SHIRA JEAN STAFFORD, ET AL.
JACKSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ET AL.
Session June 7, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Jackson County No. 11-CV-27 Clara
W. Byrd, Judge
arrestee sued the arresting sheriff's deputy, the
sheriff, and the county for assault and battery and
intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court
dismissed the case on summary judgment. We affirm as to the
claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress but
find that there are genuine issues of material fact
precluding summary judgment on the claim for assault and
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part and Remanded
Richard Marshall Brooks, Carthage, Tennessee, for the
appellants, Shira Jean Stafford and Donnie Stafford.
Beale Williams, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees,
Chris Carter, Jackson County Sheriff, Jackson County,
Tennessee, and Brad Stafford.
D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and W. Neal McBrayer, J.,
D. BENNETT, JUDGE
and Procedural Background
afternoon of November 16, 2010, Deputy Chris Carter of the
Sheriff's Department of Jackson County, Tennessee pulled
over a car driven by Donnie Stafford for speeding on Jennings
Creek Highway at Whitleyville. After hearing of the traffic
stop over a police scanner, Shira Stafford, Mr.
Stafford's wife, and their son, Jacob, drove to the scene
in a van and parked behind Deputy Carter's police
Mrs. Stafford got out of the van, questioned Deputy Carter
about why her husband had been stopped, and attempted to go
check on Mr. Stafford. When Mrs. Stafford refused his
instructions to return to the van and continued to interfere,
Deputy Carter arrested her and placed her in handcuffs.
November 15, 2011, Mr. and Mrs. Stafford ("the
plaintiffs") filed suit against Jackson County, Sheriff
Brad Stafford, and Deputy Carter ("the defendants")
for numerous causes of action. The plaintiffs sued the
defendants in their official capacity for negligence;
negligent hiring, training, supervision and discipline; and
false arrest and imprisonment. They sued the defendants as
individuals for negligence, excessive force, assault and
battery, false arrest and imprisonment, negligent infliction
of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, malicious prosecution, and loss of consortium.
civil proceedings were stayed in April 2012 until criminal
charges against Mrs. Stafford were resolved. Mrs. Stafford
was then convicted of preventing or obstructing a law
enforcement officer from effecting a stop, frisk, halt, or
arrest in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-16-602, and
her conviction was upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeals.
State v. Stafford, No. M2013-01319-CCA-R3-CD, 2014
WL 2902278 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 26, 2014). The parties
filed a joint motion to lift the stay in December 2014.
defendants answered, and the parties engaged in discovery. On
March 14, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment supported by excerpts from the criminal trial
transcript and excerpts from the depositions of Mr. Stafford,
Mrs. Stafford, Jacob Stafford, Sheriff Brad Stafford, and
Deputy Carter. The plaintiffs opposed the motion and
submitted deposition excerpts from Mr. and Mrs. Stafford and
an excerpt from the criminal trial transcript.
plaintiffs' response to the defendants' statement of
facts in support of their motion for summary judgment shows
the following pertinent factual disputes and points of
11. As soon as the van stopped, Mrs. Stafford exited and
walked in front of the van and approached Deputy Carter's
12. Carter then exited his vehicle and instructed Mrs.
Stafford numerous times to return to her car but she
repeatedly refused to do so.
RESPONSE: It is denied that Mrs. Stafford refused to get back
in her car. In fact, she tried to go.
13. Instead, she kept trying to push her way around Deputy
Carter to try and get to Mr. Stafford's vehicle.
RESPONSE: It is denied that Mrs. Stafford kept trying to push
her way around Defendant Carter. In fact, Mrs. Stafford tried
to get back in her car.
14. During this exchange, Mr. Stafford got out of his vehicle
and Jacob began exiting his vehicle.
15. Deputy Carter then had three people in different
locations all outside of their vehicles which posed a safety
RESPONSE: It is denied that this caused a safety issue.
16. Carter then instructed the Stafford men to return to the
vehicles and called for back-up.
RESPONSE: It is disputed that Defendant Carter then
instructed the Stafford men back to their vehicles. Testimony
will show that Defendant Carter then handcuffed the
17. The men returned to their vehicles and Mrs. Stafford
walked back toward the rear of the patrol car at which time
Carter asked her for identification and she questioned why he
needed her identification to which she replied she would not.
RESPONSE: It is disputed that Mrs. Stafford told Defendant
Carter that she "would not" show her
18. At that point, Carter makes the decision to arrest her
for obstructing his traffic stop of Mr. Stafford and failing
to comply with instructions and informs her that she is under
RESPONSE: This is admitted for the purposes of summary
judgment as contemplated by Rule 56 of the T.R.Civ.P., but
the Plaintiff disputes that this is a "material
fact" . . . .
19. Mrs. Stafford attempted to return to her vehicle to get
her identification, and Deputy Carter took her by the right
forearm and placed a handcuff on her arm.
20. Mrs. Stafford attempted to pull away and Deputy Carter
instructed her to stop and ...