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West v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

December 9, 2014

LISA Y.S. WEST, Plaintiff,


RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on remand from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for consideration of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [28] under the framework of the Fourth Amendment. After considering the record, the Court enters the following Order.


This case arises out of a confrontation between a Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy and an attorney in the security line at the Fulton County Courthouse. On December 9, 2010, Plaintiff Lisa Y.S. West arrived at the courthouse to serve as counsel in a domestic relations status conference. (Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ("Def.'s SMF"), Dkt. [28-1] ¶¶ 1, 12.) Defendant Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Davis was on duty at the time. (Id. ¶ 10.)

As she arrived at the security line to enter the courthouse, Plaintiff put her personal belongings in a bin and then proceeded through the metal detector. (Id. ¶ 14.) When the alarm sounded, Defendant approached her and told her to remove her jacket. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Plaintiff refused, stating that the jacket was part of her suit and that removing it would expose her undergarments. (Id. ¶ 18.) The Fulton County Sheriff's Office's unwritten policy is that "members of the public need not remove suit jackets before walking through the metal detector, " and Sheriff Deputies must use their discretion to decide which pieces of clothing are suit jackets and which are coats. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant told her that she would not be permitted into the courthouse if she did not remove her jacket. (Id. ¶ 19.) If she failed to comply but remained in the courthouse, she was told she would be arrested. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, Dkt. [33] ¶ 19.) Plaintiff further claims she felt uncomfortable because Defendant was standing too close to her, and he lowered his eyes and looked at her chest. (Def.'s SMF, Dkt. [28-1] ¶¶ 20-21.)

According to Plaintiff, after her request to speak to a supervisor, "[Defendant] put his hand on his handcuffs, glared at her menacingly, ' and paced back and forth." (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff walked to the entrance area to wait while Defendant called a supervisor. (Id. ¶ 24-25.) While waiting, she decided to use her cell phone to call her husband and then the client she was supposed to meet in court. (Id. ¶ 27.) Defendant then approached her and told her to get off her phone. (Id. ¶ 28.) Cell phone use is prohibited near the magnetometer and x-ray machines by the courthouse entrances. (Id. ¶ 8.) When she did not comply, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant "grabbed her hand, squeezed it, jerked it towards him, wrenched it back and forth, and then forcibly removed the cell phone and flung it into her purse." (Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts, Dkt. [34] ¶ 13.) Defendant, however, states that he took the phone without grabbing her hand or using force. (Id. ¶ 14.) Once the supervisor arrived, he permitted Plaintiff to enter the courthouse after directing Defendant to use a "wand" metal detector that did not require her to remove the jacket. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 18.)

Plaintiff brought this action alleging Defendant used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and is liable under state law for battery, negligence, and excessive use of force in violation of the Georgia Constitution. Plaintiff maintains that as a result of Defendant's alleged use of force, she suffered a sprained wrist and then developed carpel tunnel syndrome several weeks later, which ultimately required surgery. (Id. ¶ 18; Depo. of Lisa Y.S. West, Dkt. [28-11] at 98-103.) On October 15, 2013, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, holding that Defendant's actions did not amount to a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. (Dkt. [38].) The Court therefore analyzed Plaintiff's claim under the Fourteenth Amendment's substantive due process/shock the conscience standard rather than the Fourth Amendment's objective reasonableness standard and found no constitutional violation. On September 8, 2014, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the proper framework for analyzing Plaintiff's claim was the Fourth Amendment's objective reasonableness standard because Defendant's actions constituted a seizure. The Court considers Plaintiff's excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment below.


I. Summary Judgment Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment be granted "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). "The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the... 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." Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986).

The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id . An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249-50.

Finally, in resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002). But, the court is bound only to draw those inferences which are reasonable. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (once the moving party has met its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts").

II. Analysis

To show an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff "must allege (1) that a seizure occurred and (2) that the force used to effect the seizure was unreasonable." Troupe v. Sarasota Cnty., Fla., 419 F.3d 1160, 1168 (11th Cir. 2005). Courts rely on several factors "in determining whether an officer's use of force was objectively reasonable, including (1) the need for the application of force, (2) the relationship between the need and the amount of force used, (3) the extent of the injury inflicted and, (4) whether the force was applied in good faith or maliciously and sadistically.'" Hadley v. Gutierrez, 526 F.3d 1324, 1329 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Slicker v. Jackson, 215 F.3d 1225, 1233 (11th Cir. 2000)). ...

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