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Hankins v. Davis

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

January 5, 2015

OFFICER RHETT DAVIS, a police officer with the City of Clarkston Police Dep't, as an individual, and THE CITY OF CLARKSTON, GEORGIA, Defendants.


RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendant City of Clarkston's Motion for Summary Judgment [34] and Rhett Davis's Motion for Summary Judgment [35]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.


This civil rights action arises out of the alleged excessive use of force by Defendant Rhett Davis, an officer with the City of Clarkston Police Department, against Plaintiff Quevaughna Hankins during a traffic stop. On the morning of September 24, 2012, Plaintiff was riding in a Ford Taurus with her husband, Robert Hines, when Defendant decided to pull Hines over for speeding. Defendant turned on his blue lights, and Hines pulled over into the parking lot of a laundromat. Defendant spoke to Hines and asked him for his driver's license and registration. After running a computer check, Defendant determined that Hines's driver's license was suspended. Defendant returned to the Taurus, instructed Hines to get out of the car, and placed him under arrest.

After putting Hines in the patrol car, Defendant decided to verify whether Plaintiff, who had been the passenger in the car, was the registered owner of the vehicle and had a valid driver's license. Defendant states he wanted to release the vehicle to the registered owner instead of having to impound it. As Defendant started to walked over to the Taurus to speak to Plaintiff, Plaintiff got out of the car because she intended to move to the driver's seat. At this point, the parties' versions of events sharply diverge.

Taking Plaintiff's version of events as true, Plaintiff asked if Defendant was taking Hines to jail and if she could talk to him or get his phone so she could call his employer. (Hankins Depo., Dkt. [35-8] at 18:13-19.) Defendant told her she could not talk to Hines and that she needed to get back in the car. (Id.) Plaintiff complied and sat back down in the passenger seat. (Id. at 18:20-25.)

After Plaintiff returned to the car, Defendant asked for her driver's license and insurance information. Plaintiff then opened the door and started to step out of the car again as she explained that her purse was in the trunk. (Id. at 20:19-21:13.) Defendant told her she needed to get back in, and as she was stepping out he pushed her with both his hands and then tried to slam the door. (Id. at 21:8-17.) Plaintiff's right leg, however, was already completely out of the car, and so Defendant slammed the door against her leg. (Id. at 23:5-8.) Plaintiff pushed back, but Defendant kept pushing back even harder while shouting, "Get your ass in the car. I told you to get your ass in the car." (Id. at 23:5-14.) Plaintiff pushed back several times as Defendant continued to slam the door until Plaintiff was able to pull her leg back in the car. (Id. at 24:6-24.) The door mostly made contact with her ankle. (Id. at 32:7.) Because Defendant tried to slam the door "over and over again, " (id. at 67:21-24) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant acted intentionally out of "anger" and "rage, " (id. at 67:9-20.).

Finally, Defendant let her step out of the car to get her license from her purse in the trunk. (Id. at 25:1-16.) Defendant observed no physical injuries on Plaintiff's leg. While Defendant went back to his vehicle with Plaintiff's license, Plaintiff called 911 and told the dispatcher that an officer was assaulting her. (Id. at 25:17-19.) A couple of more officers arrived on the scene, including a supervisor, who told Plaintiff she would have to go to the police station to make a complaint. (Id. at 25:20-26:13.)

Later that morning, Plaintiff got a call from her son's school informing her that her son was sick and that she needed to come pick him up. Plaintiff took her son to the doctor. After the doctor examined her son, Plaintiff asked the doctor to look at her ankle. (Id. at 38:22-39:7.) Plaintiff says it was hard for her to walk because her ankle was hurting, was "a little swollen, " and had some "light bruising." (Id. at 39:15-20.) The doctor told her there was some soft tissue damage and gave her prescriptions to help the pain and swelling. (Id. at 40:7-10.) The doctor also told her to ice the ankle and keep it elevated. (Id.) Following the visit to the doctor, Plaintiff went to the pharmacy to get her son's prescription filled and bought Motrin and Aleve over the counter for herself. (Id. at 41:8-16.) Plaintiff opted not to fill her own prescriptions because the doctor told her they were the same as over-the-counter drugs. (Id. at 41:17-21.) Plaintiff sought no further medical treatment.

After this incident, on April 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against Defendant Davis in his individual capacity and the City of Clarkston. Plaintiff alleges that Davis violated her Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force and that he committed battery and false imprisonment under Georgia law. Plaintiff seeks to hold the City of Clarkston liable for its alleged practice of failing to adequately screen or conduct background checks on its officers before hiring them. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant had internal affairs complaints lodged against him before this incident yet the City of Clarkston failed to supervise and train Defendant, leading to his excessive use of force. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims.


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 quotations 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 ...

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