United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
SHEILA J. ZAMBON, Plaintiff,
SHAWN CRAWFORD, et. al., Defendants.
W. PHILLIPS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants Shawn Crawford, Todd
Nallion, Matt Nicol, and Don Myers's (“City
Defendants'”) motion for summary judgment [doc.
93], Plaintiff's Motion for Dismissal of Summary Judgment
[doc. 98], which is more properly construed as a response to
the motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff's motion
to amend or supplement the amended complaint [doc. 96]. Each
of these motions have been fully briefed. For the reasons
stated below, Plaintiff's motion to amend or supplement
[doc. 96] will be denied, the City Defendants' motion for
summary judgment [doc. 93] will be granted, and
Plaintiff's motion for dismissal of summary judgment
[doc. 98] will be denied. Furthermore, as discussed in detail
below, the Court hereby provides the parties with notice of
its intent to sua sponte grant summary judgment in
favor of Defendant Laura Porch, in accordance with Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f).
afternoon of November 11, 2017, Laura Porch was sitting in
her car in the parking lot of a shopping center in
Sevierville, Tennessee, when she saw a blue crossover-type
vehicle back up and hit a Mustang that was parked outside the
Staples. [Doc. 97-1 at 4]. Ms. Porch saw the driver exit the
vehicle, inspect the damage, return to her vehicle, and leave
the scene. [Id. at 4]. Ms. Porch then went inside
the Staples store to report the incident, and the Staples
manager instructed her to call the police. [Id.].
Ms. Porch then called the Sevierville Police Department.
[Id.; Defendants' Exhibit 5 (“Exh.
5”) (recording of telephone call)]. On the call, Ms.
Porch informed dispatch that she had just seen a car back
into another car and then leave the scene. [Exh. 5]. Ms.
Porch described the vehicle that was hit as a blue
convertible Mustang, and the one that left the scene as a
blue Toyota crossover. [Id.].
Crawford responded to the scene, where Ms. Porch was standing
outside of her vehicle, two parking spots away from the
Mustang that was hit. [Defendants' Exhibit 6 (“Exh.
6”) (dashcam footage from Officer Crawford's
cruiser)]. Ms. Porch informed Officer Crawford that she had
previously been in another parking spot, and saw a woman in a
blue Toyota crossover back into a parking spot and hit the
Mustang. Ms. Porch stated that the driver stopped when she
hit the Mustang, got out of the car, walked around to look at
where she had hit the Mustang, then got back in her car and
drove off. [Id.]. Photographs from the scene
indicate that the Mustang was light blue, and had the front
driver-side headlight busted out, as well as significant
scraping to the front passenger bumper. [Doc. 93-5]. There
was blue paint and broken pieces of the headlight around the
car. [Id.]. Officer Crawford asked Ms. Porch if she
got the license plate number of the car that left, and Ms.
Porch provided a possible plate number of E1653W. [Exh. 6].
Ms. Porch stated that she could not see the county on the
license plate because something was covering it. Ms. Porch
stated that the damage on the crossover was on the rear
passenger side of the vehicle. [Id.].
Crawford called in the plate number but was unable to get a
match. [Id.]. Officer Crawford asked Ms. Porch
whether she was sure about the license plate number, and she
responded that she was not “100 percent sure, ”
but knew that the first letter was E. Ms. Porch stated that
the vehicle had left the parking lot and turned left on the
main road. Ms. Porch again stated that the car was a Toyota,
a “newer model, ” possibly either a RAV-4 or
CR-V. Officer Crawford asked Ms. Porch to give a written
statement. Officer Crawford then made contact with the driver
of the Mustang, and spoke to the car's owner, who
declined a police report. [Id.].
Officer Crawford was with Ms. Porch at Staples, Ms. Zambon
called the Sevierville Police Department, stating that she
was at the post office on Dolly Parton Parkway, and someone
had hit her car and taken off. [Defendant's Exhibit 9
(“Exh. 9”) (recording of call to police
department)]. She stated that she did not know what type of
car had hit her, because she was in the post office when it
happened. She stated that she was driving a blue 2015 RAV-4.
[Id.]. While talking to the driver of the Mustang,
Officer Crawford received information about the call from the
post office involving a RAV-4. [Exh. 6]. Ms. Zambon's
receipt from the post office indicates that she exited the
post office around 4:44 p.m. [Doc. 103 at 8].
Crawford drove to the post office, which was just down the
road from the Staples. [Plaintiff's Exhibit 7
(“Exh. 7”) (dashcam footage from Officer
Crawford's police cruiser)]. A royal blue Toyota RAV-4
was sitting in the parking lot. [Id.]. Officer
Crawford immediately called in the vehicle's license
plate, which was E1653V, only one letter off from the plate
number provided by Ms. Porch. [Doc. 93-6 at 3; Exh. 7]. The
county on the license plate is partially covered by a portion
of the license-plate cover, which read
“BUCKEYES.” [Doc. 93-6 at 3]. Dispatch reported
that the vehicle was registered to Sheila Zambon. [Exh. 7].
Officer Crawford made contact with Ms. Zambon, who exited the
vehicle, and showed Officer Crawford damage to her vehicle on
the rear passenger side. Officer Crawford asked Ms. Zambon
where the damage occurred, and Ms. Zambon responded
“right here.” Ms. Zambon stated that she was in
the post office for “quite a while, ” and someone
must have hit her car while she was inside. Officer Crawford
asked Ms. Zambon for her license, registration, and
insurance, and she complied. Officer Crawford then asked Ms.
Zambon if she was positive the damage to her vehicle happened
at the post office, and she stated that she was 100%
positive. Officer Crawford warned Ms. Zambon that lying to a
police officer is a felony offense. Ms. Zambon asserted that
she was not lying, and Officer Crawford then read Ms. Zambon
her Mirandarights, and Ms. Zambon stated that she
understood. Officer Crawford then asked Ms. Zambon whether
she wanted “to start over again, ” and Ms. Zambon
yelled “it happened right here.” [Id.].
Crawford again informed Ms. Zambon that lying to a police
officer is a felony offense, and Ms. Zambon yelled
“I'm not lying!” [Id.]. Officer
Crawford informed Ms. Zambon that he had a witness who had
informed him that the accident had not happened at the post
office, but at Staples. Ms. Zambon denied that the accident
happened at Staples. Officer Crawford informed Ms. Zambon
that the witness provided Ms. Zambon's license plate
number and vehicle as the one that left the scene at Staples.
Ms. Zambon then produced a paper, which appears to be her
receipt from the post office, and Officer Crawford responded
that he did not deny that she had been at the post office,
but she had previously been at the Staples. Ms. Zambon
admitted that she was at the Staples, and began searching for
her receipt to tell Officer Crawford the exact time that she
was at Staples. Ms. Zambon asserted that she parked at the
end of the parking lot, away from all other cars at Staples.
[Id.]. Ms. Zambon handed the receipt to Officer
Crawford, who noted that the receipt indicated Ms. Zambon had
been at Staples at 4:30 p.m. [Doc. 103 at 8; Exh. 7]. Officer
Crawford then asked dispatch what his call time to Staples
was, and dispatch responded that the call time was 16:42 (in
other words, 4:42 p.m.). [Exh. 7]. Officer Crawford pointed
out damage to Ms. Zambon's vehicle that matched the paint
of the blue Mustang at Staples. Officer Crawford asked Ms.
Zambon if she wanted to continue lying, and she again
asserted that she was not lying. Officer Crawford then
informed Ms. Zambon that he would have the witness come to
the scene. Ms. Zambon stated that she would like to speak to
Officer Crawford's supervisor. [Id.].
Crawford then radioed dispatch, asking them to call Ms. Porch
and ask her to come to the post office to identify a suspect.
[Id.]. Meanwhile, Ms. Zambon appears to talk to
someone on her cell phone. Officer Crawford also requested
back-up at the post office, noting that Ms. Zambon wanted to
speak to supervisors. Officer Crawford then began taking
photographs of Ms. Zambon's vehicle. Ms. Zambon tells the
individual on her cell phone that Officer Crawford is taking
photographs. Officer Crawford asked if it was Ms.
Zambon's husband on the phone, and Ms. Zambon confirmed
that it was her husband, Joseph Zambon. Officer Crawford
briefly spoke with Mr. Zambon about the situation, but ended
the conversation when Mr. Zambon began yelling and cursing.
Officer Crawford then continued taking photographs of the
vehicle. [Id.]. These photographs show significant
scraping along the back passenger side of the RAV-4, as well
as some lighter blue paint transferred from another vehicle.
[Doc. 93-6 at 1-2]. Mr. and Ms. Zambon continue talking
amongst themselves about why Officer Crawford does not have a
partner present, why he is trying to “railroad”
Ms. Zambon, and why the witness is not there yet. [Exh. 7].
Ms. Porch arrived at the post office, Officer Crawford asked
her if Ms. Zambon was the person that she saw hit the Mustang
at Staples. [Id.]. Ms. Porch took a moment to look
and then responded “yes.” Officer Crawford then
began explaining the situation to other police officers who
had arrived at the scene. Another officer approached Ms.
Zambon, who began telling her side of the story to the
officer, although the audio of this exchange cannot be made
out, as Officer Crawford was also talking to a third officer
to arrive on the scene. One of the other officers present
approached Officer Crawford and said “I tried to talk
to her-do what you gotta do.” Officer Crawford and the
other officer discussed the evidence that indicated that Ms.
Zambon was lying. The other officer asked Officer Crawford
how he found Ms. Zambon, and Officer Crawford explained that
Ms. Zambon had called in a hit-and-run at the post office.
Officer Crawford then asked the other officer to point out to
Ms. Zambon that there was no debris or marks on the ground
near her car, as there would be if the accident had occurred
at the post office. The officer goes to tell Ms. Zambon this
information, however, the beginning of this conversation
cannot be heard. [Id.].
the audio begins picking up the conversation, Ms. Zambon can
be heard repeatedly stating “I am not lying.”
[Id.]. Officer Crawford then placed Ms. Zambon under
arrest. Ms. Zambon asked to turn her vehicle off and retrieve
her purse, and the officers state that they will take care of
it. Ms. Zambon, responded that there “better not be
anything come up missing out of my purse.” Officer
Crawford informed Ms. Zambon that she would be taking her
purse with her, and he would grab it for her. Ms. Zambon
stated “hope nothing doesn't fall out, ” and
then tells Officer Crawford “I hope you enjoy federal
court.” One of the officers can be seen picking up Ms.
Zambon's purse from the RAV-4 passenger seat, and handing
it off to Officer Crawford. Officer Crawford then spoke to
Ms. Porch to again confirm that the woman that she saw at the
post office was the same woman she saw leave the scene of the
crash at Staples. Officer Crawford stated that Ms. Porch
would need to finish her statement to indicate that she
identified the suspect at the post office. Ms. Zambon later
asked Officer Crawford if he got her cell phone, and he
responded that he did. After leaving Ms. Zambon alone in the
cruiser for a few minutes, Officer Crawford reentered the car
and began driving Ms. Zambon to the jail. [Id.].
Zambon was charged with leaving the scene of a crime, in
violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-104, and filing a
false report, in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. §
39-16-502. [Doc. 93-1 at 1-2]. Ms. Zambon pleaded guilty to
leaving the scene of a crime, in violation of §
55-10-104. [Doc. 89-1 at 4]. Ms. Zambon received a 30-day
suspended sentence, a $50 fine, and stipulated to the
underlying facts. [Id.]. The charge for filing a
false report was dismissed, with the following special
conditions: “dismissal contingent on payment of court
costs, stipulation to fact[.]” [Doc. 98-1 at 4].
Porch's handwritten statement confirms the information
that she gave to Officer Crawford on the dashcam footage,
specifically, that she saw “someone in a newer blue
Toyota crossover backing into a parking space hit the front
end of a blue convertible mustang.” [Doc. 93-2]. Ms.
Porch's statement continues to say that the driver got
out of her vehicle, circled her car, paused where the damage
was on both cars, then got into her vehicle and left.
Myers was the Chief of Police for the City of Sevierville in
2017. [Doc. 93-7 at 1]. However, he did not respond to the
call related to the hit-and-run, and played no role in the
decision to bring charges against Ms. Zambon. [Id.].
deposition, Ms. Zambon stated that Chief Myers had violated
her constitutional rights because she and her husband filed a
complaint against Officer Crawford, and Chief Myers told her
that she would be notified about the results of the
investigation, but she was never notified. [Doc. 97-at 11].
Ms. Zambon admitted that she was provided a copy of the audio
and video related to her arrest, but did not believe that it
accurately depicted what occurred. [Id.]. As to
Officer Nicol, Ms. Zambon stated that he violated her
constitutional rights by “trying to get me to admit I
did something I didn't do” and “st[icking] up
for what Officer Crawford was saying[.]” [Id.
at 12]. Additionally, Ms. Zambon stated that Officer Naillon
violated her constitutional rights by “st[icking] up
for Officer Crawford” and not having his body cam or
dash cam on. [Id. at 13]. Ms. Zambon asserted that
Officers Nicol and Naillon had a role in deciding to charge
her, because they discussed it with Officer Crawford.
[Id.]. Ultimately, Ms. Zambon's deposition was
ended when she refused to answer any questions, stating that
every question was “irrelevant, ” and claiming
her right against self-incrimination under the Fifth
Amendment. [Id. at 19-20].
Motion to Amend/Supplement
addressing the pending motion for summary judgment, the Court
must first address Plaintiff's “motion to seek
relief, ” [doc. 96], in which Plaintiff requests that
the Court allow her to file an addendum to her amended
complaint. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs the
procedures for filing amended and supplemental pleadings.
Rule 15(a)(1) allows a party to amend its pleading once as a
matter of course, either within 21 days of serving it, or, if
the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is
required, within 21 of service of a responsive pleading or a
motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1).
Plaintiff does not qualify to amend her complaint as a matter
of right under Rule 15(a)(1), because the instant motion to
amend [doc. 96] was filed on May 7, 2019, more than 21 days
after the Defendants' answers to the amended complaint,
which were filed on May 29, 2018 [doc. 26] and June 27, 2018
[doc. 32], respectively.
to amend her complaint, Plaintiff must proceed under Rule
15(a)(2), which provides that “a party may amend its
pleading only with the opposing party's written consent
or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave
when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The
Court, however, must balance the harm to the moving party if
she is not permitted to amend against the prejudice caused to
the other party if leave to amend is granted. Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Specifically,
“[a] motion to amend a complaint should be denied if
the amendment is brought in bad faith, for dilatory purposes,
results in undue delay or prejudice to the opposing party, or
would be futile.” Crawford v. Roane, 53 F.3d
750, 753 (6th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). Amendment of a
complaint is futile when the proposed amendment would not
permit the complaint to survive a motion to dismiss.
Miller v. Calhoun County, 408 F.3d 803, 817 (6th
the Court may “on just terms, permit a party to serve a
supplemental pleading setting out any transaction,
occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the
pleading to be supplemented.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d). Here,
Plaintiff's proposed addendum could partially be
construed as a supplemental pleading under Rule 15(d), as it
contains, in part, allegations regarding incidents that have
occurred since the filing of the amended complaint.
Nonetheless, the ...