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Culbreath v. Morgan

August 9, 2006

PAUL A. CULBREATH PLAINTIFF
v.
JACKIE MORGAN, RANDAL J. WILLIAMS, JACK MCCANN, JARRED BASSHAM, AND CRAIGHEAD COUNTY DEFENDANTS



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

ORDER

I. Background

Plaintiff Paul A. Culbreath contracted with Defendant Jackie Morgan on April 4, 2005 to install vinyl siding on Ms. Morgan's home for a total price of $5,450.00. On the contract date, Plaintiff was paid $2,750.00, with the remainder to be paid upon completion of the project. On or around May 13, 2005, Defendant Randal Williams instructed Plaintiff to cease all labor, apparently due to concerns over the quality of Plaintiff's work. Plaintiff removed his tools and other property from the site, including the unused vinyl siding.

On May 28, 2005, Defendant Williams reported a theft to the Craighead County Sheriff's Department, claiming that Plaintiff had stolen property of value greater than $2,500. A copy of this report was made available to the Jonesboro Sun Newpaper; however, Plaintiff was not identified as a suspect in the newspaper report.

Sheriff McCann requested Defendant Bassham to contact the Plaintiff and investigate the matter. Defendant Bassham telephoned Plaintiff on June 2, 2005 and again on July 7, 2005. Plaintiff was not charged with a criminal offense, arrested, or detained as a result of the May 28, 2005 criminal complaint filed by Mr. Williams.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

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 omitted)(brackets in original)).

"A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] . . . which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). However, the moving party is not required to support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim. Id.

Once the moving party demonstrates that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact, the non-moving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but his response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56(e). The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment against a non-moving party which, after adequate time for discovery, fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the ...


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