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Logsdon v. White

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

June 22, 2015

COREY RAY LOGSDON, Plaintiff,
v.
TROOPER DANIEL WHITE, and TROOPER GRAHAM RUTHERFORD, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GREG N. STIVERS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants Daniel White and Graham Rutherford's ("Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss.[1] (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J, DN 40). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for a decision. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the motion in part and DENIES the motion in part.

I. SUMMARY OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

The parties agree that on May 30, 2012, Defendants arrested Plaintiff Corey Ray Logsdon ("Logsdon") after chasing him around a field as he drunkenly rode a horse. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 2-4; Compl. 2-3, DN 1). The parties have differing accounts of the circumstances leading up to and during Logsdon's arrest.

Defendants allege that Trooper Rutherford ("Rutherford") was dispatched to respond to an emergency call reporting that Logsdon was intoxicated and riding a horse on a public road. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 2). Because Trooper White ("White") knew that the Logsdon family "disliked police and that certain family members could cause trouble", White also decided to respond. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 2). Upon their simultaneous arrival, family members confirmed Logsdon was riding a horse intoxicated on public roads, and within short order Logsdon himself arrived on horseback obviously intoxicated, as indicated by his swaying and slurring of speech. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 3). White told Logsdon to dismount, and Logsdon refused. After his family members asked him to dismount, Logsdon again refused and stated that he was a cowboy and the troopers could not catch him. Logsdon then ran the horse through a gate into an open field. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 3).

Rutherford followed on foot while White returned to his cruiser and pursued Logsdon into the field. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 3). White turned his spotlight on Logsdon and demanded through his loudspeaker that Logsdon dismount; meanwhile Rutherford closed some distance and attempted to stop Logsdon with a taser. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 3). Rutherford's efforts were in vain as White continued to follow slowly behind Logsdon, still speaking into the loudspeaker. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 3). Logsdon's horse struck a gate, and he dismounted over a fence and continued to flee towards a nearby house. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 3). White left the cruiser to pursue on foot and he successfully deployed the taser against Logsdon causing Logsdon to fall face-first onto gravel. White then handcuffed Logsdon as a group of Logsdon's family members surrounded White and began angrily yelling at him. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 3). Paul Logsdon, Jr. (Logsdon Jr.") approached White "in an aggressive manner" and White instructed him to stay back while attempting to restrain Logsdon. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4). As Rutherford made his way to the area, Logsdon Jr. continued to aggressively approach White, who was forced to tase Logsdon a second time as he was trying to regain his feet and resist arrest. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4). When Rutherford arrived, White informed Logsdon Jr. that he was under arrest and asked Rutherford to restrain him. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4). Logsdon, meanwhile, continued to resist, and White tased him a third time, though Logsdon remained unfazed. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4). White then punched Logsdon, at which point Logsdon ceased resisting and ultimately began to cooperate. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4).

When White took Logsdon to the local jail, the jailer refused to take custody of Logsdon until he was seen at the local hospital and medically cleared. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4). White transported Logsdon to the local hospital, but Logsdon refused treatment. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4). White and Logsdon then returned to the jail, where White took pictures of Logsdon and the jailer accepted custody of him. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 4).

Logsdon's account departs significantly from this version of events. He maintains that he rode the horse only "in a field, around the corral, and beside the barn, " rather than on a public road. (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 2). Logsdon also claims that White rammed the horse "in the rump" with his cruiser multiple times, that he was knocked from his horse rather than dismounted it, that he did not fall on his face after the first taser round, and that he was "hit about the head and face after being struck by the Tazer and handcuffed." (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 3). Logsdon eventually entered an Alford plea to several state charges as part of a plea deal. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 1, DN 50-1).

Logsdon filed this lawsuit alleging that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by using excessive force, executing an unlawful arrest, detaining and confining Logsdon unlawfully, inflicting cruel and unusual punishment, and refusing or neglecting to prevent harm.[2] (Compl. 8-15). He also asserted various state law claims against Defendants in their official and individual capacities.[3] (Compl. 15-22). In the present motion, Defendants seek dismissal of the remaining individual capacity claims.

II. JURISDICTION

Logsdon alleges claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court has "original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. As to Logsdon's state-law claims, this Court has jurisdiction over those claims as well, as the Court has "supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within [the Court's] original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, "[t]he 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). There is no genuine issue of material fact when "looking to the record as a whole, a reasonable mind could come to only one conclusion...." Mickler v. Nimishillen & Tuscarawas Ry. Co., 13 F.3d 184, 186 (6th Cir. 1993) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986)). "When moving for summary judgment the movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact." Automated Solutions Corp. v. Paragon Data Sys., Inc., 756 F.3d 504, 520 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). "The burden then shifts to the nonmovant, who must put forth enough evidence to show that there exists a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (citing Horton v. Potter, 369 F.3d 906, 909 (6th Cir. 2004)).

While the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show the existence of some "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (citations omitted). Rather, the non-moving party must present specific facts proving that a genuine factual issue exists by "citing to particular parts of the materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Excessive Force and Qualified Immunity

"Qualified... immunity is an affirmative defense that must be pleaded by a defendant official." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815 (1982). It consists of two aspects: one objective and the other subjective. Id. "The objective element involves a presumptive knowledge of and respect for basic, unquestioned constitutional rights.' The subjective component refers to permissible intentions.'" Id. (quoting Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 322 (1975)). Qualified immunity will not protect an official who "knew or reasonably should have known" that his action taken within his "sphere of official responsibility" would violate a plaintiff's constitutional rights, or if the official "took the action with the malicious intent to cause a deprivation of constitutional rights or other injury." Id. (citation omitted). In short, "governmental officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Id. at 816 (citations omitted).

Because Defendants appear to acknowledge that their acts were discretionary, the only question is whether they violated one or more of Logsdon's clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 5). Logsdon alleges three claims under Section 1983: excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, and refusing or neglecting to prevent harm. (Compl. 8-15).

"[Excessive force] claims are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's objective reasonableness' standard...." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 388 (1989). "The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight." Id. at 396 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20-22 (1968)). The Supreme Court noted three non-exclusive factors for courts to consider in analyzing whether the force used to seize a person was excessive: "the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest by flight." Id. (citing Tennessee v. Gardner, 471 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1985)).

While not delineated in the Complaint, Logsdon's response to the present motion asserts three instances of unreasonableness by White: (1) White was unreasonable in pursuing Logsdon in the cruiser with its headlights on, blue lights flashing, and spotlight on, as this constituted deadly force; (2) White was unreasonable in ramming the horse with his cruiser, as amounting to deadly force; and (3) White was unreasonable in ...


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