United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division
FRENSLEY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are the County Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. No. 20), Plaintiffs' Response (Doc. No. 28)
to the Motion, and Defendants' Reply (Doc. No. 45). For
the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No.
20) is GRANTED, in part, and
DENIED, in part. The Court grants the
request to dismiss Defendants Wayne County, Wayne County
Sheriff's Department, and Ric Wilson. The Court also
grants the request to dismiss Count Nine, and the Tennessee
Constitutional claim raised in Count Two.
Factual and Procedural Background
Complaint (Doc. No. 1), Plaintiffs William Ray White, Bernice
R. White, and Tiffany Jones bring claims for violation of
their federal constitutional rights, as well as state law
claims, arising out of two separate incidents in which
certain of the defendants entered their home. Plaintiffs have
named as defendants Harold Robertson and Associates Bail
Bonding, and its owner/employees Harold Robertson and David
Butler; ABC Fugitive Recovery Corporation and its employees,
Roosevelt Jones, and John Doe Bounty Hunter; and the
“County Defendants, ” Wayne County, Tennessee,
the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, Ric Wilson, former
Sheriff of Wayne County, and Sheriff's Department
employees Dusty Malugen and Donnie Carroll.
to the Complaint, Plaintiffs William and Bernice White are
married and live at 198 Treece Lane in Clifton (Wayne
County), Tennessee. On December 20, 2017,  Plaintiffs
allege, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Defendants Robertson and
Butler knocked on Plaintiffs' back door, and Defendant
Robertson advised Mrs. White that he was there to arrest
Keith Staggs on a warrant for failure to appear in court.
Mrs. White advised the defendants that Keith Staggs did not
live at the house, and had only visited once and spent the
night six weeks earlier. Defendants Robertson and Butler
allegedly pushed past Mrs. White and entered the house
without permission. At that point, Plaintiffs allege, Mr.
White had made it downstairs in his pajamas and found
Defendants Robertson and Butler standing in his living room.
When the defendants told Mr. White they were there with an
arrest warrant to arrest Mr. Staggs, Mr. White allegedly told
the defendants Mr. Staggs did not live there, and that he
thought Mr. Staggs lived in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Plaintiffs
allege Defendants Robertson and Butler then became
“aggressively confrontational, telling the Whites they
did not believe their ‘story' and had on good
information” that Keith Staggs was in their home. (Doc.
No. 1 ¶ 29). Mr. White allegedly told the defendants to
have a look around to satisfy themselves that Keith Staggs
was not there. According to the Complaint, Defendants
Robertson and Butler conducted the search, did not find Mr.
Staggs, and after forty minutes, left the house.
week later, the Complaint alleges, Defendants Roberson and
Butler returned to Wayne County to search for Mr. Staggs, and
were accompanied by Defendants Jones and Doe, “bounty
hunters” from ABC Fugitive Recovery Corporation.
Plaintiffs allege one of these defendants advised Dusty
Malugen, a detective with the Wayne County Sheriff's
Department, that they would be going to the Whites' home
in an attempt to apprehend Mr. Staggs. Detective Malugen
allegedly stated that he had long suspected illegal activity
at the Whites' home, but had not been able to confirm his
approximately 7:30 a.m. on December 27, 2017, Plaintiffs
allege, the Whites were allegedly asleep in their home, along
with their daughter, Plaintiff Tiffany Jones, who was
visiting and sleeping in the guest bedroom on the first
floor. According to the Complaint, these defendants violently
pounded on the back door, and when Mrs. White looked through
the glass, she saw two males holding large guns and wearing
military-type clothing with law enforcement badges on the
chests of their shirts and bullet-proof vests. As Mrs. White
started to open the back door, she allegedly heard pounding
at the front door, and when she turned to go to the front
door, she left the back door slightly ajar. As she turned the
knob on the front door, Mrs. White heard the men at the back
door “storm inside” her home, and at the same
time, the individuals at the front door “forced their
way inside” as well. (Id. ¶ 39).
Plaintiffs allege all the “intruders” appeared to
be wearing bullet-proof vests and were armed with shotguns
attached to straps. One of the intruders allegedly began
yelling for Mr. White.
to the Complaint, Mr. White was awakened by the commotion,
and headed down the stairs in his underwear. Along the way,
he was allegedly confronted by Defendant Doe, who pointed a
gun at Mr. White's head. Plaintiffs allege Mr. White
asked why the men were there, and when he was told they were
looking for Mr. Staggs, Mr. White told them Mr. Staggs did
not live there. When Mr. White asked the men if they had a
search warrant, Plaintiffs allege, one of the bounty hunters
responded “‘I don't have to have a search
warrant, I can go anywhere I want anytime I am in
Tennessee.'” (Id. ¶ 41). Plaintiffs
allege Mr. White repeatedly asked the men to leave, but
rather than leaving, the men told Mr. White “he had
better get down the stairs and take a seat on the sofa or he
would be shot.” (Id. ¶ 42). Mr. White
allegedly complied by taking a seat on the sofa with his
wife, where he was told not to move.
holding the Whites at gunpoint told Defendant Jones to go
into the bedroom where Plaintiff Jones was asleep and search
the bedroom. Defendant Jones allegedly entered the bedroom
and ordered Plaintiff Jones, who was wearing only a sleep
shirt, out of the bed and into a chair in the living room. At
this point, all the plaintiffs, who were still in their
pajamas and undergarments, were told to hand over their
telephones. Plaintiffs allege the house was becoming very
cold at this point because the back door was open.
Robertson allegedly told the plaintiffs they were going to
search the entire house because he had an arrest warrant for
Mr. Staggs and a reliable source indicated Mr. Staggs was in
the house and under a bed. Plaintiffs allege Mr. White stated
his refusal to give permission to search the house, and the
men told him they did not need his permission. Defendant
Jones then allegedly stood by the front door with a shotgun
held across his chest while Defendant Doe conducted an
hour-long search of the house.
this time, the Complaint alleges, Plaintiff Jones asked to go
to the bathroom, but Defendant Butler refused, and instead
asked her uncomfortable personal questions while leering at
her chest. Due to a history of back problems, Plaintiff Jones
found it difficult to sit for such a long period of time at
gun point. Plaintiffs also allege Mr. White was initially
refused a bathroom break, and when he was eventually allowed
to go to the bathroom, he was forced to leave the door open
while Defendant Robertson observed.
to the Complaint, after about an hour into the search,
Defendant Doe came downstairs holding a clear jar with a
small amount of marijuana. Defendant Doe was allegedly angry
at not having located Mr. Staggs, and told the plaintiffs
“‘I do not normally care about pot but now you
have pissed me off, '” signaling his intent to
continue an exhaustive search. (Id. ¶ 51).
Defendant Doe then when back upstairs to continue the search.
approximately 11:00 a.m., Plaintiffs allege, Defendant
Robertson made a call to Defendant Malugen at the Wayne
County Sheriff's Department. Defendants Malugen and
Carroll allegedly arrived a short time later and entered the
Whites' home without permission or a warrant. Plaintiffs
allege they were still being held at gunpoint at that time.
Defendant Malugen then allegedly told Mr. White he needed to
sign a consent form so Defendant Malugen could search, and
Defendant Carroll confiscated Mr. White's phone. When Mr.
White asked what would happen if he refused to sign,
Defendant Malugen allegedly threatened to arrest Mr.
White's wife and daughter. At this point, the Complaint
alleges, “[h]aving been held at gunpoint in his
underwear with his wife and daughter, for over two hours in
freezing temperatures, Mr. White had no choice but to sign
the consent form presented to him by Detective
Malugen.” (Id. ¶ 55).
allege Defendants Robertson and Doe then searched a mobile
home located behind the Whites' home, after tearing the
door off. While the plaintiffs were still being held in the
living room by Defendant Jones, Defendant Malugen allegedly
went upstairs to continue the search, where he seized guns
and marijuana. Defendant Malugen then arrested Mr. White in
his home without a warrant.
Complaint asserts 10 claims arising out of these allegations:
(1) “Negligence, Gross Negligence, and Willful and
Wanton Misconduct” against Defendants Robertson,
Butler, Jones, Doe, Malugen, and the Wayne County
Sheriff's Department (Count One); (2) “Violation of
Federal Civil Rights 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Right to be
Secure From Unreasonable Search and Seizure - Fourth
Amendment; Art. 1 § 7, Tennessee Constitution”
(Count Two) against all Defendants; (3) “Violation of
Federal Civil Rights 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Pattern and
Practice - Fourteenth Amendment” against Defendants
Wayne County Sheriff's Department, Wilson, Malugen, and
Carroll (Count Three); (4) Trespass against all Defendants
(Count Four); (5) Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Distress against Defendants Robertson, Butler, Jones, Doe,
and Malugen (Count Five); (6) Assault and Battery against
Defendants Robertson, Butler, Jones, and Doe (Count Six); (7)
False Imprisonment against Defendants Robertson, Butler,
Jones, Doe, and Malugen (Count Seven); (8) Conspiracy against
Defendants Robertson, Butler, Jones, Doe, Carroll, and
Malugen (Count Eight); (9) Intentional Infliction of
Emotional Distress against Defendants Robertson, Butler,
Jones, Doe, and Malugen (Count Nine); and (10) Invasion of
Privacy against Defendants Robertson, Butler, Jones, Doe, and
Malugen (Count Ten). (Id. ¶¶ 62-107).
the pending Motion, the County Defendants seek to dismiss all
claims against them primarily on the grounds that Mr. White
challenged the search in state criminal proceedings and the
state court ruled against him. In their Response (Doc. No.
28, at 7), Plaintiffs agree to dismiss the Wayne County
Sheriff's Department as a defendant in this case, and
agree that Counts Five and Nine are duplicative. Accordingly,
the Court grants the request to dismiss the Wayne County
Sheriff's Department, and to dismiss Count Nine.
Plaintiffs otherwise argue the Motion should be denied.
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