Lewis v. Downs, Nos. 84-5738

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore ENGEL and JONES, Circuit Judges and CELEBREZZE; PER CURIAM; ENGEL
Citation774 F.2d 711
PartiesThomas LEWIS, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, Cross-Appellants, v. J.D. DOWNS and V.W. Geil, Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees.
Docket NumberNos. 84-5738,84-5739
Decision Date09 October 1985

Page 711

774 F.2d 711
Thomas LEWIS, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, Cross-Appellants,
v.
J.D. DOWNS and V.W. Geil, Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees.
Nos. 84-5738, 84-5739.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued Aug. 1, 1985.
Decided Oct. 9, 1985.

Eugene C. Gaerig (argued), Memphis, Tenn., for defendants-appellants, cross-appellees.

Donald A. Donati (argued), Donati, Donati, Robbins & Gosnell, Mark Francis, Memphis, Tenn., for plaintiffs-appellees, cross-appellants.

Page 712

Before ENGEL and JONES, Circuit Judges and CELEBREZZE, Senior Circuit judge.

PER CURIAM.

Defendants-Appellants J.D. Downs and V.W. Geil appeal from a decision of the district court finding them liable under Tennessee common law for battery and pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 (1982) for using unnecessary and excessive force against plaintiffs-appellees Mr. Thomas Lewis, Mrs. Ethel Lewis, and Tony Lewis. Appellants assert on appeal that the evidence produced was insufficient to establish a violation of appellees' due process rights and that the district court erred in awarding punitive damages. We hold that the defendants' conduct, in this case, was sufficiently egregious to constitute a deprivation of due process and that the district court properly exercised its discretion in awarding punitive damages. Accordingly, we affirm.

Neither party disputes the relevant factual findings made by the district court, which are briefly summarized as follows. This case grows out of an unfortunate racial incident. Ethel and Thomas Lewis, both of whom are Caucasian, reside in a neighborhood in which the minority of the residents are white with their two children Tony and Lois. During the afternoon of the day in question, an argument began between Lois and a black neighbor, concerning the place where Mr. Lewis had parked his truck. Although innocuous in its beginnings, this argument continued to escalate to the point where later that afternoon Lois, allegedly because she could not sleep due to the noise, called the Memphis Police Department.

Downs, a reserve police officer, and Geil, a regular police officer, both of whom are white, responded to the call. Upon arriving at the scene, the officers found both the Lewises and numerous neighbors yelling and cursing at each other. Mrs. Ethel Lewis, who by this time was quite agitated, was repeatedly yelling, "Get your guns now. We have got something for you." The officers immediately attempted to discern what had happened and repeatedly asked Mrs. Lewis to stop screaming and cursing. Due to Mrs. Lewis' failure to comply with the officers' requests to quiet down and because Mrs. Lewis' conduct was creating an "inflammable situation," Officer Downs informed Mrs. Lewis that she was under arrest.

In order to effect the arrest, Officer Downs reached over the four foot chain link fence which surrounded the Lewises' home to grab Mrs. Lewis. At this time, the Lewises' dog jumped up and grabbed Officer Downs' arm (Officer Downs' shirt was not ripped nor was his skin broken from this encounter). In response, both officers drew their revolvers and Officer Downs told Mrs. Lewis that if she did not restrain the dog he would kill it, which caused Mrs. Lewis to go into hysterics. Despite Mrs. Lewis' mental condition, she complied with Officer Downs' request and placed the dog inside the Lewises' house. Officer Geil then proceeded into the Lewises' front yard to arrest Mrs. Lewis. Officer Geil gained physical control over Mrs. Lewis near the front porch and by severely twisting her arm, was able to place his handcuffs on her wrists. After Mrs. Lewis was handcuffed, she either slipped due to muddy conditions or was thrown by Officer Geil to the ground. 1 While Mrs. Lewis lay handcuffed and face down on the ground, Officer Geil kicked her in the back and buttocks area.

Tony, in a "foolish" attempt to prevent the apprehension of his mother, started to move towards Officer Downs with an iron rake. Officer Downs responded by drawing his revolver and asking Tony to put down the rake; after three such requests, Tony dropped the rake. Officer Geil then grabbed Tony to effect an arrest of him. In the process of subduing and handcuffing Tony, Officer Geil resorted to pulling

Page 713

Tony's hair, twisting his arm, and placing him in a choke hold. At this time, Mr. Lewis, "in a very foolish manner, commensurate with his physical ... inadequacy," sought to intervene on his son's behalf by grabbing Tony's waist in order to prevent Officer Geil from taking him away. Mr. Thomas Lewis' brother, Eugene Lewis, however, intervened and grabbed Mr. Lewis around his waist and restrained him. While being held by his brother, Mr. Lewis was kicked by Officer Geil in the groin and, simultaneously, struck on the top of his head by Officer Downs with his nightstick. Mr. Lewis immediately went to the ground. Bleeding profusely and on his knees, Mr. Lewis was forced to crawl unaided to the gate. Due to Mr. Lewis' condition, the officers had him taken by ambulance to a hospital where he was diagnosed as suffering a cut to his head with an underlying hematoma.

Following his father's aborted attempt to intervene, Tony Lewis was handcuffed and taken to the police car. While being led away, Officer Geil without justification struck Tony in the mouth with his nightstick. Tony later received several stitches due to the injury to his mouth.

Mr. and Mrs. Lewis were, subsequently, charged with several crimes, including disorderly conduct, assault, and battery. The Lewises were acquitted on all counts. Charges were also filed against Tony, but these were handled in a non-judicial manner by Juvenile Court Officials. Mr., Mrs., and Tony Lewis then brought this action against...

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60 practice notes
  • Trujillo v. Goodman, No. 84-2802
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 7, 1987
    ...97 (8th Cir.1986); Byrd v. Clark, 783 F.2d 1002 (11th Cir.1986); Brierley v. Schoenfeld, 781 F.2d 838 (10th Cir.1986); Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711 (6th Cir.1985); Jamieson by & through Jamieson v. Shaw, 772 F.2d 1205 (5th Cir.1985); Gumz v. Morrissette, 772 F.2d 1395 (7th Cir.1985), ce......
  • Parrish v. Johnson, No. 84-1642
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • September 5, 1986
    ...the conduct, the type and excessiveness of the force used, and the extent of injury inflicted should be considered. Cf. Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711, 713 (6th Cir.1985) (per curiam). This analysis, however, must be carefully circumscribed to take into account the nature of the prison settin......
  • Schreiber v. Moe, No. 1:05-CV-91.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • August 10, 2006
    ...suspects who are in the control of the police is plainly excessive force.") (quotation marks omitted) (citing Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711 (6th Cir.1985); McDowell v. Rogers, 863 F.2d 1302 (6th Cir.1988)). In contrast to the struggle within the home prior to Schreiber's arrest, at the ......
  • City of Saint Albans v. Botkins, No. 101596.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 23, 2011
    ...1110 (5th Cir.1993); Murphy v. Lancaster, 960 F.2d 746 (8th Cir.1992); Dixon v. Richer, 922 F.2d 1456 (10th Cir.1991); Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711 (6th Cir.1985); Linn v. Garcia, 531 F.2d 855 (8th Cir.1976); Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74 (3rd Cir.1965); Morgan v. Labiak, 368 F.2d 338 (10th ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
60 cases
  • Trujillo v. Goodman, No. 84-2802
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 7, 1987
    ...97 (8th Cir.1986); Byrd v. Clark, 783 F.2d 1002 (11th Cir.1986); Brierley v. Schoenfeld, 781 F.2d 838 (10th Cir.1986); Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711 (6th Cir.1985); Jamieson by & through Jamieson v. Shaw, 772 F.2d 1205 (5th Cir.1985); Gumz v. Morrissette, 772 F.2d 1395 (7th Cir.1985), ce......
  • Parrish v. Johnson, No. 84-1642
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • September 5, 1986
    ...the conduct, the type and excessiveness of the force used, and the extent of injury inflicted should be considered. Cf. Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711, 713 (6th Cir.1985) (per curiam). This analysis, however, must be carefully circumscribed to take into account the nature of the prison settin......
  • Schreiber v. Moe, No. 1:05-CV-91.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • August 10, 2006
    ...suspects who are in the control of the police is plainly excessive force.") (quotation marks omitted) (citing Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711 (6th Cir.1985); McDowell v. Rogers, 863 F.2d 1302 (6th Cir.1988)). In contrast to the struggle within the home prior to Schreiber's arrest, at the ......
  • City of Saint Albans v. Botkins, No. 101596.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 23, 2011
    ...1110 (5th Cir.1993); Murphy v. Lancaster, 960 F.2d 746 (8th Cir.1992); Dixon v. Richer, 922 F.2d 1456 (10th Cir.1991); Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711 (6th Cir.1985); Linn v. Garcia, 531 F.2d 855 (8th Cir.1976); Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74 (3rd Cir.1965); Morgan v. Labiak, 368 F.2d 338 (10th ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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