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King v. Austin

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 6, 2018

STEVEN D. KING, Plaintiff,
v.
ADAM AUSTIN, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER

          CALLIE V. S. GRANADE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This action is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation which recommends that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (Doc. 65). Plaintiff has filed an objection to the Report and Recommendation in which he attempts to address the deficiencies in his Complaint which were addressed by the Magistrate Judge (Doc. 66). Defendants have filed an objection to the Report and Recommendation asserting that summary judgment is also due to be granted with regard to Plaintiffs claims for excessive force and deliberate indifference to which the Magistrate Judge did not recommend judgment as a matter of law. (Doc. 70).

         I. Factual Background

         The relevant factual background is detailed in the Report as follows:

On May 19, 2015, Plaintiff Steven D. King alleges in his complaint that `he was with his ex-girlfriend at a house on Main Street in Prichard, Alabama when police officers entered the home and ordered him to lay [sic] face down on the floor. King claims he immediately followed the officers' commands and his hands were secured in cuffs behind his back. While lying face down on the ground, handcuffed and compliant, King claims Officer Defendants Jennings Powell, Jeffrey Hillburn, and Joseph Goff proceeded to beat and kick him. He further alleges the officers pushed guns to his head and exclaimed they would kill him if he moved.
According to King, he was then led outside the house and “kicked off” a “very high cliff” (approximately two to three stories high) by Defendant Officers Jeffrey Hillburn, Joseph Goff, and Louis Screws, causing him to fall and hit his head on the paved street below. While lying in the street, King alleges the officers again pushed guns to his head warning him “not to move.” King asserts he immediately requested but was denied medial [sic] attention and was placed in a police vehicle for transport to the Mobile County Police Department. While en route to the Mobile Police Department, King claims he “begged for medical attention and water” but it was again denied.

(Doc. 65 at 1-2)(internal citations omitted).

         II. Defendants Objections

         Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation as to the excessive force claim against Jennings Powell, Jeffrey Hillburn, and Joseph Goff on the grounds that the affidavits of the police officers do not tend to support Plaintiff's claim, because the amount of force used was reasonable, and because it is Plaintiff's burden to submit the necessary medical records to establish that the force used was more than de minimus. (Doc. 70, section I., (A) and (B)). Defendants additionally object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation as to Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to meet his burden to establish “a serious medical need”. (Doc. 70, section II.). Defendants' objections will be addressed in turn.

         A. Claim of Excessive Force against Jennings Powell, Jeffrey Hillburn, and Joseph Goff

         According to Plaintiff, the officers violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on the use of excessive force to effect an arrest by the assault that occurred after he was placed in handcuffs (behind his back) and fully compliant and nonresistant. (Doc. 65 at 9-10). Specifically, Plaintiff's rights were violated when the officers kicked and beat him while he was handcuffed, lying face down on the ground. (Id. at 11).

         As noted by the Magistrate Judge, "Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest ... necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it." Jean-Baptiste v. Gutierrez, 627 F.3d 816, 821 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal quotes omitted). However, "[a]ny use of force must be reasonable, " id., and "[i]t is clearly established that the use of excessive force in carrying out an arrest constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment." Davis v. Williams, 451 F.3d 759, 767 (11th Cir. 2006). "Our cases hold that a gratuitous use of force when a criminal suspect is not resisting arrest constitutes excessive force." Hadley v. Gutierrez, 526 F.3d 1324, 1330 (11th Cir. 2008); Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1273-74 (11th Cir. 2008); Slicker v. Jackson, 215 F.3d 1225, 1232-33 (11th Cir. 2000).

         With regard to the amount of force used incident to Plaintiff's arrest (inside the home), the Magistrate Judge stated as follows:

When viewing the record in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, there are however disputed issues of material fact in this action regarding whether or not the force applied by Defendants violated the Fourth Amendment. Notably, there remains an issue regarding the amount of force used and the compliance of the plaintiff that is not resolved by the record evidence. […] In addition to the factual uncertainty of the seizure, the extent of any injury inflicted is ...

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