Huston et al v. Alabama Medical Board DBA et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Karon O Bowdre on 3/28/2017. (KAM, )
2017 Mar-28 PM 02:57
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DEPARTMENT, CITY OF,
This case concerns Plaintiff’s allegations that City of Birmingham police officers1
violated his rights under state and federal law in arresting him following an altercation on April
26, 2014. This matter is before the court on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc.
31). Plaintiff filed a response. (Doc. 34).
Statement of Facts2
The sole remaining Defendant is the “City of Birmingham Police Department.” Under
federal and Alabama law, Mr. Huston may not sue the police department directly. See Dean v.
Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214–1215 (11th Cir. 1992). However, he may sue the City, and the City
construed his lawsuit as one against the City of Birmingham and has litigated it accordingly. The
court therefore treats Mr. Huston’s claims as brought against the City.
In his brief, the Plaintiff failed to respond to the Defendant’s statement of undisputed
facts. Therefore, the Defendants’ facts are deemed admitted for the purposes of summary
judgment, as set out in the court’s requirements for summary judgment briefs in Appendix II,
available at www.alnd.uscourts.gov under the court information for Judge Bowdre.
Additionally, Plaintiff did not include in his response his own statement of undisputed
facts, nor did he submit any evidence in support of his response. Accordingly, the following facts
are taken from both Defendants’ undisputed facts and the court’s independent examination of the
record, particularly Mr. Huston’s deposition.
Taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the evidence before the court shows the
following. On April 26, 2014, Mr. Huston was involved in an altercation at Steps and Traditions,
a Veterans Administration-run medical, rehabilitation, and mental health facility in Birmingham,
Alabama. Mr. Huston was living at Steps and Traditions at the time. During the altercation, Mr.
Huston cut a fellow resident of the facility with a butter knife. The Birmingham Police
Department dispatched Officer Eric Burpo to the scene. When Officer Burpo arrived at Steps and
Traditions and exited his vehicle, he observed a man bleeding. Officer Burpo later learned the
man was Cody Carter, the individual Mr. Huston injured. Individuals at the scene pointed Officer
Burpo in the direction of Mr. Huston. Officer Burpo approached Mr. Huston and asked him to sit
in the backseat of his patrol car, and Mr. Huston complied.
After Officer Burpo finished interviewing Mr. Carter and two witnesses, who identified
Mr. Huston as the person who cut Mr. Carter, other officers arrived at the scene. Officer Burpo
then opened the door of the patrol car and asked Mr. Huston to turn around so that he could
handcuff him. Mr. Huston was then handcuffed while still in the patrol car. Officer Burpo claims
that he handcuffed Mr. Huston. Mr. Huston disputed at his deposition that Officer Burpo
handcuffed him, but could not say which officer handcuffed him instead. Mr. Huston asked
Officer Burpo if he could stand up outside of the car to be handcuffed because he had a knee
injury and a back injury, but he was ignored.
Officer Burpo drove Mr. Huston to the Birmingham Police Headquarters in his patrol car.
Either en route to Headquarters or upon arrival there, Mr. Huston told the officer(s) present that
he could not feel his hands and asked them to loosen his handcuffs. When the patrol car arrived
at Headquarters, (an) officer(s) “snatched” him out of the back seat of the car. Upon exiting the
patrol vehicle, Mr. Huston yelled out, because, according to Mr. Huston, the handcuffs were
causing him pain. Inside Headquarters, Officer Burpo removed Mr. Huston’s handcuffs. Mr.
Huston was released without being charged with a crime.
At all relevant times, the Birmingham Police Department maintained a policy of
observing the rights and dignities of individuals with whom members of the Department came
into contact. The policy included not using excessive force; not falsely arresting or imprisoning
individuals; not assaulting or battering individuals; not maliciously prosecuting individuals; not
willfully, wantonly, and/or negligently conducting any arrest procedure; and not failing to
investigate claims of excessive force. The Department did not have a policy, custom, or practice
of violating individuals’ constitutional rights, but maintained a policy against violating the
Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All Birmingham officers,
including Eric Burpo, were trained in these policies.
All Birmingham City police officers undergo extensive training at the Birmingham Police
Academy, which is accredited both by the state and by an external commission with stringent
accreditation standards. The training covers all aspects of police work, including execution of
search warrants, the standards for arrest and detention, and use-of-force standards. The Academy
supplies officers with a copy of the Birmingham Police Department Rules and Regulations,
which contains the procedures officers are to follow. These rules and regulations cover the proper
use of handcuffs.
The training officers receive at the Academy teaches them to respect the constitutional
and statutory rights of individuals with whom they come into contact. Birmingham City officers
are taught the specific policies of the Department regarding proper arrest procedures and use of
force to effect an arrest, and are taught to use only such force as is reasonably necessary to effect
a lawful arrest. All Birmingham City officers, including Officer Eric Burpo, received this
Mr. Huston’s deposition notice included a request for document production that asked
him to produce all medical records showing that he was injured. He did not present any medical
records to the Defendant. Mr. Huston testified that he saw a primary care physician for a back
injury prior to the April 26 incident and that he “rarely even go[es] to the doctor,” that he “stay[s]
fit,” and that he is “in shape.” (Doc. 31-2 at 34). During his deposition, Mr. Huston stated that his
only claim against the City related to his being handcuffed.
Summary judgment allows a trial court to decide cases when no genuine issues of
material fact are present and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED.
R. CIV. P. 56. When a district court reviews a motion for summary judgment, it must determine
two things: whether any genuine issues of material fact exist, and whether the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.
The moving party “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,’ which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56).
Once the moving party meets its burden of showing the district court that no genuine
issues of material fact exist, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party “to demonstrate that
there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment.” Clark v. Coats &
Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991).
In response, the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material fact.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non-moving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by [its] 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 (quoting
FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)) (emphasis added).
The court must “view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive
evidentiary burden,” to determine whether the non-moving party presented sufficient evidence on
which a jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254. The
court must refrain from weighing the evidence and making credibility determinations because
these decisions belong to a jury. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
Further, all evidence and inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Graham v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 193
F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th Cir. 1999). After both parties have addressed the motion for summary
judgment, the court must grant the motion only if no genuine issues of material fact exist and if
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56.
Mr. Huston alleges gender discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 13981, which
provides a cause of action for gender-motivated violence. That section was held unconstitutional
by U.S. v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000), and so Mr. Huston cannot bring a claim under it.
Section 1983 Claims
Mr. Huston alleges that the City of Birmingham violated his civil rights and asserts a
cause of action under “the Civil Rights Clause of 1983 and Civil Rights Act Of 1871.” (Doc. 19
at 13). Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 is now codified as 28 U.S.C. § 1983. Wyatt v.
Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 164 (1992). Based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, the court
construes this claim as alleging that Birmingham City officers used excessive force in arresting
Mr. Huston and falsely arrested him, in violation of his constitutional rights.
Section 1983 provides that every person, who, under color of state law, deprives another
person of constitutional rights, shall be liable to that injured party. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under §
1983, “recovering from a municipality is limited to acts that are, properly speaking, acts ‘of the
municipality’—that is, acts which the municipality has officially sanctioned or ordered.”
Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986). The Eleventh Circuit has explained that
municipal liability may be based on the following: (1) the decision of a person with “final
policymaking authority” for the city (see City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 123
(1988)); (2) an express municipal policy, such as an ordinance, regulation, or policy statement; or
(3) a “‘widespread practice that, although not authorized by written law or express municipal
policy, is so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law’”
(see Griffin v. City of Opa-Locka, 261 F.3d 1295, 1308 (11th Cir. 2001) (acknowledging that
municipal liability can arise based on a formal policy or custom, using the quoted language from
Brown v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 923 F.2d 1474, 1481 (11th Cir. 1991))).
Mr. Huston has failed to present evidence showing that the City of Birmingham adopted a
formal policy or well-settled custom that resulted in one of its police officers using excessive
force in arresting him, as he is required to show for the City to be liable under § 1983. On the
contrary, the evidence before the court demonstrates that the Birmingham Police Department
maintained a policy of observing the rights and dignities of individuals with whom members of
the Department came into contact. Department policy included not using excessive force, not
assaulting or battering individuals, and not willfully, wantonly, and/or negligently conducting any
arrest procedure. The Department did not have a policy, custom, or practice of violating
individuals’ constitutional rights.
Birmingham City officers are trained in these policies; the training officers receive at the
Academy teaches them to respect the constitutional rights of individuals with whom they come
into contact. Officers are specifically instructed in proper arrest procedures and use of force to
effect an arrest, and are taught to use only such force as is reasonably necessary to effect a lawful
arrest. Every officer receives a copy of the Birmingham Police Department Rules and
Regulations, which contains the procedures officers are to follow in handcuffing individuals.
Thus, the City is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Mr. Huston’s § 1983
excessive force claim.
As with his excessive force claim, Mr. Huston has not shown that any policy or custom of
the City caused him to be falsely arrested. The City has demonstrated that the Police Department
did not have a policy, custom, or practice of violating individuals’ constitutional rights but
specifically maintained a policy against falsely arresting anyone, against maliciously prosecuting
individuals, and against willfully, wantonly, and/or negligently conducting any arrest procedure.
Birmingham City officers are trained in these policies and the Police Academy trains all officers
in the standard for arrest and detention. Mr. Huston has presented no evidence indicating
Further, the individual officer(s) acted within City policies when they arrested Mr.
Huston. After questioning witnesses and determining that Mr. Huston had cut Mr. Carter, Officer
Burpo had probable cause to arrest Mr. Huston. After further evaluation, no charges were filed
against Mr. Huston.
Therefore, the City is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Mr. Huston’s § 1983
false arrest claim.
Americans with Disabilities Act & Rehabilitation Act
Mr. Huston alleges violations of his rights under Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29
U.S.C. § 794(a). To state a claim under Title II of the ADA, a plaintiff must show “(1) that he is
a qualified individual with a disability; (2) that he was either excluded from participating in or
denied the benefits of a public entity’s services, programs, or activities, or was otherwise
discriminated against by the public entity; and (3) that the exclusion, denial of benefit, or
discrimination was by reason of the plaintiff’s disability.” Bircoll v. Miami-Dade County, 480
F.3d 1072, 1083 (11th Cir. 2007) (internal citation omitted). The elements of a prima facie case
under the Rehabilitation Act are essentially the same except for the additional requirement that
the plaintiff must show that the defendant is a recipient of federal funds. See Ellis v. England,
432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (stating that “[t]he standard for determining liability under
the Rehabilitation Act is the same as that under the Americans with Disabilities Act”).
Mr. Huston has not shown that he has a disability. “Whether an individual has a
‘disability’ within the ADA’s purview turns on a determination of whether the individual has: a
physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of
such individual; a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.”
Stewart v. Happy Herman’s Cheshire Bridge, Inc., 117 F.3d 1278, 1285 (11th Cir. 1997)
(internal citations omitted).
Mr. Huston’s deposition testimony that he had a back and possibly a knee injury prior to
the April 26 incident does not establish that those injuries substantially limited one or more of his
major life activities; indeed, Mr. Huston testified that he “rarely even go[es] to the doctor,” that
he “stay[s] fit,” and that he is “in shape.” (Doc. 31-2 at 34). Though Mr. Huston’s deposition
notice included a request for production of documents of relevant medical records, he did not
submit any of those records to Defendant, and has not submitted any to the court. And the court
has no evidence before it showing that Mr. Huston was regarded as having an impairment
causing substantial life impairment.
Accordingly, the City is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Mr. Huston’s ADA
and Rehabilitation Act claims.
State Law Claims
Mr. Huston alleges violations of Alabama Code §§ 6-5-338, 6-6-26.12, 13A-2-25, 13A-224, 13A-2-23, 13A-2-20, 13A-14-1, 38-9c-4, and 38-9-11. None of these sections provides a
civil cause of action.
Section 6-5-338 provides for immunity from tort liability for peace officers and tactical
medics and imposes liability insurance requirements for private individuals or entities employing
off-duty officers. Section 38-9-11 exempts from liability for civil damages officers, agents, and
employees of the Alabama Department of Human Resources who exercise their duties in good
faith. Section 6-6-26.12 clarifies that the Alabama Uniform Collaborative Law Act affects
neither the professional responsibility obligations of lawyers or other licensed professionals nor
the obligation of a person under Alabama law to report child abuse. Section 38-9c-4 lists the
rights of persons with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. None of these code
provisions provides grounds for a person to bring a suit entitling him to relief.
Sections 13A-2-25, 13A-2-24, 13A-2-23, 13A-2-20, and 13A-14-1 are provisions of the
criminal code; thus, Mr. Huston cannot bring a civil suit alleging violations of those code
sections. Similarly, Mr. Huston cannot bring a suit alleging “[c]riminal liability of an individual
for corporate conduct . . . .” (Doc. 19 at 15:10-13).
Because Mr. Huston has failed to state any claim under state law upon which relief may
be granted, the City is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Mr. Huston’s state law claims.
The court GRANTS Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.3 The court will enter a
separate order consistent with this opinion.
DONE this 28th day of March, 2017.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mr. Huston also alleges a violation of 12 U.S.C. § 232. (Doc. 19 at 15:14-16). This
provision is nonexistent and so the court does not address it.
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