Anderson v. City of Homewood

Decision Date12 June 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 2:16-cv-00439-TMP
PartiesRANDALL COREY ANDERSON, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF HOMEWOOD, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama
MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the court are two motions for summary judgment, the first filed by the defendants City of Homewood ("City"), Lt. Tim Ross ("Ross"),1 and Officer Michael Jeffcoat ("Jeffcoat") on June 8, 2017 (doc. 49), and the second by Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. ("Wal-Mart") on June 14, 2017 (doc. 54). The defendants seek to dismiss plaintiff's complaint, which consists of various federal-law and state law claims, in its entirety. The motion has been fully briefed, and the parties have consented to dispositive jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Randall Corey Anderson2 filed the original Complaint in this action on March 17, 2016, and named as defendants the City and Wal-Mart. (Doc. 1). Both the City and Wal-Mart filed motions to dismiss the complaint. (Docs. 3 and 5). On July 15, 2016, Anderson filed a First Amended Complaint, adding as defendants Ross, Jeffcoat, and David Roberts ("Roberts"). (Doc. 21).3 Due to the filing of the First Amended Complaint, the previous motions to dismiss were deemed moot. (See doc. 35, p. 2 n.4).

On August 15, 2016, the City, followed by Ross and Jeffcoat, filed motions to dismiss, or alternatively for more definite statement. (Docs. 24 and 25). Wal-Mart and Roberts filed a motion to dismiss on August 15, 2016, as well. (Doc. 27). The court subsequently entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part the motions to dismiss. (Docs. 35 and 36). As a result, the following claims remain pending:

• Arrest of the plaintiff without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment against the City, Ross, and Jeffcoat. (First and Fourth Claims)
• Denial of due process and equal protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against the City (First and Fourth Claims)4
• Gross negligence against the City (Second Claim)
• Deliberate indifference to the need for further training of police officers with respect to making constitutionally proper arrests against the City (Second Claim)
• Use of unconstitutionally excessive force in making an arrest of the plaintiff in violation of the Fourth Amendment, against the City and Jeffcoat (Third Claim)• False imprisonment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and denial of equal protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against the City (Fifth Claim)
• Negligent slander and false-light invasion of privacy against the City (Eighth Claim)
• Common law false arrest and false imprisonment against the City, Ross, and Jeffcoat (Ninth Claim)
• Assault and battery against the City and Jeffcoat (Tenth Claim)
• Negligent failure to train against the City (Ninth and Eleventh Claims)
• Negligent, wanton, intentional failure to train employees regarding the proper circumstances under which to sign a criminal complaint for trespass against Wal-Mart (Ninth and Eleventh Claim)

(Doc. 36, pp. 1-4). On December 27, 2016, the City filed a motion to reconsider. (Doc. 37). The court granted the motion on February 8, 2017, holding that punitive damages were not available as a remedy against the City. (Doc. 41). Each of the defendants subsequently filed an Answer to the First Amended Complaint on January 10, 2017. (Docs 38, 39, and 40).

After twice extending the deadline to file dispositive motions (docs. 43 and 47), the City, Ross, and Jeffcoat filed a motion for summary judgment on June 8, 2017 (doc. 49), and Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment on June 14, 2017 (doc. 54). Anderson filed responses in opposition to the two motions on September 6, 2017, although the reason for the delay is not clear from the record.(Doc. 57 and 58). The City, Ross, and Jeffcoat filed a reply on September 14, 2017 (doc. 60), and Wal-Mart filed a reply on September 21, 2017 (doc. 61).

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment is proper "if 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(a). The party asking for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting former Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. There is no requirement, however, "that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim." Id. at 323.

Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56 "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions,answers to interrogatories, and admissions of file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (quoting former Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The nonmoving party need not present evidence in a form necessary for admission at trial; however, he may not merely rest on his pleadings. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. "[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322.

After the plaintiff has properly responded to a proper motion for summary judgment, the court "shall" grant the motion if there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. "[T]he judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 249. His guide is the same standard necessary to direct a verdict: "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party mustprevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52; see also Bill Johnson's Restaurants, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., 461 U.S. 731, 745 n. 11 (1983).

However, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The evidence supporting a claim must be "substantial," Marcus v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 379 (5th Cir., Unit B, 1981); a mere scintilla of evidence is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact. Young v. City of Palm Bay, 358 F.3d 859, 860 (11th Cir. 2004); Kesinger ex rel. Estate of Kesinger v. Herrington, 381 F.3d 1243, 1249-50 (11th Cir. 2004). If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted); accord Spence v. Zimmerman, 873 F.2d 256 (11th Cir. 1989). Furthermore, the court must "view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden," so there must be sufficient evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254; Cottle v. Storer Communications, Inc., 849 F.2d 570, 575 (11th Cir. 1988). Nevertheless, credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of inferences from the facts are the function of the jury, and therefore the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The non-movant need not be given the benefit of everyinference but only of every reasonable inference. Brown v. City of Clewiston, 848 F.2d 1534, 1540 n. 12 (11th Cir. 1988).

III. FACTS

For purposes of summary judgment, the courts are directed to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, which, in this case, is Anderson. Accordingly, the following facts are relevant to the instant motions for summary judgment.

On December 26, 2014, Anderson was in Birmingham, visiting family over the Christmas holiday. (Doc. 54-2, pp. 75:13 - 76:7). Although he grew up in Birmingham, Anderson lives in Fulton County, Georgia. (Doc. 54-2, pp. 23:1-17, 7:6-14). Anderson arrived at the Wal-Mart store on Lakeshore Parkway, in Homewood, Alabama, on December 26 at approximately 4:15 p.m. to purchase drinks and snacks to take to his cousin's home. (Doc. 54-2, pp. 84:22 - 85:19, 102:12 - 103:6).

Anderson first saw Black Lives Matter ("BLM") protestors while he was at the traffic light on Lakeshore Parkway waiting to turn into Wal-Mart. (Doc. 54-2, p. 106:13-19). He was neither aware of any planned demonstration at Wal-Mart when he arrived (doc. 54-2, pp. 80:10 - 81:8) nor involved in the protest (see doc.54-4, pp. 262:21 - 263:12).5 Furthermore, he maintains that he had not previously participated in a BLM demonstration or protest. (Doc. 54-2, pp.74:20 - 75:5). After he parked his car in the Wal-Mart parking lot, he stood outside his car to watch the BLM protestors as they made their way from Lakeshore Parkway, through...

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