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Littleton v. Miller

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

December 6, 2017




         This case is before the court on Defendant's Special Report (Doc. # 27), which the court has converted to a motion for summary judgment (Doc. # 29), and Defendant's Motion for Leave to Engage in Limited Discovery (Doc. # 30). The motion for summary judgment has been fully briefed and is under submission. (Docs. # 31, 34).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The facts set out in this opinion are gleaned from the parties' submissions of facts claimed to be disputed or undisputed and the court's own examination of the evidentiary record, including the sworn averments in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. All reasonable doubts about the facts have been resolved in favor of the nonmoving party. See Info Sys. & Networks Corp. v. City of Atlanta, 281 F.3d 1220, 1224 (11th Cir. 2002). These are the “facts” for summary judgment purposes only. They may not be the actual facts that could be established through live testimony at trial. See Cox v. Adm'r U.S. Steel & Carnegie Pension Fund, 17 F.3d 1386, 1400 (11th Cir. 1994).

         Notably, the Rule 56 record contains video footage from two dash cameras in the patrol cars used by Defendant, then a patrol officer with the City of Russellville Police Department, and Brian Shackelford, a lieutenant with the Russellville Police Department. Where video evidence is available and obviously contradicts Plaintiff's version of the facts, the court must accept the video's depiction instead of Plaintiff's subjective account. Pourmoghani-Esfahani v. Gee, 625 F.3d 1313, 1315 (11th Cir. 2010). To be sure, the dash camera videos in the Rule 56 record do not offer an uninterrupted view of Plaintiff's arrest and detainment. Indeed, the videos do not show when officers tasered Plaintiff or other interactions between the officers and Plaintiff for which recorded audio is available. And, the video clips submitted by Defendant are not a continuous record of Defendant's dash camera footage from October 26, 2013.[1] Nevertheless, as discussed below, the video evidence in the Rule 56 record definitively contradicts vital allegations in the Amended Complaint.

         a. Factual Background

         Around midnight on October 26, 2013, Defendant observed a vehicle driving the wrong way on Highway 43. (Doc. # 27-1 at 2-3). The vehicle then made an illegal U-turn. (Id. at 3). Defendant turned on his siren and chased the vehicle onto South Washington Avenue in Russellville. (Id.). Then, the vehicle lost control and crashed, rolling several times. (Id.). When Defendant arrived at the scene of the accident, downed power lines blocked the road. (Doc. # 28, Miller Dash Cam Video, at 01:03:35). The vehicle lay upside down off the road. (Id. at 01:04:06). As he observed the accident, Defendant asked a dispatcher to send an ambulance to the scene. (Id. at 01:03:54).

         As Defendant parked his patrol car by the vehicle, a man -- identified as Plaintiff by Defendant -- fled from the vehicle on foot. (Id. at 01:04:06-01:04:08; Doc. # 27-1 at 4). Defendant pursued Plaintiff across a field. (Doc. # 27-1 at 4). Shackelford observed Plaintiff cross Gaines Street as he tried to cut off Plaintiff's escape route with his patrol vehicle. (Doc. # 27-2 at 2-3; Doc. # 28, Shackelford Dash Cam Video, at 00:11:29-00:11:30). Defendant and Shackelford both continued to chase Plaintiff. (Doc. # 27-2 at 3). When the chase ended, Shackelford used a taser to help subdue Plaintiff.[2] (Id.). Defendant observed that Plaintiff showed signs of intoxication. (Doc. # 27-1 at 16). “Littleton had a very strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his person. He had a lot of trouble keeping his balance and fell to his knees at one point. Littleton was slurring his speech so heavily that I could barely understand what he was saying.” (Id.).

         The officers handcuffed Plaintiff and moved him to Shackelford's patrol vehicle.[3] (Id. at 6). They placed Plaintiff in Shackelford's patrol vehicle until an ambulance arrived at the scene. (Id.). (See also Doc. # 28, Shackelford Dash Cam Video, at 00:20:45) (showing Plaintiff lying down in Shackelford's patrol vehicle). During an interview, Plaintiff admitted to having used cocaine before the accident. (Doc. # 27-1 at 6). Plaintiff also told Defendant that he was suffering from back and neck pain. (Doc. # 12-1 at 4). When medical personnel arrived at the scene, Defendant retrieved his patrol vehicle and drove over to Shackelford's patrol vehicle. (Doc. # 27-1 at 6). (See also Doc. # 28, Miller Dash Cam Video, at 01:15:20-01:16-05) (video of Defendant driving away from the scene of the accident). The medical personnel removed the taser's prongs from Plaintiff's skin. (Doc. # 27-1 at 6).

         Defendant placed Plaintiff inside of his patrol vehicle. (Doc. # 28, Miller Dash Cam Video, at 01:21:05-01:21:10). As Defendant departed the scene, he told a dispatcher that he was “en route to the ER.” (Id. at 01:22:18-01:22:19). He drove from Gaines Street to Russellville Hospital and a video recording of that entire drive is in the Rule 56 record. (Id. at 01:22:18-01:27:00). The video shows that Defendant travelled to Russellville Hospital without stopping at any police station. (See id.). Defendant helped Plaintiff exit the vehicle (id. at 01:28:00-01:28:10) and walked him into Russellville Hospital. (Id. at 01:29:00). Defendant informed hospital personnel that Plaintiff needed to be checked out, that he was suspected of driving while impaired, that he had totaled his vehicle, and that Defendant wanted blood tests to be performed. (Id. at 01:29:14-01:29:25).

         According to a Russellville Police Department arrest report, Plaintiff was arrested by Defendant at 12:22 a.m. on October 26, 2013. (Doc. # 27-1 at 20-21). Russellville's dispatch records indicate that Defendant began travelling to the police department at 2:53 a.m. (Id. at 27). Defendant did not book Plaintiff until 3:34 a.m. that day. (Id. at 21).

         b. Procedural Background

         After an initial review of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the court identified two plausibly pled claims:

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant acted with deliberate indifference by denying him access to medical attention for the serious medical conditions he suffered after his automobile accident on October 26, 2013. Specifically, Defendant failed to transport Plaintiff to a hospital despite his complaints of back and neck pain.
Plaintiff was taken to a jail and held there for two to three hours until he lost consciousness. At that point, Plaintiff ...

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