United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
case arises out of Gann's arrest for driving under the
influence. Gann alleges that the officers lacked probable
cause for his arrest. Because probable cause existed to
arrest Gann for driving under the influence, defendants'
motion for summary judgment will be granted and this action
early morning of May 28, 2015, Gann drove with his
girlfriend, Rebecca Hutsell, to the home of her estranged
spouse to pick up “gas money” that Hutsell's
husband had promised to repay. It was approximately 4:50 a.m.
when Gann knocked on the husband's door. Not
surprisingly, an altercation occurred between Gann and the
husband, where Gann alleges he was thrown to the floor and
struck in the head approximately 25 times. Gann and Hutsell
left the residence and returned to the parking lot of
Gann's apartment complex.
Reff and Cardwell received a dispatch relating to the
altercation at the husband's residence at approximately
5:20 a.m. Officer Cardwell responded to the address of the
altercation. Meanwhile, Officer Reff traveled to
Gann's apartment complex. He found Gann and Hutsell
sitting in their car in the parking lot of the apartment
complex at approximately 5:46 a.m. Officer Reff stated that
while he did see Gann operating his car prior to parking at
the apartment complex, he observed no speeding, no erratic
driving, and no swerving. Officer Reff spoke briefly to
Hutsell, who was impaired to the point that she had little to
no memory of the incident. Officer Reff continued his
investigation by questioning Gann.
Reff noted that Gann was visibly shaking and appeared to be
impaired. Gann advised Officer Reff that he had taken
multiple prescription medications, including Lithium and
Depakote, both of which fall within a category of drugs known
for the potential to impair drivers. After a brief discussion
about the assault, Officer Reff asked Gann to exit his car
and submit to field sobriety tests.
Reff first administered the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
test, followed by a number of additional field sobriety tests
including walk and turn, one leg stand, alphabet recital,
finger count, and Rhomberg balance. Gann performed poorly and
was very unsteady on his feet throughout each physical test.
Several of the tests were recorded on the cruiser video
(there is no audio associated with the video). After Gann was
unable to perform the field sobriety tests, Officer Reff
charged him with driving under the influence and placed him
under arrest. Gann was transported to the Jefferson County
Detention Center and was released from custody later that
states he performed the verbal portions of the tests without
difficulty; however, he admits having difficulty with the
physical portions of the tests due to head injuries from the
altercation. Gann avers his medical condition, injury from
the assault, and stress from the altercation were not
adequately considered by the officers. Blood tests revealed
that Gann had no alcohol or intoxicants in his system. The
driving under the influence charge was dismissed.
Standard for Summary Judgment
judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure is proper “if the movant 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). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that
no genuine issues of material fact exist. Celotex Corp.
v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n. 2 (1986); Moore v.
Philip Morris Co., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 339 (6th Cir.
1993). All facts and inferences to be drawn therefrom must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Matsushita elec. Indus. Co. Ltd v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v.
Keifer, 301 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002).
the moving party presents evidence sufficient to support a
motion under Rule 56, the nonmoving party is not entitled to
a trial merely on the basis of allegations. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 317. To establish a genuine issue as to the
existence of a particular element, the nonmoving party must
point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable
finder of fact could find in its favor. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law. Id.
court's function at the point of summary judgment is
limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been
presented to make the issue of fact a proper question for the
factfinder. Id. at 250. The court does not weigh the
evidence or determine the truth of the matter. Id.
at 249. Nor does the court search the record “to
establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of
fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886
F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989). Thus, “the inquiry
performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether
there is a need for a trial - whether, in other words, there
are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved
only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be
resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 250.
Probable Cause for Arrest
legal principle is well established that the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution
require probable cause to justify an arrest of an individual.
Crockett v. Cumberland Coll., 316 F.3d 571, 580
(6th Cir. 2003). A police officer has probable
cause for arrest if, at the time the officer makes the
arrest, the facts and circumstances within the officer's
knowledge and of which he had reasonably trustworthy
information were sufficient to warrant a prudent man in
believing that the suspect had committed or was committing an
offense. Courtright v. City of Battle Creek, 839
F.3d 513, 521 (6th Cir. 2016).
officers argue they are entitled to qualified immunity
because they had probable cause to arrest Gann for driving
under the influence. Qualified immunity shields officials
from civil liability so long as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.
Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015). For a
reasonable official to have understood that his actions
violate a clearly established statutory or constitutional
right, existing precedent must have placed the statutory or
constitutional question beyond debate. Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735 (2011). Officers Cardwell and
Reff are therefore shielded by qualified immunity unless the
facts, when viewed in the light most favorable to Gann, would
permit a reasonable juror to find that (1) they violated a
constitutional right; and (2) the right was clearly