Arbuckle v. City of Chattanooga

Decision Date08 March 2010
Docket NumberNo. 1:07-cv-40.,1:07-cv-40.
Citation696 F. Supp.2d 907
PartiesPatricia Turner ARBUCKLE, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CHATTANOOGA, Officer Thomas Buttry, in his individual and official capacity as the agent for the City of Chattanooga, Officer William S. Campbell, in his individual and official capacity as the agent for the City of Chattanooga, and John Doe Officer 1, in his individual and official capacity as the agent for the City of Chattanooga, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Tennessee

Robin R. Flores, Law Office of Robin R. Flores, Chattanooga, TN, for Plaintiff.

Phillip A. Noblett, Crystal R. Freiberg, Nelson, McMahan & Noblett, Chattanooga, TN, for Defendant.


R. ALLAN EDGAR, District Judge.

Plaintiff Patricia Arbuckle brings this civil rights action against defendants the City of Chattanooga (the "City"), Officer Thomas Buttry, in his individual and official capacities, and Officer William S. Campbell, in his individual and official capacities (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiff admits that her action against John Doe should be dismissed. Court Doc. No. 52, p. 2. The action challenges the constitutionality of a search conducted at the Plaintiff's residence on March 13, 2006. Plaintiff brings claims for violation of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to the U.S. Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and for violation of the Tennessee Constitution. Plaintiff seeks damages for the alleged constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 ("Section 1988"). Plaintiff also brings state law claims for negligence, negligence per se, assault and battery, trespass, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff further seeks punitive damages against the individual defendants, Buttry and Campbell. Plaintiff admits that her claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII, and for violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should be DISMISSED. Plaintiff further concedes that the court should DISMISS her claims for trespass and punitive damages against the City. Court Doc. No. 52, pp. 1-2.

Defendants the City, Buttry and Campbell all move for summary judgment dismissal of all of the remaining claims brought by Plaintiff. Court Doc. No. 42. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Court Doc. No. 52. The motion is now ripe for this court's review.

I. Background

The Court finds that there are material facts in dispute. The events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred over the course of a narrow time period in the early morning hours of March 13, 2006. Around three in the morning on that day, a retired Georgia police officer, Lee Blake, followed an intoxicated driver driving a GMC pickup truck on Interstate 24 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. See Court Doc. No. 1, Complaint, ¶ 14; Court Doc. No. 55, p. 2; Court Doc. Nos. 42-3 and 59, Deposition of Thomas Buttry ("Buttry Dep."), p. 45. Mr. Blake contacted the Chattanooga Police Department and reported that he observed the driver of the pickup truck strike a mailbox and a guardrail. Complaint, ¶ 15, Court Doc. No. 55, p. 2. Mr. Blake followed the pickup truck to a residence located at 3622 Conner Street. Complaint, ¶ 16. He subsequently helped to direct Chattanooga Police Officers Buttry and Campbell to the residence. Id. at ¶ 18. See also, Court Doc. Nos. 42-3 and 55, Deposition of William Campbell ("Campbell Dep."), pp. 48, 67-68; Buttry Dep., p. 45.

Plaintiff resided on the top floor of the residence with her husband, while her adult son, Benjamin Arbuckle, resided in an apartment underneath the main floor. The lower floor apartment was not accessible from the upper portion of the house. On the night in question, Plaintiff's husband was away on business, and Plaintiff was alone in the upper portion of the residence.

Around three a.m. in the morning Plaintiff heard her doorbell ring. Court Doc. Nos. 42-1 and 58, Deposition of Patricia Arbuckle ("Arbuckle Dep."), p. 31. In her deposition, Plaintiff described the situation that followed:

Somebody was hitting the door extremely hard and saying, open the door or we'll kick it in. And in Brainerd, you don't open the door in the night, after it's dark. I wouldn't. And I didn't know who they were, and there was a stained glass window. The door was half glass and half wood.... And when they kept saying they would kick the door in, I walked back to the kitchen counter, basically turned around, because it's only a few steps to the counter, and picked up the phone and dialed 911, and then I heard them say they were Chattanooga City Police. And I said, can you show me some identification. And they said, open the door or we'll kick it in. And at this time I saw a gun and a hand, because there is a light on the front porch that—we have motion detections on the corners of the house, and the light was shining, I assume, on the back of one of the officers holding the gun. And all I could see was a gun and a hand. And one of the officers showed me a badge and said, here's the badge, so I assumed that they were the city police.

Arbuckle Dep., pp. 31-32. Plaintiff contends that the officers did not immediately identify themselves, but merely exhorted her to open the door or they would kick it in. Id. at 35. Eventually one of the officers displayed an identification badge against Plaintiff's front door so hard that it cracked a stained glass section of the door. Id. at 47.

Plaintiff testified in her deposition that the following occurred once the officers identified themselves:

When they showed me their badge, I said, I'm opening the door. I'm alone. I have no weapons. I'm opening the door. I wanted them to know. They were yelling at me. I'm yelling at them. And when I opened the door, the alarm went off in the house, and I believe Officer Campbell was the first one in the door. And I said—I had my hands in the air, and I said, I am going to the kitchen to turn the alarm off. I went in the kitchen, turned the alarm off and turned around and looked at him.... Both of them had their guns drawn on me.

Arbuckle Dep., pp. 47-48. Plaintiff is adamant that "they neither one asked permission to enter, and they neither one told me why they were entering." Id. at 50. After they entered the house the officers informed Plaintiff that they were not seeking her husband, but were interested in speaking to her son. Id. While Plaintiff turned off her home alarm in the kitchen, the officers continued to point their weapons at her. Id. at 55. She alleges that Officer Campbell questioned her while Officer Buttry searched her home. Id.

In her deposition, Plaintiff testified that after she turned off her home alarm, the following events transpired:

At that point, I said—he said to me, where is he, where is he. And I said, there's no one here, I'm home alone. I said, I want to cooperate, tell me what you want. He said, I want to know where he is. I said, I'm here alone. He said, you're a liar, you're hiding him.... I was standing with my arms up. He has a gun pointed at me. I thought I was dying, to be honest with you. If he had shot me, I wouldn't have been surprised. That's how terrorized I felt.
He said to me, I want him. And Officer Buttry comes back down the hall with his gun still out of his holster, in his hand, and said, she's telling you the truth, no one is here.
Then Officer Campbell says to me, where is he? And I said he's in North Carolina, he's at a car convention. And he says, I don't want your husband, I want your son. I said, which one? He said, the one that drives the red truck. And I said, if he's home, he gets off after 2:00, he'll be downstairs. I will take you to him. And I began at that point saying, please put your guns up. You're scaring me. I was terrorized. I have never been so afraid in my life....

Arbuckle Dep., pp. 56-57. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Buttry did not ask permission to search her home, but walked down the hallway to her bedroom and her guest bedroom. Id. at 69. She does not know exactly where he searched because Officer Campbell was holding her at gunpoint in the kitchen and questioning her. Id.

Plaintiff then escorted the officers through her home and down some stairs to the front entrance of her son's apartment at the back of the bottom floor of her residence. Arbuckle Dep., p. 57. At that point three more officers joined the Plaintiff and Officers Campbell and Buttry. Id. at 58, 60. Plaintiff estimated in her deposition that she was alone with Officers Campbell and Buttry in her home for about five minutes. Id. at 65.

Plaintiff pounded loudly on her son's door and started screaming at him that the police were there. Arbuckle Dep., p. 65. Benjamin Arbuckle came to the door, and Officer Campbell grabbed him by the arm, led him out of the house, and told him to place his hands on his pickup truck. Campbell Dep., p. 71. Officer Campbell then began patting Mr. Arbuckle down. Id. Plaintiff suggested that he ask for an attorney, and Mr. Arbuckle did so. Id. Mr. Arbuckle declined to take a sobriety test during the incident, based on the advice of Plaintiff. See id. at 72. Following his refusal to take a sobriety test, the police officers placed handcuffs on him. Arbuckle Dep., p. 68; Campbell Dep., p. 73.

The officers entered Mr. Arbuckle's apartment seeking his driver's license after he indicated that it was inside on the kitchen counter. See Campbell Dep., p. 73; Arbuckle Dep., p. 68. Plaintiff followed the officers into her son's apartment and asked them to leave. Arbuckle Dep., p. 68. They left after finding the driver's license they were seeking. Id. The police officers arrested Mr. Arbuckle and placed him in a police vehicle. Plaintiff asked where the officers were taking Mr. Arbuckle, and Officer Campbell responded that they were taking him to the Hamilton County Jail. Campbell Dep., p. 73.

With respect to whether the officers physically harmed her, Plaintiff testified in her deposition that she "made...

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