United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
THOMAS ANDERSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action for deprivation of constitutional rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and for injuries suffered under Tennessee
law arises from the response of law enforcement to a
custodial dispute between the mother of a minor child and the
paternal grandparents of that minor child.
mother reported an assault and kidnapping to Madison County
law enforcement. After an initial investigation, Madison
County Sherriff's Deputy Dennis Ifantis contacted the
Gibson County's Sheriff's Department for assistance
because the grandparents resided in Gibson County. Two
deputies of the Gibson County Sheriff's Department
arrived at the grandparents' residence and ultimately
arrested them before taking them back to Madison County to be
charged with custodial interference, domestic assault, and
contribution to the delinquency of a minor. A grand jury
dismissed all of the charges. The grandparents subsequently
filed this suit against Madison and Gibson Counties as well
as the Sheriffs' deputies involved. Now before the Court
is the Motion of Defendants Rhonda Bonds, Daniel Miller,
Dennis Ifantis, David Travis, and the Counties of Madison and
Gibson, Tennessee, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27) on the
claims raised in the grandparents' Complaint (ECF No. 1).
Plaintiffs Jerry Albea and Carolyn Albea, the aforementioned
paternal grandparents, have filed a Response in Opposition to
the instant Motion (ECF No. 31), to which Defendants then
filed a Reply (ECF No. 33). Thus, the Court finds the instant
Motion ripe for decision. For reasons set forth below, the
Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED
following facts are undisputed by the parties unless
otherwise noted. See Defs.' Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts, Mar. 9, 2017, ECF No. 27-2
[hereinafter “Defs.' Statement of Facts”];
Pls.' Answers to Defs.' Statement of Undisputed
Material Facts, Apr. 6, 2017, ECF No. 31-2 [hereinafter
“Pls.' Statement of Facts”]; Defs.' Resp.
to Pls.' Add'l Material Facts, Apr. 20, 2017, ECF No.
33-1 [hereinafter “Defs' Statement of Add'l
Facts”]. Plaintiffs' son, D'Metric Albea, and
Courtney Hammond (“Hammond”) are the parents of a
minor child, who was four years old at the time of the events
described in the Complaint. Madison County Juvenile Court
awarded D'Metric Albea visitation with the minor child in
a permanent parenting plan from the Madison County Juvenile
Court (the “Order”). Despite the Order granting
D'Metric Albea visitation, Hammond refused to comply with
the Order on multiple occasions. Plaintiffs had traveled to
pick up the minor child in accordance with the Order at the
time of the events giving rise to this dispute. The Order,
referenced and cited to by all parties, states that the minor
child is to be picked up by Plaintiffs but that D'Metric
Albea must be present during the visitation. Dep. of Dennis
Ifantis, Ex. 5, ¶ 2, Oct. 12, 2016 [hereinafter
about Saturday, November 29, 2014, Defendant Madison County
Sherriff Deputy Dennis Ifantis (“Ifantis”)
received a call over the radio, reporting a possible child
kidnapping. When Ifantis arrived at the scene, Hammond was
hysterical. Hammond claimed that “people” had
taken her two-year-old child. After a few moments, Hammond
was finally able to articulate to Ifantis that the
“people” were the minor child's paternal
grandparents, Plaintiffs Jerry Albea and Carolyn Albea. But
at that time, Hammond could not recall or state
Plaintiffs' full names to Ifantis. Hammond could only
recall that Jerry Albea's name was “Jerry”
and she believed Plaintiffs lived in Humboldt,
Tennessee. Hammond additionally claimed that Jerry
Albea, along with his two juvenile daughters, physically
attacked Hammond, allowing Plaintiffs to take the minor child
without Hammond's permission. The parties dispute whether
Hammond specifically told Ifantis that Carolyn Albea was also
involved in these acts, and the portions of the record cited
by the parties are not sufficiently clear to permit the Court
to make a determination. Pls.' Statement of Facts, ¶
2; Ifantis Dep. 47:24-48:5. Plaintiffs also take issue with
the characterization of the removal of the minor child
“by force” rather than “against
[Hammond]'s wishes.” Pls.' Statement of Facts,
¶ 2. The portions of the deposition cited by the parties
are not clear on this point either. Ifantis Dep. 46:6-49:12.
Carolyn Albea, however, did pick up the minor child, who came
to her, and attempted to return to her vehicle. Hammond then
requested that Carolyn Albea return the minor child to her.
Plaintiffs were aware that Hammond did not want them to have
possession of the minor child. A physical altercation then
took place between Hammond and one of Plaintiffs'
juvenile daughters in which Hammond attempt to recover the
minor child. The parties dispute who escalated the
altercation, but they are in agreement that the result was a
“beatdown” of Hammond. Pls.' Statement of
Facts, ¶ 3; Defs' Statement of Add'l Facts,
¶ 3-4. In any event, Plaintiffs then left with their
juvenile daughters and the minor child, and they all traveled
back to their residence in Gibson County, Tennessee.
informed Ifantis of the existence of the Order and that it
required D'Metric Albea to be present during visitation
rights. D'Metric Albea, however, was in East Tennessee at
that time. Hammond stated that, because D'Metric Albea
was not present at the time of Plaintiffs' arrival, she
refused to relinquish custody of the minor child. Ifantis
then asked Hammond for a copy of the parenting plan, but
Hammond explained that she did not have a copy of the
documents at that time. The parties dispute whether Hammond
showed visible signs of injury at that time. Pls.'
Statement of Facts, ¶ 5. But a neighbor present at the
scene substantially corroborated Hammond's portrayal of
the events, also reporting that she, the neighbor, heard what
sounded like “bloody murder” during the incident.
Hammond's sister partially corroborated Hammond's
portrayal as well, but the parties dispute the degree to
which Hammond's story was supported. Id. at 6.
After Hammond had identified Plaintiffs as the minor
child's paternal grandparents, Ifantis considered the
investigation to be one into a custodial issue rather than a
was eventually able to make contact with D'Metric Albea,
and they discussed the issues concerning the taking of the
minor child. Ifantis does not recall asking D'Metric
Albea whether he was required to be present for the pick-up
of the minor child. At that time D'Metric Albea advised
Ifantis of his location, which is disputed by the parties.
Id. Ifantis then established telephone contact with
Jerry Albea. The parties dispute whether Jerry Albea refused
to return to the scene. Id. at 7. But Jerry Albea
provided his address to Ifantis and corroborated the
existence of a parenting plan outlining the custody rights
concerning the minor child. At this point, Ifantis informed
Jerry Albea that a Gibson County Sheriff's Officer would
be sent to Plaintiffs' residence to confirm the
well-being of the minor child and to review the purported
court order. Ifantis told Jerry Albea that if the Order
stated that Plaintiffs were to pick-up the minor child,
“everything would be fine.”
then reached out to the Gibson County Sheriff's
Department and requested the assistance of its officers.
Ifantis was then put in contact with Defendant Gibson County
Sheriff Deputy Daniel Miller (“Miller”). Ifantis
informed Miller that there was a child custody dispute, that
Plaintiffs and their juvenile daughters had allegedly
assaulted Hammond, and that Plaintiffs had allegedly taken
the minor child in violation of a court order. Miller, along
with Gibson County Sheriff Deputy Rhonda Bonds
(“Bonds”), then traveled to Plaintiffs'
their arrival, Miller and Bonds were allowed in by Jerry
Albea. Plaintiffs claim this was for the stated purpose of
verifying the minor child's wellbeing and the contents of
the court order despite the actual purpose being to gain
entry to the residence in order to arrest Plaintiffs.
Pls.' Statement of Facts, ¶ 9; Defs' Statement
of Add'l Facts, ¶ 6. Miller and Bonds then saw that
the minor child was “perfectly fine.” Miller was
presented with an unsigned copy of the purported custody
Order. Miller then spoke with D'Metric Albea, who was en
route to the visitation but had been delayed in traveling
from his home in Knoxville. D'Metric Albea explained that
he was in possession of the signed Order that he had taken a
screenshot of and sent to Plaintiffs by text message. At this
point, Miller was presented with said screenshot and later
stated that he had no reason to believe that it was not an
accurate and true copy of the very Order Plaintiffs
possessed. Miller then contacted Ifantis and explained that
the child was fine and that he had seen an unsigned, physical
copy of the Order as well as the signed, digital copy.
Ifantis believed he had probable cause to arrest Plaintiffs
for simple domestic assault, custodial interference, and
contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Ifantis then
instructed Miller and Bonds to arrest Plaintiffs.
on Ifantis's probable cause determination, Miller and
Bonds effected a warrantless arrest of Plaintiffs in their
homes. Plaintiffs were then placed into a Gibson County
Sheriff patrol car and transported to the Gibson
County-Madison County line at the Humboldt Municipal Airport
by Bonds. Ifantis met Bonds at the Airport and obtained
custody of Plaintiffs.
time, Ifantis handcuffed Plaintiffs, placed them in the back
seat of his patrol car, and transported them to the Madison
County Criminal Justice Complex. Plaintiffs were then booked
and incarcerated. Prior to the conclusion of his shift that
evening, Ifantis completed an investigation report and
narrative concerning the arrest of Plaintiffs. After
approximately fourteen hours, Plaintiffs made an $8, 000 bail
via a bail bondsman and were released.
following Monday, December 1, 2014, Madison County
Sheriff's Deputy David Travis (“Travis”)
reviewed the investigation report and narrative concerning
the arrest of Plaintiffs drafted by Ifantis and attested to
the Clerk of Madison County General Sessions Court that
Ifantis had articulated sufficient facts in his reports to
establish probable cause concerning Ifantis's
determination to arrest Plaintiffs. Travis had no personal
interaction with Plaintiffs whatsoever. Plaintiffs admitted
that they do not know Travis or remember ever seeing or
interacting with him. They further admitted they do not even
know why Travis was even named in this action.
Albea was charged with simple domestic assault, contributing
to the delinquency of a minor, and custodial interference.
Carolyn Albea was charged with contributing to the
delinquency of a minor and custodial interference.
Plaintiffs' mugshots were published subsequent to their
arrest. Plaintiffs then hired an attorney to represent them
on their criminal charges. Following two appearances in the
Madison County General Sessions Court, Plaintiffs waived
their cases to the Madison County Grand Jury. And the Grand
Jury found that there was insufficient evidence to support
any of the charges against Plaintiffs.
STANDARD OF LAW
judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. When deciding a
motion for summary judgment, the Court must review all the
evidence, viewing it in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and also drawing all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor. Roell v. Hamilton Cty., 870
F.3d 471, 479 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Watson v.
Cartee, 817 F.3d 299, 302 (6th Cir. 2016));
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The Court “may not make
credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.”
Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th
Cir. 2014). “The burden is generally on the moving
party to show that no genuine issue of material fact exists,
but that burden may be discharged by ‘showing . . .
that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case.'” Bennett v. City of
Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 817 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).
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 Corp., 477 U.S. at 324;
Eastham v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 754 F.3d
356, 360 (6th Cir. 2014). 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 in
his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 252 (1986). The Court must enter summary judgment
“against a party who fails to . . . [meet the burden]
that party will bear . . . at trial.” Celotex
Corp, 477 U.S. at 322.
Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claim for Deprivation of
move for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment
claims on the basis of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity
is a doctrine that “shields officials from civil
liability if their conduct ‘does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.'” Darrah v.
Krisher, 865 F.3d 361, 374 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). Its
purpose is to provide some protection from suit to government
officials that perform discretionary functions. Beard v.
Whitemore Lake Sch. Dist., 402 F.3d 598, 602-03 (6th
Cir. 2005) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S.
800, 818 (1982)). The doctrine applies to police officers.
Jefferson v. Lewis, 594 F.3d 454, 459 (6th Cir.
2010) (quoting Hills v. Kentucky, 457 F.3d 583, 587
(6th Cir. 2006)). A qualified-immunity analysis has two
steps: “(1) whether, considering the allegations in a
light most favorable to the party injured, a constitutional
right has been violated, and (2) whether that right was
clearly established.” Estate of Carter v. City of
Detroit, 408 F.3d 305, 310-11 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing
Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)). In
Pearson, however, the Supreme Court abandoned the
requirement that the lower courts must perform this analysis
sequentially because it often forced the courts to
unnecessarily decide constitutional questions.
Jefferson, 594 F.3d at 460 (citing Pearson,
555 U.S. 223). But the Supreme Court thought the prior
statement of the test was “still appropriate and a
correct statement of the test for qualified immunity.”
Id. And in this instance, this Court finds it
appropriate to follow the previously prescribed sequence.
Whether a Constitutional Right Has Been Violated
Fourth Amendment, which is applied to the States by the
Fourteenth Amendment, Ondo v. City of Cleveland, 795
F.3d 597, 610 n.4 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Mapp v.
Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 650-55 (1961)), provides first that
“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” U.S.
Const., amend. IV. It further states that “no Warrants
shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Id. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated
Plaintiffs' rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment
to the Constitution of the United States in three respects.
First, Plaintiffs claim that Ifantis, Bonds, and Miller
violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights by acting in
concert to enter their home to arrest them without a warrant
or a valid exception to the warrant requirement. Second,
Plaintiffs claim that Ifantis, Bonds, and Miller violated
Carolyn Albea's Fourth Amendment right to be free from
false arrest and false imprisonment by arresting Carolyn
Albea without probable cause. Third, Plaintiffs argue that
Ifantis and Travis violated the Plaintiffs' Fourth
Amendment right to be free from malicious prosecution by
prosecuting Plaintiffs without probable cause. The Court will
address each of these alleged violations in turn. But the
Court must also note that stating a violation of his
constitutional rights is insufficient for a plaintiff to
recover damages under § 1983. Plaintiffs “must
[have] allege[d] with particularity facts that demonstrate
what each defendant did to violate the asserted
constitutional right.” Heyne v. Metro. Nashville
Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 556, 564 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Lanman v. Hinson, 529 F.3d 673, 684 (6th Cir.
2008)). Thus, the Court “cannot ascribe the acts of all
[law-enforcement-officer] Defendants to each individual
defendant.” Id. (citing Landman, 529
F.3d at 684-88; Hull v. Cuyahoga Valley Joint Vocational
Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 926 F.2d 404, 512-`5 (6th Cir.
1991)). Instead, Plaintiffs must demonstrate each
Defendant's personal involvement in the violation.
Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 481 (6th Cir.
1995) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 375-76
Warrantless Entry of ...