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Aubin v. Columbia Casualty Company

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 23, 2018

WILLIAM AUBIN ET AL.
v.
COLUMBIA CASUALTY COMPANY, ETAL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court are Plaintiffs William Aubin and April Aubin's Motion in Limine to Exclude Testimony of George Armbruster (Doc. 142) and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 146), Defendant Deputy William Durkin's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 143), and Defendant Sheriff Jason Ard's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 144). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine (Doc. 142) and Defendants' Motions for Partial Summary Judgment (Docs. 143 and 144) are GRANTED. Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 146) is DENTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs William Aubin and his wife April Aubin allege that on April 30, 2015, Deputy William Durkin arrived in their neighborhood near Denham Springs, Louisiana in response to a complaint about their neighbor. (Doc. 117 at ¶ 6-7). Plaintiffs claim that when they approached Deputy Durkin, the Deputy told Mr. Aubin to "stand back and shut his mouth." Id. at ¶ 8-9. Plaintiffs allege that Deputy Durkin then called Mr. Aubin a "pussy" and when he asked Deputy Durkin not to curse in front of his wife, Deputy Durkin said "one more time and your pussy ass is going to jail." Id. at ¶ 10-11. Plaintiffs assert that Mr. Aubin then told Deputy Durkin that he was going to call the Deputy's supervisor to complain about him and that he said "I'm gonna get you fired" and "I'm gonna have your job." Id. at ¶¶ 14-15, 58.

         Plaintiffs claim that Deputy Durkin then hit Mr. Aubin in the head with his handcuffs, twisted his arm behind his back, kicked him in the legs and buttocks, and threw him on his patrol car. Id. at ¶ 15-18. Plaintiffs allege that when Ms. Aubin asked what was happening, Deputy Durkin said "Shut up bitch before I take you with the dumb ass." Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Aubin was charged with resisting an officer, interfering with a law enforcement investigation, and public intimidation. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiffs claim that the charges were later dismissed. Id. at ¶ 28.

         Plaintiffs sued Deputy Durkin, in his individual capacity, Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard, individually and in his official capacity, and Columbia Casualty Company. (Doc. 117 at p. 1). Plaintiffs claim that Deputy Durkin is liable for battery, assault, false arrest, false imprisonment, unlawful seizure, cruel treatment, excessive and unreasonable use of force, and malicious prosecution. Id. at ¶ 29. Plaintiffs also claim that Deputy Durkin is liable for assault and for loss of consortium, and that that Sheriff Ard is also vicariously liable for Deputy Durkin's actions and for his failure to adequately train and supervise Deputy Durkin. Id. at ¶ 30-34. Plaintiffs further allege that Louisiana's public intimidation statute is unconstitutional. Id. at ¶ 41-45.

         On March 24, 2017, the Court denied Sheriff Ard's Motion to Dismiss, in which he sought to dismiss all federal and certain state law claims against him. (Doc. 88). On June 12, 2017, the Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 116). The Court then granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment in part, and ruled that Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment on their state law false arrest claim. Aubin v. Columbia Cas. Co., 272 F.Supp.3d 828, 832 (M.D. La. 2017). The Court also granted Defendants Motion to Dismiss in part and dismissed Plaintiffs' state law failure to train claim. Id.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         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. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Brothers v. Klevenhagen, 28 F.3d 452, 455 (5th Cir. 1994)).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Deputy Durkin's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 143)

         Deputy Durkin and Plaintiffs cross-move for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' false arrest claim under § 1983. (Docs. 143 and 146).[1] Plaintiffs' argue that Mr. Aubin is entitled to summary judgment because the Court has already held that it was unreasonable for Deputy Durkin to rely on the public intimidation statute to arrest him. (Doc. 146-1 at p, 3). Deputy Durkin argues that Plaintiffs' false arrest claim is barred by the independent intermediary doctrine because a state court judge found that there was probable cause to detain Mr. Aubin. (Doc. 143 at p. 12).

         In the context of Plaintiffs' Louisiana state law false arrest claim, the Court has held that it was unreasonable for Deputy Durkin to rely on the public intimidation statute. Aubin, 272 F.Supp.3d at 838. The Court explained that "[a] statute that criminalizes entirely non-violent threats to an officer's employment is so patently and obviously unconstitutional, that no reasonable officer could believe it to have been valid." Id. While the independent intermediary doctrine does not apply to Louisiana state law false arrest claims, id. at 836, it does apply to a § 1983 action grounded in the Fourth Amendment. In a § 1983 action, the Fifth Circuit has held that "if facts supporting an arrest are placed before an independent intermediary such as a magistrate or grand jury, the intermediary's decision breaks the chain of causation for false arrest, insulating the initiating party." Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 813 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Taylor v. Gregg, 36 F.3d 453, 456 (5th Cir. 1994).

         Here, the undisputed facts reflect that after arresting Mr. Aubin on April 30, 2015, Deputy Durkin completed an affidavit of probable cause, detailing the facts that gave rise to Mr. Aubin's arrest for resisting an officer and public intimidation. (Doc. 143-4). The next day, ajudgeonthe 21st Judicial District Court, Parish of Livingston, Louisiana signed the affidavit of probable cause, concluding that there was probable cause to continue to hold Plaintiff. Id. Because a state court judge found probable cause, the independent intermediary ...


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