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Alexander v. Byrd

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

June 21, 2017

TONY M. BYRD, Deputy Sheriff for Gibson County, Tennessee, individually, Defendant.



         Before the Court is Defendant Tony M. Byrd's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 79) filed on November 20, 2015. Plaintiff Dawn Alexander has responded in opposition, and Defendant has filed a reply brief. On March 24, 2017, the case was transferred to the undersigned for all further proceedings. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.


         Plaintiff filed a Complaint on January 28, 2014, alleging the violation of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as claims under Tennessee law. Plaintiff brought § 1983 claims for the infringement of her Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights to be free from arrest, imprisonment, the unreasonable use of force, and prosecution without probable cause. Plaintiff also alleged claims for malicious prosecution, false arrest/imprisonment, assault and battery, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, all under Tennessee common law. The Complaint named as Defendants Gibson County, Tennessee; the Gibson County Sheriffs Department; the City of Medina, Tennessee; Tony M. Byrd, a Gibson County deputy sheriff in his individual capacity ("Deputy Byrd"); Chad Lowery, the chief of police for the City of Medina ("Chief Lowery"); and Jason McCallister, a Medina police officer ("Officer McCallister"). On October 24, 2014, the Court dismissed all of Plaintiff s § 1983 claims against Gibson County and the Gibson County Sheriffs Department and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs state law claims against any Defendant. However, the Court denied Deputy Byrd's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 32) the § 1983 claims against him in his individual capacity. The parties subsequently filed stipulations of dismissal (ECF Nos. 36, 48) as to the City of Medina, Chief Lowery, and Officer McCallister, as to all claims, leaving only Plaintiffs § 1983 claims against Deputy Byrd for trial.

         On July 1, 2015, counsel for Deputy Byrd filed a suggestion of death (ECF No. 64) reporting the death of Deputy Byrd, and the Court granted Plaintiffs motion to substitute the administrator ad litem for Deputy Byrd's estate on February 15, 2016. Deputy Byrd now seeks judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs § 1983 claims against him. Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(a), Defendant has prepared a statement of facts "to assist the Court in ascertaining whether there are any material facts in dispute." Local R. 56.1(a). A fact is material if the fact "might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the governing substantive law." Baynes v. Cleland, 799 F.3d 600, 607 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Wiley v. United States, 20 F.3d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1994) and Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. For purposes of summary judgment, a party asserting that a material fact is not genuinely in dispute must cite particular parts of the materials in the record and show that the materials fail to establish a genuine dispute or that the adverse party has failed to produce admissible evidence to support a fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         The non-moving party at summary judgment is required to respond to each of the moving party's statements of fact "by either (1) agreeing that the fact is undisputed; (2) agreeing that the fact is undisputed for the purpose of ruling on the motion for summary judgment only; or (3) demonstrating that the fact is disputed." Local R. 56.1(b). Additionally, the non-moving party may "object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). Where the non-moving asserts that a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the non-moving must support his or her contention with a "specific citation to the record." Local R. 56.1(b). If the non-moving fails to demonstrate that a fact is disputed or simply fails to address the moving party's statement of fact properly, the Court will "consider the fact undisputed for purposes" of ruling on the Motions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2); see also Local R. 56.1(d) ("Failure to respond to a moving party's statement of material facts, or a non-moving party's statement of additional facts, within the time periods provided by these rules shall indicate that the asserted facts are not disputed for purposes of summary judgment."). Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court "need consider only the cited materials" but has discretion to "consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         The Court finds that the following facts are undisputed for purposes of Deputy Byrd's Rule 56 Motion, unless otherwise noted. On January 28, 2013, Plaintiff arrived at her son's home at 21 Sitka Road in Gibson County, Tennessee. (Def's Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 1.) Upon her arrival, Plaintiff noticed police cars parked in the driveway of her sister's house at 19 Sitka Road. (Id.) Plaintiff parked her vehicle and walked over to her sister's house to see what was happening. (Id. ¶ 2.)[1] As Plaintiff walked up her sister's driveway, she saw four men huddled behind her sister's vehicle. (Id. ¶ 3.) The four men were Deputy Byrd of the Gibson County Sheriffs Department and Chief Lowery, Officer McCallister, Officer Don Burress of the Medina Police Department. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff disputes this fact and argues that a police dashcam video recording shows that the fourth man was Hayden Green, Plaintiffs nephew, and not Officer McCallister. (Pl's Resp. to Def.'s Statement ¶ 4.) The dashcam video is an exhibit to Deputy Byrd's Rule 56 Motion.

         Prior to Plaintiffs arrival on the scene, Officer Burress had pulled over Plaintiffs nephew Hayden Green on suspicion that Green was driving under the influence and that Green had been involved in a hit-and-run auto accident in the Medina city limits. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 5.)[2] Shortly after Officer Burress stopped Green, Chief Lowery and Officer McCallister arrived on the scene. (Id. ¶ 6.) The parties disagree over whether the Medina Police Department had the authority to stop Green outside of the Medina city limits. Deputy Byrd arrived on the scene after Chief Lowery and Officer McCallister. (Id. ¶ 7.) The parties agree that Deputy Byrd had no authority over Chief Lowery, Officer Burress, or Officer McCalister, in that Deputy Byrd did not supervise or control Medina Police officers. The parties disagree over whether Deputy Byrd had the legal authority to stop Medina Police officers acting outside of the scope of their employment and beyond the limits of their lawful jurisdiction. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) According to Defendant, Deputy Byrd was not involved in making the traffic stop and was present at the scene simply to provide assistance to the Medina Police if necessary. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff cites the fact that Officer Burress requested his dispatcher to send a "county unit" out because the stop had occurred in the county, and not in the City of Medina. (Pl's Resp. to Def's Statement ¶ 10.) Plaintiff argues that Officer Burress needed Deputy Byrd to effectuate an arrest in the county. (Id.)

         After making the stop, Officer Burress interviewed Green and conducted field sobriety tests to determine whether Green had been driving under the influence. (Def's Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 11.) Officer Burress concluded that Green was intoxicated and was the driver involved in the hit-and-run accident. (Id. ¶ 12.) The City of Medina officers placed Green under arrest. (Id.) When Green refused to comply with the officers' instructions, Chief Lowery and Officer McCallister assisted Officer Burress in handcuffing Green. (Id. ¶ 13.)[3] Upon her arrival in the driveway, Plaintiff recognized that her nephew was in the middle of the group of officers. (Id. ¶ 14.) Chief Lowery, Deputy Byrd, and Officer Burress ordered Plaintiff to return to her vehicle, and Plaintiff refused. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff asked "what is going on?" to which her nephew responded, "I don't know, Mama Dawn, they are arresting me for nothing." (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18.)

         When Officer McCallister asked Plaintiff to leave the scene, Plaintiff answered, "No, this is my nephew, this is all of our properties." (Id. ¶ 19.) The video shows Officer McCallister again asking Plaintiff to leave; Plaintiff took one step back and then said she wanted to ask her nephew some questions. (Id. \ 20.) Officer McCallister put his hand on Plaintiffs right arm and again told her to go back to her car. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff told Officer McCallister to get his "hands off me" and refused to leave. (Id. ¶ 22.) At that point Officer McCallister put Plaintiff under arrest and began to place her in handcuffs. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 25.) Plaintiff asserts that Officer McCallister gripped her arm and shoulder forcefully as he went to apply the handcuffs while Deputy Byrd stood by. (Pl's Resp. to Def.'s Statement ¶ 23.) Officer McCallister put Plaintiff in his patrol car by forcing her to walk down the driveway. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 26.)[4] While Deputy Byrd denies that he directed or assisted in any way in the effort to arrest Plaintiff, Plaintiff asserts that Deputy Byrd directed Officer McCallister to put Plaintiff in his patrol car. (Pl's Resp. to Def.'s Statement ¶ 29.) Plaintiff further asserts that Deputy Byrd filed the affidavit of complaint against her and otherwise failed to intervene when the other officers placed her under arrest, used excessive force, and detained her unreasonably. (Id.)

         After sitting in the patrol car for 30 to 45 minutes, Plaintiff was joined in the car by Officer McCallister who informed Plaintiff she was under arrest for assaulting a police officer. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 30.) Officer McCallister was the only officer on the scene to advise Plaintiff she was under arrest. (Id. ¶ 31.) Officer McCallister transported Plaintiff to the Gibson County Jail where Plaintiff was booked into the jail. (Id. ¶ 32.) That evening, Gibson County General Sessions Judge Mark Agree called the jail and ordered that Plaintiff be released on her own recognizance. (Id. ¶ 33.)[5] Plaintiff was released at 7:18 p.m. (Id.)

         Later that night, Deputy Byrd filed two affidavits of complaint with the Gibson County General Sessions Court, charging Plaintiff with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. (Id. ¶ 34.) The parties seem to dispute the timing of Deputy Byrd's affidavits: Deputy Byrd's statement of fact suggests he prepared the affidavits after Plaintiff was released; Plaintiff maintains she was not released until much later. It is undisputed that Plaintiff was never served with any warrants while she was still at the jail. (Id. ¶ 35.)

         On April 2, 2013, the court conducted a preliminary hearing on the charges and dismissed them for lack of probable cause. (Id. ¶ 36.)[6] During the preliminary hearing, Judge Thomas L. Moore, presiding, heard testimony and reviewed the video recording of the episode, though he did not listen to the audio. (Id. ¶ 37.) Judge Moore found that there was no evidence of assault. (Id.)[7]The video never shows Deputy Byrd physically touching Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 39.) Deputy Byrd was not involved in placing handcuffs on Plaintiff or removing the handcuffs from Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 40.)[8]


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a party is entitled to summary judgment if the moving party "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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Supreme Court has stated that "[t]hough determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact at summary judgment is a question of law, it is a legal question that sits near the law-fact divide." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 674 (2009). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), and the "judge may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Adams v. Metiva,31 F.3d 375, 379 (6th Cir. 1994). When the motion is supported by documentary proof such as depositions and affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but, rather, must present some "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. It is not sufficient "simply [to] show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. These facts must be more than a scintilla of evidence and must meet the standard of whether a reasonable juror could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., ...

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