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Wilson v. Stowe

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

March 13, 2017

NOEL LEE WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY SHERIFF KARLA STOWE; ASSOCIATION OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF GEORGIA INTERLOCAL RISK MANAGEMENT AGENCYACCG-IRMA, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LESLIE J. ABRAMS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court are Defendant Karla Stowe's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14) and Defendant ACCG-IRMA's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 20). For the following reasons, Stowe's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14) and ACCG-IRMA's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 20) are GRANTED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Noel Lee Wilson is a licensed private detective and investigator. (Doc. 14-1, ¶ 6). Defendant Karla Stowe has been employed by the Crisp County Sheriff as an investigator since 2000. Id. at ¶ 1. As an investigator, Stowe is responsible for the investigation of allegations regarding the commission of crimes, and Stowe is authorized to seek warrants for the arrest of individuals believed to have committed crimes. Id. at ¶ 2. Defendant ACCG-IRMA is a governmental entity that serves as a surety for the Sheriff's Department of Crisp County, Georgia. (Doc. 20-1 at 2). H W Billy Hancock is the Sheriff of Crisp County, and Mark Casteel is a Crisp County citizen. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 56. Hancock and Casteel were named Defendants, but were subsequently dismissed from the case.

         Tommy Linville hired Plaintiff to investigate Amy Lane Linville and determine whether she was using illegal drugs or was otherwise unfit to raise a minor child. (Doc. 14-1 at ¶ 8). On the night of July 6, 2013 and the early morning hours of July 7, 2013, Plaintiff conducted surveillance of and made video recordings of Mark Casteel and Ms. Linville on a dock in front of Mr. Casteel's house, on a pontoon boat, and at the back of Mr. Casteel's house. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff observed the activities of Mr. Casteel and Ms. Linville for approximately three hours, but Plaintiff did not video record their activities the entire time. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff claims he was located on the neighbor's property the entire time that he surveilled Ms. Linville and Mr. Casteel. Id. at ¶ 24.

         While Plaintiff was conducting surveillance, Mr. Casteel's dog began to bark. Id. at ¶ 27. When Mr. Casteel looked in the direction of the dog, he saw a red light emitting from the bushes, which he thought looked like the laser sight for a gun. Id. at ¶¶ 28-29. After seeing the red light, Ms. Linville went inside the house and Mr. Casteel retrieved a rifle and flashlight from the shed, which he pointed toward Plaintiff while telling him not to move. Id. at ¶¶ 30-32. Plaintiff started running, and then Mr. Casteel fired a shot into the air. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34. At that point, Plaintiff stopped running and Mr. Casteel held him at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived. Id. at ¶ 35. Deputy Sheriffs Daryl Smallwood and Cole Eason arrived at the scene approximately ten minutes after Plaintiff was apprehended by Mr. Casteel. Id. at ¶ 36. Smallwood and Eason briefly detained Plaintiff, but released him after he provided identification. Id. at ¶ 42.

         On July 8, 2013, Stowe spoke with Mr. Casteel about the incident via telephone and Mr. Casteel told Stowe that Plaintiff's presence had terrified him and affected his ability to sleep. Id. at ¶ 43. On July 9, 2013, Stowe met with Mr. Casteel and Ms. Linville at the Casteel Property. (Doc. 14-3, ¶ 17). During that visit, Stowe says that Mr. Casteel told her he had seen Plaintiff pull into his driveway on two prior occasions, that he was afraid of Plaintiff, and that, on the night in question, he discovered Plaintiff on his property. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. After her visit, Stowe contacted the district attorney, Cheri Nichols, and subsequently sought warrants for the arrest of Plaintiff for the charges of criminal trespass and stalking. (Doc. 14-1, ¶¶ 48-49).

         Stowe avers that, before she sought the warrants, she believed that: 1) Plaintiff entered the property of another without consent; 2) while on said property, Plaintiff secretly observed and video recorded Mr. Casteel and Ms. Linville while they were in a private place out of public view; 3) neither Mr. Casteel nor Ms. Linville consented to being observed or recorded; and 4) Mr. Casteel and Ms. Linville were terrified by the presence of Plaintiff on the Casteel property. (Doc. 14-3, ¶ 28). Stowe knew that Plaintiff was a licensed private investigator and was investigating Ms. Linville in relation to a custody dispute over Ms. Linville's son. (Doc. 22-4, at 30:14-20).

         After the warrants were issued, Stowe telephoned Plaintiff to advise him of the warrants. (Doc. 14-1, ¶ 52). On July 15, 2013, Plaintiff turned himself in at the Crisp County Sheriff's Office and was placed under arrest. Id. at ¶ 53. Following his arrest, Plaintiff remained in custody for approximately six hours. Id. at ¶ 54. The warrants were dismissed on August 5, 2013. Id. at ¶ 55. Stowe admits that she failed to proofread the warrants, and that the warrant for criminal trespass should have said that Mr. Wilson entered on the property for an unlawful purpose rather than without an authorized representative's permission. (Doc. 22-4, at 43:20-45:5).

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 1, 2015, Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendants Hancock, Stowe, Casteel, and the ACCG-IRMA. (Doc. 1). On April 26, 2016, Defendants Hancock and Casteel were terminated from the case when the Court granted their Motion for Voluntary Dismissal of Defendants (Doc. 13). On July 13, 2016, Defendant Stowe filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14). Plaintiff responded on August 11, 2016 (Doc. 22), and Defendant Stowe replied on August 31, 2016 (Doc. 27). On July 25, 2016, Defendant ACCG-IRMA filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 20). Plaintiff responded on August 11, 2016 (Doc. 22), and Defendant ACCG-IRMA replied on September 8, 2016 (Doc. 28). As such, Defendant Stowe's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14) and Defendant ACCG-IRMA's Motion to Dismiss are both ripe for review. See M.D. Ga. L.R. 7.3.

         Local Rule 56 requires that a respondent attach to the response “a separate and concise statement of material facts, numbered separately, to which the respondent contends there exists a genuine dispute to be tried.” M.D. Ga. L.R. 56. The Rule specifically requires that “response shall be made to each of movant's numbered material facts, ” and warns that “all material facts contained in the movant's statement which are not specifically controverted by specific citation to particular parts of materials shall be deemed to have been admitted.” Id. Although Plaintiff attached a Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 22-1), Plaintiff failed to respond to each of movant's numbered material facts. As such, those of Defendant Stowe's facts which have not been controverted by specific citations to the record are deemed to have been admitted. See Mason v. George, 24 F.Supp.3d 1254, 1260 (M.D. Ga. 2014).

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 allows a party to move for summary judgment when the party contends no genuine issue of material fact remains and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. “Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Maddox v. Stephens, 727 F.3d 1109, 1118 (11th Cir. 2013). “A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.” Grimes v. Miami Dade Cnty., 552 F. App'x 902, 904 (11th Cir. 2014) citing Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is ‘material' if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, ...


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