United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
TAMERA KEARNS, et al. PLAINTIFFS
KEITH KITE, et al DEFENDANTS
Court has before it a motion for partial summary judgment
[Doc. 28] filed by Plaintiffs John and Tamera Kearns and a
motion for summary judgment [Doc. 30] filed by Defendants
Keith Kite, Max Herring, and Desoto County, Mississippi.
Having considered the matter the Court finds that the
defendants' motion should be granted in part and denied
in part, and the plaintiffs' motion should be denied.
2016, Defendants Keith Kite and Max Herring, deputies with
the DeSoto County Sheriffs Department, received an arrest
warrant for Justin Kearns for unpaid child support. Warrant,
Pls.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J., Ex. A, [Doc. 28-1]. The
deputies investigated Justin's address listed on the
warrant but found it abandoned. Max Herring Deposition,
Pls.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J., Ex. B [Doc. 28-2] at 21.
Herring later found the address of Tamera Kearns,
Justin's mother, and the deputies went to that address.
Herring Dep., Defs.' Mem., Ex. B [Doc. 31-2] at 22.
arriving at the house, the deputies testified that they
observed a vehicle in the driveway, a running air
conditioning unit, a light on in the house, and oxygen
bottles in the carport. Herring Dep. at 27. The deputies
stated that they approached the house and knocked on the
carport door but received no answer. Statement of Max
Herring, Defs.' Mem., Ex. C [Doc. 31-3]. They then moved
around to the front of the house. Id. The front door
contained two doors: a storm door and an inner door. Herring
Dep. at 27. The deputies testified that both doors were open.
Id; Keith Kite Deposition, Pls.' Mot. for Summ.
J., Ex. D [Doc. 28-4] at 6. The officers testified that
Herring knocked again on the open inner door and yelled into
the house announcing his presence. Herring Dep. at 27-28;
Statement of Keith Kite, Defs.' Mem., Ex. D [Doc. 31-4].
Again, they received no answer. The deputies also testified
that from outside, they were able to observe another oxygen
bottle in the living room. Herring Dep. at 27-28.
Kearns disputes that the doors were open, and testified that
she and John always keep the doors shut to keep their pets
in. Tamera Kearns Dep., Pls.' Resp. in Opp., Ex. A [Doc.
34-1] at 47-48. Tamera further testified that a box of
groceries was placed against the inner door on the day in
question that would have prevented it from being cracked
open. Id. at 48.
and Herring entered the house and began checking rooms.
According to the deputies, this was because the front door
was open; oxygen bottles were present both outside and inside
the house; and no one responded to Herrings calls. Herring
Dep. at 28, 34. Eventually, they located Tamera in a back
room. Id. at 54. The deputies testified that they
told Tamera they were checking on her, and that Tamera asked
them to the kitchen and to retrieve her oxygen bottle.
Id. at 54-55. Tamera informed the officers that
Justin no longer lived in Mississippi. Id. at 55.
The officers testified that Tamera then handed Herring a key
and asked him to lock the front door of the house.
Id. at 56.
testified that when the deputies arrived, she was sleeping
and wearing earplugs. Tamera Kearns Dep. at 42. She could
hear the officers yelling, which startled her. Id.
She testified that when the deputies made it to her room,
Herring repeatedly asked her "Where's Mr.
Kearns", which she later realized meant her son, Justin.
Id. at 42-45. John was not present in the home
during any of these events.
Kearns brought this § 1983 action against Kite, Herring,
and the DeSoto County Sheriffs Department. The Kearns bring
two claims: first, that Kite and Herring violated their
Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures
by entering their home without a warrant when no warrant
exception applied; and second, that DeSoto County's
inadequate training of the deputies was a driving force
behind the illegal search. After discovery was concluded, the
Kearns moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of
liability against Kite and Herring. Kite, Herring, and Desoto
County moved for complete summary judgment.
judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (quoting
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 sufficient
showing 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." Id. at 322, 106
party moving for summary judgment bears the initial
responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for its
motion and identifying those portions of the record it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact. See Id. "An issue of fact is
material only if 'its resolution could affect the outcome
of the action'." Manning v. Chevron Chem. Co.,
LLC, 332 F.3d 874, 877 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Wyatt v. Hunt Plywood Co., 297 F.3d 405, 408 (5th
burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the
pleadings and by ... affidavits, or by the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct.
2548 (internal quotation marks omitted.); Littlefleld v.
Forney Indep. Sch Dist., 26S F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir.
2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61
F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995). The Court "resolve[s]
factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but
only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both
parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts."
Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830
(5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co.,
Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). "[T]he
nonmoving party 'cannot defeat summary judgment with
conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a
scintilla of evidence.'" Hathaway v.
Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Turner v. Baylor Richardson Medical Center, 476 F.3d
337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)).
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
assert that Deputies Herring and Kite are entitled to
qualified immunity because they were permitted to enter the
residence under the exigent circumstances exception to the
Fourth Amendment. Defendant's further argue that summary
judgment against DeSoto County should be granted because
there is no evidence of a policy or practice that caused the
alleged constitutional violations here. Finally,
Defendants' argue that John Kearns claims should be
dismissed because he was not present when the deputies
entered the home and because there is no evidence that he
suffered any damages.
Qualified Immunity as to ...