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Senegal v. Sheriffs Dep't Beauregard Parish

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

May 8, 2018




         Before the court are Motions for Summary Judgment [docs. 43, 58] filed by defendant Joshua Stanford (“Stanford”) in the civil rights and tort action brought by Courtney Senegal (“Senegal”/“plaintiff”), individually and as administrator on behalf of the estate of Eric Senegal (“decedent”). Senegal has filed no opposition to either motion and her time for doing so has passed. Accordingly, the motions are regarded as unopposed. They have been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636.



         This action arises from the decedent's death during the execution of a no-knock search warrant at the decedent's home in Ragley, Louisiana, allegedly committed by members of the Beauregard Parish Narcotics Task Force (“NTF”) and Beauregard Parish SWAT Team on the night of January 4, 2016. Doc. 49, pp. 4-10. The warrant was allegedly obtained by members of the NTF based on uncorroborated and unreliable sources and without a risk assessment performed by any member of the NTF to determine the need for applying for a “no-knock” warrant. Id. at 5-6. The plaintiff asserts that defendants are therefore liable for forcibly entering the decedent's home on the night of January 4, 2016 and firing numerous shots which fatally wounded the decedent and his dog. Id. at 6-7.

         The plaintiff, who is the surviving spouse of the decedent, filed suit in this court against several defendants, including DeRidder Police Officer Joshua Stanford. See doc. 1. In her second amended complaint, she seeks to hold Stanford personally liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law based on Stanford's alleged presence during the execution of the warrant and involvement in the NTF, which plaintiff maintains had a policy of requesting “no-knock” warrants without making necessary constitutional inquiry.[1] Doc. 49, pp. 4-16.

         Stanford moved for summary judgment [doc. 43] after the plaintiff filed her first amended complaint, and now renews the arguments made in that motion based on the claims raised in the plaintiff's second amended complaint. Doc. 58. The plaintiff has filed no response, and so the motions are regarded as unopposed.


         Summary Judgment Standard

         A court should grant a motion for summary judgment when 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The party moving for summary judgment is initially responsible for identifying portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Tubacex, Inc. v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995). The court must deny the motion for summary judgment if the movant fails to meet this burden. Id.

         If the movant makes this showing, however, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511 (1986) (quotations omitted). This requires more than mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings. Instead, the nonmovant must submit “significant probative evidence” in support of his claim. State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman, 896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th Cir. 1990). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 (citations omitted).

         A court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2110 (2000). The court is also required to view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Clift v. Clift, 210 F.3d 268, 270 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this standard, a genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable trier of fact could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Brumfield v. Hollins, 551 F.3d 322, 326 (5th Cir. 2008).

         “A motion for summary judgment cannot be granted simply because there is no opposition, even if failure to oppose violated a local rule.” Hetzel v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 50 F.3d 360, 362 n. 3 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Hibernia Nat. Bank v. Administracion Cent. Sociedad Anonima, 776 F.2d 1277, 1279 (5th Cir. 1985)). The moving party still bears the burden, described above, of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. Under this court's rules, however, when the non-moving party fails to file a response and statement of contested material ...

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