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Mannor v. Pearce

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

March 23, 2018

ROBIN L. MANNOR, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER J. PEARCE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          STACI G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The court has before it the January 13, 2017 motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Christopher J. Pearce. (Doc. 14). Pursuant to the court's initial order, the motion is fully briefed and under submission as of February 16, 2017. (Docs. 10, 15-19). After consideration of the briefs and evidence, the motion is due to be granted for the following reasons.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         On the night of August 19, 2013, Plaintiff Robin L. Mannor and her husband were at home near Scottsboro, Alabama, in Marshall County. (Doc. 16-3 at 7). Plaintiff had two or three bourbon and cokes and then got into an argument with her husband over finances. (Id. at 7, 14). During the argument, Plaintiff's husband told Plaintiff he was moving out and began packing his belongings. (Doc. 16-4 at 4). At some point, Plaintiff bit her husband and struck him repeatedly with a picture frame, breaking the glass. (Doc. 16-3 at 8-9; Doc. 16-4 at 4-5). When he realized the glass was broken, Plaintiff's husband thought the situation was becoming dangerous and called 911. (Doc. 16-4 at 5). While he was on the phone with 911, Plaintiff retreated to the bathroom and called a friend. (Doc. 16-3 at 10). Plaintiff remained in the bathroom for approximately forty-five minutes and assumed her husband left the house. (Id.).

         The 911 dispatch notified Defendant, Marshall County Deputy Christopher Pearce, of the domestic fight call, and he arrived at Plaintiff's house at approximately 12:30 a.m. (Doc. 16-1 at 10). Grant Police Officer Thomas Sorrell arrived shortly thereafter as a backup unit.[2] (Id.). Plaintiff's husband was waiting outside when the officers arrived. (Doc. 16-4 at 5). His belongings were packed inside his truck, and he was ready to leave. (Id.). Plaintiff's husband told Pearce and Sorrell everything was okay, Plaintiff was inside the house, and he was leaving. (Id. at 6; Doc. 16-1 at 10-11). Pearce observed a bite mark and scratches on Plaintiff's husband. (Doc. 16-1 at 11).

         While Pearce was talking to Plaintiff's husband, Sorrell entered the home to locate Plaintiff and found her in a locked bathroom. (Id. at 10; Doc. 16-2 at 5). Plaintiff would not unlock the door and come out of the bathroom. (Id.). Sorrell went back outside and informed Pearce, and both Sorrell and Pearce entered the house to talk to Plaintiff. (Doc. 16-1 at 11). The officers knocked on the bathroom door and “gave her loud, verbal commands” to come out of the bathroom so they could speak with her. (Id. at 12). Plaintiff told the officers she was not coming out of the bathroom. (Id.). The officers explained they were there to investigate a domestic violence report and by law they had to talk to her. (Id.). After approximately five to seven minutes, Plaintiff came out of the bathroom. (Id.).

         When Plaintiff exited the bathroom, Pearce and Sorrell observed the “strong smell of alcohol, slurred speech, [and] bloodshot eyes” and believed Plaintiff was “very inebriated.”[3] (Id.; Doc. 16-2 at 5). She refused to hang up on her phone call. (Doc. 16-3 at 10). After hearing her version of events, Pearce told Plaintiff she was under arrest for domestic violence and instructed her to turn around with her hands behind her back. (Doc. 16-1 at 12; Doc. 16-2 at 5). Plaintiff testified she told Pearce she did not want to hang up her telephone but eventually put it down and complied with Pearce's instructions. (Doc. 16-3 at 11). According to Pearce and Sorrell, Plaintiff did not comply, Pearce had to physically turn her around, [4] and Perace needed Sorrell's assistance to place her in handcuffs. (Doc. 16-1 at 12-13; Doc. 16-2 at 5). Plaintiff was not aggressive toward the officers. (Doc. 16-1 at 13).

         The officers then escorted Plaintiff out of the house in handcuffs. (Id.; Doc. 16-4 at 6-7). As they led her out of the house, Plaintiff saw her husband and began to yell and curse at him. (Doc. 16-3 at 12; Doc. 16-1 at 13). Pearce placed Plaintiff in his patrol car and began to write a report about the incident. (Doc. 16-1 at 13). Plaintiff's husband told Pearce he did not want Plaintiff arrested and refused to sign the report. (Doc. 16-1 at 13; Doc. 16-4 at 7). Plaintiff continued to yell while in the police car and shouted for someone to call DHR to take care of her minor son.[5] (Doc. 16-2 at 5; Doc. 16-4 at 8). Pearce testified Plaintiff banged against the glass, and he was scared she would kick the window out.[6] (Doc. 16-1 at 13).

         Pearce opened the car door, and Plaintiff exited the car without assistance. (Doc. 16-3 at 13). Pearce instructed her to sit on the ground and cross her legs, and Plaintiff complied. (Id.; Doc. 16-2 at 5; Doc. 16-4 at 8). She remained handcuffed. (Doc. 16-3 at 14). Sorrell contacted DHR, explained the situation, and held the phone to Plaintiff's ear so she could speak with DHR. (Id. at 13; Doc. 16-4 at 8; Doc. 16-2 at 5). DHR decided to allow Plaintiff's son to remain with Plaintiff's husband. (Doc. 16-4 at 8).

         Pearce then instructed Plaintiff to stand. (Doc. 16-1 at 17; Doc. 16-3 at 16). Plaintiff replied she could not stand because of her position on the ground[7] and because she was handcuffed. (Id.). Pearce told Plaintiff how to stand from that position, but Plaintiff again stated she could not and refused to stand. (Doc. 16-1 at 14). Pearce then attempted to pick her up, but she “tensed up” and pulled herself down as he tried to pull her to a standing position.[8] (Id.; Doc. 16-2 at 6). Plaintiff scratched Pearce on his arms as he attempted to lift her. (Doc. 16-1 at 14-15; Doc. 16-9 at 2; Doc. 16-10 at 2). Pearce released Plaintiff because he believed he could injure her if he continued.[9] (Doc. 16-1 at 18). Pearce decided the only way to prevent an injury to Plaintiff was to force her to stand on her own will. (Id.).

         Pearce then used “pressure point control tactics” to force Plaintiff to stand. (Doc. 16-1 at 15). Plaintiff's husband urged Plaintiff to stand, stating Pearce would use pepper spray on her. (Doc. 16-3 at 16). Plaintiff replied it would probably be worse and he would probably use a baton. (Id.). In response, Pearce stated, “No, taser, ” and briefly tased her on the back of her neck without any warning.[10] (Id. at 16, 23; Doc. 16-4 at 10). It is undisputed the taser was in drive stun mode. Drive stun mode creates pain at the point of contact, does not immobilize a person, and is used as a “pain compliance” technique. (Doc. 16-1 at 16).

         Plaintiff testified she fell over as a result of being tased the first time[11] and Pearce helped her back into a seated position. (Doc. 16-3 at 16). She did not stand, and Pearce continued to instruct Plaintiff to stand. (Doc. 16-1 at 16; Doc. 16-4 at 10). Pearce tased her again on her neck for the full five seconds allowed by the device and repeated his instruction to stand. (Doc. 16-1 at 16; Doc. 16-2 at 7; Doc. 16-3 at 16). Pearce testified Plaintiff continued to fight against him, scratched him, [12] and did not stand. (Doc. 16-1 at 16-17; Doc. 16-2 at 7). Pearce tased Plaintiff for a third time for the full five seconds. (Id.). Plaintiff testified Pearce tased her in quick succession, causing her to jump away from the pain, yell, and urinate on herself. (Doc. 16-3 at 16). After the third time, Plaintiff stood without assistance. (Doc. 16-1 at 17; Doc. 16-2 at 7). Pearce and Sorrell placed her inside Pearce's patrol car, and there were no further issues. (Doc. 16-1 at 17).

         Plaintiff was charged with domestic violence in the third degree, resisting arrest, assault in the second degree, and disorderly conduct. (Doc. 16-8 at 2-3). The Marshall County grand jury returned a no bill, and her case was closed. (Doc. 18-2).

         As a result of the tasing, Plaintiff had burn marks on the back of her neck. (Doc. 16-3 at 23). The marks remained on her neck for a few weeks but did not leave a scar. (Id.). Plaintiff testified she suffered psychological trauma from the incident. (Id. at 19). She stated she did not leave the house for the next couple of months because she was scared she would encounter Pearce. (Id.). She booked appointments to be seen by a mental care physician, but she continually rescheduled them because she was scared to leave her house. (Id.).

         Plaintiff was seen by a mental care provider on September 9, 2013, less than a month after the incident. (Id.; Doc.16-11 at 2). The records do not reflect any psychological trauma and detail the “presenting problem” as: (1) the need for a new psychiatrist;[13] and (2) a worsening of her depression because of her recent move, lack of employment, and lack of child support and because she did “not feel independent with several life situations.” (Doc. 16-11 at 2). Under a heading entitled “LEGAL, ” Plaintiff described the incident with Pearce and Sorrell as follows:

[S]he brought ETOH into the home about 4-6 weeks ago; she states that she was intoxicated at the time and bit her husband during a verbal altercation; currently has domestic violence 3rd degree charge, police were called and involved during this time; additional charges “because [she] was running [her] mouth” should be dropped. . . . [S]he is ...

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