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Ford v. Batts

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

August 29, 2019



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon a motion by Defendants, Ballard County, Carey Batts, and Bobby Hickman (“Defendants”), for summary judgment. (DN 60). Defendant Brandon Harrison is not a party to this motion. Plaintiff has filed a response and an unauthorized sur-reply. (DN 61; DN 68). Defendant has filed a reply and replied to Plaintiff's sur-reply. (DN 62; DN 71). Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for review and for the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment (DN 60) is GRANTED.


         In his complaint, Plaintiff states “On or in 2016, the exact time and date being unknown to the plaintiff, Special Agent Brandon Harrison . . . in conjunction with defendant . . . Batts, and Hickman seized property owned jointly by plaintiff and his friend Mel Althizer without a warrant or forfeiture notice” at his home. (DN 1). Plaintiff alleges that the search was conducted pursuant to a federal search warrant issued at the request of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“BATFE”). Plaintiff complains that “During the search of plaintiff's home, numerous items were taken, and destroyed” and “Family pictures, photo albums, furniture, dishes, utensils, televisions, video game consoles, computers, laptops, and even stuffed animals were all destroyed.” Id. at 10. In his deposition, however, Plaintiff clarified that the personal property consisted of “knick-knacks, stuffed animals, dishes . . . that's about it.” (DN 59 at 8).

         In his deposition, Plaintiff concedes that the search of his house was conducted pursuant to a search warrant. (DN 59 at 9). After the execution of the search warrant, Plaintiff was indicted for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. See United States v. Christopher Ford, No. 5:15-CR-23-1-TBR at (DN 10). On January 10, 2017, Plaintiff entered into a voluntary plea agreement and was subsequently sentenced by this Court. Id. at (DN 106). When entering his guilty plea, Plaintiff indicated to the Court that he understood the plea agreement and that he was represented by counsel. (DN 59 at 30, 37). Plaintiff did not challenge the validity of the search warrant in his criminal case. (Id. at 30, 40). In his plea agreement, Plaintiff also agreed to waive all rights to notice of the property subject to forfeiture. (Id. at 30).

         In response to Defendants' discovery requests, Plaintiff indicated that he was aware of the search of his property on August 27, 2015. (DN 41). And in his deposition, Plaintiff testified that Mel Althizer, Bobby Ford, and/or Amy Pary informed him of the search and seizure on August 27, 2015. (DN 59 at 12, 20, 27). Plaintiff argues that he did not witness the seizure of his vehicles and that he did not know which law enforcement agency seized his property.

         Plaintiff claims that the Defendants “violated his right to be free from unreasonable seizures, when they seized his property, without a warrant, and having no forfeiture notice to do so” and that “[t]he search warrant was issued based upon false statements made in the Affidavit for search warrant.” (DN 1 at 12). Upon conducting a screening of Plaintiff's pro se complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), this Court found that the following claims remained: (1) Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Batts, Hickman, and Harrison, in their individual capacities for violating his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and his right to due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983/Bivens; (2) Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against Ballard County for a policy of seizing private property without warrants or forfeiture notices; (3) Plaintiff's Kentucky state-law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (4) Plaintiff's state-law civil conspiracy claim.


         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgement as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists where “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court “may not make credibility determinations nor weigh the evidence when determining whether an issue of fact remains for trial.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 556 (6th Cir. 2001); Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 1999)). “The ultimate question is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Back v. Nestle USA, Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).

         As the party moving for summary judgment, Defendants must shoulder the burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, as to at least one essential element of each of Plaintiff's claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). If Defendants satisfy their burden of production, then Plaintiff “must-by deposition, answers to interrogatories, affidavits, and admissions on file-show specific facts that reveal a genuine issue for trial.” Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).


         (I) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims

         Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Although a § 1983 claim is a federal claim, the statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim is governed by state law. Collard v. Kentucky Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 180 (6th Cir. 1990) ("Since Congress has never legislated a statute of limitations period for section 1983 actions, the courts, pursuant to the mandate of 42 U.S.C. § 1988, have had to look to analogous state statutes"). Accordingly, "Kentucky's one-year statute of limitations governs section 1983 actions." Id. at 183; see also Baar v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., 311 Fed.Appx. 817, 825 (6th Cir. 2009) (unpublished) (holding a teacher's due process claims were barred by Kentucky's one-year statute of limitations).

         While state law controls the length of the statute of limitations, "federal law governs the question of when that limitations period begins to run." McCune v. Grand Rapids, 842 F.2d 903, 905 (6th Cir. 1988). "The statute of limitations commences to run when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of his action." Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 272 (6th Cir. 1984). "A plaintiff has reason to know of his injury when he should have discovered it through the exercise of reasonable diligence." Id. Furthermore, “[t]he statute of limitations is not tolled while a plaintiff attempts to identify the correct ...

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