994227, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2016)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The exigent circumstances
exception to the warrant requirement permits warrantless
searches when an emergency provides insufficient time for
police officers to obtain a warrant. Birchfield v. N.
Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 2173 (2016); Gradisher v.
City of Akron, 794 F.3d 574, 583 (6th Cir. 2015)
(“Exigent circumstances arise when an emergency
situation demands immediate police action that excuses the
need for a warrant.”). “Time is an essential
factor when an immediate threat forms the basis for
police claims of exigency.” Carlson v. Fewins,
801 F.3d 668, 674 (6th Cir. 2015), cert. denied sub nom.
Drzewiecki v. Carlson & Fewins v. Carlson,
136 S.Ct. 1658 (Apr. 18, 2016). “[E]xigent
circumstances terminate when the factors creating the
exigency are negated[; i]f the dangers persist or increase,
the exigent circumstances also persist.” Id.
(internal citations & quotation marks omitted).
giving rise to exigent circumstances include “(1) hot
pursuit of a fleeing felon, (2) imminent destruction of
evidence, (3) the need to prevent a suspect's escape, or
(4) a risk of danger to the police or others.”
Goodwin v. City of Painesville, 781 F.3d 314, 330
(6th Cir. 2015). The constitutional standard is one of
reasonableness; thus, officers' actions may be protected
even “when, judged with the benefit of hindsight, the
officers may have made some mistakes.” City &
Cty. of San Francisco, Cal. v. Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. 1765,
1775 (2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). It is the
position of Holloran Sr. that the Defendants presented
insufficient evidence to establish exigent circumstances.
Relevant Evidence Presented at Trial Viewed Most Favorably to
related in his trial testimony that, upon his arrival at the
farm, he started up the driveway and asked a young man he
encountered along the way for the name of the property owner.
He also asked the boy, who smelled of alcohol, for his age.
He responded that he was seventeen. He was standing next to a
vehicle, behind the tire of which sat a beer bottle. Lockhart
recalled that he observed several attendees who were drinking
and appeared to be underage.
testified that he found a girl, reeking of alcohol, passed
out in the back of a pickup truck. He woke her up and asked
her age, which was fourteen. Later, he and other officers
escorted a number of partygoers to the County jail on a bus.
After they were unloaded, he was advised by another officer
that Holloran Jr. told him a female juvenile family member
remained at the property. He caught a ride back to the
Holloran home, where officers were still attempting to round
up stragglers. He shared with them the information concerning
the juvenile. Mallard stated that, at one point, he was
standing near the garage when he saw a female run from the
woods to the residence. Gary testified that he saw the girl
as well. Mallard walked around the side of the garage and
noticed an open door, which he entered. While he was in the
garage looking for the girl, who he never found, he came upon
a bathroom where a male was passed out on the floor in his
own vomit and urine. Mallard stated that, at that juncture,
he was concerned there might be others in the home that
from his vantage point outside the residence, observed a
sneaker through an open crack in a door of the garage that
had been closed earlier in the evening. Pafford also
testified the door was open at that time. Allen looked inside
and discovered the shoe was attached to a male lying under a
sink. The deputy went in, with Pafford following, and spoke
to the boy but got no response. Allen recalled that he
smelled vomit and noticed the young man was covered in urine,
perhaps not all his own. He discussed the situation with a
superior officer on the scene and it was decided that there
was not time to obtain a warrant and that a search was
necessary to ensure no other youngsters were inside the house
and in need of medical assistance. He estimated that the
subsequent sweep of the house lasted sixty to ninety seconds.
Although Allen testified in his deposition that the sweep
occurred some thirty minutes after the boy was found, he
related at trial that it was closer to fifteen.
recalled walking up on a conversation among other officers
concerning the boy found in the bathroom and whether other
partygoers might be in the house and in distress. King
testified that he attempted, without success, to contact the
district attorney while he was on the property to obtain
advice concerning the propriety of an emergency aid entry.
According to Defendant Chief Deputy Rogers, it would have
taken ninety minutes to two hours to obtain a search warrant
from a judge in Benton County, which was largely rural and
did not permit officers to procure warrants by telephone.
Andrew Clem offered testimony that he stopped a juvenile
female as she ran out of the woods wearing only a bikini
bottom. She told him she was going to use the bathroom in the
garage. He escorted her to the garage and, afterward, to the
porch of the residence where deputies were attempting to
gather the partygoers into groups according to age and
inebriation. He later transported several juveniles from the
farm to the jail.
Analysis Relative to the First Entry
an emergency exists “requires an objective assessment
of the circumstances.” Gradisher, 794 F.3d at
583. “Officers do not need ironclad proof of a likely
serious, life-threatening injury to invoke the emergency aid
exception, but they must have an objectively reasonable basis
for believing that a person within the house is in need of
immediate aid.” Id. (quoting Mich. v.
Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 47, 49 (2009) (per curiam))
(internal quotation marks omitted). “But by the same
token, their decision to enter must be based on more than a
hunch or the mere possibility that someone inside needs
immediate aid.” Id. (quoting Nelms v.
Wellington Way Apartments, LLC, 513 F. App'x 541,
545 (6th Cir. 2013)) (internal quotation marks omitted). It
is reasonable for police to move quickly if delay would make
the situation more dangerous. Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. at
1775. Actions “should be evaluated by reference to the
circumstances then confronting the officer, including the
need for a prompt assessment of sometimes ambiguous
information concerning potentially serious
consequences.” United States v. Holloway, 290
F.3d 1331, 1339 (11th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks
omitted). As one commentator put it, “the question is
whether the officers would have been derelict in their duty
had they acted otherwise.” 3 Wayne R. LaFave, Search
& Seizure § 6.6(a) (5th ed. 2016) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
defense of qualified immunity offers complete protection to
government officials sued in their individual
capacities from § 1983 liability when they are
performing discretionary functions “insofar as their
conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Scozzari v. Miedzianowski, 597 F.
App'x 845, 847 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). The purpose of the
doctrine “is to allow public officers to carry out
their duties as they think right, rather than acting out of
fear for their own personal fortunes.” Greiner v.
City of Champlin, 27 F.3d 1346, 1351 (8th Cir. 1994). In
order to decide whether qualified immunity exists,
“courts engage in a two-step inquiry: (1) whether the
defendant violated a constitutional right, and (2) whether
that right was clearly established.” Scozzari,
597 F. App'x at 847. Once the defense is raised, it is
the burden of the plaintiff to establish that the defendant
is not entitled to qualified immunity. Gavitt v.
Born, 835 F.3d 623, 641 (6th Cir. 2016). “The
defense provides ample protection to all but the plainly
incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”
Estate of Brackens v. Louisville Jefferson Cty. Metro
Gov't, __ F. App'x __, 2017 WL 679827, at *3
(6th Cir. Feb. 21, 2017) (quoting Malley v. Briggs,
475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
It applies “irrespective of whether the official's
error was a mistake of law or a mistake of fact, or a mistake
based on mixed questions of law and fact.”
Hermansen v. Thompson, __ F. App'x __, 2017 WL
438225, at *2 (6th Cir. Feb. 1, 2017) (citing
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231). The deputies raised the
defense as to both entries into the Holloran home. The Court
declined to grant qualified immunity, finding there were
factual disputes to be determined by the jury.
the Court agreed with Holloran Sr. that a constitutional harm
occurred, the movants have not shown that the right violated
was clearly established in 2012. With regard to this prong of
the qualified immunity defense, “a [g]overnment
official's conduct violates clearly established law when,
at the time of the challenged conduct, the contours of a
right are sufficiently clear that every reasonable official
would have understood that what he is doing violates that
right.” Gradisher, 794 F.3d at 583 (quoting
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741 (2011)).
Reasonableness is governed by the state of the law at the
time of the conduct. Lyons v. City of Xenia, 417
F.3d 565, 579 (6th Cir. 2005).
Whether a right has been clearly established should not be
determined at a high level of generality. Courts do not
require a case directly on point, but existing precedent must
have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate. Thus, officials can still be on notice that their
conduct violates established law even in novel factual
circumstances. The essence of qualified immunity is to give
government officials cover when they resolve close calls in
reasonable (even if ultimately incorrect) ways.
Gradisher, 794 F.3d at 583 (internal alterations,
citations & quotation marks omitted); see also
Scott v. Kent Cty., __ F. App'x __, 2017 WL
655773, at *3 (6th Cir. Feb. 17, 2017) (The court makes the
clearly established inquiry “in light of the specific
context of the case, not a broad general
proposition.”); Fry v. Robinson, __ F.
App'x __, 2017 WL 416974, at *4 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2017)
(“Such clarity requires that the particular conduct at
issue has been established as violative in nature.”).
United States Supreme Court recognized in Brigham City,
Utah v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398 (2006), that “[t]he
need to protect or preserve life or avoid serious injury is
justification for what would be otherwise illegal absent an
exigency or emergency.” Brigham City, 547 U.S.
at 403. In that case, officers responded to a call of a loud
party. Id. at 401. Upon arriving at the location,
the officers heard shouting inside and observed through the
windows and a door an altercation taking place in the kitchen
between a juvenile and four adults, one of whom was spitting
blood from a blow by the juvenile. Id. The Court
concluded that “the officers had an objectively
reasonable basis for believing both that the injured adult
might need help and that the violence in the kitchen was just
beginning.” Id. at 406.
2009, the Court explained that the emergency aid exception
“requires only an objectively reasonable basis for
believing that a person within the house is in need of
immediate aid.” Fisher, 558 U.S. at 47
(internal citation & quotation marks omitted). In
Fisher, officers responding to a disturbance call
came upon a truck in the residence's driveway with its
front smashed and observed blood on the hood, clothing inside
the vehicle and on the door of the house. Id. at
45-46. A man could be seen inside the door, screaming and
throwing things. Id. at 46. The officers noticed he
had a cut on his hand and asked if he needed medical
assistance. Id. He ignored the question, cursed
them, and demanded they get a warrant. Id. The
Court, based on Brigham City, found it was
objectively reasonable for the officers to believe that the
“projectiles might have a human target (perhaps a
spouse or a child)” or that Fisher would injure
himself. Id. at 48.
in the Sixth Circuit have also addressed the emergency aid
exigent circumstance. In United States v. Johnson,
22 F.3d 674 (6th Cir. 1994), the court permitted
officers' warrantless entry into an apartment to rescue a
minor being held there against her will. Johnson, 22
F.3d at 679-80. In Thacker v. City of Columbus, 328
F.3d 244 (6th Cir. 2003), police and paramedics arrived at a
home in response to a 911 call to find Thacker bleeding
profusely, intoxicated and belligerent. Thacker, 328
F.3d at 249. He refused to explain his injury and, behind
him, the officers noticed broken glass on the kitchen floor
and an indentation in the wall with a liquid stain
underneath. Id. They entered the residence to assist
Thacker and any other injured persons and to determine if it
was safe for the paramedics. Id. The Sixth Circuit
held the warrantless entry “to secure the safety of the
police, paramedics, and other people possibly inside the
home, ” was justified under the emergency aid exception
based on the “totality of the circumstances, including
the 911 emergency call, Thacker's conduct, and the
uncertainty of the situation[.]” Id. at 254.
United States v. Huffman, 461 F.3d 777 (6th Cir.
2006), police received a 911 call concerning shots fired at a
residence next door to the caller. Huffman, 461 F.3d
at 780. When officers arrived, they saw bullet holes in the
front windows, shards of glass on the porch, and, through the
windows, bullet marks on the interior walls. Id.
They observed no blood or other signs that anyone was in the
house and injured. Id. Finding the door locked, they
climbed in through a partially open window. Id.
Although the officers did not find an injured person, they
found Huffman asleep in a chair with a fully loaded assault
rifle with a laser scope on the table in front of him.
Id. He was charged with being a felon in possession
of a firearm. Id.
The court articulated as follows:
We recognize that in [Thacker, ] in which this court
has upheld a warrantless search based on an
exigent-circumstances theory, the officers had more
definitive information that either someone was in possible
danger . . . The two dispositive factors consistently found .
. ., however -- the potential of injury to the officers or
others and the need for swift action, [citing Brigham
City, Johnson and Thacker] --are found in the
present case regardless of the absence of blood or other
telltale signs of injury.
Id. at 785. The court added that “[t]he
warrantless entry, moreover, may not be held unconstitutional
simply because the reasonable concerns of the officers were
not substantiated after-the-fact.” Id.;
see also Holloway, 290 F.3d at 1340 (“The fact
that no victims are found . . . does not render the police
action any less lawful.”).
decision from the Tenth Circuit, Galindo v. Town of
Silver City, 127 F. App'x 459 (10th Cir. 2005), also
speaks to the issue at hand. The father of a minor called
police to report his belief that his daughter was at the home
of his sister-in-law and that she had been drinking.
Galinda, 127 F. App'x at 462. After receiving no
answer at the front door, officers went to the back of the
house and observed the patio door was partially open.
Id. Inside, they saw two unresponsive minors,
neither of whom was the daughter of the caller. Id.
at 462-63. Fearing for the minors' safety and welfare,
including alcohol poisoning, the officers entered the house,
eventually locating the girl drunk in a closet. Id.
at 463. The court held the officers were entitled to
qualified immunity since, “[u]nder these circumstances,
where there was an immediate threat of death or severe
physical harm, it was objectively reasonable for [the
defendant] to have entered” the home. Id. at
466 (internal citation & quotation marks omitted).
case, upon reading the cases set forth herein in 2012, a
reasonable police officer in the deputies' position would
not have understood under the circumstances before them that
their entry into the farmhouse to conduct a protective sweep
for young people in need of medical assistance violated
Holloran Sr.'s Fourth Amendment rights. Viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the Defendants, the
deputies knew the following: a drinking party was in progress
on a large farm late at night attended by over 100 underage
and college age individuals, there was no apparent
supervision of the festivities by the homeowner, there was an
unknown number of revelers scattered over the property, and
officers had seen one person run to the house and found
another passed out in the garage bathroom covered in vomit
and urine. What they did not know was how many partiers
remained unaccounted for or where they might be located.
Accordingly, the Court finds the deputies were entitled to
qualified immunity. The motion for judgment as a matter of
law as to the initial entry into the Holloran home is denied.
Relevant Evidence Presented at Trial Viewed Most Favorably to
second entry into the farmhouse occurred later in the
evening, when Holloran Sr. approached officers who had
congregated around a shed adjacent to the property's
driveway near the residence. Mallard described Plaintiff as
clad in shorts and a flowered shirt, intoxicated, and
sporting fresh cuts on his arms and legs. The property owner
advised the deputies that he had just arrived by car, even
though Defendant Duncan claimed to have seen him previously
on the property, knew he had fled, and instructed officers to
arrest him for contributing to the delinquency of minors if
he reappeared. Moreover, testimony was adduced that officers
sought confirmation from a deputy posted at the front gate,
who reported seeing no one arrive or be dropped off. Mallard
testified that Holloran Sr. asked if he was going to be
arrested and “Allen said, yes, sir, you're going to
be arrested.” (D.E. 245 at PageID 4594.) Holloran Sr.
requested permission to enter the house to get some shoes.
Mallard and Gary escorted him to the door of the residence.
According to Mallard, Holloran Sr. produced a key from his
pocket; unlocked the door; quickly pushed the door open,
entered, and slammed it behind him. Mallard stated that the
door struck him on the side of his face and knocked him
backward. He immediately grabbed the door handle and
instructed Holloran Sr. to open the door, which appeared to
be locked. He shouted to nearby officers, who entered the
house through a side door, took Holloran Sr. to the ground
and handcuffed him, despite his attempts to resist.
testified that, when Holloran Sr. approached the deputies and
identified himself, he informed the Plaintiff that he
believed he would be arrested. He recalled that the property
owner responded by saying he needed to check the house and
get some shoes. He instructed Mallard and Gary to accompany
him, which they did, one on each side. Allen observed
Holloran Sr. open the door and slam it hard. Mallard was
trying to open the door, yelling that it was locked. Gary ran
to a different door. Allen started toward the house, and
could see Holloran Sr. inside, running toward the other door
in an attempt to lock it before Gary entered. He was too
slow. Gary stepped into the residence and took Holloran Sr.
to the ground. Other deputies did not hear Allen tell
Holloran Sr. he believed he would be arrested, although Gary
assumed he was under arrest, even though he had ...