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Foster v. City of Addis

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 3, 2014

ERIKA FOSTER
v.
CITY OF ADDIS, ET AL

RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JAMES J. BRADY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Motion (doc. 23) for Summary Judgment brought by Defendants, the Town of Addis, [1] a political subdivision of the State of Louisiana, and Robert Arrazattee and Kenneth DeCook of the Addis, La Police Department. Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff Erika Foster's claims for false arrest and failure to train and/or supervise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, state law claims of assault and battery, cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution (doc. 23) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force (doc. 27). Plaintiff has filed an opposition (doc. 27). Oral argument is unnecessary. The Court's jurisdiction exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343. For the reasons stated herein, the Defendants' Motion (doc. 23) for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The evidence submitted on summary judgment establishes allegations arise out of an incident that occurred on November 2, 2012, when Plaintiff was arrested at Chuck's Bar in Addis, Louisiana. Upon her arrival, Plaintiff noticed police officers present at the bar and soon after "got into a fuss with the [bar's] owner."[2] Next, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Officer Arrazattee grabbed Ms. Foster by the collar, picked her up off her feet, before slamming her to the ground. After Officer Arrazattee informed Plaintiff she was resisting arrest, and while still on the ground, Defendant Officer DaCooked forcibly pounded his knee into Plaintiff's back. Afterwards, Ms. Foster was charged with remaining after forbidden, disturbing the peace, and resisting an officer. After Plaintiff was arrested, she was transported to West Baton Rouge Parish Law Enforcement Complex, [3] which is neither owned nor operated by the Town of Addis or any of its officers.[4] Plaintiff alleges that, upon arriving at the jail, she advised that her head was hurting and was told that someone from the medical department would come examine her complaints. However, no examination ever took place. Plaintiff claims that after posting bond, she rushed to Earl K. Long Hospital where she was diagnosed with a moderate to severe concussion.[5]

On January 16, 2014, Plaintiff pled guilty to and was convicted of resisting an officer and remaining after forbidden (doc. 23-3 p1).[6] Plaintiff did not appeal the conviction, nor is there any record the conviction has been overturned.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a carries the burden of demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). When the burden at trial rests on the non-moving party, the moving party need only demonstrate that the record lacks sufficient evidentiary support for the non-moving party's case. Id . The moving party may do this by showing that the evidence is insufficient to prove the existence of one or more essential elements of the non-moving party's case. Id. A party must support its summary judgment position by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" or "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1).

Although the Court considers evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Conclusory allegations and unsubstantiated assertions will not satisfy the non-moving party's burden. Grimes v. Tex. Dep't of Mental Health, 102 F.3d 137, 139-40 (5th Cir. 1996). Similarly, "[u]nsworn pleadings, memoranda or the like are not, of course, competent summary judgment evidence." Larry v. White, 929 F.2d 206, 211 n.12 (5th Cir. 1991). If, once the non-moving party has been given the opportunity to raise a genuine fact issue, no reasonable juror could find for the non-moving party, summary judgment will be granted for the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.

III. Discussion

THE HECK DOCTRINE

The major issue in this ruling is whether or not Plaintiff's suit could collaterally attack the validity of her conviction. The Defendants argue Foster's claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court held that to establish a cognizable claim for damages under § 1983 that would call into question or otherwise invalidate a conviction or sentence, a plaintiff must prove "that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus." Heck 512 U.S. at 486-87. Courts refer to this requirement as the "favorable termination rule." Ballard v. Burton, 444 F.3d 391, 396 (5th Cir. 2006). The Supreme Court explained that if the plaintiff's claim sought to invalidate the underlying conviction or sentence, such claim must be dismissed unless the plaintiff could show that the conviction or sentence had already been invalidated. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. If the district court determines that the Plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not inherently imply the nullification of the criminal judgment against the Plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed. Arnold v. Town of Slaughter, 2003 WL 25739166 at 1 (M.D. La. 2003).

PLAINTIFF'S § 1983 CLAIM

False Arrest

Foster's first claim alleges, while acting under the color of state law, Defendants Arrazattee and DaCook violated her civil and constitutional rights by wrongfully arresting her, offending her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure. Defendants argue Plaintiff's conviction in state court bar all § 1983 claims under the Heck doctrine. The "core of Heck is a proscription against allowing a civil tort suit to cast doubt on a criminal conviction." Faulkner v. McCormick, 2002 WL 31465892 at 2 (E.D. La. 11/1/02) (citing Heck , 512 U.S. at 487). Here, Foster plead guilty[7] and was convicted of resisting an officer and remaining after forbidden. Consequently, Plaintiff's claim of false arrest under § 1983 would directly contradict her conviction because part of the conviction of resisting an officer requires that there be a lawful arrest. To succeed under this claim, Plaintiff would have to prove that the arrest was unlawful, casting doubt on the subsequent conviction of resisting arrest. " Heck will not permit such a conflict between civil and criminal proceeding to stand simultaneously." Arnold v. Town of Slaughter, 2003 WL 25739166 at 3 (M.D. La. 2003). Allowing the Plaintiff to proceed with her false-arrest claim would necessarily attack one of ...


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