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Danna v. Purgerson

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

November 17, 2017





         Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Record Document 42] filed by Defendants, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, Detective Matt Purgerson, Detective Keith Fox, and Detective Leonard Scoggins, which prays for this Court to dismiss all claims brought by Plaintiff, Miriam L Danna, with prejudice. Upon consideration of the briefs filed by the parties and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement is GRANTED.


         On January 2, 2015, Plaintiff, her son, and her two grandchildren went to a Dairy Queen restaurant in Shreveport, Louisiana. While at the checkout counter, Plaintiff picked up a wallet that did not belong to her and placed it in her purse. Record Document 48-7. She claims that once she realized the wallet did not belong to her or her son, the wallet was given to an employee at the restaurant. Id. It was later discovered that the wallet belonged to Gerald Smith ("Smith"). Smith reported that he had been in the Dairy Queen on January 2, 2015, and that $153.00 had been stolen from his wallet.[1] Record Document 42-2, p. 1. He reported that he left the wallet on the counter and that it was returned to him the next day, but that all of the money from the wallet had been removed. Id. at p. 1-2.

         Detective Matthew Purgerson of the Caddo Parish Sheriffs Office was assigned to the case. Id. at p. 1. On January 16, 2015, Detective Purgerson, along with Detective Fox and Detective Scoggins, viewed surveillance footage from the Dairy Queen which showed Smith leaving his wallet on the counter and Plaintiff picking up the wallet and placing it in her purse. Id. at p. 2. The video also showed that the wallet was later given to a cashier. Detective Purgerson interviewed the cashier and a Dairy Queen manager. Record Document 42-2, p. 3. Detectives Purgerson and Fox also interviewed Plaintiff, and a decision was made to arrest her for theft. See Record Document 48-1.

         A trial was held in state court in September 2015, and Plaintiff was found not guilty. She then filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law alleging false arrest, excessive force, and malicious prosecution. Defendants assert qualified immunity and move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims.


         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."[2] 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 Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-323.

         If the movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of materia! 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 Cir. 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) (interna! 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 all 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.

         Additionally, Local Rule 56.1 requires the moving party to file a statement of material facts as to which it contends there is no genuine issue to be tried. Pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, the party opposing the motion for summary judgment must set forth a "short and concise statement of the material facts as to which there exists a genuine issue to be tried." All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party "will be deemed admitted, for purposes of the motion, unless controverted as required by this rule." Local Rule 56.2.


         A. Federal Claims

         1. Individual ...

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