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Lively v. Theriot

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana

June 29, 2015

SANDRA LIVELY, ET AL
v.
RONALD J. THERIOT, ET AL

REASONS FOR JUDGMENT

C. MICHAEL HILL, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by defendants, Sheriff Ronald Theriot ("Theriot"), Deputy Jedidiah Champagne ("Champagne"), Deputy Carey Jones ("Jones") and Deputy Andrew Bonvillain ("Bonvillian") on July 22, 2014.[1] [rec. doc. 20]. The plaintiffs have filed opposition [rec. doc. 31], to which the defendants filed a Reply [rec. doc. 33]. Oral argument on the Motion was held and the Motion was taken under advisement. [rec. doc. 34]. Post-Hearing Memorandums were filed by each party. [rec. docs 35 and 36].

For the reasons which follow, the Motion for Summary Judgment [rec. doc. 20] is GRANTED as follows. All federal § 1983 claims asserted by the plaintiffs against Sheriff Theriot, Deputy Champagne, Deputy Jones and Deputy Bonvillain are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. All state law claims asserted by the plaintiffs against Sheriff Theriot, Deputy Champagne, Deputy Jones and Deputy Bonvillain are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Sandra Lively and Latoya Edmond filed the instant civil rights lawsuit against the defendants on September 27, 2013. In their Complaint, plaintiffs assert that the civil rights of Alvin Davis, Jr. ("Davis") were violated on September 28, 2012 when Davis was fatally shot during an attempted arrest. Plaintiffs' claims are asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Louisiana state law.

By the instant Motion, Deputies Champagne, Jones and Bonvillain contend that they are each entitled to qualified immunity and that, therefore, plaintiffs' federal claims against them should be dismissed. More specifically, these defendants contend that plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that the officers violated Davis' constitutional rights because the alleged use of excessive force was objectively reasonable under the circumstances when evaluated in the context in which the force was deployed. These defendants also each assert that even if plaintiffs have demonstrated a violation of Davis' constitutional rights, they are nevertheless qualifiedly immune from suit because all of their actions were objectively reasonable in light of clearly established law.

Sheriff Theriot contends that, with respect to plaintiffs' federal claims, he cannot be held liable under a theory of respondeat superior and that the plaintiffs have failed to allege or put forth sufficient evidence to sustain an individual supervisory or official capacity claim against him.

Standard on Motion for Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted "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."[2]

Rule 56(e) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c)[3], the court may:... (3) grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it....

The Motion for Summary Judgment is properly made and supported. Thus, the plaintiffs may not rest upon the allegations in their pleadings but, rather, must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553-54 (1986). However, metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions and those supported by only a scintilla of evidence are insufficient. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

Moreover, summary judgment is mandated against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish an essential element of that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 106 S.Ct. at 2552. Thus, with respect to those issues on which the movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant need not produce evidence negating the existence of material fact, but may merely point out the absence of evidence supporting the non-movant's case. Id. at 2553-2554; Duplantis v. Shell Offshore, Inc., 948 F.2d 187, 190 (5th Cir. 1992).

The plaintiffs have submitted evidence in opposition to the instant Motion. However, the plaintiffs' evidence fails to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the § 1983 claims asserted against Deputy Champagne, Deputy Jones, Deputy Bonvillain and Sheriff Theriot. Accordingly, summary judgment with respect to these claims is appropriate.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

I. Qualified Immunity

Government officials are entitled to qualified immunity for civil damages if their conduct does not "violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982); Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639-40, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 3039, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987). Claims of qualified immunity must be evaluated in the light of what the officer knew at the time he acted, not on facts discovered subsequently. Luna v. Mullenix, 773 F.3d 712, 718 (5th Cir. 2014) citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989) and Lytle v. Bexar Cnty., Tex., 560 F.3d 404, 411 (5th Cir. 2009). Qualified immunity is not merely a defense to liability but an immunity from suit. Swint v. Chambers County Comm'n, 514 U.S. 35, 42, 115 S.Ct. 1203, 1208, 131 L.Ed.2d 60 (1995); Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 2815, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985).

Claims of qualified immunity require a two-step analysis. First, the court must determine whether the plaintiff has demonstrated that "the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right." Mace v. City of Palestine, 333 F.3d 621, 623 (5th Cir. 2003); Hall v. Thomas, 190 F.3d 693, 696 (5th Cir. 1999) citing Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 232, 111 S.Ct. 1789, 1793, 114 L.Ed.2d 277 (1991). If there is no constitutional violation, the court's inquiry ends. Mace, 333 F.3d at 623.

If the plaintiff has shown the deprivation of a constitutional right, the court must then decide whether the defendant's conduct was objectively reasonable in light of "clearly established" law at the time of the alleged violation. Hall, 190 F.3d at 696 citing Siegert, 500 U.S. at 231-232. This "second prong of the qualified immunity test is better understood as two separate inquiries: whether the allegedly violated constitutional rights were clearly established at the time of the incident; and, if so, whether the conduct of the defendants was objectively unreasonable in the light of that then clearly established law." Estate of Sorrells v. City of Dallas, ...


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