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Hodge v. Blount County

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division

March 23, 2018

JUDY HODGE, on behalf of herself and the ESTATE OF LARRY HODGE, Plaintiff,
v.
BLOUNT COUNTY, TENNESSEE; and HENRY VAUGHN, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          POPLIN, JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          REEVES, JUDGE

         On June 10, 2015, Larry Hodge, a 67-year-old man with dementia, was driving his truck on a narrow road in Blount County, Tennessee. At one point, the side mirror on Hodge's truck made contact with the side mirror of an oncoming SUV driven by Robin Bailey. Both vehicles were damaged to varying degrees. Bailey called 911, and a dispatch went out alerting law enforcement to an alleged hit-and-run.

         Henry Vaughn, an off-duty property and evidence technician employed by the Blount County Sheriff's Department (BCSD), responded to the call. When Vaughn spotted a vehicle matching the description from dispatch, he activated his lights and sirens, and proceeded to conduct a traffic stop. The parties dispute the details of the ensuing encounter. But under either version of the facts, Hodge ended up handcuffed, arrested, and transported to Blount County Jail, where he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and resisting arrest. He suffered a road rash to his forehead, among other injuries. Larry Hodge's already poor health declined in the months following the incident, and he died on December 27, 2015.

         On June 10, 2016, Judy R. Hodge (“Plaintiff) initiated this civil-rights suit on behalf of herself and the estate of Larry Hodge, her late husband. In February 2017, an amended complaint was entered, and all defendants moved to dismiss the claims against them. The motions were granted in part and denied in part, and all defendants except Blount County, Tennessee, and Henry Vaughn were dismissed [D. 84].

         Now before the Court is Vaughn's motion for summary judgment [D. 71], in which he moves for summary judgment on the five remaining claims against him:

• Wrongful seizure or use of excessive force in pointing a gun at Hodge, in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count 1);
• Use of excessive force in removing Hodge from his vehicle, in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count 2);
• Assault and battery (Count 6);
• Intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count 7); and
• Loss of consortium (Count 9).

         Plaintiff responded [D. 99] to the motion, and Vaughn replied [D. 101]. For the reasons that follow, Vaughn's motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I

         Summary judgment is proper only “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). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id.

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact on any element of the other party's claim or defense. Stiles ex rel. D.S. v. Grainger Cty., 819 F.3d 834, 847 (6th Cir. 2016). In determining whether this burden is satisfied, the Court must consider “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Adams v. Metiva, 31 F.3d 375, 378-79 (6th Cir. 1994). Once the movant has satisfied its initial burden, the other party must show that a genuine issue of material fact still exists. Stiles, 819 F.3d at 847. In doing so, the non-moving party may not rely on the pleadings alone, but must instead point to “specific facts” in the record that create a genuine issue for trial. Metiva, 31 F.3d at 378-79.

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court's function is limited to determining “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52. The Court need not scour 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). But the Court does not weigh evidence, judge witnesses' credibility, or decide the truth of the matter, and any genuine disputes of fact that do exist must be resolved in favor of the nonmovant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1863 (2014).

         In his motion for summary judgment, Vaughn levels four primary arguments against Plaintiff's suit: (1) Vaughn is entitled to qualified immunity for Plaintiff's constitutional claims, because the undisputed material facts demonstrate that he did not violate any constitutional right of Plaintiff, and/or he did not violate any “clearly established” right based on the particular facts of the case; (2) Plaintiff cannot satisfy the elements of assault and battery; (3) Plaintiff cannot satisfy the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (4) ...


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