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Tindall v. Arkansas State Police Dep't

September 14, 2006

RICHARD TINDALL PLAINTIFF
v.
ARKANSAS STATE POLICE DEPARTMENT; STEVE DOZIER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; SHAWN GARNER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; DALE DONHAM, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; JOHN DOE 1, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; AND JOHN DOE 2, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Leon Holmes United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

This action arises out of the arrest of Richard Tindall for reckless driving and resisting arrest. Tindall brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that troopers Shawn Garner, Dale Donham, John Doe 1, and John Doe 2 of the Arkansas State Police Department used excessive force against him in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. He also alleges that the Arkansas State Police Department and Steve Dozier, the director of the Arkansas State Police Department, failed to train and supervise the troopers properly. In addition, Tindall asserts claims under Arkansas law for battery and the tort of outrage against Garner, Donham, Doe 1, and Doe 2. The defendants have now moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

I.

Tindall has Type I Diabetes Mellitus. On the night of August 22, 2004, he suffered a hypoglycemic*fn1 event while driving home from his daughter's house on Interstate 30. He began driving erratically and struck the concrete barrier wall on the highway several times.

Sergeant Garner of the Arkansas State Police received a call from dispatch concerning a possible drunk driver, later identified as Tindall, who was traveling eastbound on Interstate 30. Garner waited on the shoulder for Tindall to pass his position and, activating his onboard camera, emergency lights, and siren, followed Tindall. As Garner pursued Tindall, Tindall again struck the concrete barrier but did not stop. Garner radioed to Corporal Donham and Trooper Alsbrook for backup. After an approximately two-and-a-half-mile pursuit, Tindall pulled over and stopped, then drove an additional 100 yards before coming to a complete stop. At that point, Donham, Alsbrook, and Garner exited their vehicles and approached Tindall's vehicle. Both Donham and Garner had their weapons drawn.

The troopers repeatedly shouted "get out of the car" as they approached Tindall's vehicle, which was still running. Tindall did not respond. When they reached the vehicle, they could see Tindall clenching the steering wheel with both hands and looking straight ahead. The troopers holstered their weapons and attempted to pull Tindall out of the vehicle. Tindall continued to grip the steering wheel and look straight ahead. The troopers pulled Tindall out of the vehicle chest down onto the ground. When Tindall began to push himself off of the ground with his hands, Alsbrook administered several blows to the back of Tindall's head with his fist, knocking Tindall back to the ground. The troopers attempted to pull Tindall's arms out from under him but Tindall continued to resist. Tindall's hands were near his wasitband yet under his body where the troopers could not see them. Alsbrook then gave Tindall a few kicks in the ribs, knocking the wind out of Tindall and allowing the troopers to handcuff his hands behind his back. After Tindall was handcuffed, Trooper Breckenridge arrived on the scene.

The narrative of events from Garner's pursuit of Tindall to the handcuffing of Tindall is exclusively based on the troopers' testimony because Tindall testified that he did not remember anything that happened between the onset of his hypoglycemic event and his finding himself handcuffed on the ground. Tindall testified at his deposition that his first memory of these events came when he had already been handcuffed. He testified that, about the time he realized that he was on the ground handcuffed, he was grabbed by the hair of his head and something was forced into his mouth. After the object was removed from his mouth, he testified that he was kicked in the side of his head. All the troopers denied at their depositions that any force was used after Tindall was handcuffed.

The troopers searched inside Tindall's vehicle and found a prescription bottle of medication and some syringes. No alcoholic beverages or controlled substances were inside the vehicle. Thinking that Tindall's condition might not be intoxication, Garner called the Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services for an ambulance. When the medical personnel arrived, they found that Tindall's blood sugar was extremely low. Tindall was taken to Baptist Medical Center, treated for hypoglycemia, abrasions, and contusions, and released that night. Tindall also testified that his nose was broken, his forehead was "real beat up," and he had cuts and lacerations on his face.

II.

A court should enter summary judgment if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986); Cheshewalla v. Rand & Son Constr. Co., 415 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2005). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is sufficient evidence to allow a jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511.

III.

Troopers Garner, Donham, Alsbrook, and Breckenridge assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to Tindall's section 1983 claim for excessive force. Qualified immunity shields law enforcement officers from liability for civil damages where "their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L.Ed. 2d 396 (1982). Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense on which the defendant carries the burden of proof. Sparr v. Ward, 306 F.3d 589, 593 (8th Cir. 2002). The purpose of qualified immunity is to allow public officials to perform their duties in a manner they believe to be correct without fear for their own financial well being. Id. "Toward this end, the rule has evolved that an official performing discretionary functions will generally be immune from liability unless a reasonable person in his position would have known his actions violated clearly established law." Id. (citing Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 3039, 97 L.Ed. 2d 523 (1987)).

"A court engaged in a qualified immunity inquiry uses a two-step process." Lawyer v. City of Council Bluffs, 361 F.3d 1099, 1103 (8th Cir. 2004). The first question is, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, whether the facts alleged show that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right. Craighead v. Lee, 399 F.3d 954, 961 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 2156, 150 L.Ed. 2d 272 (2001)). If the facts, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, show that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right, the second question is whether the right was clearly established. Id.

"The right to be free from excessive force is a clearly established right under the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures of the person." Guite v. Wright, 147 F.3d 747, 750 (8th Cir. 1998); see also Wilson v. Spain, 209 F.3d 713, 716 n.3 (8th Cir. 2000) (stating that "the right to be free from excessive force in the context of an arrest has been clearly established for some time"). "[A]n officer's use of force is not excessive under the Fourth Amendment if it was objectively reasonable under the particular circumstances." Andrews v. Fuoss, 417 F.3d 813, 818 (8th Cir. 2005) (quotation omitted). "The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments-in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 1872, 104 L.Ed. 2d 443 (1989). "Circumstances such as the severity of the crime, ...


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