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Sam v. City of Opelousas

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

June 27, 2017





         Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants, the City of Opelousas ("the City") and Officer Shone Chase Richard ("Richard"). Record Document 24. Plaintiff Jamarcus Sam brought this action against Defendants for claims arising out of his detention by Officer Richard. Record Document 3. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion [Record Document 24] is GRANTED. All federal claims against Officer Richard, the City of Opelousas, and the City's insurer are hereby DISMISSED with prejudice. All state law claims are DISMISSED without prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Jamarcus Sam filed this motion against Richard and the City after he was detained by police in 2015. Record Document 3. The action was originally brought by Annie Sam on behalf of her minor son Jamarcus, but when he turned 18, he was substituted as Plaintiff. Record Document 19. The parties largely agree on the facts. Record Document 28, p. 4 ("plaintiff does not seriously dispute the recitation of facts set forth by the defendants"). On February 10, 2015, Plaintiff went to the Walmart store in Opelousas with his friends. Record Document 24-1, p. 1. One friend, Eddie Stagg, allegedly shoplifted a jacket from the store. Id. The group of friends left the store and a Walmart employee called police to report shoplifting by a group of juveniles. Id. Officer Richard responded to the call at Walmart and was advised that the suspects had left the store. Id. Officer Richard arrived at the store and saw a group of juveniles, including Plaintiff, running through a nearby parking lot. Id. Another police officer ordered the juveniles to stop running and Plaintiff complied and laid down on the ground when police said they would release dogs. Record Document 24-2, p. 6. Officer Richard approached Plaintiff, slapped him in the face, kneed him in his left hip, handcuffed him, and shoved him against the side of the police car. Id., p. 7. Officer Richard then put both Plaintiff and Stagg in his patrol car and took them back to Walmart, where Stagg was identified as the alleged shoplifter. Officer Richard took both young men to the police station and called Plaintiff's mother to come get him. From detention to release, the whole episode lasted about an hour. Id., pp, 6-7.

         Plaintiff asserts claims against Officer Richard under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force and unlawful arrest, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and for violations of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Record Document 3. He brings claims against the City for vicarious liability for the actions of Officer Richard and for independent liability for failure to properly investigate the incident, failure to properly train and supervise Officer Richard and "failure to enact or enforce a policy which would have reasonably prevented the incidents complained of herein." Id., p. 5.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs that a court "shall 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, "[1] Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, admissions, depositions, and affidavits on file indicate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp, v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When the burden at trial will rest on the non-moving party, the moving party need not produce evidence to negate the elements of the non-moving party's case; rather, it need only point out the absence of supporting evidence. See Id., at 322-23.

         If the movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact with the motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must demonstrate that there is, in fact, a genuine issue for dispute at trial by going "beyond the pleadings" and designating specific facts for support. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Or. 1994). "This burden is not satisfied with 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts'" by conclusory or unsubstantiated allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor” Anderson v, Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1985) (internal citations omitted); Reid v, State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986) (the court must "review the facts drawing ail inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion"). While not weighing the evidence or evaluating the credibility of witnesses, courts should grant summary judgment where the critical evidence in support of the nonmovant is so weak and tenuous that it could not support a judgment in the nonmovant's favor. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         B. Qualified Immunity

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Richard was acting under color of state law when he detained Plaintiff and that he is liable under § 1983 for excessive force and unlawful arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Officer Richard argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity on all claims.

         Government officials are protected from liability under § 1983 "unless the official's conduct violated a clearly established constitutional right." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009). The Supreme Court has "repeatedly . . . stressed the importance of resolving immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation." Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 226 (1991).

         Qualified immunity is a two-step analysis: (1) whether the facts alleged make out a violation of a constitutional right, and (2) whether the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the defendant's alleged misconduct. Saucier v. Katz. 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). For a right to be dearly established, "the contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right." Club Retro. LLC, v. Hilton, 568 F.3d 181, 194 (5th Cir. 2009). The focus of this inquiry is fair warning. Id. Although this analysis used to be a mandatory two-step process, Pearson established that lower courts have discretion to address these prongs in whichever order is most appropriate in the case at hand. 555 U.S. at 236. "[T]here will be cases in which a court will rather quickly and easily decide that there was no violation of clearly established law before turning to the more difficult question whether the relevant facts make out a constitutional question at all." Id. at 239. Thus, where appropriate, a court may find that qualified immunity exists on the basis of either prong. ...

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