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Young v. Brady

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

March 19, 2019

JOE T. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID BRADY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE

         Plaintiff filed this action pro se seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 12-14. Before the Court are Plaintiff's First Motion for Summary Judgment, dkt. no. 5, and Second Motion for Summary Judgment, dkt. no. 19, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, dkt. no. 21. These motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, factual disputes preclude summary judgment in favor of either side. The motions, at this time, are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff had an encounter with Defendant David Brady at Sidney Lanier Park in Brunswick, Georgia. Dkt. No. 21-1 ¶ 1. Defendant David Brady is a Game Warden in the "Law Enforcement Division of the Georgia Division [sic] of Natural Resources (DNR) in Region 7, based in Brunswick, Georgia." Id. ¶ 2.

         The Encounter

         On August 27, 2017, Plaintiff was sitting in his parked truck with his windows up in a gravel parking lot in Sidney Lanier Park. Dkt. No. 21-3 ¶ 8, 9; "Officer Brady, Body Camera'' (Video) at 0:13. The gravel lot had no lines designating parking spots, and there were no vehicles, other than Plaintiff's and Defendant's, parked in that gravel lot at the time Plaintiff was approached by Defendant. Video at 0:13-0:32; Video at 1:10. Defendant parked his truck near Plaintiff's and walked to Plaintiff's driver-side window. Id. at 0:12-0:23. When Plaintiff was approached by Defendant, he was relaxing in the driver's seat of his truck. Dkt. No. 21-5 at 28.[1] When Defendant got to Plaintiff's window, he asked plaintiff if he was "okay" and told him to "roll your window down." Video 0:21-0:24. Plaintiff waived Defendant off and drove forward, dkt. no. 21-5 at 29, video at 0:23-0:28; as soon as the truck started moving, Defendant struck Plaintiff's window with his hand, video at 0:24-0:25. For the time period (approximately three seconds) that the video showed Plaintiff's truck moving, Plaintiff's brake lights were activated. Id. at 0:25-0:27. Defendant immediately returned to his truck and pursued Plaintiff. Id. at 0:26-0:34. The pursuit did not last long, less than thirty seconds elapsed from the time Defendant put his truck in drive to when he put it back into park, behind Plaintiff's truck. Id. at 0:35-1:03. At some point, Defendant activated his vehicle's blue emergency lights. Id. at 3:00-3:01 (showing that the vehicle's blue emergency lights were activated).

         Again, Defendant got out of his truck and approached Plaintiff. Id. at 1:09-1:26. Immediately after Defendant exited his truck, Plaintiff asked Defendant "are you stopping this truck?" Id. at 1:12. Defendant responded, "yes sir, I am." Id. at 1:13. Defendant then walked toward Plaintiff's driver-side window. Id. at 1:13-1:25. When Defendant was approaching Plaintiff, Plaintiff stated that he "didn't want to talk" to Defendant, that he "ain't done nothing," again that he did not "want to talk to" Defendant, that he "remain [s] silent" and has not "done nothing," and he requested that Defendant "keep [his] hands off his weapon." Id. When Defendant got to Plaintiff's truck, he asked Plaintiff for his driver's license. Id. at 1:29. Plaintiff repeated much of what he had just said. Id. at 1:29-1:44. Defendant then requested twice that Plaintiff step out'of Plaintiff's vehicle. Id. at 1:44- 1:47. Plaintiff responded by asking why Defendant wanted to see his driver's license, and Defendant responded, "because you're sitting over here sleeping" before he was cut off by Plaintiff, who stated that "sleeping's not a crime." Id. at 1:47-1:53.

         Defendant finally got Plaintiff to step out of the vehicle: Defendant opened Plaintiff's door, and Plaintiff exited his truck on his own power, without any assistance from Defendant. Id. at 1:58-2:07. After about a minute of back-and-forth between Defendant and Plaintiff, Defendant handcuffed Plaintiff. Id. at 2:07-3:10. Defendant contended that he was putting Plaintiff in handcuffs for Defendant's safety. Id. at 3:06-3:10. Defendant retrieved Plaintiff's wallet from his pants pocket and removed his driver's license from the wallet. Id. at 3:19-3:47. Defendant called in the driver's license over his radio. Id. at 4:39-4:47. Soon after, Defendant communicated to Plaintiff that he was "not under arrest right now" but that he was only "being detained." Id. at 5:10-5:13.

         About a minute later, Defendant gave the second in a series of explanations for his encounter with Plaintiff, [2] telling Plaintiff that "the reason [he] pulled up to [Plaintiff] was because you're underneath a bridge. I was checking on your welfare." Id. at 6:20-6:25. Plaintiff interrupted Defendant at this point, before Defendant continued, "I walked up to the vehicle. You put it in drive and took off." Id. at 6:26-6:34. A little later, Defendant informed Plaintiff that his ''sleeping bag was sitting on the back of the truck, too." Id. at 7:18-7:20. Plaintiff told Defendant that he was letting it dry off, and Defendant replied "okay." Id. at 7:21-7:27. Plaintiff was soon after unhandcuffed. Id. at 8:18-8:27. Defendant then said, "if you want to roll off that's fine, you might want to grab your sleeping bag." Id. at 8:48-8:52. Plaintiff was free to go and soon after drove away. Id. at 10:14.

         Throughout the encounter, Plaintiff's truck bed was covered by a tarp. Id. at 0:21. The tarp did not sit down onto the floorboard but was flat across the truck bed and even with the top of the truck bed's siding; it appears that the tarp was laying on top of a hard covering. Id. On top of the tarp was a sleeping bag that was flat and unfurled, with the top of the sleeping bag near the back window of the truck and the bottom near the truck's tailgate. Id. at 0:21, 2:45, 2:57.

         Plaintiff s Injury Allegations

         On August 21, 2017, six days prior to the encounter, Plaintiff had a medical procedure to address a hernia. Dkt. No. 21-1 ¶ 33. As part of the procedure, Plaintiff had sutures. Id. ¶ 34. During the encounter with law enforcement, at least some of the sutures came out. Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff testified that he suffered a week or two of pain because the sutures pulled out during the encounter. Dkt. No. 21-5 at 49. Plaintiff did not know exactly when they came out, but he testified that it was likely when he exited the truck at Defendant's insistence. Id. at 54. Nevertheless, Plaintiff exited his truck under his own power as Defendant did not touch Plaintiff or aid him in anyway. Dkt. No. 21-1 ¶ 16. Plaintiff also testified that he suffered from emotional distress due to the encounter. Dkt. No. 21-5 at 52-53. Plaintiff testified that as a result of the encounter he was embarrassed, id. at 49, traumatized, id. at 52, and shocked, id. at 57-58, and that during the encounter he was afraid of getting shot, id. at 54.

         Palmetto Berries

         Brian Clavier is the Chief of Law enforcement for the Georgia Forestry Commission. Dkt. No. 44-2 ¶ 1. One of his duties in this role is to coordinate with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources investigations into the unauthorized harvest of palmetto berries in Georgia. Id. ¶ 2. Picking palmetto berries is not per se illegal in Georgia; rather, unauthorized palmetto berry pickers may violate Georgia's criminal trespass statute (O.C.G.A. § 16-7-21) and Georgia's statute for trespassing on DNR property (O.C.G.A. § 16-9-58). Id. ¶ 3. Trespass and theft of berries on state property primarily occurs in Waycross, Georgia, at Dixon State Forest, which is several miles from Sidney Lanier Park in Brunswick. Id. ¶ 4. Trespass and theft of berries on private property occurs throughout the southeast region of Georgia. Id. Palmetto-berry-harvesting season is from August to October, and a large amount of the theft occurs in August when the berries first appear but before the authorized harvesters have begun to harvest.-Id. ¶ 5.

         The Georgia DNR publishes a weekly report for its law enforcement division that contains "a broad sampling of events that have taken place in the past week." Dkt. No. 44-4 at 2. The weekly report for the week of August 13-August 19, 2017, contains a report of one "palmetto berry bust." Id. at 8. In Brantley/Ware County, on August 14, 2017, a DNR officer contacted another DNR officer and complained of illegal-palmetto-berry picking that was taking place on state property. Id. Two officers began patrolling the area and came into contact with a passenger van that fit the description given by the first officer. Id. The patrolling officers initiated a traffic stop and found approximately 1800 pounds of palmetto berries. Id. The weekly report contains a picture of large bags stuffed full of berries. Id.

         Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed this action to recover damages and other compensation, which Plaintiff claims is owed to him under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         As an initial matter, it is well-settled that courts in this circuit must "construe pro se pleadings liberally." Dixon v. Hodges, 887 F.3d 1235, 1237 (11th Cir. 2018).

         Summary judgment is required where "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). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." FindWhat Inv'r Grp. v. FindWhat.com, 658 F.3d 1282, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011). (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute is "genuine" if the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In making this determination, the court is to view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw ...


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