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Eley v. City of West Point Mississippi

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

January 9, 2017

RASUNDRA ELEY, individually and as the next friend of J.Y. PLAINTIFF
v.
THE CITY OF WEST POINT MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sharion Aycock, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Rasundra Eley filed her Complaint [1] individually and as the next friend of her minor daughter J.Y. against the City of West Point on June 8, 2015. Eley seeks redress for alleged constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Eley also requests that this Court exercise supplemental jurisdiction over several state law claims. Now before the Court is the City's Motion [92] requesting summary judgment in its favor on all claims. Despite the Court's grant of addition time, Eley failed to respond.[1]

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On October 2, 2014 Eley observed her sixteen year old daughter, J.Y., who has a history involving mental health issues, “in a crisis” at their home. According to Eley, J.Y. was agitated, standing out in the rain, using profanity and refusing to come inside. Fearful that J.Y. may harm herself, Eley contacted J.Y.'s therapist at Community Counseling. Community Counseling dispatched social worker and crisis team member Patricia Harris to the home. When Harris arrived at the home and made contact, J.Y. immediately ran away. Unable to locate J.Y., Harris contacted the Clay County Youth Court. The Youth Court issued a Pickup Order instructing any law enforcement officer to apprehend J.Y. and take her to her mother at her home address. At some point, J.Y. returned home and attended school the next day, October 3, 2014.

         Eley remained concerned that J.Y. would harm herself so she contacted Alliance Health Center and requested inpatient psychiatric treatment for J.Y. Because Eley knew that J.Y. may not go to Alliance willingly, she called 911 and requested an ambulance to transport J.Y., hoping that the paramedics would be able to sedate her. Eley informed the 911 operator that J.Y. would not go willingly and that she may be combative. The 911 operator informed Eley that police would be dispatched along with the ambulance. Eley did not inform J.Y. of the plan to transport her to Alliance.

         West Point police officer Nick Coe was the first to arrive at Eley's home. Coe approached the front porch where J.Y. and Eley were seated. Coe greeted J.Y. who immediately indicated, “I'm not going back, I'm not going back.” J.Y. then got up and attempted to run away. Eley grabbed her by the shirt but J.Y. pushed her away and attempted to run by Officer Coe. Coe grabbed J.Y. from behind, put his arm around her neck, and subdued her using a vascular restraint. By this time, a second police officer, Anderson had arrived. According to Eley, J.Y. was resisting the officers by kicking and squirming and trying to get away.[2] Anderson put handcuffs on J.Y. An ambulance and two Emergency Medical Technicians arrived at the home. J.Y. calmed down temporarily and the paramedics talked with J.Y. in an attempt to convince her to allow them to transport her in the ambulance. J.Y. refused to go. Social worker Harris was called to the home.

         When Harris arrived, the police, J.Y., Eley, and the paramedics were gathered under the carport. A few neighbors were observing. J.Y. was handcuffed but otherwise unrestrained. According to Eley, J.Y. became increasingly angry, moving around and repeating, “I'm not going back, I'm not going back.” Also according to Eley, J.Y. threatened several people present repeatedly shouting “Bitch, I will hit you in the face” at social worker Harris, and “I will hit you in the face” at each of the paramedics. J.Y. also threatened a neighbor that was pointing his cell phone at her by shouting “Y'all got him recording me? Mother Fucker, I will hit you in the face too.” At this point, J.Y. managed to slip one of her hands out of the handcuffs and took off, running down the street. Officer Coe chased after her and while running, deployed his taser into her back. J.Y. fell to the street and cut her chin requiring stiches. J.Y. was transported to the emergency room for treatment. Later that same night she was transported to Alliance Health Center for psychiatric treatment where she remained for a matter of months.

         Eley filed this case on J.Y.'s behalf against the City of West Point. In her Complaint, Plaintiff Eley asserts a federal claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for alleged constitutional violations. Plaintiff Eley also requests that the Court exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a number of state law claims including battery, false imprisonment, negligent hiring, negligent entrustment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Now before the Court is the Defendant City of West Point's Motion for Summary Judgment. The City requests that the Court grant summary judgment in its favor on all of the Plaintiff's claims. The City's primary argument is that the Plaintiff failed to bring forth any evidence of an “official policy, ” an essential element of her claim against the City under §1983. As noted above, the Plaintiff failed to respond.

         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

         The moving party “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.” Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory facts exist, the Court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).

         Even though the Plaintiff did not respond to the instant summary judgment motion, Rule 56 makes it clear that there is “no summary judgment by default” and the lack of a response by the Plaintiff does not alter the Court's summary judgment inquiry. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee notes to 2010 amendments. Summary judgment may only be granted if it is appropriate to do so. See Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a). “Although ‘[a] motion for summary judgment cannot be granted simply because there is no opposition' . . . a court may grant an unopposed summary judgment motion if the undisputed facts show that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Calais v. Theriot, 589 F. App'x 310, 311 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Hibernia Nat'l Bank v. Administracion Cent. Sociedad Anonima, 776 F.2d 1277, 1279 (5th Cir. 1985)).

         Municipal Liability under 42 U.S.C. §1983

         At the outset, the Court notes that the Plaintiff is asserting her federal claim under §1983 against the City of West Point and not against Officer Coe although her claim is premised, at least in part, on Coe's actions. Under §1983, a city is not liable simply because it employed a constitutional wrongdoer. Zarnow v. City of Wichita Falls, Tex., 614 F.3d 161, 167 (5th Cir. 2010) (stating “a municipality may not be subject to liability merely for employing a tortfeasor”). Instead, a city may only be held liable under §1983 when the violation of the plaintiff's federally protected right is attributable to the enforcement of a municipal policy or pattern. Hall v. Robinson, 618 F. App'x 759, 763 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)). In ...


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