United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia Emerson Hopkins Senior United States District Judge.
Plaintiff, Charles Belvin, originally filed this Civil Action
in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Alabama. (Doc. 1-1
at 2). Although the original Complaint does not appear in the
record, the Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint,
which is the operative complaint in this case, on May 22, 2018,
and named as Defendants the City of Springville, Alabama (the
“City”), and Officer Christopher
Kelley, a member of the City of Springville's
Police Department. (Doc. 1-1 at 2). The First Amended
Complaint sets out counts for negligence against the City and
Officer Kelley (Count One), wantonness against Officer Kelley
(Count Two), and unreasonable use of force, in violation of
28 U.S.C. § 1983, against Officer Kelley (Count Three).
All three counts arise out of Officer Kelley's actions in
the course of arresting the Plaintiff.
case comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (the “Motion”). (Doc. 7).
Despite the failures of the Defendants' initial brief
(and the absence of their reply brief), the Court has
attempted to consider all the arguments before it. At the end
of the day, the Defendants do nothing more than create a
genuine issue of material fact for trial. For that reason,
and the additional reasons stated herein, the Motion will be
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is
proper if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (“[S]ummary
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 a
judgment as a matter of law.”) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). The party requesting 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 that it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings in answering the movant. Id.
at 324. By its own affidavits - or by the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file - it must
designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial. Id.
underlying substantive law identifies which facts are
material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable
doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are
resolved in favor of the non-movant. Chapman, 229
F.3d at 1023. Only disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine “if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id. If the evidence
presented by the non-movant to rebut the moving party's
evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative, summary judgment may still be granted.
Id. at 249.
movant may satisfy its initial evidentiary burden depends on
whether that party bears the burden of proof on the given
legal issues at trial. Fitzpatrick v. City of
Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
movant bears the burden of proof on the given issue or issues
at trial, then it can only meet its burden on summary
judgment by presenting affirmative evidence showing
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact - that is,
facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not
controverted at trial. Id. (citation omitted). Once
the moving party makes such an affirmative showing, the
burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce
“significant, probative evidence demonstrating
the existence of a triable issue of fact.” Id.
(citation omitted) (emphasis added).
issues on which the movant does not bear the burden of proof
at trial, it can satisfy its initial burden on summary
judgment in either of two ways. Id. at 1115-16.
First, the movant may simply show that there is an absence of
evidence to support the non-movant's case on the
particular issue at hand. Id. at 1116. In such an
instance, the non-movant must rebut by either (1) showing
that the record in fact contains supporting evidence
sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, or (2)
proffering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed
verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary
deficiency. Id. at 1116-17. When responding, the
non-movant may no longer rest on mere allegations; instead,
it must set forth evidence of specific facts. Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 (1996). The second method a
movant in this position may use to discharge its burden is to
provide affirmative evidence demonstrating that the
non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial.
Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. When this occurs, the
non-movant must rebut by offering evidence
sufficient to withstand a directed verdict at trial on the
material fact sought to be negated. Id.
The “Narrative Statement of Facts” Proffered
by the Defendants
Court's Uniform Initial Order, filed in this case on June
22, 2018, states, in pertinent part:
The parties' submissions in support of and opposition to
summary judgment motions must consist of: (1) a brief
containing, in separately identified sections, (i) a
statement of allegedly undisputed relevant material facts and
(ii) a discussion of relevant legal authorities; and (2)
copies of any evidentiary materials upon which the party
(Doc. 3 at 15). That order continues:
All briefs submitted either in support of or opposition to a
motion must begin with a statement of allegedly undisputed
relevant material facts set out in separately numbered
paragraphs. Counsel must state facts in clear, unambiguous,
simple, declarative sentences. All statements of fact must be
supported by specific reference to evidentiary submissions.
(Doc. 3 at 16) (footnote omitted). Omitted from the paragraph
above is a footnote that explains that “[a] specific
reference must include the exhibit number, page, and when
appropriate the line number.” (Doc. 3 at 16, n. 3). The
Order also states:
The moving party shall list in separately numbered
paragraphs each material fact the movant contends is
true and not in genuine dispute, and upon which the
moving party relies to demonstrate that it is entitled to
summary judgment. Each such statement must be followed
by a specific reference to those portions of the evidentiary
record that the movant claims supports it.
(Doc. 3 at 16) (footnote omitted and underlining added).
Defendants initial brief contains a “Narrative
Statement of Facts” consisting of only 4 sentences,
which reads exactly as follows:
The plaintiff alleges that on February 26, 2014, he was
notified that a warrant had been issued for his arrest by the
City of Springville. (Amended Complaint attached as Exhibit
A). The next morning, February 27, 2014, the plaintiff
traveled to the Springville Police Department to turn himself
in. (Exhibit A). At the Springville Police Department, Mr.
Belvin was met by Officer Christopher Kelley, and ultimately
placed in handcuffs. (Exhibit A). The plaintiff claims that
due to a recent shoulder surgery, the handcuffing procedure
re-injured his shoulder, which required a second surgical
procedure. (Exhibit A).
(Doc. 8 at 2). This statement runs afoul of this Court's
Uniform Initial Order in a number of ways. First, it is not
properly identified as a “Statement of Allegedly
Undisputed Relevant Material Facts, ” and does not have
facts set out in separately numbered paragraphs. Next, the
statement contains no “facts” at all, only
allegations from the First Amended Complaint.
Furthermore, at least as to their fourth sentence, the
Defendants get those allegations wrong. As pointed out by the
Plaintiff, and independently verified by the Court, while the
Plaintiff alleges that Officer Kelley's actions caused
him injury, the First Amended Complaint does not mention a
recent shoulder surgery, or state that Officer Kelley
exacerbated or re-injured the Plaintiff. (See doc.
11; see also, doc. 1-1). The Plaintiff alleges that
Officer Kelley caused his injury by the way Officer Belvin
handled the Plaintiff's arm “prior to
placing . . . handcuffs [on him], ” not by
“the handcuffing procedure.” (Doc. 11 at 4)
(citing doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 20, 34-39). Finally, the only
evidentiary citation offered by the Defendants is to
“Exhibit A, ” which is the eleven-page First
Amended Complaint. Notably, the Plaintiff pointed out all of
these issues, and more, in the response brief he filed on
April 26, 2019. (See doc. 11 at 3-6). Still, the
Defendants did not seek leave to correct any of their
mistakes, nor did they file a reply brief.
Court's Uniform Initial Order states that
“[t]he court reserves the right sua
sponte to STRIKE any statements of fact or responsive
statements that fail to comply with these
requirements.” (Doc. 3 at 18) (bold in
original). However, given the Plaintiff's agreement with
the first three sentences of the Defendants' statement of
facts, instead of striking it, the Court will consider those
sentences as proffered by the Defendants. Additionally, the
Court will consider the Defendants' forth sentence, but,
as the Court has itself read the Amended Complaint, it will
not accept the Defendants' misstatement of that document.
Court could also limit the Defendants to only those facts
they have set out in those four sentences. (See doc. 3 at 16)
(requiring the moving party to “list . . . each
material fact . . . upon which the moving party relies to
demonstrate that it is entitled to summary judgment”).
Furthermore, because Rule 56 provides that “[t]he court
need consider only the cited materials, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(3), this Court could refuse to consider anything in the
record other that what the Defendants cited. Instead, as
noted above, the Court has read and considered all of the
parties' arguments and all of the evidence submitted to
the Court. Officer Kelley's version of events.
Officer Kelley's Testimony
Kelley states under oath that he met the Plaintiff in the
parking lot, did not physically grab him, said
“let's go into the police department, and walked
[the Plaintiff] to the back door, opened it, and let him
inside.” (Doc. 12-3, at 15(54)). Officer Kelley agrees
that the Plaintiff “was voluntarily going in, ”
and “was [not] resisting.” (Doc. 12-3 at 16(59)).
Officer Kelley agrees that the Plaintiff's wife was
present and that Officer Kelley told her not to follow them
inside because “she didn't need to see this.”
(Doc. 12-3 at 15(54)). Officer Kelley testified that, after
entering the station,
I tell him to put his hands behind his back, and he does, and
I do grab --I'm left handed, so it would have been his
right arm. I do not jerk his arm behind his back. I just hold
it and put a handcuff on, switch hands and then put the
handcuffs on. And then I double lock them so that they
don't tighten up.
(Doc. 12-3, at 16(60)-17(61)). Officer Kelley also testified
that he believes that, after he handcuffed the Plaintiff, the
Plaintiff “said his shoulder was bothering him.”
(Doc. 12-3, at 17(62); 20(72)). Officer Kelley agrees that
the Plaintiff acted “relatively calm” during his
interactions with Officer ...