United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. # 5) and Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike (Doc. # 9).
The parties have briefed the motions, and they are under
submission. (Docs. # 8, 11-12). For the reasons explained
below, the court concludes that Defendants' motion is due
to be granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiffs'
motion is due to be denied.
case arises from Eder Martinez's and Adam Denard's
interactions with officers in the Adamsville Police
Department following a January 2016 accident. According to
the Complaint, on January 26, 2016, a City of Adamsville
employee struck Martinez's trailer with another vehicle
on Highway 78. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 12-13). Martinez
parked on the shoulder of Highway 78 because the accident
broke a trailer axle. (Id. at 14). Defendants
William McKinney and Ronald Hudson, police officers for the
Adamsville Police Department, investigated the accident.
(Id. at ¶¶ 7-8, 15-16). Hudson refused to
accept an electronic copy of an insurance card from Martinez.
(Id. at ¶ 17). McKinney searched for records
associated with Martinez's truck and asked him about a
discrepancy between his truck, a Ford F-250, and the records
that associated the license plate with a Ford F-150.
(Id. at ¶ 20). Hudson then accused Martinez of
altering the truck's Vehicle Identification Number
(“VIN”). (Id. at ¶ 21). Hudson
directed Martinez to remove the trailer from the highway
shoulder (id. at ¶ 22), and McKinney informed
Martinez that the truck would be impounded. (Id. at
¶ 26). Ultimately, Martinez's truck and trailer were
towed away from Highway 78 and held at an Adamsville impound
lot. (Id. at ¶ 29).
returned home and picked up his paperwork regarding the
truck. (Id. at ¶ 31). After doing so, Martinez
and Denard went to the Adamsville Police Department to
retrieve the truck and trailer. (Id. at ¶ 32).
At the station, Defendant Ira Leniger took Martinez and
Denard into custody while he investigated the matter.
(Id. at ¶ 33). Officers detained Martinez and
Denard in a jail cell for approximately two hours, after
which they were released. (Id. at ¶¶
34-35). Leniger declined to provide Martinez proof that the
investigation had occurred and would not disclose what
records misidentified his truck as a Ford
F-150. (Id. at ¶ 36).
complaint presents eight separate 42 U.S.C. § 1983
claims. (Id. at ¶¶ 37-84). Plaintiff
Martinez alleges that Defendants Hudson and McKinney violated
his Fourth Amendment freedom from unreasonable seizure of
property when they seized his truck. (Id. at
¶¶ 37-48). Martinez also alleges that Defendants
Hudson, McKinney, and Leniger violated his Fourth Amendment
freedom from unreasonable seizure when they incarcerated him
in the Adamsville City Jail without arguable probable cause
to believe he committed a crime. (Id. at
¶¶ 49-66). Likewise, Plaintiff Denard claims that
the three Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment freedom
from unreasonable seizure when they incarcerated him in the
Adamsville City Jail without arguable probable cause.
(Id. at ¶¶ 67-84).
Additional Evidentiary Submissions
February 16, 2016, Plaintiff Martinez signed a release of
claims against the City of Adamsville, Samuel Dean Owen, and
Alabama Municipal Insurance Company, as well as their agents
and servants. (Doc. # 5-2). In exchange for $6, 253.29,
Martinez agreed to discharge “any and all claims,
actions, causes of action, demands, rights, damages, costs,
loss of service, expenses and compensation” which
“accrue[d] on account of or in any way [grew] out of .
. . the accident, casualty, or event which occurred on or
about the 26th day of January,
2016, at or near U.S. Highway 78 in Adamsville,
Alabama.” (Id.) (emphasis in original).
affidavit, Plaintiff Martinez avers that he brought a Carfax
report, two insurance cards, and a print-out of a “Ford
Motor Vehicle VIN on-line search” with him when he
returned to the Adamsville Police Department on January 26,
2016. (Doc. # 8-1 at 5). Nevertheless, Defendant Leniger
refused to review the documents “and said he didn't
have to look at [them].” (Id.). Leniger
directed Martinez and Denard to empty their pockets, frisked
them, and held them in jail until he completed an
investigation. (Id. at 5-6; Doc. # 8-3 at 4-5).
Standard of Review
suggest in the caption of their motion that they seek
dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims and summary judgment as
an alternative remedy. (See Doc. # 5 at 1). A review
of their brief, however, indicates that Defendants primarily
seek summary judgment on the meager record presented with
their motion. For example, Defendants argue that the court
should dismiss Plaintiff Martinez's claims because of a
release mentioned nowhere in the complaint. (Doc. # 5-1 at
3-5). And, Defendants argue that the court should grant them
qualified immunity because they had arguable probable cause
to arrest Plaintiffs, as shown by an evidentiary exhibit
attached to the motion. (Id. at 6-7) (citing Doc. #
5-4). Even though this case is in the early stages of
litigation, Plaintiffs have agreed to play on the field laid
by Defendants and have submitted affidavit and documentary
evidence to oppose Defendants' motion. (Docs. # 8, 8-1,
8-2, & 8-3). The court sees no option other than ruling
on Defendants' motion as a motion for summary judgment.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(c) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings and -- by pointing to affidavits, or
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and/or admissions on
file -- designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.
substantive law will identify which facts are material and
which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)
(“Anderson”). All reasonable doubts
about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved
in favor of the non-movant. See Allen v. Bd. of Pub.
Educ. For Bibb Cty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1314 (11th Cir.
2007); Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112,
1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving ...