United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court in the captioned matter is a motion for summary
judgment filed by Defendant;against Plaintiff's sole
claim in the case, a false arrest claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Upon consideration of the record evidence, the
parties' briefs, and the relevant law, the motion for
summary judgment (doc. 10) is GRANTED.
4, 2014, Defendant Benjamin Lienhard, an Investigator with
the Bulloch County (Sheriff's Department, and other
members of the county crime suppression team met with an
informant who stated that he could |have Arizona Zeb Connell
deliver heroin to the officers | in a sting operation.
Defendant planned to pose as a heroin buyer. (Dep. of
Benjamin Lienhard, Doc. 9-1, at 13-14, 17-19.) The informant
contacted Mr. Connell and told him what kind of vehicle the
buyer (Defendant) would be in for their meeting.
(Id. at 14.) Mr. Connell changed the meeting place
on that day two times before settling upon Parker's
convenience store. (Id.)
drove to Parker's and parked in a parking space.
Thereafter, Mr. Connell and Plaintiff Addison Reddick pulled
up in a white Honda Civic and parked a couple of spaces down
from Defendant. (Id. at 14-15.) Although Mr. Connell
was driving the Civic, Plaintiff owned the vehicle. (Dep. of
Addison Reddick, Doc. 13-1, at 23-24.) When the Civic pulled
in, Defendant did not know the occupants' identities.
(Lienhard Dep. at 14.) Once Mr. Connell exited the vehicle,
the other observing members of the crime suppression unit
identified him. The officers followed Mr. Connell into the
store and confronted him. (Id. at 15.) Meanwhile,
Defendant approached the Civic, in which Plaintiff had
remained. (Id.) Defendant identified himself to
Plaintiff, explained why he was there, and asked basic
questions. (Id. at 15-16.) After Plaintiff
identified herself, Defendant recognized her name and knew
that she had been previously convicted of possession of
cocaine. (Id. at 16, 63-64.)
to Plaintiff, Defendant informed her that she was going to
jail for being a part of a drug sale. (Reddick Dep. at 40.)
Plaintiff told the officers that she did not know anything
about drug activity. (Id. at 45.) Nevertheless,
after Plaintiff was detained in a patrol car, a police canine
made a positive alert on the Honda Civic, indicating the
presence of drugs. (Lienhard Dep. at 16.) Defendant and his
colleagues then began searching the car. (Id.) While
searching, Defendant observed small pieces of a white,
rock-like substance on the floorboard where Plaintiff had
been seated. (Id. at 17, 24 & Ex. 1.) The
substance looked like crack cocaine to Defendant.
(Id.) Defendant performed a field drug test on the
substance. The field test involved opening a vial containing
certain chemicals, placing the substance in I the vial, and
observing whether the substance changed color. A color change
to blue indicated a positive result for cocaine. Defendant
followed these' steps and observed the substance turn
blue inside the vial. (Id. at 25, 41, 50 ("The
best of my recollection was that the substance turned blue
inside the vial that was emersed (sic) in liquid.").)
part, Plaintiff contends that the field drug test was not
positive. She claims that she saw Defendant pick up a
substance from inside the car and place it in a field test
vial. She claims the vial did not change color and that she
witnessed the officers throw the vial in nearby bushes.
(Reddick Dep. at 46-48.) The officers then came over to
Plaintiff and asked her whose cocaine it was. (Id.
was placed under arrest and transported to the Bulloch County
jail. Plaintiff retrieved the vial from the bushes after she
bonded out of jail. (Id. at 49.) The vial was
retained by her parents and then turned over to her
attorney. (Id. at 49-50.) Plaintiff
contends that when the vial was retrieved from the bushes,
there was no blue coloring in it. (Id. at 51.)
Plaintiff insists that the substance pulled from the car was
actually biscuit crumbs. (Id. at 35.)
report of investigation does not mention that he conducted a
field test of any substance. (Lienhard Dep. at 39-40 &
Ex. 1.) However, Defendant testified at deposition that he
conducted the test and that it was positive for cocaine.
(Id. at 27-28, 41.) He could not recall what he did
with the vial after the test. (Id. at 45.) Defendant
further testified that it is his agency's practice to
"dispose of" the field test vial, typically in a
trash can. (Id. at 45-48.)
addition to the field test, Defendant collected a sample of
the white substance on the floor board as evidence.
(Id. at 51-52 & Ex. 5.) The Georgia Bureau of
Investigation i ultimately determined,
however, that the collected substance was not a controlled
substance. (Id., Ex. 6.)
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Court should grant summary judgment only if "there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Facts are "material": if they
could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must view the facts in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), and must draw "all
justifiable inferences in [its] favor, " United
States v. Four Parcels of Real Property. 941 F.2d 1428,
1437 (11th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (internal
punctuation and citations omitted).
moving party has the initial burden of showing the Court, by
reference to materials on file, the basis for the motion.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
How to carry this burden depends on; who bears the burden of
proof at trial. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2
F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993) . If the
movant bears the burden of proof at trial, that
party "must show that, on all the essential elements of
its case, ... no reasonable jury could find for the
non-moving party." Four Parcels, 941 F.2d at
1438. On the other hand, if the non-movant has the
burden of proof at trial, the movant may carry the initial
burden in one of two ways--by negating an essential element
of the non-movant's case or by showing that there is no
jevidence to prove a fact necessary to the non-movant's
case. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d
604, 606-08 (11th Cir. 1991) (explaining
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970)
and Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986*)).
Before the Court can evaluate the non-movant's response
in opposition, it must first consider whether the movant has
met its initial burden i of showing that there are no genuine
issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Jones v. City of Columbus, 120
F.3d 248, 254 (11th Cir. 1997) (per curiam). A
mere conclusory statement that the non-movant cannot meet the
burden at trial is insufficient. Clark, 929 F.2d at 608.
only if--the movant carries its initial burden, the
non-movant may avoid summary judgment only by
“demonstrat[ing] that there is indeed a material issue
of fact that precludes summary judgment." Id.
Again, how to carry this burden depends on who bears the
burden of proof at trial. If the movant has the
burden of proof at trial, the non-movant may avoid summary
judgment only by coming forward with evidence from which a
reasonable jury could find in its favor. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249. If the non-movant bears the burden
of proof at trial, the non-movant must tailor its response to
the method by which the movant carries its initial burden. If
the movant presents evidence affirmatively negating a
material fact, the non-movant "must respond with
evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at
trial on the material fact sought to be negated."
Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. If the movant shows an
absence of evidence on a material fact, the non-movant must
either show that the record contains evidence that was
"overlooked or ignored" by the movant or "come
forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a
directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged
evidentiary deficiency." Id. at 1116-17. ...