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Lindsey v. Hyler

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

October 18, 2017

KYLE LINDSEY, and ZAYNE MANN, Plaintiffs,
v.
1. BRANDON HYLER, individually, 2. BRANDON HYLER, in his official capacity as a Webbers Falls Police Officer, 3. THE CITY OF WEBBERS FALLS, OKLAHOMA, 4. LARRY RUIZ, in his official capacity as Chief of Police for the City of Webbers Falls, and 5. BOB ROSS, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Webbers Falls, Defendants.

          ORDER [1]

          THE HONORABLE RONALD A. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs filed this action on November 17, 2016, bringing claims arising from their accident on a utility task vehicle (hereinafter “UTV”) allegedly caused by Defendant Officer Hyler's police pursuit of them following a minor traffic violation. Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on January 27, 2017. Now before the court are the motions for summary judgment filed by Officer Hyler [Docket No. 106] and by the City of Webbers Falls (hereinafter “Webbers Falls”)[2] on its own behalf and on behalf of the Defendants Ruiz and Ross in their official capacities (hereinafter “Supervisory Defendants”). [Docket No. 107].

         Plaintiffs' claims[3] are as follows:

• Count I - § 1983 claims for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against Officer Hyler;
• Count II - § 1983 claims for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against Webbers Falls and the Supervisory Defendants based on their policies, practices and customs;
• Count III - claims for violations of the Oklahoma Constitution against Officer Hyler;
• Counts V state law claims of assault, battery, false arrest and/or imprisonment, defamation, and the tort of outrage against Officer Hyler in his individual capacity; and
• Count VI - malicious prosecution against Officer Hyler in his individual capacity.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment will be granted if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court's function is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In applying the summary judgment standard, the court views the evidence and draws reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Burke v. Utah Transit Auth. & Local 382, 462 F.3d 1253, 1258 (10th Cir. 2006). At this stage, however, Plaintiffs may not rely on mere allegations, but must have set forth, by affidavit or other evidence, specific facts in support of their Amended Complaint. Id.

         “Conclusory allegations that are unsubstantiated do not create an issue of fact and are insufficient to oppose summary judgment.” Harvey Barnett, Inc. v. Shidler, 338 F.3d 1125, 1136 (10th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).

A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). “[A]ffidavits must be based upon personal knowledge and set forth facts that would be admissible in evidence; conclusory and self-serving affidavits are not sufficient.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1111 (10th Cir. 1991). The court disregards “inadmissible hearsay statements contained in affidavits, as those statements could not be presented at trial in any form.” Argo v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc., 452 F.3d 1193, 1199 (10th Cir. 2006) (emphasis in original). Similarly, “[t]estimony which is grounded on speculation does not suffice to create a genuine issue of material fact to withstand summary judgment.” Bones v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 876 (10th Cir. 2004).

         “A movant is not always required to come forward with affidavits or other evidence to obtain summary judgment; once the movant points out an absence of proof on an essential element of the nonmovant's case, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to provide evidence to the contrary.” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1111, n. 5. Additionally, “the court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         Qualified Immunity

         The affirmative defense of qualified immunity “gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions.” Ashcroft v. alKidd, 563 U.S. 731, 743 (2011). “When properly applied, it protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.'” Id. (citing Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)).

         When a defendant raises a qualified immunity defense in response to a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment, [4] the burden shifts to the plaintiff and the court employs a two-part test. Morris v. Noe, 672 F.3d 1185, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012); Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1164 (10th Cir. 2011). A plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right, and (2) the constitutional right was clearly established at the time of the defendant's alleged misconduct.[5] Id. A plaintiff must establish both prongs to defeat a qualified immunity defense. Id. The court has discretion to decide which of the two prongs to address first in light of the circumstances of the case. Brown, 662 F.3d at 1164. Only if a plaintiff first meets this two-part test does the defendant bear the traditional summary judgment burden to show that there are no genuine disputes of material fact and that he or she is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Koch v. City of Del City, 660 F.3d 1228, 1238 (10th Cir. 2011).

         II. UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS[6]

• On the night of November 25, 2015, Plaintiff Lindsey drove his off-road UTV from the Love's Travel Shop parking lot onto the adjacent access road known as “Love's Lane, ” then turned left onto State Highway 100. Lindsey proceeded to drive on Highway 100 over the overpass crossing Interstate 40 and continued south until Highway 100 turns into a gravel road.[7] Docket No. 106, Exh. 1, Lindsey Depo., at 6-10; Exh. 2, Mann Depo., at 8-15; Exh. 3, Hyler Depo., at 21-30.
• Plaintiff Mann was a passenger in Lindsey's UTV.
• Lindsey's UTV is a four-wheeled vehicle with a steering wheel and seating for two. It is “an off road vehicle not intended for use on public roads” and contains a warning not to ride on public roads, as it “is not designed for on-road safety.”[8] Docket No. 106, Exh. 7.
• The Love's Travel Shop, the adjacent access road, and Highway 100 are and were at the relevant time within the boundary of Webbers Falls.[9] Docket No. 106, Exh. 5, Lively Affidavit.
• Lindsey's UTV did not have a slow moving vehicle triangle affixed to the rear at the time of the incident, and neither Lindsey nor Mann were wearing seat belts.[10] Docket No. 106, Exh. 1, at 2 and 10; Exh. 2, at 17.
• At the time of the incident, Officer Hyler was a certified peace officer, working on duty as a member of the Webbers Falls Police Department. Officer Hyler graduated and received his CLEET certification on November 19, 2015.
• After Lindsey turned left onto Highway 100, he accelerated his UTV southbound to the I-40 overpass “in a manner to drive within the bounds of the speed limit and conditions of the road.” Docket No. 121, at 14.
• Officer Hyler testified and it is uncontroverted that he attempted to conduct a traffic stop of Lindsey's vehicle by turning on his emergency lights as Lindsey was driving south toward the I-40 overpass and turning on his sirens as Lindsey drove over the bridge.[11]Docket No. 106, Exh. 3, at 24-26.
• Lindsey testified that he never heard a siren. Docket No. 123, Exh. 9, at 19. Lindsey testified that he did not see Officer Hyler's lights until after he crossed “Dirty Creek bridge” on the gravel road. Lindsey testified that he then “kind of bumped” Mann to alert him to the lights. Docket No. 123, Exh. 9, at 14-16. Mann testified that he first noticed Officer Hyler's lights when Lindsey told him “to look back and said there were lights back there” after they crossed Dirty Creek. Docket No. 123, Exh. 10, at 5-7.
• Lindsey did not stop or slow his vehicle as he approached the I-40 overpass.[12]
• Officer Hyler notified Muskogee 911 dispatch that he was attempting a traffic stop and that the suspect was failing to yield.[13]
• Shortly after Highway 100 crosses I-40, the pavement ends and the gravel road begins. Lindsey slowed his UTV briefly at the transition from pavement to gravel, then resumed his normal driving speed.
• Upon reaching the gravel road, Officer Hyler's vision was obstructed by the dust created by Lindsey's vehicle ahead of him.
• Officer Hyler testified that because his vision was obstructed by the dust and he had lost sight of Lindsey's UTV, he slowed his vehicle and continued driving south following the dust trail left ...

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