Wilson v. Cockrill et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting in part 47 Defendant Branscum's Motion for Summary Judgment; and dismissing the damages claims against him in his official capacity; and denying in part all other aspects of the Motion. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 4/25/2012. (srw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JOHN PAUL WILSON, Reg. #26333-009,
ALAN COCKRILL, Sheriff, Independence
County, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Before the Court is Jared Branscum’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 47).
Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion (Doc. No. 51).
Mr. Wilson filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that
while a pretrial detainee at the Independence County Jail, Jared Branscum used excessive force by
tazing him on August 25, 2010.
Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. See Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1237 (8th Cir. 1997). “The moving party bears
the initial burden of 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.” Webb v. Lawrence County, 144 F.3d
1131, 1134 (8th Cir. 1998)(citations omitted). “Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party cannot simply rest on mere denials of allegations in the pleadings; rather, the non1
movant must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 1135
(citations omitted). Although the facts are viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party,
“in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant cannot simply create a factual
dispute; rather, there must be a genuine dispute over those facts that could actually affect the
outcome of the lawsuit.” Id.
Mr. Branscum argues that Plaintiff’s excessive force claim should be dismissed because a
video of the incident clearly shows that Plaintiff was not injured, and feigned an injury in a joking
and dramatic manner. (Doc. No. 49, Ex. A.) Mr. Branscum also claims he is entitled to qualified
immunity because from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene at the time the force was
used, his actions would appear objectively reasonable. Finally, Mr. Branscum states Wilson cannot
recover damages from him in his official capacity because he has not shown that an unconstitutional
county policy or practice of Independence County was the cause of the alleged constitutional
In his Response, Mr. Wilson states Mr. Branscum acted maliciously by tazing him in the
stomach area, and the video produced by Branscum does not clearly show the incident as it occurred.
Mr. Wilson claims a second stationary video captured the incident but it has not been produced by
Mr. Branscum. He further states that Mr. Branscum cannot explain away the burns he sustained
during the incident.
Official Capacity Claims
With regard to Plaintiff’s official capacity claims, the Eleventh Amendment bars damage
claims against state officials sued in their official capacities. Egerdahl v. Hibbing Community
College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995). See also Andrus v. Arkansas, 197 F.3d 953, 955 (8th Cir.
1999). And since Plaintiff does not allege that Defendant Branscum acted pursuant to an
unconstitutional county policy or practice, his official claim for damages must be dismissed.
Individual Capacity Claim
Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time of this incident; thus, the due process standard
of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to determine the constitutionality of his conditions of
confinement. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). In analyzing excessive force claims in this
context, the courts apply a Fourth Amendment standard to determine if the officer’s actions were
objectively reasonable, balancing “the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth
Amendment interests’ against the countervailing governmental interests at stake.” Chambers v.
Pennycook, 641 F.3d 898, 905-6 (8th Cir. 2011). The degree of injury is relevant to show the
amount and type of force used, but it should not be dispositive, and the Court should focus “instead
on whether the force applied is reasonable from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene
at the time the force is used.” Chambers, 641 F.3d at 906.
Mr. Branscum’s argument for summary judgment largely hinges on his assertion that Mr.
Wilson was not injured. But lack of an obvious injury does not dispose of Plaintiff’s excessive force
claim. Moreover, after considering the pleadings and video submitted by Mr. Branscum, the Court
finds issues of material fact still exist. The video does not show the entire incident, and Mr.
Branscum provides no affidavit or other sworn statement to support his version of events.1
Therefore, this portion of Mr. Branscum’s Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied.
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED THAT:
Mr. Branscum’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 47) is GRANTED in part,
Although the Motion refers to an affidavit by Branscum, the only affidavit provided is by
Lt. John Ferguson, Jail Administrator of Independence County, stating that the video provided is an
authentic copy. (Doc. No. 49 at 3.)
and the damages claims against him in his official capacity are dismissed; the Motion is DENIED
in all other respects.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 25th day of April, 2012.
JOE J. VOLPE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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