Grant County Com'rs v. Cotton
|21 March 1997
|GRANT COUNTY COMMISSIONERS and Grant County Sheriff, Appellants-Defendants, v. Mark COTTON, Appellee-Plaintiff.
|Indiana Appellate Court
We granted the Grant County Sheriff's petition to accept jurisdiction of this interlocutory appeal, which involves the trial court's denial of the Sheriff's motion for summary judgment in this false arrest and false imprisonment action instituted by Mark Cotton.
The Sheriff raises several issues on appeal, but we address only the following dispositive issue Was the Sheriff entitled to summary judgment based upon a claim of immunity for detaining Cotton pursuant to an outstanding and facially valid arrest warrant issued by a judge of the Grant Superior Court?
We reverse and remand for entry of an order granting summary judgment in favor of the Sheriff.
Following a domestic dispute at his girlfriend's home, Cotton was arrested and taken to the Grant County Jail on June 26, 1994 on charges of simple battery, public intoxication, and residential entry. On June 27, 1994, Cotton posted bond and was released from jail.
On June 28, 1994, a Grant County deputy prosecutor filed a four-count information in Grant Superior Court 3, formally charging Cotton with criminal confinement, battery resulting in bodily injury, public intoxication, and criminal mischief for his actions during the domestic dispute on June 26th. The same day, a Grant Superior Court judge issued an arrest warrant commanding that Cotton be arrested to answer to these charges. The arrest warrant stated in pertinent part:
TO: THE SHERIFF OF GRANT COUNTY
YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED TO ARREST MARK COTTON If he may be found in your Bailiwick, so that you have his body before the Judge of the GRANT SUPERIOR COURT 3 OF GRANT COUNTY, instanter, then and there to answer the State of Indiana on a charge(s) of Count 1--Confinement, Class D Felony; Count 2--Battery Resulting in Injury, Class A Misdemeanor; Count 3--Public Intoxication, a Class B Misdemeanor; and Count 4--Criminal Mischief, Class B Misdemeanor and abide the order of the Court thereon and return this writ.
Bond:$5,000/500, cash, surety, property.
Record at 72. There is nothing in the record or in the parties' appellate briefs to explain why the June 28, 1994 arrest warrant was sought and obtained because Cotton had already been arrested and posted bond in this cause on charges related to his actions on June 26, 1994.
On Sunday, July 10, 1994, Cotton's automobile was pulled over by officers from the Marion Police Department at approximately 7:00 p.m. After Cotton was informed that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest, he told the officers that he had already posted bond on the charges and showed them his bond papers. Nonetheless, Cotton was arrested and taken to the Grant County Jail, where he was booked in at approximately 8:53 p.m. There is no claim that the Grant County Sheriff's Department had anything to do with the procurement of the arrest warrant or with Cotton's arrest on July 10, 1994.
At the Grant County Jail, Cotton again displayed his bond papers, but he was informed that he could not be released. That evening, Cotton telephoned his mother and requested that she contact his attorney. Cotton was released from jail the next day at 9:31 a.m.
Cotton thereafter brought this action for compensatory and punitive damages against defendants Grant County Commissioners and the Grant County Sheriff. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trial court dismissed the Commissioners from the case. The trial court also dismissed Cotton's request for punitive damages, but denied the motion for summary judgment with regard to the Sheriff. The court determined that a genuine issue of material fact existed with regard to whether the Sheriff held Cotton for an excessive period of time after being notified that he had already posted bond and thus subjected him to false imprisonment.
When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this court applies the same standard as the trial court. McGraw-Edison Co. v. Northeastern Rural Elec. Membership Corp., 647 N.E.2d 355 (Ind.Ct.App.1995). Thus, no deference is given to the judgment of the trial court. Id. The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of establishing the propriety of granting the motion. Haas Carriage, Inc. v. Berna, 651 N.E.2d 284 (Ind.Ct.App.1995). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the trial court must liberally construe all facts and inferences from the designated evidentiary matter in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. Summary judgment is appropriate if the designated evidence shows 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. McGraw-Edison Co., 647 N.E.2d 355. Where the parties do not dispute the facts material to the claim, this court determines whether the trial court correctly applied the law to the undisputed facts. Id.
It is well settled that, under the circumstances presented here, the Sheriff is entitled to immunity. 1 In ...
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