from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Tennessee at Knoxville. No. 3:16-cv-00508-Thomas
A. Varlan, Chief District Judge.
Irion, LAW OFFICE OF VAN R. IRION, Knoxville, Tennessee, for
Matthew J. Evans, Lindsey M. Collins, PAINE BICKERS LLP,
Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellee.
Before: GUY, CLAY, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.
GRIFFIN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Logan Vanderhoef crashed his Ford Mustang into defendant
Maurice Dixon's vehicle. Dixon, an off-duty, part-time
reserve police officer, responded by holding Vanderhoef and
his passengers at gunpoint for about two minutes. A jury
found that by doing so, Dixon violated Vanderhoef's
Fourth Amendment rights. But the district court set aside the
jury's verdict, ruling that Dixon was entitled to
qualified immunity because no clearly established law put him
on notice that doing what he did was unconstitutional. We
disagree and reverse.
suit arises out of an auto accident and subsequent
confrontation between plaintiff Logan Vanderhoef and
defendant Maurice Dixon in May of 2016. Defendant, a
part-time reserve officer with the City of Maryville,
Tennessee, Police Department, was off duty and driving home
in his personal vehicle. It was daytime and defendant saw
plaintiff's Ford Mustang driving towards him at a high
rate of speed. Plaintiff, with two passengers in the car,
came around a curve going too fast and swerved into the
oncoming lane of traffic, where defendant was driving.
Plaintiff then swerved past the oncoming-traffic lane, into
the ditch on the side of the road, and struck a telephone
pole before swerving back across the road and hitting
defendant's front fender. After the collision, both cars
came to a stop approximately 120 feet apart.
got out of his vehicle holding his personal handgun and
approached plaintiff's car in a hurry. The Mustang's
airbags had deployed in the collision, and all three
occupants were trying to exit the vehicle as defendant
approached. With his gun drawn, defendant began directing the
three teenagers out of the car by repeatedly yelling,
"Let me see your hands, get on the ground."
Defendant pointed the gun at plaintiff's head the whole
time he was giving these orders. All three teenage occupants
of the car complied and got on the ground outside the
vehicle. Dixon held them at gunpoint for roughly two minutes.
third-party witness, Martha Keller, saw everything. Once
defendant began ordering the teenagers to the ground and
pointing his gun at plaintiff, she quickly intervened. She
got out of her car and told defendant "[y]ou need to
calm down. You need to put that gun away." He responded,
"Shut up, mind your own business, and get back in your
car." When Keller threatened to call the police,
defendant reholstered his gun and told her that he was a
police officer; Keller called anyway. And after defendant and
Keller finished speaking, defendant told plaintiff and his
passengers that they could get up and plaintiff could call
his mother. While Keller was on the phone with police,
defendant returned to his car, put his gun away, retrieved
his badge, and showed it to Keller.
filed this federal lawsuit against defendant, alleging
deprivation of his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
assault and false imprisonment under Tennessee law. The case
went to trial. At the conclusion of plaintiff's case in
chief, defendant moved for a directed verdict on
qualified-immunity grounds. The district court took that
motion under advisement.
jury found in plaintiff's favor and awarded him $500 for
each of his three claims. After trial, defendant renewed his
claim for qualified immunity in a motion for judgment as a
matter of law. The district court granted the motion on
qualified-immunity grounds and dismissed all three claims.
The court concluded that defendant violated plaintiff's
constitutional rights but that the law was not clearly
established to put defendant on ...