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Daniels v. Lutz

December 27, 2005


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


Before the Court are two motions for summary judgment, one each filed by each of the Separate Defendants North Little Rock School District ("NLRSD") and Deborah Lutz. Plaintiff has responded to both motions. After reviewing the motion papers, the Court concludes that the motions are denied in part and granted in part. Specifically, Plaintiff's constitutional, tort of outrage, and false imprisonment claims are dismissed as a matter of law. Plaintiff may proceed against both Defendants on her battery claim.


There are two separate Statements of Material Facts in this case, one filed by the .Defendant NLRSD and the other by the Defendant Ms. Lutz in their separate summary judgment motions. Some of the facts contained in Ms. Lutz's statement of material facts are not material to the present controversy and will be disregarded.*fn1 Where facts are disputed, the Court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff at this summary judgment stage.

Plaintiff Debbie Daniels is the mother of Johnstin Daniels, a minor, who is approximately fifteen years of age. Defendant NLRSD is a local school district established under the laws of the State of Arkansas. Lakewood Middle School ("Lakewood") is one school or campus within the NLRSD. Defendant Deborah Lutz, at all relevant times, has been a teacher at Lakewood.

On December 18, 2003, Plaintiff Johnstin Daniels was attending Lakewood Middle School and was a student in Ms. Lutz's geography class. Near the end of class on that date, Ms. Lutz returned to the classroom from the hallway, where she had been disciplining another student. She returned to a rowdy and boisterous classroom. Numerous students were out of their seats. Ms. Lutz attempted to quiet the room, told everyone to sit down, and stated that she would "write up" anyone who was not in his seat. Plaintiff Johnstin states that he was in his seat but that he was leaning over to pick up a piece of paper, a pre-test, that had fallen off his desk. Plaintiff contends that Ms. Lutz, without any warning, stood in front of him and hit him in the side of the head with a manila folder and a book. The folder slipped across his face and hit his eye.

At the conclusion of the class, Ms. Lutz indicated that she wanted Johnstin to stay after class. Plaintiff contends that Ms. Lutz grabbed Johnstin by the shirt collar and put her hands on his neck in an effort to forcibly prevent him from leaving the classroom.*fn2 Johnstin was able to elude Ms. Lutz's grasp and exit the classroom.

Plaintiff's version of the incident is question is corroborated by Michael Hagen, a classmate and friend of Johnstin's who witnessed the incident. Michael Hagen's Affidavit reads:

My name is Michael Hagen. I was asked about the incident that occurred in the classroom between Johnston and Mrs. Lutz.

What I witnessed was Mrs. Lutz left the classroom and when she came back Johnston was leaning over in his seat getting some material from under his desk, then Mrs. Lutz came over to Johnston and hit him across the front of his head with a book and file folder. Johnston was raising back up at the time and the folder caught him in the eye.

Johnston then started talking loud and saying "you hit me in the eye." Then the bell rang. And when we were about to leave out, the teacher, Mrs. Lutz was trying to hold Johnston down in his seat. Johnston said, "Let me go", and tried to leave. Then Mrs. Lutz grabbed him in the collar of his shirt and tried to keep him in the classroom. Johnston spinned around Mrs. Lutz and got out of the hold Mrs. Lutz had him in.

To me Mrs. Lutz is a good teacher, but sometimes she loses her cool by yelling at us, throwing stuff and pinching some of the students in our class, not all the time, just sometimes.

That's all I know and seen between her and Johnston. (Affidavit of Michael Hagen, Doc. 29-2).

Johnstin arrived at home upset, crying and complaining about pain in his eye. He told his mother, Debbie Daniels, that Ms. Lutz had hit him on the head with a folder, catching him in the eye with his folder.

Approximately four days after the incident, a physician at Children's Hospital treated Johnstin for a cut on his cornea. The doctor gave Johnstin some drops for his eye and directed him to wear a patch for several days. After being seen several times for eye related problems, Johnstin was eventually fitted for corrective lenses. Johnstin has also continued to have problems with swelling in that eye. According to his mother, a doctor at the ophthalmology clinic advised that the problem could be permanent.*fn3 (Ms. Daniels' Deposition, Doc. 29-4, at p. 21). Plaintiff contends that Johnstin Daniels suffered temporary and long-term injury to his left eye.

On or about December 19, 2003, Plaintiff reported the incident to Lakewood supervisory officials. Separate Defendant NLRSD failed to report the incident to the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Plaintiff contends that this failure violated Arkansas law requiring NLRSD to report all instances of child abuse or suspected child abuse. See Arkansas Code Ann. §§ 12-12-503(4)(d)(ii)(g) & 12-12-507. No report of the incident was made until the North Little Rock Police Department reported the matter to DHS approximately two months after the fact.

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges the following legal claims against Defendant Deborah Lutz:

(1) violation of Master Daniel's substantive and procedural due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) retaliation in an effort to silence Johnstin in violation of the First Amendment; (3) common law battery; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) false imprisonment; and (6) "other violations of Arkansas law."*fn4 Plaintiff, in responding to summary judgment indicates that she is withdrawing the second count, alleging retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.

Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Lutz committed the alleged violations while acting in the course and scope of her employment at Lakewood Middle School and therefore that the NLRSD is liable for the state law torts committed by Ms. Lutz under the theory of respondeat superior. As Plaintiff makes clear in its summary judgment response, she does not contend that the school district is liable for any of the alleged constitutional violations.

Plaintiff seeks an award of compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs as well as declaratory relief and an injunction against future violations.


Summary judgment is appropriate only when, in reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, so that the dispute may be decided solely on legal grounds. Holloway v. Lockhart, 813 F.2d 874 (8th Cir. 1987); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial-- whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The Eighth Circuit set out the burdens of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion in Counts v. M.K. Ferguson Co., 862 F.2d 1338 (8th Cir. 1988):

[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e., '[to] point[] out to the District Court,' that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted.

Id. at 1339 (quoting City of Mt. Pleasant v. Associated Elec. Coop., 838 F.2d 268, 273-74 (8th Cir. 1988) (citations ...

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