455 F.3d 871 (8th Cir. 2006), 04-3332, Samuelson v. City of New Ulm

Docket Nº:04-3332.
Citation:455 F.3d 871
Party Name:Tracy Allen SAMUELSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF NEW ULM; Officers Jeremey Brennan; Andrew Leif; Jerry Losinski, New Ulm Police officers, personally, and in their official capacities as New Ulm police officers, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:July 20, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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455 F.3d 871 (8th Cir. 2006)

Tracy Allen SAMUELSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,


CITY OF NEW ULM; Officers Jeremey Brennan; Andrew Leif; Jerry Losinski, New Ulm Police officers, personally, and in their official capacities as New Ulm police officers, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 04-3332.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

July 20, 2006

Submitted: May 9, 2005.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Phillip F. Fishman, argued, Minneapolis, MN (Gregory S. Bachmeier, on the brief), for appellant.

Joseph E. Flynn, argued, Lake Elmo, MN (Susan S. Tice, on the brief), for appellee.

Before WOLLMAN, BRIGHT, and BYE, Circuit Judges.

BYE, Circuit Judge.

Tracy Allen Samuelson called the police to report intruders breaking into his garage. He went outside, where police officers took him for an intruder, and he was apprehended. Because of his behavior, the officers transported him to a medical facility, and a physician authorized a seventy-two-hour hold. He sued the individual police officers and the City of New Ulm under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Minnesota law, alleging, inter alia, excessive force and unreasonable seizure. Samuelson appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all claims. We affirm in part and reverse in part.


The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Samuelson, the nonmoving party, Siebrasse v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 418 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2005), are as follows. On the night of January 18, 2003, Samuelson, a private homeowner, woke up and noticed his outdoor motion lights were on. He says he saw three people in his backyard, shouted out the window at them, and watched them flee over his fence. He went back to bed but was later awakened and noticed his motion light on again. This time he saw two people in his backyard trying to get into his garage, and he then called 911. Although Samuelson's conversation with the dispatcher was incoherent at times, the operator elicited enough information to conclude he was complaining of the presence of burglars in his garage. New Ulm police officers were dispatched to his residence.

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After the dispatcher alerted Samuelson the police had arrived, he walked outside to meet the police by the back fence. Officer Jeremey Brennan saw Samuelson through the fence but did not announce his presence. Samuelson pulled himself on the fence when Brennan ordered him to the ground. Samuelson then complied. Brennan also ordered Samuelson to kneel with his hands in the air. Samuelson complained of the muddy ground conditions but complied with the order. Brennan asked Samuelson who owned the garage; Samuelson replied it was his. When Brennan noticed the cordless phone in Samuelson's rear pocket, he asked if Samuelson lived there. He responded in the affirmative.

Samuelson testified an officer got on top of him and punched him on the ribs, head, and neck. Then other officers piled on. Samuelson asked: "What did I do? I am the landowner." An officer responded: "You know what you did. And you keep it up and you are really going to get a beating." According to Samuelson, he did not retaliate or try to escape the officers.

Only after Samuelson was handcuffed did any officer ask for his name. Once restrained, he claims an officer grabbed him by his pinky fingers, bringing him to his knees. The same officer pushed him back to the ground, only to pick him up by his pinky fingers again. Another officer brought him to his feet by pulling on his biceps muscles. Additionally, officers squeezed the handcuffs, causing pain in his wrists. Samuelson asked, "What the hell is going on here? I am the one that called." At that time, an officer took Samuelson's wallet and examined his license.

After placing Samuelson in a police car, the officers searched the garage, but found no intruders or any sign of a break-in. The officers detected a strong solvent smell in the garage. Samuelson's explanation was earlier in the day, he varnished a table in the garage with a finish which had very little odor. While he was in the police car, he asked an officer why the wheels were turning on a stationary police car. Sergeant Losinksi decided to transport him to the New Ulm Medical Center based, in part, on his professional experience, Samuelson's demeanor, and the close proximity to the hospital.

Samuelson arrived at the hospital in a state of shock severe enough where he could not even hold a pencil. He was examined by Dr. Rysdahl, who observed the following: "His mind would all of a sudden not track. He would be saying one thing, and then he would forget. Another time he was talking about something and then all of a sudden he talked about if there's too many trees. He does not make any sense. It is like his mind is not tracking." Dr. Rysdahl signed the written application for a seventy-two-hour hold and stated Samuelson's fast heart rate and abnormal potassium and creatinine levels were most likely due to high stress levels.

Following this incident, Samuelson experienced severe pain in his shoulder and neck, causing him to take eight weeks off from his job as a logger. Although initial tests uncovered no "significant abnormalities," Samuelson continued to feel pain in his shoulder following ten weeks of physical therapy and he began another round of therapy. In June 2003, he still presented "with significant limitation of the right shoulder range of motion, clinical evidence of right subscapularis tendonitis and also involvement of other components of the rotator cuff." An orthopedic surgeon performed surgery on his rotator cuff in July 2003, but found no tear. As late as December 2003, Samuelson still complained of pain in the shoulder, requiring "ongoing exercising to fully rehabilitate and recondition the shoulder and arm." The same orthopedic surgeon stated "the medical

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evaluations, diagnostic studies, and treatment that [Samuelson] has undergone have all developed as a direct result of the alleged incident" because he had no preexisting arm or shoulder injuries.


We review the district court's grant of summary judgment and qualified immunity rulings de novo. Kuha v. City of Minnetonka, 365 F.3d 590, 596 (8th Cir. 2004). Summary judgment is appropriate if the record, when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party shows "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "In order to survive a motion for summary judgment under § 1983, the plaintiff must raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether (1) the defendants acted under color of state law, and (2) the alleged wrongful conduct deprived the plaintiff of a constitutionally protected federal right." Kuha, 365 F.3d at 596 (internal quotation and citation omitted).


To determine whether the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, we engage in a two-part analysis. Janis v. Biesheuvel, 428 F.3d 795, 799 (8th Cir. 2005). The first step is to determine whether, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Samuelson, the officers' conduct violated a constitutional right. Id. (citing Andrews v. Fuoss, 417 F.3d 813, 816 (8th Cir. 2005)). If a constitutional right has been violated, we must then determine if such right was clearly established. Id. (citing Littrell v. Franklin, 388 F.3d 578, 582 (8th Cir. 2004)). This second step is a "fact-intensive inquiry and 'must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.' " Littrell, 388 F.3d at 583 (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001)).


Samuelson claims the officers violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. We analyze this claim under the Fourth Amendment reasonableness standard. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). "Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is 'reasonable' under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake." Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). "[T]he right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use...

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