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Huval v. The Louisiana State University Police Department

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

February 27, 2018




         Before the Court are the Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 25 and 28) filed by the Louisiana State University Police Department ("LSU"), the Baton Rouge Police Department, Officer Ory Holmes, and Officer Troy McCreary. Plaintiff Blake Huval filed oppositions (Docs. 41 and 42). Also before the Court is a Motion to Strike (Doc. 61) filed by LSU. For the following reasons, the Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 25 and 28) are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The undisputed facts taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff are as follows.[1] On Saturday, March 8, 2014, Plaintiff Blake Huval, his brother Chase Huval, and their wives drove to dinner at the Chimes Restaurant and then went to a concert at the Varsity Theater near LSU's campus. (Doc. 25-1 at ¶ 1). At the time, Chase Huval was an off-duty state trooper. (Doc. 46-1 at 21:13-14). When the concert ended after midnight, the group walked to a nearby parking lot to meet a friend to pick them up because they had been drinking. (Doc. 25-3 at p. 17:8-19:4). Around the same time, someone alerted Officers McCreary and Holmes of the Baton Rouge Police Department, who were in a police cruiser near the Chimes, that someone was being assaulted in a parking lot nearby. (Doc. 25-7 at p. 21-22).

         The officers drove toward the parking lot and saw a large fight. Id. at p. 22-24. They saw several people bleeding, and several people fled. Id. Officer McCreary began looking for one man who fled, and he eventually saw him sitting in the back of an SUV nearby in the parking lot. Id. at p. 27-28. When Officer McCreary saw the man in the SUV, he walked toward the car shining his flashlight. Id. What Officer McCreary did not know, however, is that three men had just run toward the Huvals, and they told Plaintiffs brother that someone was trying to beat them up, and they asked for help. (Doc. 25-3 at 76:22-77:9). Plaintiffs brother then let the three men sit in his car. (Doc. 77 at 77:13-78:10).

         As Officer McCreary approached, he saw Plaintiff standing near the SUV holding a bottle of alcohol. (Doc. 32 at 1:16:44 AM).[2] Officer McCreary then drew his gun and held it by his side, pointing it toward the ground. (1:16:48 AM). Seconds later Plaintiffs brother walked toward Officer McCreary, stopping within a few feet from him, and he told Officer McCreary that he was a state trooper and he showed him his state trooper badge. (1:16:52 AM; Doc. 46-1 at p. 61). He also told the officer to calm down, and that there was nothing going on. (Doc. 46-1 at 18:6-8).

         Meanwhile Officer Holmes approached from the opposite direction with his taser drawn. (1:16:52 AM). While trying to show Officer McCreary his badge, Plaintiffs brother, placed his left hand on Officer McCreary's chest. (1:16:53 AM). In response, Officer McCreary immediately pushed him away. (1:16:54 AM). Plaintiffs brother recoiled back a few feet, and seconds later Officer Holmes tased him in the back. (1:16:56 AM). After being tased, he fell face first on the ground. (1:16:57 AM).

         Officer Holmes then tried to grab Plaintiff, but Plaintiff stepped backwards to avoid Holmes' reach. (1:16:58 AM). Plaintiff then placed the bottle of alcohol he had been holding on the ground and charged toward Officer Holmes by taking two steps toward him. (1:17:01AM). Officer Holmes then punched Plaintiff in the face, grabbed him, and threw him to the ground. (1:17:01 AM-1:17:05 AM). Officer McCreary also hit Plaintiff with his flashlight once while Officer Holmes struggled to take Plaintiff to the ground. (1:17:04 AM). After being punched, thrown, and hit, Plaintiff fell to the ground next to his brother. (1:17:06 AM).

         Officer McCreary then yelled "gun" because he saw a gun in the small of Plaintiffs brother's back. (Docs. 25-7 at p. 66; 25-8 at p. 79). According to Officer Holmes, because Officer McCreary yelled "gun, " he kicked Plaintiff in the head. (Doc. 25-8 at p. 79; 1:17:05 AM). Neither Officer McCreary nor Officer Holmes saw either Plaintiff or his brother reach for a gun, nor does the video show either man reaching for a gun. (1:16:57 AM-1:17:07 AM). The video also reflects that Plaintiffs brother lay motionless on the ground after Officer Holmes tased him. (1:16:57 AM-1:17:07 AM).

         After kicking Plaintiff, Officer Holmes put his left knee on Plaintiffs back to secure him on the ground. (1:17:12 AM). About a minute and a half later, with Officer Holmes still kneeling over Plaintiff, Plaintiff resisted Officer Holmes by struggling with him on the ground. (1:18:45 AM). About a minute later, Office Latour[3] of the LSU Police Department arrived in a police cruiser. (1:20:00 AM). Officer McCreary handed him a handgun, which belonged to Chase Huval. (Doc. 25-4 at p. 36). Officer Holmes and Officer Latour then flipped Plaintiff onto his stomach and handcuffed him. (1:20:27 AM). After they handcuffed Plaintiff face first on the ground, Plaintiff rolled onto his back so he could breathe. (Doc. 25-3 at p. 29). Officer Latour then told Plaintiff to roll back over and he used his feet to roll Plaintiff back onto his stomach. (1:20:54 AM; Doc. 25-3 at p. 29). Officers Latour and Holmes then grabbed Plaintiff by the arms to roll him on his stomach. Id.

         After turning Plaintiff onto his stomach, Officer Latour put his left foot on Plaintiffs back to keep him on his stomach for about forty seconds. (1:21:02 AM -1:21:40 AM). After Officer Latour removed his foot from Plaintiffs back, Officer Holmes knelt over Plaintiff and held him down for another minute, until he lifted Plaintiff off the ground. (1:21:40 AM-1:22:43 AM). Officer Latour testified that he wanted to keep Plaintiff on his stomach so that he could not kick or resist any further. (Doc. 25-4 at p. 43). Officer Holmes and Officer Latour then walked Plaintiff to Officer Latour's police cruiser while holding onto either side of Plaintiff. (1:22:51 AM).

         While Officers Holmes and Latour took him to a police cruiser, one of the officers, located at Plaintiffs "eight o'clock" hit him with an elbow on the left side of his face. (Doc. 25-3 at p. 30-31). Plaintiff, though, could not see which officer elbowed him. Id. Another witness saw an LSU officer elbow Plaintiff, but she said that the officer who elbowed Plaintiff was not one of the two officers who carried him toward the police cruiser. (Doc. 28-16 at p. 2). Officers then took Plaintiff to a local jail, and released him a few hours later. (Doc. 25-3 at p. 33-36). Plaintiff suffered bruises to his ribs and back, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction to his jaw. (Doc. 25-3 at p. 28). Plaintiff has also experienced anxiety, suffers nightmares, and has trouble sleeping. Id. at p. 50.

         Plaintiff was charged with aggravated assault and resisting an officer. (Doc. 28-9). On March 10, 2015, Plaintiff enrolled in the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office Pretrial Intervention Program ("PTI"). (Docs. 25-9 and 41-2). As part of the program, Plaintiff paid a $500 enrollment fee and a $30 monthly supervision fee. (Doc. 25-9 at p. 4). Plaintiff also agreed to work a suitable job or be enrolled in school, not to leave town without prior approval, to be subject to urine tests, and to make restitution. Id. He also acknowledged that he would be terminated from PTI and prosecuted for the original charges filed against him if he was arrested on new charges. Id. On October 8, 2015, Plaintiff completed PTI, (Doc. 41-3), and the District Attorney dismissed the case against him two weeks later. (Doc. 28-12), In a letter informing Plaintiff that he had completed the pretrial intervention program, the District Attorney wrote that Plaintiffs "record will show no conviction for the charges(s) in question, and there will be no prosecution[.]" (Doc. 42-3).

         Plaintiff sued the Baton Rouge Police Department, Officer Troy McCreary, Officer Ory Holmes, the LSU Police Department, and Barco Entreprises d/b/a the Chimes in the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Doc. 1-2 at p. 2-10). Invoking the Court's federal question jurisdiction, Defendants then removed the case to this Court on August 22, 2016. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that Defendants are liable under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violating his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Doc. 1-2 at p. 6-7). Plaintiff also brings state law claims for battery, false arrest, and false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Defendants. Id. at p. 6. Plaintiff also claims that the Chimes is liable for negligent supervision, and negligent hiring. Id. at p. 7. On December 13, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff and Barco Enterprises Joint Motion for Partial Dismissal, dismissing all claims brought by Plaintiff against Barco Entreprises d/b/a the Chimes. (Doc. 34).


         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment, is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation marks and footnote omitted).

         When determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court "view[s] facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. DisL, 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Brothers v. Klevenhagen, 28 F.3d 452, 455 (5th Cir. 1994)). At this stage, the Court does not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991). However, if the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, could arrive at a verdict in that party's favor, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. Id. at 1263. On the other hand, the non-movant's burden is not satisfied merely upon a showing of "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

         III. DISCUSSION[4]

         A. Plaintiffs Claims Against LSU

         Plaintiff claims that LSU is liable under § 1983 for violating his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Doc. 12 at p. 5). LSU argues that Plaintiffs claims against it should be dismissed because LSU is not a person under § 1983. (Doc. 25-2 at p. 5-6). Section 1983 is limited to claims against "persons." A State is not a "person" under § 1983. Will v. Michigan, 491 U.S. 58, 65 (1989). And Louisiana's public university's including LSU are arms of the state, and are not persons under § 1983 subject to suit. See Jarvis v. Louisiana State Univ. Health Scis. Ctr., No. 06-CV-4384, 2007 WL 2993862, at *3 (E.D. La. Oct. 10, 2007). Plaintiffs § 1983 claims against LSU are therefore dismissed.

         B. Plaintiffs Claims Against the Baton Rouge Police Department

         The Baton Rouge Police Department seeks to dismiss the claims against it because Plaintiff has not provided evidence that his rights were violated as a result of an official policy, and municipalities cannot be held liable under § 1983 based on vicarious liability. (Doc. 28-1 at p. 10). "Municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires proof of 1) a policymaker; 2) an official policy; 3) and a violation of constitutional rights whose 'moving force' is the policy or custom." Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 578 (5th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff has provided no evidence- nor does he even argue-that any official policy led to his injuries. (Doc. 42). Additionally, under § 1983, municipalities cannot be held liable based on vicarious liability, and so Plaintiff cannot hold the Baton Rouge Police Department liable for the actions of Officer McCreary and Holmes. See Rivera v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 349 F.3d 244, 247 (5th Cir. 2003). Plaintiffs § 1983 claims against the Baton Rouge Police Department are therefore dismissed.

         C. Heck Doctrine

         Defendants next argue that Plaintiffs claims are barred under the Heck doctrine. (Docs. 25-2 at p. 8, 28-1 at p. 8). In Heck v. Humphrey,512 U.S. 477 (1994) the Supreme Court held that a state prisoner cannot challenge the constitutionality of his criminal conviction in a civil suit for damages under § 1983. The Heck rule rests on the "principle that civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments." Id. at 486. Instead, "habeas corpus is the appropriate remedy for state prisoners attacking the validity of the fact or length of their confinement, and that specific ...

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