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Hansen v. Thorpe

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 11, 2018

CHRISTOPHER HANSEN
v.
ROGER THORPE

         SECTION “L” (3)

          ORDER & REASONS

          ELDON E. FALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a motion to stay this litigation pending the resolution of a related criminal matter filed by Defendant Roger Thorpe. R. Doc. 10. Plaintiff Christopher Hansen opposes the motion. R. Doc. 11. Thorpe has filed a reply. R. Doc. 14. Having considered the record, the parties' arguments, and the applicable law, the Court rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 23, 2017, Plaintiff Christopher Hansen alleges he was traveling eastbound on Interstate-10 when he was verbally accosted by Defendant Roger Thorpe. R. Doc. 1 at ¶ 5. According to Plaintiff, after he “maneuvered his vehicle around Defendant's vehicle in slow moving traffic, ” Defendant “rolled down his window” and began yelling at Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 5. Plaintiff continued driving with his window up when Defendant “suddenly pulled out a firearm and fired at least two (2) rounds into Plaintiffs vehicle, ” which “shattered the right rear passenger side window of Plaintiff's vehicle, striking the front passenger seat head rest.” Id. at ¶ 6.

         In an attempt to read Defendant's license plate number, Plaintiff followed Defendant for a brief period until Defendant eventually pulled over, and Plaintiff parked his car behind Defendant's. Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff alleges that, once he parked his car, “Defendant exited his vehicle with his firearm drawn, approached Plaintiff, . . . threatened to kill Plaintiff[, ] and demanded that Plaintiff give up his cellular phone.” Id. at 8. “Fear[ing] for his life, ” Plaintiff dropped his phone on the ground, id. at ¶ 9, whereupon “Defendant picked [it] up . . . and walked back to his vehicle, ” “verbally threaten[ing] to kill Plaintiff if Plaintiff continued to follow [him], ” id. at ¶¶ 10, 11. Plaintiff alleges he suffered “severe emotional distress that includes, inpatient psychiatric treatment for suicidal ideations, divorce and continuing post[-]traumatic stress disorder” as a result of Defendant's actions. Id. at ¶ 26.

         Following the incident, Police officers arrested Defendant for: (1) Aggravated Assault with a Firearm, (2) Use of a Firearm in Robbery, and (3) Illegal Use of Weapons: Relative to Illegal Discharge of a Firearm. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges the New Orleans District Attorney ultimately charged Defendant with: (1) Discharging a Firearm During the Commission of a Violent Crime, in violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:94(F); and (2) Armed Robbery with a Firearm, in violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:64.3. Id. at ¶ 15. According to the Complaint, “Defendant's [criminal] case is active and is styled as State v. Roger Thorpe, ” No. 538428, Section “I.” Id.

         Based on these allegations, Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant on June 22, 2018. Id. He brings claims for assault with a deadly weapon and/or aggravated assault, id. at ¶ 4, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, id. at 5-6. He seeks judgment against defendant “in an amount that will compensate him for . . . violation[s] of his rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the laws of the State of Louisiana, including but not limited to”: (1) “LSA-C.C. Art. 2315 [for] damages sustained by him as a direct victim of the Aggravated Assault, ” (2) “LSA-C.C. Art. 2315 [for] damages sustained by him as a direct victim of the Armed Robbery, ” (3) compensatory damages, (4) punitive damages, (5) costs, and (6) pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. Id. at 6-7.

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         On November 1, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to stay the instant proceedings while his related criminal case is pending. He submits that “[i]f the civil litigation is allowed to proceed simultaneously with the criminal proceeding, [he] will be forced to choose between exercising his rights under the Fifth Amendment and exposing himself to . . . [Plaintiff's] contention that [Defendant's] failure to testify warrants an adverse inference.” R. Doc. 10-1 at 1.

         In opposition, Plaintiff admits “The instant civil action . . . overlap[s] with the criminal case, ” but nevertheless contends the Court “can move this case forward using the admissions that Defendant made in his 911 Emergency call that is referenced on page 4 of the NOPD Arrest report.” R. Doc. 11 at 3. He also points to the criminal court's denial of Defendant's motions to suppress his statement to police and the gun discovered in his home, arguing “the evidence that is now in the public record in Defendant's criminal case is substantial enough to prove Plaintiff's case under the preponderance of the evidence civil court standard without having to take Defendant's deposition or serve Defendant with Admissions, Interrogatories or Requests for Production.” According to Plaintiff, because this evidence and Defendant's prior statements are publicly available, “Defendant will not be prejudiced at all; nor will Defendant's constitutional rights be put in any jeopardy.” Id. at 5. Finally, Plaintiff contends he “will be highly prejudiced if this case is stayed indefinitely and he is not first able to identify the assets Defendant currently holds, ” as “the indefinite delay could completely frustrate Plaintiff's ability to recover damages once the Criminal Prosecution is concluded.” Id. at 5.

         III. LAW & ANALYSIS

         A stay may be warranted only where “special circumstances” exist to prevent a party from suffering substantial and irreparable prejudice. S.E.C. v. First Fin. Grp., 659 F.2d 660 (5th Cir. 1981). To determine whether ...


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