Lively v. Theriot, CIVIL NO. 6:13-2756

Decision Date29 June 2015
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. 6:13-2756
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Louisiana



Pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by defendants, Sheriff Ronald Theriot ("Theriot"), Deputy Jedidiah Champagne ("Champagne"), Deputy Carey Jones ("Jones") and Deputy Andrew Bonvillain ("Bonvillian") on July 22, 2014.1 [rec. doc. 20]. The plaintiffs have filed opposition [rec. doc. 31], to which the defendants filed a Reply [rec. doc. 33]. Oral argument on the Motion was held and the Motion was taken under advisement. [rec. doc. 34]. Post-Hearing Memorandums were filed by each party. [rec. docs 35 and 36].

For the reasons which follow, the Motion for Summary Judgment [rec. doc. 20] is GRANTED as follows. All federal § 1983 claims asserted by the plaintiffs against Sheriff Theriot, Deputy Champagne, Deputy Jones and Deputy Bonvillain are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. All state law claims asserted by the plaintiffs against Sheriff Theriot, Deputy Champagne, Deputy Jones and Deputy Bonvillain are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.


Plaintiffs Sandra Lively and Latoya Edmond filed the instant civil rights lawsuit against the defendants on September 27, 2013. In their Complaint, plaintiffs assert that the civil rights of Alvin Davis, Jr. ("Davis") were violated on September 28, 2012 when Davis was fatally shot during an attempted arrest. Plaintiffs' claims are asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Louisiana state law.

By the instant Motion, Deputies Champagne, Jones and Bonvillain contend that they are each entitled to qualified immunity and that, therefore, plaintiffs' federal claims against them should be dismissed. More specifically, these defendants contend that plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that the officers violated Davis' constitutional rights because the alleged use of excessive force was objectively reasonable under the circumstances when evaluated in the context in which the force was deployed. These defendants also each assert that even if plaintiffs have demonstrated a violation of Davis' constitutional rights, they are nevertheless qualifiedly immune from suit because all of their actions were objectively reasonable in light of clearly established law.

Sheriff Theriot contends that, with respect to plaintiffs' federal claims, he cannot be held liable under a theory of respondeat superior and that the plaintiffs have failed to allege or put forth sufficient evidence to sustain an individual supervisory or official capacity claim against him.

Standard on Motion for Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."2

Rule 56(e) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c)3, the court may: . . . (3) grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it . . . .

The Motion for Summary Judgment is properly made and supported. Thus, the plaintiffs may not rest upon the allegations in their pleadings but, rather, must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553-54 (1986). However, metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions and those supported by only a scintilla of evidence are insufficient. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

Moreover, summary judgment is mandated against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish an essential element of that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 106 S.Ct. at 2552. Thus, with respect to those issues on which the movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant need not produce evidence negating the existence of material fact, but may merely point out the absence of evidence supporting the non-movant's case. Id. at 2553-2554; Duplantis v. Shell Offshore, Inc., 948 F.2d 187, 190 (5th Cir. 1992).

The plaintiffs have submitted evidence in opposition to the instant Motion. However, the plaintiffs' evidence fails to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the § 1983 claims asserted against Deputy Champagne, Deputy Jones, Deputy Bonvillain and Sheriff Theriot. Accordingly, summary judgment with respect to these claims is appropriate.

I. Qualified Immunity

Government officials are entitled to qualified immunity for civil damages if their conduct does not "violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982); Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639-40, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 3039, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987). Claims of qualified immunity must be evaluated in the light of what the officer knew at the time he acted, not on facts discovered subsequently. Lunav. Mullenix, 773 F.3d 712, 718 (5th Cir. 2014) citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989) and Lytle v. Bexar Cnty, Tex., 560 F.3d 404, 411 (5thCir. 2009). Qualified immunity is not merely a defense to liability but an immunity from suit. Swint v. Chambers County Comm'n, 514 U.S. 35, 42, 115 S.Ct. 1203, 1208, 131 L.Ed.2d 60 (1995); Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 2815, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985).

Claims of qualified immunity require a two-step analysis. First, the court must determine whether the plaintiff has demonstrated that "the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right." Mace v. City of Palestine, 333 F.3d 621, 623 (5th Cir. 2003); Hall v. Thomas, 190 F.3d 693, 696 (5th Cir. 1999) citing Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 232, 111 S.Ct. 1789, 1793, 114 L.Ed.2d 277 (1991). If there is no constitutional violation, the court's inquiry ends. Mace, 333 F.3d at 623.

If the plaintiff has shown the deprivation of a constitutional right, the court must then decide whether the defendant's conduct was objectively reasonable in light of "clearly established" law at the time of the alleged violation. Hall, 190 F.3d at 696 citing Siegert, 500 U.S. at 231-232. This "second prong of the qualified immunity test is better understood as two separate inquiries: whether the allegedly violated constitutional rights were clearly established at the time of the incident; and, if so, whether the conduct of the defendants was objectively unreasonable in the light of that then clearly established law." Estate of Sorrells v. City of Dallas, 45 Fed. Appx. 325 (5th Cir. 2002) quoting Hare v. City of Corinth, Miss., 135 F.3d 320, 326 (5th Cir. 1998); Tarver v. City of Edna, 410 F.3d 745, 750 (5th Cir. 2005).

Thus, even if it is determined that the official's conduct was unconstitutional, that is, that the defendant violated the plaintiff's clearly established constitutional rights, the court must nevertheless decide whether the conduct was "objectively reasonable" and, if so, the defendant may still be entitled to qualified immunity. Kipps v. Callier, 197 F.3d 765, 768-69 (5th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). "Qualified immunity thus protects an official whose conduct was objectively reasonable, even if the conduct infringed upon a constitutional right of the plaintiff." Wagner v. Bay City, Texas, 227 F.3d 316, 321 (5th Cir. 2000) quoting Gutierrez v. City of San Antonio, 139 F.3d 441, 445 (5th Cir. 1998) citing Anderson, 483 U.S. at 641, 107 S.Ct. at 3040.

"The qualified immunity standard gives ample room for mistaken judgments . . . ." Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 229 (1991). Thus, if officials of "reasonable competence could disagree . . . immunity should be recognized." Gibson v. Rich, 44 F.3d 274, 277 (5th Cir. 1995); Tarver, 410 F.3d at 750. Stated differently, "[q]ualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments," and "protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, — U.S. —, —, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 2085, 179 L.Ed.2d 1149 (2011). Consequently, "even law enforcement officials who reasonably but mistakenly use excessive force are entitled to immunity." Wagner, 227 F.3d at 321.

While it is often appropriate to examine the qualified immunity inquiries sequentially, courts are vested with sound discretion in deciding which of the prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular caseat hand. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009).

A. Constitutional Violation

Apprehension by the use of deadly force is a seizure subject to analysis under the Fourth Amendment. Plumhoff v. Richard, — U.S. —, 134 S.Ct. 2012, 2021, 188 L.Ed.2d 1056 (2014) citing Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 7, 105 S.Ct. 1694, 85 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985) and Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). Thus, under the first prong of the qualified immunity analysis, the plaintiffs must produce facts sufficient to show that the officers' actions violated Davis' Fourth Amendment rights.

To show a Fourth Amendment violation, the plaintiffs must produce facts sufficient to show that Davis suffered (1) an injury; (2) which resulted directly from a use of force that was clearly excessive to the need; and (3) the force used was objectively unreasonable. Goodson v. City of Corpus Christi, 202 F.3d 730, 740 (5th Cir. 2000); Ikerd v. Blair, 101 F.3d 430, 433-434 (5th Cir. 1996); Glenn v. City of Tyler, 242 F.3d 307, 314 (5th Cir. ...

To continue reading

Request your trial

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