White v. McLain et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 29 Motion for Summary Judgment. Count I (unlawful entry, search, and seizure) is DENIED as to Defendant McLain and GRANTED as to all other Defendants. Count II (false arrest/false imprisonment) is DI SMISSED. Defendants motion for summary judgment as to Count III (excessive force) is GRANTED. Defendants motion for summary judgment as to Counts IV and V (state law claims of assault and outrage) is DENIED.. Signed by Judge Kristi K. DuBose on 11/16/2015. (cmj)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JOHN MCLAIN, JOHNNY THORNTON, )
SR., JOHN CASSIDY, GREG O’SHEA,
ALLEN O’SHEA, JEFFERY SULLIVAN, )
and CLINTON LAW
CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-502-KD-M
This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and
Supporting Materials (Docs. 29-30, 32-33), Plaintiff’s Response (Docs. 34-35), and Defendants’
Reply (Docs. 37-38). Upon consideration the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
Plaintiff Vincent White (“White”) has brought claims against the following Defendants
who were all Mobile County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriffs at the time of the events giving rise
to this complaint: John McLain (“McLain”), Johnny Thornton, Sr. (“Thornton”), John Cassidy
(“Cassidy”), Allen O’Shea, Greg O’Shea, Jeffrey Sullivan (“Sullivan”), and Clinton Law
(“Law”). All Defendants are being sued in their individual capacities. (Doc. 1 at 2).
In October 2012, Mobile County Sheriff’s Deputy John McLain (“McLain”) received
information from a confidential informant that an individual was involved in the distribution of
marijuana and that the individual was storing drugs at his girlfriend’s residence located at 1817
On summary judgment, the Court must “resolve all issues of material fact in favor of the [non-movant], and then
determine the legal question of whether the [movant] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law under that version of
the facts.” McDowell v. Brown, 392 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir. 2004).
Toulmin Avenue, Mobile, Alabama. (Doc. 30-2 at 8; Dep. McLain at 39). McLain and the
confidential informant drove past the residence and the informant pointed out the house to
McLain. (Id.) Three months later, McLain received corroboration from a different confidential
informant. (Id.; Doc. 35-3 at 1). Both informants told McLain that the house in question was the
second house on the left after turning from St. Stephens Road. (Doc. 30-2 at 9; Dep. McLain at
40). A month later, the second informant again told McLain about the drug activity at 1817
Toulmin Avenue. (Doc. 30-2 at 10; Dep. McLain at 41 and Doc. 35-3).
On February 5, 2013, McLain traveled to Toulmin Avenue. (Doc. 30-2 at 10-11; Dep.
McLain at 41-42). However, rather than entering from St. Stephens Road, he turned onto
Toulmin Avenue from Carleton Street, which resulted in him approaching the house from the
opposite direction than he would have if he had entered from St. Stephens Road. (Id). When
approaching from St. Stephens Road, the first house on the left it situated further back from the
street than the other houses on Toulmin Avenue. (Doc. 35-3 at 2). McLain approached what he
“believed to be the second house” and took a photograph of it. (Doc. 30-2 at 11; Dep. McLain at
42). The house he took a photograph of was 1819 Toulmin Avenue (plaintiff Vince White’s
house), rather than the target house 1817 Toulmin Avenue. Id. White’s house, 1819 Toulmin
Avenue, is the third house on the left when approaching from St. Stephens Road and the target
house, 1817 Toulmin Avenue, is the second house on the left. (Doc. 35-12 at 6; Dep. McLain at
Before taking the photograph, as McLain approached 1817 Toulmin Avenue, he noticed
people who he thought appeared to be engaged in drug activity, standing in front of what McLain
thought was 1817 Toulmin Avenue. (Doc. 30-2 at 11-12; Dep. McLain at 42-43). “So not to
expose [himself] as a narcotics officer,” McLain “pulled off the side of the road” and took a
photograph of White’s home, which he “believed to be” 1817 Toulmin Avenue. (Id.). Though
not visible in the photograph McLain took, White’s numerical street address (1819) is posted at
eye level to the left of his front door. (Docs. 35-1 at 2 and 35-16 at 2-3; Dep. Sullivan at 32-33).
In the darkness of the early morning hours of February 6, 2013, McLain travelled to
Toulmin Avenue to check out information from an informant. An informant had told McLain
that a “certain vehicle dropped off some drugs” and “[McLain] was trying to determined if that
vehicle was at the location.” (Doc. 30-2 at 13-14; Dep. McLain at 47-48). Neither 1817 nor
1819 Toulmin Avenue had any residential lights turned on when McLain passed. (Doc. 35-3 at
2). Looking straight at 1817 Toulmin Avenue, its driveway is on the right side of the house.
(Doc. 30-2 at 14; Dep. McLain at 48). From the same vantage point, 1819 Toulmin Avenue is to
the right of 1817 Toulmin Avenue. McLain observed the vehicle he had been looking for, and it
was parked “back behind the house.” 2
As a result of the information McLain obtained from the informants and the details
uncovered during investigation, he obtained a search warrant for 1817 Toulmin Avenue. (Doc.
35-3 at 2). However, in the search warrant application, he attached a picture of 1819 Toulmin
Avenue rather than 1817 Toulmin Avenue. (Doc. 30-12 at 2). Additionally, McLain’s written
description of the place to be search described the facade of 1819 rather than 1817 Toulmin
Later that morning, McLain briefed members of the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office
Narcotics and Vice Unit about the upcoming search of 1817 Toulmin Avenue. (Doc. 35-12 at 8;
Dep. McLain at 49). Defendant Deputies Johnny Thornton, Sr., John Cassidy, Allen O’Shea,
McLain stated, “I had to get out of my car on the next street and walk through, and just look through the wooded
area. I could barely see the house, but I could see the car.” (Doc. 30-2 at 14; Dep. McLain at 48). When asked, “So
from Toulmin, you could not even see the car? I mean it wasn’t in the driveway, but back towards the back of the
house? It was all the way around behind the house?,” he answered, “Yes.” (Id.).
Greg O’Shea, Jeffrey Sullivan, and Clinton Law were present at the briefing. (Docs. 35-13
through 35-18). During this meeting, McLain showed the deputies a photograph of White’s
house, which was 1819 Toulmin Avenue and told them that this was the house where the search
warrant was to be executed. (Doc. 32 at 5; Doc. 35 at 8).
After the briefing, the Defendants travelled in several vehicles to Toulmin Avenue. When
the deputies arrived at 1819 Toulmin Avenue, several of them attached a truck’s winch hook to
the burglar bars on the front door. (Doc. 35-16 at 3; Dep. Sullivan at 35-36). Other deputies
arranged themselves outside the home. McLain gave the “go” signal and deputies pulled the
burglar bars from the front door. Deputy John Cassidy forced entry into the home using a ram.
(Doc. 35-15 at 6; Dep. Cassidy at 48). Defendant Deputy Clinton Law entered the home first,
holding a riot shield. (Doc. 30-8 at 10; Dep. Law at 43). McLain, Greg O’Shea, Johnny
Thornton, and Captain Razzie Smith followed Law into the home. (Doc. 33 at 5; Doc. 34 at 3).
Prior to the Defendants’ entry, White was home preparing to attend a doctor’s
appointment. As the Defendants entered his home, White was moving from his bedroom into the
hallway. (Doc. 33 at 5; Doc. 34 at 4). Law detained White, kicking his legs apart and placing him
in handcuffs. (Doc. 33 at 6; Doc. 34 at 4). Law also forced White to get down on the floor of the
bathroom. (Doc. 35-19 at 7; Dep. White at 39-40). Law used his hands to push White onto the
floor while yelling for White to get down. (Doc. 35-19 at 7-8; Dep. White at 39-44).
Within minutes the Defendants realized their error. Captain Razzie Smith brought White
up from the floor and removed the handcuffs from his wrists. (Doc. 35-19 at 9; Dep. White at 4648). Smith apologized to White and explained that there had been a mix-up and that White’s
home had been entered in error. (Id.).
In January 2013, the month before the search, White underwent abdominal surgery. (Doc.
35-19 at 10-12; Dep. White at 60-68). On February 6, 2013, White had a pre-scheduled
appointment with his doctor several hours after the search. (Id.). His doctor checked his incision,
which was not leaking at that time. (Id.). Several hours later, White went to the emergency room
at Mobile Infirmary, complaining of abdominal pain and experiencing leakage from his surgical
incision. (Id.). He was admitted and treated at the hospital. (Id.). He seeks damages including but
not limited to medical expenses, and compensation for the physical and emotional injuries he
suffered as result of the events of February 6, 2013. (Doc. 1 at 13; Doc. 35-2; Aff. White).
Standard of Review
“The court shall grant summary judgment 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.” FED.
R. CIV. P. 56(a) (Dec. 2010). Amended Rule 56(c) governs Procedures, and provides as follows:
(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is
genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including
depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits
or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the
motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials;
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or
presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot
produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
(2) Objection That a Fact Is Not Supported by Admissible Evidence. A party
may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented
in a form that would be admissible in evidence.
(3) Materials Not Cited. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it
may consider other materials in the record.
(4) Affidavits or Declarations. An affidavit or declaration used to support or
oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be
admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to
testify on the matters stated.
FED.R.CIV.P. Rule 56(c). Defendants, as the parties seeking summary judgment, bear 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.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If the nonmoving party fails to make “a
sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden
of proof,” the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “In
reviewing whether the nonmoving party has met its burden, the court must stop short of
weighing the evidence and making credibility determinations of the truth of the matter. Instead,
the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998-999 (11th Cir. 1992) (internal
citations and quotations omitted).
White’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims (Counts I, II, and III)
White brings three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to
be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an
action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. For the
purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the
District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of
42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order “[t]o sustain a cause of action based on section 1983, [a plaintiff]
must establish two elements: (1) that [he] suffered a deprivation of rights, privileges or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that the act or
omission causing the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of law.”
Wideman v. Shallowford Community Hosp., Inc., 826 F.2d 1030, 1032 (11th Cir.1987) (internal
quotations and citation omitted). Here, there is no question that the Defendants were acting under
color of state law at the time of their actions: Defendants were employed by the Mobile County
Sheriff’s Department and were engaged in carrying out the execution of a search warrant.
White’s claims arise from the alleged violations of his Fourth Amendment rights to be
free from unreasonable searches and seizures and from the use of excessive force. All claims
arise out of the unlawful entry of his home without proper justification. Count I is a §1983 claim
for unlawful entry/unlawful search and seizure, Count II is a § 1983 claim for false arrest/false
imprisonment, and Count III is a § 1983 claim for excessive force.
Count III – Excessive Force
In Bashir v. Rockdale Cnty., Ga, the Eleventh Circuit held:
“Under this Circuit’s law ... a claim that any force in an illegal stop or arrest is
excessive is subsumed in the illegal stop or arrest claim and is not a discrete
excessive force claim.” Jackson v. Sauls, 206 F.3d 1156, 1171 (11th Cir.2000)
(citing Williamson v. Mills, 65 F.3d 155, 158–59 (11th Cir.1995)). The right to
make an arrest “necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical
coercion or threat thereof to effect it.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109
S.Ct. 1865, 1871–72, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). It follows, then, if an arresting
officer does not have the right to make an arrest, he does not have the right to use
any degree of force in making that arrest. This is the premise of Bashir’s
“excessive force” claim; but this is not what is meant by “excessive force.” An
excessive force claim evokes the Fourth Amendment’s protection against the use
of an unreasonable quantum of force (i.e., non-de minimis force unreasonably
disproportionate to the need) in effecting an otherwise lawful arrest. When
properly stated, an excessive force claim presents a discrete constitutional
violation relating to the manner in which an arrest was carried out, and is
independent of whether law enforcement had the power to arrest. A claim like
Bashir’s—that the deputies used excessive force in the arrest because they lacked
the right to make the arrest—is not a discrete constitutional violation; it is
dependent upon and inseparable from his unlawful arrest claim. Jackson, 206 F.3d
at 1171. We reiterate, where an excessive force claim is predicated solely on
allegations the arresting officer lacked the power to make an arrest, the excessive
force claim is entirely derivative of, and is subsumed within, the unlawful arrest
claim. Id.; Williamson, 65 F.3d at 158–59. Bashir does not present a discrete
excessive force claim and, therefore, his excessive force claim fails as a matter of
This is not to say that Bashir cannot recover for the force used in his arrest. To the
contrary, the damages recoverable on an unlawful arrest claim “include damages
suffered because of the use of force in effecting the arrest.” Williamson, 65 F.3d
at 158–59; Motes v. Myers, 810 F.2d 1055, 1059 (11th Cir.1987) (stating that “[i]t
is obvious that if the jury finds the arrest unconstitutional, the use of force and the
search were unconstitutional and they become elements of damages for the § 1983
violation”). But, to permit a jury to award damages on Bashir’s excessive force
and unlawful arrest claims individually “would allow [him] to receive double the
award for essentially the same claims.” Cortez v. McCauley, 438 F.3d 980, 996
445 F.3d 1323, 1331-32 (11th Cir. 2006). See also Barnette v. City of Phenix City, No. 3:05-CV00473-WKW, 2007 WL 3307213, at *12 (M.D. Ala. Nov. 6, 2007) aff'd sub nom. Barnette v.
City of Phenix City, AL, 280 F. App'x 935 (11th Cir. 2008) (“A claim of excessive force that was
used during an unlawful search or seizure is generally subsumed into the unlawful search and
seizure claim as a measure of damages; it does not constitute an independent cause of action….
At this stage of the litigation, it has been determined that the entry and search of the [plaintiffs’]
residence, which necessarily includes the detention of its occupants, was unlawful; therefore, the
court need not consider the use of excessive force as a separate claim.”).
Here, Count I alleges that White’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated as a result of
the Defendants’ “unlawful entry, search and seizure.” (Doc. 1 at 9). Because the excessive force
claim is subsumed into Count I, the Court finds that White’s stand alone excessive force claim
fails as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Count
III (excessive force) is GRANTED.
Counts I – Unlawful entry, search, and seizure
On February 6, 2013, the Defendants3 entered Plaintiff’s home at 1819 Toulmin Avenue
without a search warrant for that home and without an exception to the warrant requirement.
There is no dispute that McLain planned and organized the search. He was responsible for
briefing the other defendants who assisted with the raid.
Defendants have invoked the defense of qualified immunity for the claims asserted
against them in their individual capacities. “Qualified immunity insulates government actors, in
their individual capacities, from civil lawsuits as long as the challenged discretionary conduct
does not violate clearly established federal statutory or constitutional rights.” Adams v. Poag, 61
F.3d 1537, 1542 (11th Cir.1995); see also Belcher v. City of Foley, Ala., 30 F.3d 1390, 1395
(11th Cir.1994). The parties agree that Defendants were within their discretionary authority at all
times when the acts in question occurred. Therefore, Defendants are entitled to qualified
immunity unless White can show that their conduct violated a clearly established statutory or
constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known. See Belcher, 30 F.3d at
1395; Evans v. Hightower, 117 F.3d 1318, 1320 (11th Cir. 1997). “General propositions and
abstractions do not qualify for bright line, clearly established law. For qualified immunity to be
surrendered, pre-existing law must dictate, that is, truly compel (not just suggest or allow or raise
a question about), the conclusion for every like-situated, reasonable government agent that what
defendant is doing violates federal law in the circumstances.” Wilson v. Blankenship, 163 F.3d
1284, 1288 (11th Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted).
In Hartsfield v. Lemacks, the Eleventh Circuit reiterated “it [is] clearly established law
that, absent probable cause and exigent circumstances, a warrantless search of a residence
There may be some dispute regarding whether certain deputies entered or remained outside the front door but
without question, Defendants McLain and Law did enter the home.
violates the Fourth Amendment, unless the officers engage in reasonable efforts to avoid error.”
Hartsfield v. Lemacks, 50 F.3d 950, 955 (11th Cir. 1995), as amended (June 14, 1995). In
Hartsfield, the defendant law enforcement officers improperly executed a search warrant at the
wrong address. The facts present in Hartsfield are as follows:
During the late afternoon of February 21, 1991, Deputy Sheriff Mike Newton
went with a confidential informant (“CI”) to a residence located at 5108
Middlebrooks Drive, Forest Park, Georgia; the CI entered and purchased
marijuana from a black female known as Nora Grooms, while Newton waited
outside in his vehicle. Based upon the foregoing, later that day, Newton obtained
a search warrant for the residence at 5108 Middlebrooks Drive.
The next day, February 22, 1991, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Newton
erroneously led other law enforcement agents to 5128 Middlebrooks Drive to
execute the search warrant, despite the fact that the warrant in his possession
designated the residence to be searched as 5108 Middlebrooks Drive. None of the
other officers had seen the search warrant prior to entry.
After Newton forcibly opened the side door using a battering ram, Defendant
Officer Samuel Smith and his partner J.F. Watkins entered the residence with
weapons drawn and identified themselves as officers executing a search warrant.
Watkins discovered Plaintiff-Appellant Mattie Hartsfield undressing in her
bedroom, pointed his weapon at her face, and escorted her to the den. After they
determined that no one else was present in the house, Smith and Watkins
holstered their weapons; approximately six other officers, and at least one media
representative, then entered the residence.
Upon questioning, Mattie Hartsfield insisted that no one had purchased marijuana
out of her house. Newton ordered that a Clayton County drug dog be brought into
the house; the dog “alerted” on several baseball caps contained in a cabinet in the
den. Mrs. Hartsfield explained that one of her sons had been involved with
“dope,” but an inspection of the cabinet revealed no contraband. Although the
cabinet was the only property searched in the house, the officers did walk through
the house and visually inspect the premises. When Defendant Officer David Noe
finally asked Mattie Hartsfield if she was Nora Grooms and whether there were
any drugs in the house, she responded in the negative and stated that Grooms
lived up the street. Noe then obtained the search warrant from Newton and saw
that the officers had entered 5128 Middlebrooks Drive instead of 5108
Middlebrooks Drive, as specified on the warrant. The search, which lasted for at
least 10-15 minutes, then concluded. As Newton departed, he saw the house on
the corner, 5108 Middlebrooks Drive, and realized that he had led the officers to
the wrong address.
Id. at 951-52 (emphasis in original, footnotes omitted).
The district court denied the lead deputy’s assertion of qualified immunity, and the
Eleventh Circuit affirmed holding, “Although we recognize ‘the need to allow some latitude for
honest mistakes that are made by officers in the dangerous and difficult process of making
arrests and executing search warrants,’…[the lead deputy’s] actions in this case were simply not
‘consistent with a reasonable effort to ascertain and identify the place intended to be searched’ as
dictated by Garrison.” Hartsfield at 955 (citing Maryland v. Garrison, at 480 U.S. 79 at 88-89
(1987)). The Eleventh Circuit explained,
Newton had been to the proper residence the day before the search and had
procured the search warrant based upon his own observations supervising a drug
buy at 5108 Middlebrooks. Although Newton had the warrant in his possession,
he did not check to make sure that he was leading the other officers to the correct
address, let alone perform any precautionary measures such as those performed by
the officers in Garrison.4 As it is uncontroverted that the numbers on the houses
are clearly marked, and that the raid took place during daylight hours, simply
checking the warrant would have avoided the mistaken entry. Moreover, evidence
before the court showed that the houses were located on different parts of the
street, separated by at least one other residence, and that their appearances were
Because Newton did nothing to make sure that he was leading the other officers to
the correct residence, we conclude that the district court erred in holding that he
was protected by qualified immunity.
Hartsfield at 955.
Deputy John McLain
The Court has determined that the same outcome is appropriate under the instant facts.
Specifically, the Court concludes that McLain’s “actions in this case were simply not ‘consistent
In concluding that the wrongful search of an apartment believed to be the only apartment on the floor of a building
did not violate the Fourth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court noted, “The trial court found, and the two appellate
courts did not dispute, that after making a reasonable investigation, including a verification of information obtained
from a reliable informant, an exterior examination of the three-story building at 2036 Park Avenue, and an inquiry
of the utility company, the officer who obtained the warrant reasonably concluded that there was only one apartment
on the third floor and that it was occupied by [the suspect].” Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 81 (1987).
(footnote not in original).
with a reasonable effort to ascertain and identify the place intended to be searched…’”Hartsfield
at 955 (internal citations omitted). Though it was undoubtedly an honest mistake, McLain’s
mistake in taking a photograph of the incorrect home, attaching it to the search warrant affidavit,
and showing it to the other defendants in this case with instructions to carry out a search there,
was unreasonable. It appears from the photographs of White’s home that his numerical street
address is visible from the street, even if it was not visible in the photograph McLain attached to
the warrant. (Docs. 35-1 at 2 and 35-6). More careful study of the home, from various angles,
would likely have resulted in the correct house being photographed. Moreover, the correct house
had previously been pointed out to McLain by an informant.
Further, as McLain testified during his deposition, the car he observed around 4:30 a.m.
the morning of the search was parked “back behind” 1817 Toulmin Avenue, not “back behind”
1819 Toulmin Avenue. (Doc. 30-2 at 13; Dep. McLain at 47). This is perplexing because
McLain observed this vehicle’s location after he had taken the photograph of White’s house
believing it to be the target house. Despite seeing the vehicle parked behind 1817 rather than
1819, he did not realize his error or make any efforts to ensure he had assigned the correct
location to the target house.
The Court concludes, for purposes of qualified immunity, that McLain’s efforts were
insufficient and inconsistent “with a reasonable effort to ascertain and identify” the correct home
to be searched. Hartsfield at 955 (internal citations omitted). Accordingly, McLain is not entitled
to qualified immunity and the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Count I against
Defendant McLain is DENIED.
Remaining Deputy Defendants
In Hartsfield, despite denying qualified immunity as to the lead deputy, the Eleventh
Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to the officers following the lead
deputy’s instructions, concluding that “nothing in the record indicates these officers acted
unreasonably in following [the lead deputy’s] lead, or that they knew or should have known that
their conduct might result in a violation of the [plaintiff’s] Fourth Amendment rights.” Hartsfield
At the pre-search briefing, the remaining Defendants were told the correct numerical
street address to be searched (1817 Toulmin Avenue rather than 1819 Toulmin Avenue) and
shown on a white board a diagram of the area of Toulmin Avenue in which the search was to
take place. (Docs. 35-12 at 8; Dep. McLain at 51 and 35-9). However, at this same briefing,
these defendants were shown a photograph of 1819 Toulmin Avenue rather than 1817 Toulmin
Avenue and instructed that it was the house at which they were to execute what they believed to
be a valid search warrant. All of the instructions they received pertained to White’s home and
came from McLain. These defendants had not engaged in the planning or investigation stages
leading up to what they learned at the briefing shortly before the search. Again relying upon the
similarities to Hartsfield, the Court concludes that the record does not “indicate these
[defendants] acted unreasonably in following [the lead deputy’s] lead, or that they knew or
should have known that their conduct might result in a violation of the [plaintiff’s] Fourth
Amendment rights.” Hartsfield at 956. Accordingly, Defendants Thornton, Cassidy, Allen
O’Shea, Greg O’Shea, Sullivan, and Law are entitled to qualified immunity. Thus, Defendants’
motion for summary judgment on Count I as to these Defendants is GRANTED.
Count II – False Arrest/False Imprisonment
Plaintiff’s response brief states, “The claims under Count II for False Arrest/False
Imprisonment are subsumed in Plaintiff’s other claims and Count II is therefore due to be
dismissed.” (Doc. 35 at 31). The Court agrees. Accordingly, Count II is DISMISSED.
With respect to the false/arrest false imprisonment claim as it falls under Count I, the
Court finds that Deputy Clinton Law is entitled to qualified immunity for the actions he took
with respect to detaining White. Though other defendants assisted in the search, it appears Law
was the only defendant who engaged in White’s seizure. There is no dispute that Law had neither
probable cause nor reasonable suspicion to arrest or detain White. “Absent probable cause, an
officer is still entitled to qualified immunity if arguable probable cause existed.” Case v.
Eslinger, 555 F.3d 1317, 1326–27 (11th Cir. 2009) “Arguable probable cause exists where
‘reasonable officers in the same circumstances and possessing the same knowledge as the
Defendants could have believed that probable cause existed to arrest Plaintiff.’” Grider v. City of
Auburn, Ala., 618 F.3d 1240, 1256–57 (11th Cir. 2010). “Indeed, it is inevitable that law
enforcement officials will in some cases reasonably but mistakenly conclude that actual probable
cause is present, and in such cases those officials should not be held personally liable.” Von Stein
v. Brescher, 904 F.2d 572, 579 (11th Cir.1990) (internal citations, quotation marks, and ellipses
omitted). Accordingly, “[e]ven law enforcement officials who reasonably but mistakenly
conclude that probable cause existed are entitled to immunity.” Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224,
227, 112 S.Ct. 534, 116 L.Ed.2d 589 (1991) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
As outlined previously, the assisting deputies were all working under the impression that
they were executing a valid search warrant. When Law grabbed, cuffed, and detained White, he
reasonably believed he was authorized to do so. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment as to the false arrest/false imprisonment component of Count I is GRANTED.
White’s State Law Claims – Assault and Outrage
Plaintiff has invoked the Court’s supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1367(a). In Counts Four and Five of the Complaint, White has alleged the Alabama state law
torts of assault and outrage.
Defendants failed to address either state law claim in any of their briefing. “The moving
party bears the initial burden to show the district court, by reference to materials on file, that
there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial. Only when that burden
has been met does the burden shift 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). By failing to address White’s state law claims of assault and outrage,
Defendants have failed to meet this initial burden. See also Mosley v. Alabama Unified Judicial
Sys., Admin. Office of Courts, 562 F. App'x 862, 864-66 (11th Cir. 2014)(The Eleventh Circuit
held that when defendant failed to address substance of plaintiff’s claim, district court erred by
granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment on claims to which plaintiff did not
respond.). Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on White’s state law claims
for assault and outrage is DENIED.
Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Doc. 29) as to Count I (unlawful entry,
search, and seizure) is DENIED as to Defendant McLain and GRANTED as to all other
Defendants. Count II (false arrest/false imprisonment) is DISMISSED. Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment as to Count III (excessive force) is GRANTED. Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment as to Counts IV and V (state law claims of assault and outrage) is DENIED.
DONE and ORDERED this 16th day of November 2015.
/s/ Kristi K. DuBose
KRISTI K. DuBOSE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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