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Jernigan v. City of Montgomery

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

August 26, 2019

CITY OF MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.



         Now pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed on March 2, 2018 by Defendants City of Montgomery (“the City”) and Jeremy Browning (“Browning”). (Doc. 11).

         The Plaintiffs, Amber Jernigan and Taylor Jernigan (“the Jernigans”), originally filed a complaint in this case on January 23, 2017, bringing claims of outrageous conduct, false imprisonment, and false arrest (count one) and deliberate indifference (count two). In response to the motion for summary judgment, the Jernigans have clarified that they intend to bring claims of false arrest/false imprisonment under the Fourth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Browning individually; state law claims for false arrest/false imprisonment against Browning and the City; a claim of negligent training against the City; and a fourteenth amendment deliberate indifference failure to train claim against the City. (Doc. 19 at 9 & 18, n.5).[1]

         Upon consideration of the briefs, evidence, and applicable law, and for the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment is due to be GRANTED as to the federal claims and the Court will decline to exercise jurisdiction over the state-law claims.


         The Court can exercise subject matter jurisdiction over this dispute pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. Personal jurisdiction and venue are uncontested.


         “Summary judgment is proper if the evidence shows ‘that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Hornsby-Culpepper v. Ware, 906 F.3d 1302, 1311 (11th Cir. 2018) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). “[A] court generally must view all evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing summary judgment.” Fla. Int'l Univ. Bd. of Trs. v. Fla. Nat'l Univ., Inc., 830 F.3d 1242, 1252 (11th Cir. 2016). However, “conclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value.” Jefferson v. Sewon Am., Inc., 891 F.3d 911, 924-25 (11th Cir. 2018). If the record, taken as a whole, “could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, ” then there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Hornsby-Culpepper, 906 F.3d at 1311 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

         The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the movant must identify the portions of the record which support this proposition. Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The movant may carry this burden “by demonstrating that the nonmoving party has failed to present sufficient evidence to support an essential element of the case.” Id. The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to establish, by going beyond the pleadings, that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Id. at 1311-12.

         III. FACTS

         The facts, taken in a light most favorable to the non-movants, are as follows:

         On January 23, 2016, the Jernigans, who are a married couple, were home with their four-year-old daughter. Defendant Browning, a police officer with the City, came to their home and asked to speak with Taylor Jernigan. Taylor Jernigan was in the shower but dressed and stepped outside to speak to Browning. (Doc. 18-1 at 2). Browning told him to turn around and put his hands behind his back because Browning had a warrant for his arrest. (Doc. 18-1 at 2). Taylor Jernigan was handcuffed. (Doc. 18-1 at 2). Browning said that a warrant had been sworn out for harassment for Taylor and Amber Jernigan. (Doc. 18-1 at 2-3). When Taylor Jernigan inquired, Browning confirmed that he was also arresting Amber Jernigan. (Doc. 18-1 at 3). Amber Jernigan arranged for childcare for their daughter, and when her grandfather arrived to care for the child, the Jernigans were taken to Browning's police vehicle. (Doc. 18-1 at 4). Amber Jernigan was also placed in handcuffs. (Doc. 18-1 at 4). The Jernigans were placed in the rear of the patrol vehicle. (Doc. 18-1 at 4).

         Browning has stated in a deposition that he had done an outstanding warrant inquiry on the computer in his car and discovered what he assumed were warrants outstanding on both Jernigans. (Doc. 11-1 at 13: 21-15: 10).[2] He explained that his field training officer trained him that the list on the computer was for misdemeanors and felonies. (Doc. 11-1 at p. 18: 13-16). Browning stated in his deposition that he was not aware that summonses could be on the list. (Doc. 11-1 at 18: 18-20). Browning also stated the case number for the Jernigans was 216S00015, and that the “S” stands for “summons, ” which he would have known if had he been trained that the “S” stood for “summons.” (Doc. 11-1 at 19: 10-20: 3). He further stated that he does not recall whether he received training as City of Montgomery police department patrolman on what a summons was. (Doc. 18-2 at 20:19-21:4).

         The Jernigans sat in the back of the police vehicle for nearly forty minutes. (Doc. 18-1 at 4). Browning then received a radio call and discovered that the Jernigans had summonses, not warrants, against them. (Doc. 18-1 at 4). Browning released the Jernigans and the summonses were eventually dismissed. (Doc. 18-1 at 5).


         The Court will separately address the federal and state law claims, beginning with the basis for summary judgment motion as to the federal claims.

         A. Federal Claims

         1. Fourth Amendment Claim Against Browning Individually

         The Defendants have moved for summary judgment as to the federal claim asserted against Browning on the basis of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects government officials from suit if they are “performing discretionary functions” and “their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of ...

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