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Harvey v. Carr

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

September 18, 2014

CHRISTOPHER HARVEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DARRYL CARR, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Darryl Carr's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Docket No. 32). Plaintiff Christopher Harvey has responded. (Docket No. 36). Defendant has replied. (Docket #56). Accordingly, these matters now are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion will be GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Christopher Harvey alleges that Defendant Darryl Carr committed battery and violated Harvey's Constitutional rights by arresting Harvey. Carr is a police officer with the City of Benton Police Department. At this stage, "all evidence must be construed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 261 FN 2 (1986).

On July 12, 2012, Harvey was working as the manager of the Benton City Pool. Harvey's son Hunter Harvey was behind the counter in the concession stand, although Hunter was not an employee. Hunter spilled a soft drink and refused to clean up the spill. Karly Watkins, a pool employee, went to find Harvey and brought him to the concession stand. Harvey told Hunter to clean up the spill. Hunter refused. Harvey insisted that Hunter clean up the spill. Hunter went "berserk, " flipping his father off and shouting "Fuck You." (Docket #36). Harvey slapped Hunter in the face. (Docket #36). Harvey then put Hunter in a bear hug and the two wrestled, with Hunter going to the ground. (Docket #36). Watkins and Jeff Carroll, another pool employee, "closed the doors and pulled the blinds in the office so that the other customers would not see or hear what was going on." (Docket #36). A customer called the incident into the Benton Police Department.

Upon his arrival, Carr separately interviewed Harvey, his son Hunter, and Watkins. Harvey admitted to Carr that he had slapped Hunter in the face. (Docket #36). Hunter confirmed that his father had slapped him and put him in a bear hug. Hunter said that the slap "doesn't hurt anymore, it hurt for a couple of seconds when he slapped me though." (Docket #36). Watkins confirmed that Harvey had slapped Hunter. Carr also took a picture of Hunter's face. Harvey strongly argues that this picture is misleading because it shows the wrong side of Hunter's face and any redness on Hunter's face was due to acne.

Carr informed Harvey that he was charging him with fourth degree assault, a Class A misdemeanor. Ky. Rev. Stat. ยง 508.030. Carr handcuffed Harvey and put him in Carr's vehicle. Harvey alleges that Carr did not secure Harvey with a seatbelt.

Harvey's criminal case was brought before the Marshall County District Court. Before trial, Harvey moved to dismiss the assault charge for lack of probable cause. The court stated it could not rule on the motion to dismiss without first holding an evidentiary hearing, which the court declined to do. (Docket #32, Ex. 6). A jury trial was held on November 15, 2013. After the close of the prosecution's case-in-chief, Harvey moved for a directed verdict. That motion was denied. (Docket #32, Ex. 3). After Harvey presented his defense, the jury found him not guilty of fourth degree assault.

STANDARD

Summary judgment is available under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) if the moving party can establish that the "pleadings, depositions, answer to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

"[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact." Street v. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is "whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case." Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence. To support this position, he must present evidence on which the trier of fact could find for the plaintiff. See id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: "[t]he mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate." Monette v. Electronic Data Systems Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996).

DISCUSSION

I. Probable Cause and Qualified Immunity.

A police officer is entitled to qualified immunity from a wrongful arrest claim if the officer had probable cause at the time of the arrest. Avery v. King, 110 F.3d 12 (6th Cir. 1997); Voyticky v. Timberlake, 412 F.3d 669, 676 (6th Cir. 2005); see also Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991) ("Even law enforcement officials who reasonably but mistakenly conclude that probable cause is present' are entitled to immunity) (citation omitted). The doctrine "protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.'" Greene v. Reeves, 80 F.3d 1101, 1104 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing Hunter, 502 U.S. 224). Qualified immunity exists to "protect public officials "from undue interference with their duties from potentially disabling threats ...


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