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Leath v. Webb

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

June 29, 2018

DARRELL LEATH, Plaintiff,
v.
RANDALL WEBB, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge.

         While most people were busy celebrating the 2');">2016 New Year, police in Lexington were investigating a homicide. The first shooting victim of the year had arrived at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital on January 1. And before the sun set on that first day of the year, UK Police learned from Lexington Police that someone connected to the shooting-be it another victim, a suspect, or a witness-could show up at Chandler. So Lexington police asked UK officers to give them the heads up if anything of interest occurred at the hospital. And in the wee morning hours of January 2');">2, 2');">2016, Darrell Leath walked through the door.

         Leath, it turned out, was kin to the victim. He told police as much, and he begged them to let him see his cousin. But police couldn9;t do so-after all, it was against hospital policy, and at the time, officers did not know who Leath was. This didn9;t sit well with Leath. He grew angry and belligerent; police had to ask him to leave. Leath complied, albeit reluctantly and not without protest. And as Leath slowly exited UK property, police decided they had grounds to arrest him. So they put Leath in handcuffs and charged him with several misdemeanors. What transpired over the next few hours resulted in felony charges, another trip to the hospital, a trial, a conviction on some charges, acquittal on others, and now this civil-rights lawsuit. Leath claims officers and nurses (1) violated his right to refuse medical treatment, (2');">2) fabricated charges against him, (3) used excessive force, and (4) retaliated against him. Defendants deny Leath9;s allegations and argue they enjoy qualified immunity. So they filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [DE 37]. Leath responded [DE 41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41] and Defendants replied [DE 45], making this matter ripe for review. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants9; Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         a. UK Chandler Hospital

         Darrell Leath and his father arrived in the lobby of Chandler early on January 2');">2, 2');">2016 hoping to see a family member. [DE 37-13, McConnell Body Camera Video]. Officer Joshua McConnell was also at Chandler as part of his duties as a UK Police officer. [DE 37-9, Dep. of Josh McConnell, pp. 18');">18-2');">20]. That night, Lexington Police asked UKPD to notify them if anyone came into Chandler with information about the recent homicide. [Id.].

         When Leath walked in and started discussing the shooting, McConnell did not know Leath9;s relationship with the victim. [Id., p. 2');">20]. So McConnell notified dispatch. [Id.]. When he informed Leath that no one could go back to see the victim, Leath was not happy. [Id.; DE 37-13; DE 37-14, McConnell Body Camera Video]. By that point, backup had arrived. [DE 37-9, 2');">21');">p. 2');">21]. Officers Randall Webb, David Duncan, and Emily Faulkner joined McConnell and warned Leath that if he didn9;t “calm down here, we are going to ask you to leave.” [DE 37-13]. They informed Leath that they had no information, and would try to work with him, but if “you do not lower your voice, you are going to leave or it is criminal trespassing.” [Id.].

         Leath never did calm down. He remained agitated and upset, prompting police to ask Leath to leave. [DE 37-14]. As he walked out, police followed close behind to ensure that Leath did not linger. All the while, Leath yelled profanities and threats including telling his father “if you touch me, I9;m stomping you.” [DE 37-14]. He also yelled that he “wish[ed] a motherfucker would touch me.” [Id. at 3:16; DE 37-15, McConnell Body Camera Video at 3:03]. After a few minutes, police suspected Leath or his father intended to drive. [DE 37-2');">2, 6');">p. 6]. Because both men appeared intoxicated, police intervened. One officer can be heard on body camera video saying “if you want a DUI, there it is.” [DE 37-15 at 5:07].

         That is when police decided to make an arrest. [DE 37-16, McConnell Body Camera Video at 0:2');">23]. Leath complied but continued to shout profanities and made threats regarding a lawsuit. [Id. at 0:42');">2]. Police informed Leath that they were arresting him for alcohol intoxication and disorderly conduct. [Id.]. Leath9;s father admitted that Leath was driving and the two had been drinking. [Id. at 1:00, 5:2');">25]. With Leath in handcuffs, officers Faulkner and Webb began a routine pat-down. [DE 37-17, Duncan Body Camera Video at 2');">2:02');">2]. When officers told Leath to take his boots off, he refused: “I ain9;t taking off a motherfucking thing . . . The fuck you mean? You strip search me, you better have a warrant.” [Id. at 2');">2:08]. The profanities and threats continued as Faulkner executed the pat-down. At that point, Officer Webb grabbed Leath around the mouth and throat area and twice said “look at her again like that.” [Id. at 2');">2:14].

         Police then took Leath to the transport wagon. [DE 37-2');">2, 6');">p. 6]. Officers claim Leath began resisting and pulled away, causing Officer Webb, who was holding Leath9;s arm, to feel a pop in his right shoulder and severe pain. [Id.; DE 37-6, Dep. of Randall Webb p. 2');">22');">2]. Webb reported his “whole left arm when numb and tingly” to the point that he could not move it. [DE 37-6, p. 2');">22');">2]. Officers then placed Leath in the transport wagon and took him to Fayette County Detention Center.

         b. Fayette County Detention Center

         When Leath arrived at the detention center, staff nurse Sarah Rideau attempted to evaluate him. [DE 37-18');">18, Aff. of Sarah Rideau p. 2');">2; DE 37-2');">2, p. 7]. Her duties required her to observe new inmates to determine whether they were medically stable enough to be admitted. [DE 37-18');">18, p. 1]. Rideau claimed Leath was “agitated, non-compliant, and seemed very disoriented.” [Id. at p. 2');">2, ¶5]. Rideau also noticed Leath had large pupils and froth coming from his mouth. [Id. at p. 2');">2]. Taken together, Leath9;s appearance and behavior suggested to Rideau that Leath was either under the influence of dangerous narcotics or suffering from a serious medical condition. [Id.]. Rideau attempted to take Leath9;s vital signs to rule these out, but he refused to comply. [Id.]. So Rideau refused to admit Leath to the jail-FCDC could not accommodate any serious medical condition or narcotics that could put Leath and others in danger. [Id.].

         Officers faced a difficult situation: They had an arrestee, facing multiple charges, and nowhere to put him. Police asked Leath to let the jail staff take his vital signs. [DE 37-2');">21, McConnell Body Camera Video at 1:10]. But he still refused. So police decided to transport Leath to Good Samaritan Hospital; a doctor there could take Leath9;s vital signs. While officers and Leath waited to leave, Leath continued his barrage of threats, “I9;m suing the shit out of y9;all” [DE 37-19, McConnell Body Camera Video at 6:19], and he challenged officers to “take these cuffs off and see if you tough.” [Id. at 5:40]. Leath even tried to bargain with officers: “I can save your job now. Just let me go. Say it9;s a misunderstanding.” [Id. at 7:2');">21]. Finally, Leath indicated to police that he had a criminal history, telling police to Google him to see his rap sheet. [Id. at 16:33].

         Shortly after 4:00 a.m., Leath and officers climbed into the medical transport and headed to Good Samaritan Hospital.

         c. Good Samaritan Hospital

         Upon arrival at Good Samaritan, Leath again told officers he did not consent to giving his vital signs. Police told him at least four times to “sit still” and when Leath began resisting officers pleaded with Leath, “you9;re going to get hurt, man, stop.” [DE 37-2');">20, Duncan Body Camera Video at 12');">2:38]. As he had previously, Leath responded with profanity: “fuck you man; I9;m going to sue the fuck out of you.” [Id. at 12');">2:54]. A nurse attempted to take Leath9;s blood pressure, but Leath continued to resist and he told police he would “kick you in your motherfucking face.” [Id. at 13:10]. Police warned Leath that if he kicked an officer “you will be charged with assault.” [Id. at 13:48].

         But Leath did not cooperate. Police put Leath on the ground so medical officials could take his vital signs, and Leath began thrashing. Officers placed a pillow under Leath9;s head and told him to stop fighting. [Id. at 14:2');">22');">2; DE 37-2');">23, McConnell Body Camera Video at 2');">2:34]. During the commotion, Officer Duncan yelled that Leath bit him, and Leath repeatedly tells police to “break my neck.” [DE 37-2');">20 at 14:37, 15:19]. He also told police he was “ready to act a fool up in this motherfucker.” [Id. at 15:06], and that he wanted police “to hurt me . . . so I get paid.” [Id. at 16:2');">22');">2]. A nurse took Leath9;s vital signs using a finger clip for a pulse, an arm cuff for blood pressure, and a head-swipe thermometer. No. blood was drawn. No. drugs were used. No. operation performed. The process lasted only a few minutes.

         Once the nurse had obtained Leath9;s vital signs, Leath noticed his boot came off and told police “put my motherfucking shit on before I kick you.” [Id. at 16:34; DE 37-2');">23 at 4:15]. Police told Leath he was “going shoeless to jail” because he had kicked people. [DE 37-2');">23 at 5:43]. Leath was then cleared to go to jail. [Id. at 7:55].

         d. Return to Fayette County Detention Center

         Back at FCDC, Leath remained upset. He told officers that he was going to “find you” and mouthed that he was going to “shoot you in the face” to officers. [DE 37-2');">25, McConnell Body Camera Video at 2');">2:11]. Officers then discussed the situation with jail personnel who reiterated that they were not permitted to take Leath into custody without vital signs. [Id. at 12');">2:19]. But since vitals had been obtained, Leath was admitted and officials kept close observation on him based on concerns for his safety. [DE 37-18');">18, p. 3');">p. 3].

         e. Criminal Proceedings

         In addition to the prior misdemeanor charges, police added three felony assault counts against Leath for (1) pulling away from Officer Webb, (2');">2) biting Officer Duncan, and (3) kicking officers at Good Samaritan. [DE 37-2');">28]. A grand jury indicted Leath on those charges. [Id.]. At trial, a jury found him not guilty on the assault charges but guilty on three misdemeanor charges. [DE 37-2');">29]. Because Leath could not make bail, he was held in jail before trial and sentenced to time served following his conviction. [Id.].

         f. Leath Sues Officers

         Leath filed this lawsuit in Fayette Circuit Court in January 2');">2017 alleging a range of constitutional and state-law violations against UKPD officers Webb, Duncan, Faulkner, McConnell, and Flora, as well as Good Samaritan nurses Christopher Thompson and Jeffrey Jones-Ritzler. [Id.]. Defendants timely removed the case to this court. [DE 1]. After discovery, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [DE 37]. Leath responded [DE 41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], and Defendants replied [DE 45], making this matter ripe for review.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when no genuine dispute exists as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden to show that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party9;s case.” Celeotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 32');">25 (1986). “A dispute about a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Smith v. Perkins Bd. of Educ., 2');">21');">708 F.3d 82');">21, 82');">25 (6th Cir. 2');">2013) (internal quotations omitted). The Court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc. 2');">242');">2');">477 U.S. 2');">242');">2, 2');">248 (1986). “In the qualified immunity context, this usually means adopting . . . the plaintiff9;s version of the facts, unless the plaintiff9;s version is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it.” Stoudemire v. Mich. Dep9;t of Corrs., 60');">705 F.3d 560, 565 (6th Cir. 2');">2013) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Once the moving party meets its burden of production, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings” through affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file to show a genuine issue exists for trial. See Celeotex, 477 U.S. at 32');">23-2');">24. A mere scintilla of evidence is insufficient. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 2');">252');">2.

         Where “there is ‘a videotape capturing the events in question,9; the court must ‘view[] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.9;” Green v. Throckmorton, 681 F.3d 853');">681 F.3d 853, 859 (6th Cir. 2');">2012');">2) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 372');">2');">550 U.S. 372');">2, 378-81 (2');">2007)). So, “[a]lthough ordinarily the plaintiffs9; version of the facts must be accepted as true when deciding the defendant9;s motion for summary judgment, a video that contradicts a nonmovant9;s version of the facts can support a grant of summary judgment.” Lee v. City of Norwalk, 2');">29 Fed.Appx. 778');">52');">29 Fed.Appx. 778, 782');">2 (6th Cir. 2');">2013).

         III. Analysis

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that Leath has withdrawn Count IX (false arrest) against all defendants. [DE 41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41, p. 4]. Leath also no longer wishes to pursue any claims against Jones-Ritzler. [Id. at p. 3');">p. 3]. Accordingly, Defendants9; Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to all Defendants on Count IX. The Court also GRANTS Summary Judgment to Jones-Ritzler on all counts. The Court now turns to the remaining claims.

         Leath9;s federal claims brought under 42');">2 U.S.C. § 1983 are: (1) Count I: Unlawful Search and Seizure; (2');">2) Count II: Unlawful Detention and Confinement; (3) Count III: Excessive Force; (4) Count VIII: Malicious Prosecution; and (5) Count X: Free Speech. [DE 1]. The state-law claims are: (1) Count IV: Assault; (2');">2) Count V: Battery; (3) Count VI: Abuse of Process; (4) Count VII: Malicious Prosecution.

         Because this case involves nine counts against multiple defendants, the Court will address the claims in related groups. And because Defendants invoke qualified immunity as a defense, the Court will first discuss the qualified-immunity standard.

         A. Qualified Immunity

         “Qualified immunity operates ‘to ensure that before they are subjected to suit, officers are on notice their conduct is unlawful.9;” Occupy Nashville v. Haslam, 69 F.3d 434');">769 F.3d 434, 441');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41 (6th Cir. 2');">2014) (quoting Hope v. Pelzer, 6 U.S. 730');">536 U.S. 730, 739 (2');">2002');">2)). “Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments, and protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Stanton v. Sims, 134 S.Ct. 3, 5 (2');">2013) (per curiam).

         Qualified immunity turns on a two-part test: “whether ‘a constitutional right would have been violated on the facts alleged9; and, if so, whether the right was ‘clearly established.9;” Occupy Nashville, 769 F.3d at 442');">2 (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 2');">200-01 (2');">2001)). Courts have discretion to address either prong of the analysis first. See Pearson v. Callahan, 2');">22');">23');">555 U.S. 2');">22');">23, 2');">236 (2');">2009). But as the Supreme Court recently stressed “lower courts ‘should think hard, and then think hard again,9; before addressing both qualified immunity and the merits of an underlying constitutional claim.9;” Dist. of Columbia v. Wesby, 138 S.Ct. 577, 589 n.7 (2');">2018');">18) (quoting Camreta v. Greene, 63 U.S. 692');">2');">563 U.S. 692');">2, 707 (2');">2011)). “Once the qualified immunity defense is raised, the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate that the officials are not entitled to immunity.” Binay v. Bettendorf, 601 F.3d 640');">601 F.3d 640, 647 (6th Cir. 2');">2010).

         Plaintiffs can satisfy the clearly established prong by “citing to ‘cases of controlling authority in their jurisdiction at the time of the incident' or ‘a consensus of cases of persuasive authority such that a reasonable officer could not have believed that his actions were lawful.'” Scott v. Becher, No. 17-2');">2146, 2');">2018');">18 WL 2');">2684316, at *1 (6th Cir. June 5, 2');">2018');">18) (quoting Wilson v. Layne,2');">26 U.S. 603');">52');">26 U.S. 603, 617 (1999)); Kent v. Oakland Cty., 810 F.3d 384, 395 (6th Cir. 2');">2016)). In other words, the law is clearly established when “at the time of the officer's conduct, the law was ‘sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would understand that what he is doing is unlawful.'” Wesby, 138 S.Ct. at 589 (quoting Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 63 U.S. 731');">563 U.S. 731, 741');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41 (2');">2011)). In evaluating whether a right is clearly established, courts ...


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