United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MARCUS D. BLAKEMORE, Plaintiff,
JEFF ROBERSON, Defendant.
Guyton, Magistrate Judge.
L. Reeves, Chief Judge.
the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 14), seeking dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for
false arrest, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment
arising out of his arrest by Defendant for boating under the
influence in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated §
69-6-217. Defendant argues he had probable cause to arrest
Plaintiff and is entitled to qualified immunity because his
actions were objectively reasonable under the circumstances.
Genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment in
this matter and the Motion (Doc. 14) will be denied.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
September 24, 2016, Plaintiff, Marcus Blakemore, and his
wife, Heather Blakemore, attended a cookout/tailgating event
at the marina outside Neyland Stadium. (Doc. 19-5 at 18-19;
Doc. 19-7 at 6-7). The cookout began sometime prior to the
football game, which was televised at 3:30 p.m. E.S.T. (Doc.
19-2 at 1; Doc. 19-5 at 19). At the cookout, Plaintiff
consumed two beers. (Doc. 19-5 at 12). In the evening,
Plaintiff, Mrs. Blakemore, and their friend, Tommy Wykle,
decided to take Wykle’s boat out because it was a nice
night. (Doc. 19-5 at 11-12). Though the exact time of their
departure is not clear, it was dark and appears to have been
around 8:00 p.m. (Doc. 14-5 at 3; Doc. 19-7 at 7; Doc. 19-11
at 2). Wykle pulled the boat out of the slip, and Plaintiff
drove the boat into the channel. (Doc. 14-5 at 3-4; Doc. 19-5
at 13). Shortly after the boat left the marina, it was pulled
over by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers Greg
Julian and Jeff Roberson. (Doc. 19-5 at 13-14; Doc. 14-5 at
4; Doc. 19-11). One or both of the officers observed a
starboard navigational light out on Wykle’s boat and
initiated the stop with flashing blue lights. (Doc. 14-3 at
9; Doc. 19-11 at 2). While Officer Julian piloted the patrol
boat, Defendant indicated to the occupants of Wykle’s
boat that a navigational light was out. (Doc. 19-5 at 14;
Doc. 14-3 at 11). Plaintiff or Wykle had checked all the
lights prior to leaving the dock, and they appeared to be
working properly. (Doc. 14-5 at 3; Doc. 19-5 at 14). They
tried to correct the light issue, but the light did not turn
back on. (Doc. 14-3 at 11-12; Doc. 14-5 at 4).
his position on the patrol boat, Defendant says he saw
“several open containers” on Wykle’s boat
and detected an odor of alcohol coming from the boat. (Doc.
19-10 at 3, 6-7). He noticed a clear glass on the dash in the
operator’s area, which to him “appeared to be an
alcoholic beverage.” (Doc. 19-10 at 7, 31). In his
testimony, Defendant recalled it was a brownish liquid. (Doc.
19-10 at 31). The bodycam footage of the incident shows it
was clear liquid or ice. (Doc. 20, at 20:16). Plaintiff avers
the glass contained water. (Doc. 19-1 at 1). Though there was
nothing about the way the boat was being operated that
indicated the driver was boating under the influence of an
intoxicant, Defendant testified that “every stop is a
BUI investigation until evidence shows otherwise.”
(Doc. 19-10 at 6).
then indicated he would be conducting a safety inspection,
boarded Wykle’s boat, and asked the occupants to
produce life jackets. (Doc. 19-5 at 14, Doc. 14-5 at 5). The
bodycam footage begins aboard Wykle’s boat. (Doc. 20).
Plaintiff went down in the cabin of the boat, with Wykle
directing him as to the location of the life jackets.
(Id. at 20:15). Plaintiff produced the life jackets
and returned to the deck. (Id.). As Plaintiff walked
up the stairs, Defendant asked Plaintiff if he had been
drinking. (Id. at 20:17). Plaintiff indicated he had
two beers earlier. (Id.). Defendant asked if that
was all, and Plaintiff confirmed it was. (Id.).
Defendant then asked Plaintiff to say the alphabet without
singing and count backwards from 89 to 65. (Id. at
20:17 to 20:19). Plaintiff did so but not to
Defendant’s satisfaction. (Doc. 19-10 at 19, 21).
According to Defendant, Plaintiff sang the alphabet and
repeated several letters; in counting, he hesitated on a few
numbers and continued past 65. (Id.). Though he was
quite close to it at times, Defendant did not investigate the
glass, ask what it was, test it, or make any effort to
determine what it contained. (Doc. 19-10 at 7, 28-31; Doc. 20
then asked Plaintiff to put on a life jacket and directed
Plaintiff to his patrol boat. (Doc. 19-10 at 23; Doc. 20 at
20:19, 20:22; Doc. 14-5 at 5). On the patrol boat, Defendant
conducted four seated field sobriety tests: Horizontal Gaze
Nystagmus (“HGN”), Finger to Nose, Palm Pat, and
Hand Coordination. (Doc. 19-10 at 32, 35, 36, 38). In
Defendant’s estimation, Plaintiff failed the first
three tests by exhibiting sufficient “clues” to
indicate impairment and passed the final test. (Doc. 19-10 at
52; Doc. 19-11 at 4-5). During the tests, the flashing lights
of the patrol boat appear to have remained on. (Doc. 20 at
20:23). The boat visibly rocks and the sound of motors and
sirens can be heard in the background during or between
several tests. (Id. at 20:25, 20:26, 20:27).
Plaintiff, a large man, appears to clasp the seat on either
side while the boat rocks after the HGN test and again after
the Hand Coordination test. (Id. at 20:26; 20:32).
did not discuss the results of the test with Plaintiff.
(Id.). He again asked Plaintiff whether he in fact
had only had two beers, referencing liquor he may have seen
on the boat. (Id. at 20:32). Plaintiff confirmed he
had only two and indicated it was during the football game,
around halftime. (Id.). The game was televised
beginning at 3:30 p.m. E.S.T., approximately five hours
then asked Plaintiff for some personal information, chatting
and commenting on Plaintiff’s impressive level of
education while he filled out a form. (Doc. 20 at
20:33-20:34). Plaintiff appears visibly more relaxed and
answers Defendant’s questions. (Id.).
Defendant still did not inform Plaintiff that he had failed
the tests or that he was under arrest. (Id.).
Defendant then told Plaintiff he was going to read a form
aloud and give Plaintiff the option to sign it. (Doc. 20 at
20:38). He read aloud the BUI Implied Consent Form, which
reads in part: “There are reasonable grounds to believe
that you were operating or in physical control of a vessel
while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. You are
under arrest and I request that you submit to a test to
determine your alcohol and/or drug level.”
Plaintiff hears the word “arrest, ” the video
shows him lean forward to listen more intently, looking
confused. (Id.). Defendant then hands Plaintiff the
BUI Implied Consent Form and explains he is asking for a
blood alcohol sample, so Blakemore needs to check whether he
will submit or not. (Id.). Blakemore takes the form
and says yes, he has no problem with it. (Id.). He
holds the pen as if to sign the form and then pauses, looks
up and says “You said I’m under arrest?”
(Id.). Defendant says yes. (Id.).
Plaintiff was handcuffed and transported to Knox County jail.
(Doc. 19-10 at 34, 42). A blood sample was taken, which came
back negative for alcohol and basic drugs. (Doc. 19-11 at
7-8). After all charges against him were dropped, Blakemore
sued Officer Roberson in Knox County Circuit Court for false
arrest, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment. (Doc.
1 at 8-13). Defendant removed the action to this Court on the
basis of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. (Doc. 1
at 1). Defendant now moves for summary judgment as to all of
Plaintiff’s claims based on the assertion that he acted
with probable cause and is entitled to qualified immunity
because his actions were objectively reasonable under the
circumstances. (Doc. 14, Doc. 15). Blakemore maintains that
genuine issues of material fact as to probable cause and
qualified immunity preclude summary judgment for Defendant.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs the Court to grant
summary judgment “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 party asserting the presence or absence of genuine
issues of material facts must support its position either by
“citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
” including depositions, documents, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations, or other materials, or by
“showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)(1). When ruling on a motion
for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts contained
in the record and all inferences that can be drawn from those
facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat’l
Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900,
907 (6th Cir. 2001). The Court cannot weigh the evidence,
judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of
any matter in dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). But, where there is
“‘a videotape capturing the events in question,
’ the court must ‘view the facts in the light
depicted by the videotape.’” Green v.
Throckmorton, 681 F.3d 853, 859 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378-81 (2007).
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that
no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party
may discharge this burden either by producing evidence that
demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact
or simply “by ‘showing’ – that is,
pointing out to the district court – that there is an
absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s
case.” Id. at 325. Where the movant has
satisfied this burden, the nonmoving party cannot “rest
upon its . . . pleadings, but rather must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578 F.3d 351, 374 (6th
Cir. 2009) (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586;
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). The nonmoving party must present sufficient
probative evidence supporting its claim that disputes over
material facts remain and must be resolved by a judge or jury
at trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49 (citing
First Nat’l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co.,
391 U.S. 253 (1968)); see also White v. Wyndham Vacation
Ownership, Inc., 617 F.3d 472, 475-76 (6th Cir. 2010). A
mere scintilla of evidence is not enough; there must be
evidence from which a jury could reasonably find in favor of
the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252;
Moldowan, 578 F.3d at 374. If the nonmoving party
fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of
its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof,
the moving party is entitled to summary judgment.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
brings suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation
of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, asserting
claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious
prosecution. “To prevail on a § 1983 claim, a
plaintiff must establish that a person acting under color of
state law deprived the plaintiff of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States.”
Green, 681 F.3d at 860.
succeed on a malicious prosecution claim under § 1983
based on a Fourth Amendment violation, a ...