Watson v. Ephlin et al
ORDER denying 70 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment; denying as moot 71 Defendant's Motion to Strike. Signed by Judge Billy Roy Wilson on 7/15/2013. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
BOBBY EPHLIN, et al.
Pending is Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 70). Defendant has
responded,1 and though Mr. Watson has not replied, his time for doing so has passed.
Defendant’s response is also a Motion to Strike Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 71). For reasons set out below, both Motions are DENIED.
Plaintiff James Watson has sued Sergeant Bobby Ephlin, alleging that Sgt. Ephlin
violated his constitutional rights by using excessive force during Mr. Watson’s arrest on
February 3, 2011. According Mr. Watson, he was at a home in Luxora, Arkansas, when out the
window he saw several police officers getting out of their vehicles. Knowing that he had
several warrants out for his arrest, he ran to the bedroom and hid under a bed. When the
officers found him, they pulled him from beneath the bed and searched him. The officers
placed his hands behind his back and cuffed them. As Sgt. Ephlin escorted Mr. Watson from
Doc. No. 71.
Unless otherwise noted, the facts from the Background section come from Mr. Watson’s
Complaint and Amended Complaint (Doc. Nos. 2, 5).
the home, Sgt. Ephlin forced Mr. Watson’s head into a wall -- busting his eye. Sgt. Ephlin has
denied the allegations.3
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact,
so that the dispute may be decided on purely legal grounds.4 The Supreme Court has
established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:
The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the
need for a trial -- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that
properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be
resolved in favor of either party.5
The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has cautioned that summary judgment is an
extreme remedy that should be granted only when the movant has established a right to the
judgment beyond controversy.6 Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy
by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.7 I must view the facts in the light
most favorable to the party opposing the motion.8 The Eighth Circuit has also set out the
burden of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion:
[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate,
i.e.,“[to point] out to the District Court,” that the record does not disclose a genuine
dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the
See Doc. No. 18.
Holloway v. Lockhart, 813 F.2d 874 (8th Cir. 1987); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).
Inland Oil & Transp. Co. v. United States, 600 F.2d 725, 727 (8th Cir. 1979).
Id. at 728.
Id. at 727-28.
record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which
bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the
record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material
fact, it is then the respondent’s burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific
facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails
to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted.9
Only disputes over facts that may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.10
In Mr. Watson’s Motion for Summary Judgment, he asserts that “it is a proven fact that
my eye was busted [on February 3, 2011] due to [Sgt. Ephlin’s] use of excessive force.”11 But,
whether Sgt. Ephlin used excessive force -- a material fact -- remains in genuine dispute.12
Accordingly, Mr. Watson’s Motion is DENIED. To the extent Sgt. Ephlin’s response
also is a Motion to Strike, it is DENIED as moot.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 15th day of July, 2013.
/s/Billy Roy Wilson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Counts v. MK-Ferguson Co., 862 F.2d 1338, 1339 (8th Cir. 1988) (quoting City of Mt.
Pleasant v. Associated Elec. Coop., 838 F.2d 268, 273-74 (8th Cir. 1988) (citations omitted)).
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Doc. No. 70 (emphasis added).
See Doc. No. 18.
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