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Thomas v. Brazile

December 1, 2005

LARRY THOMAS PLAINTIFF
v.
VINCENT BRAZILE, J. B. HAUER AND UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD CO. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garnett Thomas Eisele United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Vincent Bazile, J.B. Hauer, and Union Pacific Railroad Company ("UP"), to which Plaintiff has responded. For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that the motion will be denied.

OVERVIEW OF COMPLAINT

Plaintiff contends in his Complaint that the individual Defendants, acting as employees and agents of UP and under color of law "unlawfully procured the arrest and detention of Plaintiff when the facts known to them would have caused any reasonable law enforcement officer not to seek his arrest." (Complaint at ¶ 6). Plaintiff further alleges that the individual Defendants "conducted a search of Plaintiff's home in Wynne, Arkansas, in excess of that authorized by the warrant and that they caused Plaintiff to be detained and without his liberty for approximately four hours." (Id.) Finally, Plaintiff contends that the Defendants "knew or should have known that Plaintiff had committed no crime but they pursued his arrest and detention for the purpose of promoting the economic interests of the UP." (Complaint at ¶ 7).

Plaintiff was accused of theft and hired lawyers to provide a defense to the charge. The prosecution ultimately dismissed the charges and the time for refiling them passed on July 18, 2003.

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleges violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. He also claims that UP was negligent in the hiring and supervision of the individual Defendants. Plaintiff seeks damages for, among other things, the loss of his job, loss of income, mental anguish, and legal fees for defending the false charges. Plaintiff also seeks an award of punitive damages.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT FACTUAL RECORD

The Court notes that the Motion for Summary Judgment fails to include a separate Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, as required by Local Rule 56.1(a). The Court elects to resolve the motion on the merits, but in the future requests that counsel comply with the Local Rule.

Defendants Vincent Bazile and J.B. Hauer are Union Pacific Special Agents. A Union Pacific Special Agent is a certified law enforcement officer who is employed by the UP and who has authority over crimes which occur on Union Pacific property. On December 4, 2001, some television sets were taken from a railroad boxcar. On February 11, 2002, a Marion Police Court Judge issued a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest, charging him with theft of property (the television sets), a Class A Misdemeanor. The Arrest Record, dated February 12, 2002, lists the Complainant's Name as "Vincent Bazile dba Union Pacific Railroad" and the witness to the arrest as John Hauer. (Exhs. 1 & 3 to Def.'s Motion).

Defendant Special Agent Bazile states in his Affidavit that on December 4, 2001, after learning that a load of televisions was parked on the side of the H& M Contractors' building in Marion, Arkansas, he investigated and upon his arrival found a railroad car parked with its doors wide open. Five or ten television sets appeared to be missing. Further investigation revealed that H& M employees Joseph Clark and Tyson Massengill had been involved in the theft of at least some of the television sets. In an effort to confirm this information, Defendants Bazile and Hauer went to Joseph Clark's home on or around January 26, 2002, where Erica Clark, Mr. Clark's wife, granted them permission to search the home. The search revealed a 27" television set with a serial number matching one of the missing televisions. (Bazile Affidavit, Def.'s Exh. 2 at ¶¶ 3-4).

On January 29, 2002, Mr. Bazile contends that he continued the investigation by interviewing Tyson Massengill's girlfriend, Jennifer Shipp. Ms. Shipp's statement, which was attached to the arrest warrant, indicates the following: Ms. Shipp reported that she drove her boyfriend's truck to the rail yard to take him lunch. She then rode in the truck with Mr. Massengill and "Joey"*fn1 out to the Receiving Yard where they picked up three television sets that had been placed in the grass. Ms. Shipp understood the televisions had been removed from a rail container. Ms. Shipp then drove Mr. Massengill's truck back to the apartment they shared, unloaded the television sets and took them inside. Ms. Shipp stated Mr. Massengill and "Joey" came over to the house together after work, while she was asleep, and that when she woke up two of the three television sets were gone. She further testified that her boyfriend got rid of the remaining television set later, after hearing rumors about the UP agents going to people's houses. Ms. Shipp doesn't mention the Plaintiff until the end of her statement, at which point she brings up his name. The pertinent portion of her statement, in its entirety, reads:

Q: When you got home, you took the three televisions. There were three?

A: Right.

Q: You took those into the apartment and then you went to bed. ...


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