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Culler v. Descoteaux

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

August 21, 2014

GABE LOCKETT CULLER, Plaintiff,
v.
Officer DESCOTEAUX, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

STEPHEN HYLES, Magistrate Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 22). Although ordered to respond to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff has failed to respond as of the date of this Recommendation. For the reasons explained below, it is recommended that Defendant's motion be granted.

BACKGROUND

As of the time of filing of his Complaint, Plaintiff was involuntarily civilly confined at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia.[1] It appears from the Complaint that in June 2011, Officer Descoteaux arrested Plaintiff and charged him with theft by taking. Plaintiff claims that Officer Descoteaux assaulted him during the arrest. (Compl. Ex. 1 at 1-2, ECF No. 1-1.) He states that Officer Descoteaux twisted his left arm and slammed him into the trunk of the police car. According to Plaintiff, his left shoulder and neck were both permanently injured. (Compl. Ex. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff seems to state that at least some of this physical assault occurred while he was handcuffed.

After a preliminary review of Plaintiff's Complaint, only Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim against Officer Descoteaux for excessive force during his arrest was allowed to proceed. Officer Descoteaux has moved for summary judgment in both his official and individual capacities claiming failure to state a claim and qualified immunity. Plaintiff failed to respond to the motion and it is now ripe for review.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

Summary judgment may be granted only "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). In determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

II. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim of excessive force during Plaintiff's arrest. Defendant asserts that any claims against him in his official capacity should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege any policy or custom that caused the alleged excessive force. Likewise, Defendant claims that he is entitled to qualified immunity for the claims against him in his individual capacity such that summary judgment is appropriate.

A. Official Capacity

To the extent that Plaintiff may have been attempting to a bring claim against Defendant Descoteaux in his official capacity, Defendant states that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for such relief. Specifically, he contends that Plaintiff failed to allege that a policy or custom of the City of Macon, Georgia resulted in any constitutional deprivation. The Court agrees.

When he arrested Plaintiff, Defendant was working as a police officer for the city of Macon, Georgia. (Descoteaux Aff. ¶ 2, Aug. 26, 2013, ECF No. 22-3.) Any claim against Defendant in his official capacity is a claim against his employer-Macon, Georgia. Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 776 (11th Cir. 1991) ("[S]uits against municipal officers are therefore, in actuality, suits directly against the city that the officer represents."). "A municipality may not be held liable under section 1983 on a theory of respondeat superior." Snow ex rel. Snow v. City of Citronelle, AL, 420 F.3d 1262, 1270 (11th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). Instead, to state a claim under § 1983 as against a municipality, a plaintiff must allege that the "execution of a government's policy or custom" inflicted an injury on the plaintiff. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Additionally, "there must be a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation." Snow, 420 F.3d at 1271 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Plaintiff has failed to allege, much less offer any evidence, that Macon had a policy, custom, or practice of officers using excessive force during arrests. Plaintiff merely alleges in a conclusory fashion that there were "police force[] brutalit[ies.]" (Compl. Ex. 1 at 1-2.) This is insufficient to state a claim for municipal liability under § 1983. ...


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