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Jelsma v. Knox County

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

August 25, 2017

PATTY JELSMA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is defendant Officer Bradley Cox's motion for reconsideration of the Court's ruling on defendants' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 95]. Plaintiff responded in opposition to defendant's motion [Doc. 98] and Officer Cox replied [Doc. 99]. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant Officer Cox's motion to reconsider and dismiss each of plaintiffs' remaining claims.

         I. Background

         According to the evidence submitted to the Court, defendant Officer Bradley Cox responded to a call reporting domestic trouble at Kathy Stalnaker's residence [Doc. 30-1 p. 1]. Ms. Stalnaker is plaintiff Patty Jelsma's (hereinafter “plaintiff”[1]) mother [Doc. 34-1].[2] Officer Cox submits that Ms. Stalnaker informed him that she had been in an argument with plaintiff, in which plaintiff pushed her and threw Ms. Stalnaker's cell phone [Doc. 30-1 pp. 1-2]. Officer Cox further states that Ms. Stalnaker told him that she locked plaintiff out of a bedroom [Id. at 2]. When plaintiff could not get inside, she began banging on the door [Id.]. He submits that Ms. Stalnaker had a “mark on her left hand” at the time, supposedly from the altercation [Id.].

         In his declaration, Officer Cox notes that plaintiff came out of the house and stood next to her vehicle once the officers arrived at the house [Id.]. According to Officer Cox, when he explained that he needed to prepare a report for domestic assault and requested to see plaintiff's identification, she allegedly stated that she did not have to provide him with her identification [Id.]. Officer Cox states that plaintiff then began to yell and refused to provide him with her identification when he asked for it “several more times” [Id.].

         Plaintiff states that she attempted to videotape her interaction with Officer Cox on her cell phone, and she submitted the video as an exhibit [Docs. 34-1; 34-2 (hereinafter “Cell Phone Video”)]. In the video, plaintiff informs Officer Cox that she is recording their conversation, to which he replies, “that's fine, ” before requesting to see her license again [Cell Phone Video]. Plaintiff then attempts to focus her camera on Officer Cox's nametag [Id.]. In response, Officer Cox appears to walk toward plaintiff, and the cell phone then moves to record the car behind plaintiff [Id.]. The cell phone video then proceeds to shake, as if the parties are in a struggle, before eventually going blank [Id.]. Plaintiff, nonetheless, can be heard in the background saying, “Sir, I'm asking if I did something wrong, ” and, “are you detaining me?” repeatedly, while it sounds like plaintiff is being handcuffed [Id.].

         Officer Cox states that he advised plaintiff to put down her cell phone and to not call anyone until they were done speaking, but that she pushed her cell phone into his chest [Doc. 30-1 p. 2]. He then states that he needed to grab plaintiff's hand and arm for his safety, but she pulled away and turned toward her vehicle [Id.]. Officer Cox then states he proceeded to grab plaintiff's other arm, move her to the ground, and place handcuffs on her [Id.]. Plaintiff states this occurred despite the fact that she did not attempt to harm Officer Cox in any way or engage in any other type of provocation [Doc. 34-1]. Officer Cox then arrested plaintiff for domestic assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest [Doc. 34-2]. All of the charges were later dropped [Id.].

         Plaintiff filed claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Knox County, Tennessee for wrongful reinstatement, and against Officer Cox in his individual capacity for false arrest and excessive force [Docs. 1, 26]. Plaintiff's husband filed claims against both defendants under Tennessee law for loss of consortium [Docs. 1, 26].

         Officer Cox filed a motion for summary judgment [Doc. 30], which the Court granted in part [Doc. 41]. The Court dismissed plaintiff's false arrest claim but denied summary judgment as to plaintiff and plaintiff's husband's other claims against Officer Cox. The Court stayed the case pending resolution of Officer Cox's interlocutory appeal of the Court's summary judgment order [Doc. 48], and subsequently lifted the stay after the Court's summary judgment decision was affirmed [Doc. 59].

         In the interim, defendants filed motions in limine and/or to dismiss in which they argued, in part, that fifty-three requests for admission served on plaintiff be deemed admitted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(b) because of plaintiff's failure to timely respond to the requests [Docs. 54, 57]. The Court referred these motions to Magistrate Judge Shirley [Doc. 60], who granted the motions with regard to each of the fifty-three requests for admission [Doc. 79]. The admissions include, among others, the following:

. Immediately after Mrs. Jelsma was placed under arrest, she had no visible injuries.
. Mrs. Jelsma never complained of any injuries after she was arrested.
. Plaintiffs are aware of no report or documentation from a physician or mental health provider stating an opinion that as a result of Mrs. Jelsma's arrest she sustained serious bodily and emotional injuries and permanent injuries.
. No physician or mental health provider has stated an opinion that as a result of Mrs. Jelsma's confrontation with Officer Cox she sustained physical and emotional injuries or permanent injuries.
.Officer Cox was advised that there was a “1083” (domestic trouble) occurring at Ms.Stalnaker's residence and that the resident's 27-year-old daughter (Mrs. Jelsma) was uncontrollable and being disrespectful.
. Officer Cox was dispatched to the residence for a possible domestic assault.
. Mrs. Jelsma had physically assaulted her mother, Ms. Stalnaker, by pushing her and knocking her glasses off of her face.
. Officer Cox was advised by Ms. Stalnaker that she was in fear of Ms. Jelsma.
. Mrs. Jelsma was a suspect of domestic violence when Officer Cox began interviewing her.
. Officer Cox told Mrs. Jelsma because the situation involved a domestic matter that he needed Mrs. Jelsma's ...

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