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Hails v. Dennis

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

November 21, 2018

DANIEL WADE HAILS, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY TRENT DENNIS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          KRISTI K. DuBOSE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Timothy Trent Dennis' motion for summary judgment, memorandum in support, and relevant exhibits. (Docs. 82, 83, & 84). Also before the Court are plaintiff Daniel Wade Hails' response in opposition (Doc. 87) and Dennis' reply. (Doc. 88). Hails' amended complaint, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges three claims: (1) false arrest, (2) false imprisonment, and (3) malicious prosecution. As the Court will explain, Dennis' motion is due to be granted with respect to Hails' malicious prosecution claim and denied with respect to Hails' false arrest and false imprisonment claims.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Hails' original complaint, filed on June 9, 2017, included numerous defendants. (Doc. 1). Each defendant filed a motion to dismiss. (Docs. 27 & 29). United States Magistrate Judge Katherine P. Nelson granted each defendants' motion to dismiss, except Dennis'. (Docs. 57 & 58). This Court adopted Judge Nelson's Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 62).

         As a result, the sole remaining defendant is Officer Dennis, a Silverhill Police Department Officer. Hails amended complaint alleges that Dennis violated his Fourth Amendment rights. (Doc. 63 (Amended Complaint) at ¶ 2).[1]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Rule 56(c) provides as follows:

(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
(2) Objection That a Fact Is Not Supported by Admissible Evidence. A party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.
(3) Materials Not Cited. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.
(4) Affidavits or Declarations. An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.

Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56(c).

         Dennis, as the party seeking summary judgment, bears the “initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If the nonmoving party fails to make “a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof, ” the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “In reviewing whether the nonmoving party has met its burden, the court must stop short of weighing the evidence and making credibility determinations of the truth of the matter. Instead, the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998-999 (11th Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255).

         To resolve a summary judgment motion based on qualified immunity, the Eleventh Circuit has stated courts should

approach the facts from the plaintiff's perspective because “[t]he issues appealed here concern not which facts the parties might be able to prove, but, rather, whether or not certain given facts showed a violation of clearly established law.” Sheth v. Webster, 145 F.3d 1231, 1236 (11th Cir. 1998). As this Court has repeatedly stressed, the “facts, as accepted at the summary judgment stage of the proceedings, may not be the actual facts of the case.” Priester v. City of Riviera Beach, 208 F.3d 919, 925 n. 3 (11th Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, for summary judgment purposes, our analysis must begin with a description of the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Skrtich v. Thornton, 280 F.3d 1295, 1299 (11th Cir. 2002).

McCullough v. Antolini, 559 F.3d 1201, 1202 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1190 (11th Cir. 2002)). “In order to overcome summary judgment because of qualified immunity, ‘the facts in dispute must raise a genuine issue of fact material to the determination of the underlying issue.'” Terrell v. Smith, 668 F.3d 1244, 1250 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting McCullough, 559 F.3d at 1205).

         III. FACTS

         Hails lives outside Silverhill, Alabama, a sparsely populated area of Baldwin County. (Doc. 85-1 at 23).[2] Hails lives just barely within Silverhill Police Department's jurisdiction. (Doc. 85-1 at 6). Dozens of trees and a large live oak tree populate his front yard. (Doc. 85-1 at 23). His home is positioned “almost all the way in the back of the property.” (Doc. 85-1 at 5).

         Hails' front porch is located approximately 180 feet from the gate on his property. (Doc. 85-1 at 15). The fence at the front of the property is approximately 30 to 40 feet from the pavement, (Doc. 85-1 at 27), where the gate is located. (Doc. 85-3 at 2).

         Hails owns many firearms and target practices often. (Doc. 85-1 at 4; id. at 7). Hails “always” shoots “going forward.” (Doc. 85-1 at 5). Specifically, he shoots towards a milk jug positioned in front of a “great big dead pine stump” that is located in front of his home. (Doc. 85-1 at 5).[3]

         Hails is not the only person in the vicinity of his home who enjoys target practicing. He testified that gunfire occurs around his home daily and nightly, and that hearing gunshots is “[e]xtremely common.” (Doc. 85-1 at 6).

         The events giving rise to Hails' lawsuit occurred on June 9, 2015. (Doc. 85-1 at 8). On that evening, Hails fired two rounds. (Doc. 85-1 at 8). Dennis responded to Hails' residence twice. (Doc. 85-3 at ¶ 4 & 5). He first responded at 8:30 p.m., after receiving a report of a man firing shots at Hails' residence. (Doc. 85-3 at ¶ 3). He did not make contact with Hails on his first visit. (Doc. 85-3 at ¶ 4). In fact, Hails did not know Dennis first responded at 8:30 that evening. (Doc. 85-1 at 10). Dennis responded to Hails' residence again at 10:30 p.m. that same night after another report ...


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