Dowdell v. Chapman, Civ. No. 95-D-1073-E.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
Writing for the CourtDE MENT
Citation930 F. Supp. 533
PartiesGeorge DOWDELL, as Administrator of the Estate of Joseph Dowdell, Plaintiff, v. Herman CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCiv. No. 95-D-1073-E.
Decision Date06 May 1996

930 F. Supp. 533

George DOWDELL, as Administrator of the Estate of Joseph Dowdell, Plaintiff,
v.
Herman CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants.

Civ. No. 95-D-1073-E.

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division.

May 6, 1996.


930 F. Supp. 534
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
930 F. Supp. 535
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
930 F. Supp. 536
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
930 F. Supp. 537
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
930 F. Supp. 538
Donald R. Harrison, Harrison & Edmondson, LLC, Dadeville, AL, for plaintiff

Daryl L. Masters, Kelly Gallops Davidson, Webb & Eley, P.C., Montgomery, AL, for defendants Herman Chapman, Lee County, Alabama, Lee County Sheriff's Office and Steve Thompson.

Charles Winston Sheehan, Jr., Ball, Ball, Matthews & Novak, P.A., Montgomery, AL, for defendant Town of Notasulga, Alabama.

Charles Winston Sheehan, Jr., Allison L. Alford, Ball, Ball, Matthews & Novak, P.A., Montgomery, AL, for defendant Durward Ronald Ward.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DE MENT, District Judge.

Before the court is defendant Town of Notasulga's motion for summary judgment filed December 12, 1995; defendant Lee County, Alabama's motion for summary judgment filed December 12, 1995; defendants Herman Chapman and Steve Thompson's motion for summary judgment filed December 12, 1995; defendant Ronald Ward's motion for summary judgment filed February 26, 1996; and defendants Chapman and Thompson's motion to strike filed February 21, 1996. The plaintiff, George Dowdell, responded in opposition on December 28, 1995, March 28, 1996, and March 29, 1996. Because the motions involve similar issues and arise from the same set of facts, the court will address them simultaneously.1 In ruling on said motions, the court has considered the parties' respective briefs, as well as the replies and responses thereto. After careful consideration of the arguments of counsel, the relevant case law and the record as a whole, the court finds that the defendants' motions are due to be granted.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants abridged certain rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution; therefore, jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.2 Personal jurisdiction and venue are uncontested.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

On a motion for summary judgment, the court is to construe the evidence and factual inferences arising therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Summary judgment can be entered on a claim only if it is shown "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). As the Supreme Court has explained the summary judgment standard:

The 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. In such a situation, there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-53, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The trial court's function at this juncture is not "to weigh the evidence and

930 F. Supp. 539
determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (citations omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510; see also Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 933 (11th Cir.1989)

The party seeking summary judgment has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of establishing, based on relevant "portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions in the file, together with affidavits, if any,'" that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. Once this initial demonstration under Rule 56(c) is made, the burden of production, not persuasion, shifts to the nonmoving party. The nonmoving party must "go beyond the pleadings and by his own affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

In meeting this burden the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is a metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). That party must demonstrate that there is a "genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356. An action is void of a material issue for trial "where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356; see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2510.

FINDINGS OF FACT

On August 16, 1993, Mae Ola Dowdell ("Ms. Dowdell") sought to file a petition with the Honorable Hal Smith, Probate Judge of Lee County, regarding the mental commitment of her husband, Joseph Dowdell ("Mr. Dowdell"). Defs Chapman & Thompson's Ex. 16. Judge Smith appointed an attorney, Margaret Mayfield, Esquire, to represent Ms. Dowdell in this matter. Id. Ms. Dowdell met with Ms. Mayfield, who completed a petition for involuntary commitment of Mr. Dowdell on this same date, August 16, 1993. Id. & Ex. 1.

As reasons for such involuntary commitment, Ms. Dowdell stated that she believed her husband was mentally ill because (1) he was not taking his prescribed medication properly; (2) he appeared to be paranoid; (3) he believed she was trying to poison him; (4) he had been committed in the past; and (5) only two days prior to Ms. Dowdell's filing for the petition, Mr. Dowdell had pulled a firearm on Ms. Dowdell and threatened to kill her. Id. Ex. 1 & 16; Pl.'s Ex. 1 (attach. to Pl.'s Resp. filed Mar. 29, 1996). Based on the petition for involuntary commitment, the facts relayed by Ms. Dowdell and the advice of legal counsel, Judge Smith determined that it was not only appropriate, but imperative, that Mr. Dowdell be placed in a hospital for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Defs Chapman & Thompson's Ex. 16. Therefore, Judge Smith entered an order directing the Lee County Sheriff's Department to take Mr. Dowdell to the psychiatric ward at East Alabama Medical Center. Id. & Ex. 2. The order also stated that the Sheriff's Department should bring Mr. Dowdell before Judge Smith on August 19, 1993 at 11:15 p.m. Id. Ex. 2.

On August 16, 1993, Deputy Steve Thompson picked up three separate involuntary commitment orders at the Lee County Sheriff's Department each of which were to be served that day. Id. Ex. 3. Pursuant to the standing operating procedure of the Lee County Sheriff's Department, two officers are required to carry out involuntary mental commitment "pick-up" orders due to the unpredictability of mentally ill persons. Id. & Ex. 4.

Because no Sheriff's Department officers were available, Deputy Thompson contacted officers of other agencies from within the jurisdiction where the commitment papers were to be served. Aff. of Thompson. Deputy

930 F. Supp. 540
Thompson first served an involuntary commitment order with an Auburn Police officer on an individual in the Auburn, Alabama, area. Id. Deputy Thompson's second involuntary commitment order was to be executed on Mr. Dowdell in the Notasulga, Alabama, area. Id.

Deputy Thompson contacted the Notasulga Police Department between 4:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. regarding its assistance in serving the involuntary commitment order on Mr. Dowdell. Subsequently, Deputy Thompson met Notasulga Police Officer Ronnie Ward at Bell's Grocery on Highway 188. Aff. of Thompson; Aff. of Ward. Officer Ward and Deputy Thompson then traveled to Mr. Dowdell's residence in separate cars. Aff. of Thompson.

Upon arriving at Mr. Dowdell's residence, Deputy Thompson and Officer Ward observed a man sitting on the steps under the carport. Aff. of Thompson; Aff. of Ward; Defs Chapman & Thompson's Ex. 5. Deputy Thompson pulled into the driveway and parked diagonally in the yard as Officer Ward pulled in behind Deputy Thompson and parked behind a green Ford. Id.; Defs Chapman & Thompson's Ex. 6. Deputy Thompson and Officer Ward approached the man seated on the steps and Deputy Thompson stated that they were looking for Mr. Dowdell. Id. The individual then stated that he was Joseph Dowdell. Aff. of Ward. Deputy Thompson advised Mr. Dowdell that he had an order signed by Judge Smith to transport him to East Alabama Medical Center. Id.; Aff. of Thompson. Mr. Dowdell stood up and said "get off my property." Id. Deputy Thompson then attempted to approach Mr. Dowdell, and Mr. Dowdell told him to get out of his yard. Id.

Mr. Dowdell then ran into the house and through the kitchen as both Deputy Thompson and Officer Ward followed. Aff. of Thompson; Aff. of Ward. Mr. Dowdell then ran into a dark bedroom and Deputy Thompson heard him picking up something. Id. Because Deputy Thompson feared that Mr. Dowdell was obtaining a firearm, Deputy Thompson ran from the house as did Officer Ward. Id. Officer Ward exited through the side carport door, while Deputy Thompson ran through the living room and out the front door. Id. Both Officer Ward and Deputy Thompson ran to the rear...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 practice notes
  • Raspberry v. Johnson, No. Civ.A. 98-D-1271-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • February 18, 2000
    ...As previously noted by this court, "the State of Alabama has neither consented to suit nor waived its immunity." Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F.Supp. 533, 553 (M.D.Ala.1996). Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Alabama has held that a sheriff is an executive officer of the state and, thus, is enti......
  • Hicks v. Charles Pfizer & Co. Inc., No. Civ.A. 1:04-CV-201.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • September 29, 2005
    ...(E.D.N.Y.1998), aff'd, 181 F.3d 83 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1006, 120 S.Ct. 502, 145 L.Ed.2d 388 (1999); Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F.Supp. 533, 541 (M.D.Ala.1996); Tilton v. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., 905 F.Supp. 1514, 1544 (N.D.Okla.1995), aff'd, 95 F.3d 32 (10th Cir.1996), cert. den......
  • King v. Betts, No. M2009-00117-SC-R11-CV
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • November 18, 2011
    ...factual disputes or by demonstrating that the defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F. Supp. 533, 550-51 (M.D. Ala. 1996) (citing Rich v. Dollar, 841 F.2d 1558, 1563 (11th Cir. 1988)).28Page 17 A public official whose qualified immunity ......
  • King v. Betts, No. M2009–00117–SC–R11–CV.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • November 18, 2011
    ...factual disputes or by demonstrating that the defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F.Supp. 533, 550–51 (M.D.Ala.1996) (citing Rich v. Dollar, 841 F.2d 1558, 1563 (11th Cir.1988)). 28 A public official whose qualified immunity claim has ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Raspberry v. Johnson, No. Civ.A. 98-D-1271-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • February 18, 2000
    ...As previously noted by this court, "the State of Alabama has neither consented to suit nor waived its immunity." Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F.Supp. 533, 553 (M.D.Ala.1996). Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Alabama has held that a sheriff is an executive officer of the state and, thus, is enti......
  • Hicks v. Charles Pfizer & Co. Inc., No. Civ.A. 1:04-CV-201.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • September 29, 2005
    ...(E.D.N.Y.1998), aff'd, 181 F.3d 83 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1006, 120 S.Ct. 502, 145 L.Ed.2d 388 (1999); Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F.Supp. 533, 541 (M.D.Ala.1996); Tilton v. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., 905 F.Supp. 1514, 1544 (N.D.Okla.1995), aff'd, 95 F.3d 32 (10th Cir.1996), cert. den......
  • King v. Betts, No. M2009-00117-SC-R11-CV
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • November 18, 2011
    ...factual disputes or by demonstrating that the defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F. Supp. 533, 550-51 (M.D. Ala. 1996) (citing Rich v. Dollar, 841 F.2d 1558, 1563 (11th Cir. 1988)).28Page 17 A public official whose qualified immunity ......
  • King v. Betts, No. M2009–00117–SC–R11–CV.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • November 18, 2011
    ...factual disputes or by demonstrating that the defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. Dowdell v. Chapman, 930 F.Supp. 533, 550–51 (M.D.Ala.1996) (citing Rich v. Dollar, 841 F.2d 1558, 1563 (11th Cir.1988)). 28 A public official whose qualified immunity claim has ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT