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James v. Woods

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 28, 2017

MARK C. JAMES
v.
SAM WOODS, STEPHANIE WELBORN, ET AL.

         SECTION: "A" (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The following motion is before the Court: Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 82 *SEALED*) filed by defendants Sam Woods and Stephanie Welborn. Plaintiff Mark C. James opposes the motion. The motion, submitted for consideration on April 5, 2017, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff Mark C. James alleges that defendants Sam Woods and Stephanie Welborn instigated his eventual prosecution for aggravated incest solely for the purpose of gaining leverage in an ongoing custody dispute. (Rec. Doc. 9, FAC && 1 & 2). James is suing defendants Woods and Welborn for malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Louisiana law. James is a citizen of Louisiana. Woods and Welborn are citizens of Mississippi.

         Sam Woods and Ms. Tracy James divorced in 2005, and the two are the parents of AGW. Woods and Tracy shared custody but AGW lived with Tracy. (FAC & 38). Mark James met and began to date Tracy in 2006 when she was going through a custody dispute with Woods. (Id. & 36). James and Tracy married in May 2007. Woods later married Stephanie Welborn.

         According to Mark James, when Woods learned that Tracy would move the children from Hattiesburg to Slidell, he immediately and unsuccessfully moved the court for modification of the extant custody agreement. (FAC && 39, 41, 44). After the custody hearing, Sam was overheard saying "I am going to get that son of a [expletive] Mark James if it's the last thing I do." (Id. 42).

         In May or June 2008 Woods started taking AGW to the Office of Child Protective Services in St. Tammany Parish. (FAC & 45). According to the allegations, James either looked under or put his fingers under AGW's diapers, which the eight-year old wore because of a bedwetting problem. (Id. & 47). Woods and Welborn allegedly contacted numerous other agencies and experts when they could not get the cooperation that they sought. James contends that Woods and Welborn never mentioned anything about abuse during the summer of 2008 and never objected when AGW stayed at James's home. (FAC && 54-59). According to James, AGW's allegations were at various times changed or recanted completely. (Id. & 69).

         Woods nonetheless met with a detective of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office on October 14, 2008, to initiate a criminal complaint against James for his touching AGW. (FAC & 86). James contends that Woods and Welborn repeatedly contacted the Sheriff's Office in order to point them to the various counselors to which they had been sending AGW. (Id. & 87). James alleges that Woods and Welborn "painted a picture of the onset of bedwetting and 'yeast infections' for the Sheriff's Office as coinciding with AGW's move to Slidell and time with [him]." (FAC & 88). James contends that in doing so Woods and Welborn "purposefully withheld clear medical documentation which showed AGW's history of bedwetting and urinary tract infections, a history which far predated Mark's ever even meeting Tracy or her children." (Id. & 89) (emphasis in original).

         On November 18, 2008, the New Orleans Police Department Fugitive Division arrested James at his place of employment. (FAC & 96). Nearly five years later James was tried for two days in St. Tammany Parish on a single count of aggravated incest. He was found not guilty in February 2013, after the jury had deliberated for one hour. (Id. && 99, 110, 111). Between the time of his arrest in 2008 and his trial in 2013, James lost his job of 27 years and he alleges that he was virtually unemployable notwithstanding his previously spotless criminal record. (FAC & 102). Woods ultimately prevailed in his custody battle. (Id. & 113). Tracy divorced James in September 2013. (Id. & 117).

         James filed the instant action against Woods, Welborn, and other defendants on January 28, 2014. Vis à vis Woods and Welborn, James asserts claims for malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Louisiana law. James seeks to recover punitive damages and attorney's fees under Mississippi law.[3]

         Woods and Welborn, the only defendants remaining before this Court, now move for summary judgment on all claims. A jury trial in this matter is scheduled for August 21, 2017.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, " when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). Once the moving party has initially shown "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause, " Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with "specific facts" showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Conclusional allegations ...


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