NANCY MORROW; ALVIN RUSSELL MOON, on behalf of Estate of Austin Russell Moon, on behalf of C.D., a minor; CHRISTA DONAHUE, on behalf of A.D., a minor, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
JONATHAN MEACHUM, Defendant-Appellee.
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Texas
DAVIS, COSTA, and OLDHAM, Circuit Judges.
S. OLDHAM, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Moon was a young motorcyclist. He liked to ride fast. So
fast, in fact, he twice eluded police officers at
triple-digit speeds. On officers' third attempt to stop
Moon, a Criminal District Attorney Investigator named
Jonathan Meachum caused Moon to crash. Moon died. The
question presented is whether Meachum is entitled to
qualified immunity. The district court held yes. We affirm.
26, 2014, Meachum was patrolling I-20 near the town of Cisco,
Texas. He was driving a marked police SUV. At around 5:30
p.m., Meachum observed motorcyclist Moon speeding at 85 mph
and weaving through traffic. Meachum turned on his lights to
stop the motorcycle. Moon sped away. Meachum radioed for
shaken the police SUV from his tail, Moon exited I-20. He
stopped at a gas station and hid behind a gas pump. Eastland
County Deputy Sheriff Ben Yarbrough drove by the gas station
and spotted Moon. Moon likewise spotted Yarbrough. So Moon
again sped away-this time performing a "wheelie."
Yarbrough turned on his lights and gave chase. Moon again
escaped. Yarbrough radioed that Moon was now headed south on
Investigator Meachum had also exited I-20 onto southbound
US-183. But given Moon's pit stop, Meachum was now in
front of him. The relevant stretch of US-183 is a two-lane
undivided road with rolling hills. Videos in the record show
light but consistent traffic going both directions. Videos
also show Meachum was driving approximately 100 mph;
motorcyclist Moon was clocked at 150 mph and closing quickly
behind Meachum. As Meachum reached the top of a gentle
hill, he spotted two vehicles in the oncoming (northbound)
lane of US-183. Meachum also spotted Moon approaching from
began the fateful seven seconds at the heart of this case.
According to the dashboard camera ("dashcam") on
Meachum's police SUV and Moon's expert report, the
officer was going approximately 100 mph when he spotted Moon
approaching from behind. The dashcam at that moment is
timestamped 17:46 and 41 seconds. At 42.3 seconds, Meachum
slowed to 93 mph and moved to the right side of his lane. At
43.0 seconds, Meachum slowed to 87 mph. At 44.7 seconds,
Meachum slowed to 71 mph. Then, over the next 2.3 seconds-
from 44.7 to 47.0-Meachum slowed to 56 mph and moved his SUV
leftward and over the center line of US-183. At 47.7 seconds,
Moon crashed into the back of Meachum's SUV. The dashcam
shows Meachum was traveling 51 mph at impact. Moon died. He was
survivors and estate sued Meachum under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for seizing Moon in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They
argued Meachum intentionally positioned his SUV to surprise
Moon, to prevent him from eluding arrest a third time, and
under the circumstances, to kill him.
described his actions as a "rolling block." Meachum
testified he performed a rolling block because he wanted to
(1) discourage Moon from passing in the oncoming traffic lane
and (2) warn the oncoming traffic of the pursuit. Videos
corroborated Meachum's testimony there was northbound
traffic on the highway. The only dispute was whether that
traffic was in the northbound lane or on the shoulder. Either
way, a witness stated Moon's motorcycle was already in
the northbound lane when Meachum crossed the center line.
district court held Meachum was entitled to qualified
immunity and entered summary judgment. It held "the law
is clear that '[a] police officer's attempt to
terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase that threatens the
lives of innocent bystanders does not violate the Fourth
Amendment, even when it places the fleeing motorist at risk
of serious injury or death.'" Morrow v.
Meachum, No. 1:16-cv-118, 2017 WL 4124285, at *4 (N.D.
Tex. Sept. 18, 2017) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550
U.S. 372, 386 (2007)). Moon's estate and survivors
review is de novo. Vann v. City of
Southaven, 884 F.3d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 2018) (per
curiam). We view the facts in the light most favorable to
Appellants and draw all reasonable inferences in their favor.
See ibid. Even so, they cannot show Meachum violated
clearly established law.
seek money damages from the personal pocket of a
law-enforcement officer. The qualified-immunity doctrine
makes that task difficult in ...