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Youngblood v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

October 25, 2017




         Pending before the Court is Defendant Jeff Williams' ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 21) . The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for decision. For the reasons stated below, the Defendant's Motion (Dkt. No. 21) is GRANTED.


         This action arises from the alleged excessive force used by Defendant in apprehending Plaintiff. On January 1, 2016, the theft of a Sony Playstation 4 ("Playstation") was reported to the Glynn County Police Department. Dkt. No. 21-4 p. 25:21-24. During their investigation of the theft, Glynn County Police Investigators identified Plaintiff as having put that same Playstation up for sale on Facebook. Id. The investigators sent a message to Plaintiff to arrange for purchase of the Playstation 4. Id. On January 2, 2016, Plaintiff agreed to meet Defendant and other investigators at a nearby gas station. Dkt. No. 21-5 p. 24:18-20. Defendant and another investigator waited at the gas station for Plaintiff. After a few minutes, Plaintiff arrived with the Playstation. Id. 25:2-4. The Playstation was verified as the one that had been reported stolen-easily identified by the custom artwork on its outer cover. Dkt. No. 21-4 p. 26:12-22.

         Defendant identified himself as a Glynn County Police officer and informed Plaintiff that he was under arrest for receiving stolen property. Id. p. 33:6-12. As a third investigator arrived at the parking lot, Plaintiff took off running. Dkt. No. 21-5 p. 25:7-10. Defendant shows that the attempt to evade arrest constituted obstruction of law enforcement officers. O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24; Dkt. No. 21-2 p. 6. Defendant chased after Plaintiff, ordering him to stop. Dkt. No. 21-4 p. 33:6-12. Plaintiff did not stop; instead, he raced to a nearby alleyway, with Defendant in pursuit. Id. p. 34:10-15. Defendant yelled "taser" and fired a handheld tasing device, striking Plaintiff with two electrified barbs: the first in the back, the other in the head. Id. p. 35:4-15. Plaintiff collapsed to the ground, injuring his face on the pavement. Dkt. No. 1 p. 3');">21 p. 3. ¶¶ 17-18. Plaintiff was immediately arrested and given medical treatment. Id. p. 3 ¶ 21.

         Plaintiff brings a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") claim for excessive force against Defendant, as well as state-law claims for aggravated assault and battery. Dkt. No. 1. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all claims. Dkt. No. 21.


         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion for summary judgment and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions which it believes demonstrate absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Taylor v. Espy, 816 F.Supp. 1553, 1556 (N.D.Ga. 1993) (citation omitted). If it shows that there is insufficient evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case, the moving party has satisfied its burden. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

         The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). The nonmovant may meet this burden by showing that the record contains "supporting evidence, sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, which was 'overlooked or ignored' by the moving party." Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 332 (Brennan, J., dissenting)). Alternatively, the nonmovant "may come forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency." Id. at 1117. But should the nonmovant instead attempt to carry this burden with nothing more "than a repetition of his conclusional allegations, summary judgment for the defendants [is] not only proper but required." Morris v. Ross, 663 F.2d 1032, 1033-34 (11th Cir. 1981).

         At the summary judgment stage, it is the Court's responsibility "not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted). When, as here, the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the applicable Rule 56 standard is not affected. See Gerling Glob. Reinsurance Corp. of Am. v. Gallagher, 267 F.3d 1228, 1233-34 (11th Cir. 2001). "[T]he facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party on each motion." Chavez v. Mercantil Commercebank, N.A., 701 F.3d 896, 899 (11th Cir. 2012).


         Defendant asserts both that he is entitled to qualified immunity and that the amount of force used to subdue Plaintiff was reasonable given the circumstances. Dkt. No. 21. The Court addresses each assertion in turn.

         A. Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims Do Not Succeed

         The qualified immunity defense offers "complete protection for government officials sued in their individual capacities if their conduct Moes not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Vinyard v. Wilson, 311 F.3d 1340, 1346 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). When properly applied, the doctrine protects "all but the plainly incompetent or one who ...

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