Honaker v. Town of Sophia

Decision Date23 April 2016
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 5:15-cv-03483
Citation184 F.Supp.3d 319
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
Parties Travis Lane Honaker, Plaintiff, v. Town of Sophia, et al., Defendants.

Kyle G. Lusk, Lusk & Bradford, Matthew A. Bradford, Kyle G. Lusk & Associates, Beckley, WV, for Plaintiff.

Ashley L. Justice, Chip E. Williams, Pullin Fowler Flanagan Brown & Poe, Beckley, WV, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

IRENE C. BERGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA

The Court has reviewed the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 47), the Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 48), Plaintiff Travis Lane Honaker's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant Town of Sophia and Defendant Patrolman Z. Issa's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 50), and the Reply in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 57). In addition, the Court has reviewed all attached exhibits. For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Plaintiff, Travis Lane Honaker, initiated this action with a Complaint (Document 1) filed on March 23, 2015. He named the Town of Sophia, the Town Council of Sophia, the Sophia Police Department, and Patrolman Z. Issa, in his individual and official capacities, as Defendants. In a Memorandum Opinion and Order (Document 21) issued on August 5, 2015, the Court dismissed all claims against the Town Council of Sophia and the Sophia Police Department, as well as certain claims against the Town of Sophia and Defendant, Issa. The following claims remain pending: Count One, alleging the Tort of Outrage against Defendant Issa; Count Two, alleging Excessive Battery against Defendant, Issa; Count Three, alleging negligence against Issa and the Town of Sophia; Count Four, alleging negligent/reckless infliction of emotional distress against Defendant Issa; Count Five, alleging negligent supervision and/or training against the Town of Sophia; and Count Six, alleging constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Issa.

The relevant facts in this case are as follows. In the late evening of September 20, 2013, and early morning of September 21, 2013, Cara Coleman, the Plaintiff's on-and-off girlfriend, called 911 with allegations of domestic violence. (Honaker Depo. at 71:14–74:21, att'd as Pl.'s Ex. 2) (Document 50-2.) Officers Zachary Issa and Randy White responded to the Plaintiff's residence. (Id. at 73:9-10.) Ms. Coleman had red marks on her throat and claimed that the Plaintiff had choked her. (Id. at 74:13-18.) The Plaintiff let the officers in, denied any physical altercation with Ms. Coleman, but submitted to being handcuffed and taken into custody. (Id. at 74:18–77:9.) Defendant Issa smelled alcohol on the Plaintiff's breath, and the Plaintiff was on a number of prescription medications at the time of the incident. (Issa Depo. at 23-24, att'd as Pl.'s Ex. 3) (Document 50-3.) Officer White informed Defendant Issa of his observation that Ms. Coleman appeared intoxicated as well. (Id. ) The Plaintiff informed the officers that he believed Ms. Coleman would steal from him if she were permitted to remain in his home with access to the keys to his safe, where he kept guns, money, and prescription medications. (Honaker Depo. at 76:10-15.) The parties are in agreement that the Plaintiff was generally cooperative inside the house. (Issa Depo. at 26:9-22.)

Defendant Issa then took the Plaintiff outside to his police cruiser to take him to the station and to jail. The Plaintiff repeatedly asked to return to the house to get his keys. He admits that he was agitated and angry, but denies any physical resistance. (Honaker Depo. at 80:17–81:21.) Defendant Issa, however, claims that the Plaintiff attempted to jerk away from him and pushed him with his arm. (Issa Depo. at 29:7–31:11.) The Plaintiff claims that Defendant Issa kicked him in the testicles and then kicked his legs out from under him. He claims that Defendant Issa then kicked or stomped him several times along his ribs and arm after taking him to the ground, resulting in extreme pain and two broken ribs

. (Honaker Dep. at 82:2-17.) Defendant Issa denies kicking or striking the Plaintiff. He claims that he did a modified straight arm take down, then called Officer White for assistance. (Issa Depo. at 36:20–37:18.) Officer White came outside, and the two officers loaded the Plaintiff into Issa's car.

The Plaintiff's neighbor, Terry Williams, observed part of the incident and provided a written statement during the Plaintiff's criminal proceedings, as well as deposition testimony in the instant matter. In his earlier written statement, he indicated that he saw the Plaintiff handcuffed outside and heard him asking to retrieve his wallet. (Williams Statement, att'd as Pl's Ex. 5) (Document 50-5.) Mr. Williams further wrote that the officer told the Plaintiff to shut up, then kicked him twice, causing him to fall to the ground. (Id. ) According to Mr. Williams' written statement, the officer continued to kick the Plaintiff while he was on the ground, then called another officer to help him put the Plaintiff into the patrol car. (Id. )

In his deposition, Mr. Williams stated that he heard the Plaintiff and Defendant Issa arguing over keys. (Williams Depo. at 5:16-21, att'd as Pl.'s Ex. 4) (Document 50-4.) He looked outside and saw that the Plaintiff was handcuffed. (Id. at 5:22.) He indicated that he did not have a clear view of the altercation because of the placement of the police car and the presence of a ditch, but stated that he thought the officer kicked the Plaintiff, who went down beside the patrol car. (Id. at 5:23–6:3.) Mr. Williams said it looked to him as though the officer was kicking the Plaintiff after he was on the ground, based on the body movements that he could see and the "hollering" from the Plaintiff. (Id. at 6-9.)

The Plaintiff admits that he was agitated and used profane language during the drive to the Raleigh County Sherriff's Department, and continued to do so as Defendant Issa drove him to Southern Regional Jail. (Honaker Depo. at 83:12-13; 89:4-12.) The Plaintiff claims that he told the intake nurse at the jail that his ribs hurt. (Id. at 89-91.) The intake form indicates that the screening was discontinued because the Plaintiff answered questions inappropriately. (Intake Forms, at 1, att'd as Def.'s Ex. 3) (Document 47-3.). The Plaintiff's cousin bailed him out of jail within a few hours. (Honaker Depo. at 93:22–94:4.) He sought treatment at the VA emergency room on September 27, 2013, for cracked ribs, and claims that pre-existing mental conditions were exacerbated by the incident. (Id. at 113:6–114:24.)

The Plaintiff was charged with domestic battery, disorderly conduct, and obstructing an officer. The Magistrate Court of Raleigh County dismissed the disorderly conduct charge for lack of probable cause, and found the Plaintiff not guilty of the remaining charges following a bench trial. The Plaintiff states that he spoke with the Chief of Police of Sophia about the alleged assault, and was told "to just drop this or something worse could happen" to him. (Id. at 95:20-96:2.) The Plaintiff then contacted the mayor of Sophia, who declined to take any action, but suggested he get an attorney.

Defendant Issa testified in his deposition that he had worked as a correctional officer prior to his employment as a police officer. He stated that he received a six week training in 2011 through the correctional system, then received additional training about self-defense, including hands-on physical training. (Issa Depo. at 5–8.) He was one of several defendants named in an excessive force lawsuit related to an incident while he worked at Western Regional Jail. (Id. at 8–10.) There were also approximately five "use of force reports" on Defendant Issa while he worked at Western Regional Jail, though he was never reprimanded for use of force. (Id. at 10:11–11:5.) After leaving the Western Regional Jail, Issa began working as a police officer in Mabscott, West Virginia, and went to the State Police Academy while employed there. (Id. at 15:6–22.) He has participated in numerous other training courses since completing the police academy. (Id. at 16:1-22.) The Sophia Police Department maintains a written policy with respect to use of force. (Use of Force—Methods and Techniques, att'd as Def.'s Ex. 6) (Document 47-6.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The well-established standard for consideration of a motion for summary judgment is that summary judgment should be granted if the record, including the pleadings and other filings, discovery material, depositions, and affidavits, "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)(c) ; see also Hunt v. Cromartie , 526 U.S. 541, 549, 119 S.Ct. 1545, 143 L.Ed.2d 731 (1999) ; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ; Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co. , 739 F.3d 163, 169 (4th Cir.2014). A "material fact" is a fact that could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ; News & Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh Durham Airport Auth. , 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir.2010). A "genuine issue" concerning a material fact exists when the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. FDIC v. Cashion , 720 F.3d 169, 180 (4th Cir.2013).

The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ; Celotex Corp. , 477 U.S. at 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548. When determining...

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  • Myers v. City of Charleston
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
    • 10 March 2021
    ...atrocious, intolerable, and so extreme and outrageous that they exceeded all possible bounds of decency. See Honaker v. Town of Sophia, 184 F.Supp.3d 319, 328 (S.D. W. Va. 2016) (denying summary judgment where law enforcement kicked and stomped suspect after he was handcuffed and offering n......
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    ...illnesses and emotional distress were exacerbated by this incident is a factual question for the jury.” Honaker v. Town of Sophia, 184 F.Supp.3d 319, 328 (S.D.W.Va. 2016); see also Suarez v. City of Salinas, No. 18-6515, 2020 WL 205907, at *3 (N.D. Ca. Jan. 14, 2020) (holding that PTSD rise......
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    ... ... sufficient to state a claim for IIED. See Honaker v. Town ... of Sophia, 184 F.Supp.3d 319, 328 (S.D. W.Va. 2016) ... ("[E]motional ... ...
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    ...Moreover, were the plaintiff to plead pure negligence, the defendants would be immune thereto. See, e.g., Honaker v. Town of Sophia, 184 F. Supp. 3d 319, 325 (S.D.W. Va. 2016) ("the Plaintiff's efforts to argue on the one hand that [Officer] Issa's actions were negligent rather than intenti......

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