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Cantrell v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

November 16, 2017

DONNA CANTRELL, as Next Friend of GARY LYONS, Plaintiff,
v.
MISTY JOHNSON, in her individual capacity, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          James H. Payne, Judge

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Misty Johnson and the Board of County Commissioners of Latimer County (Dkt. 66). After consideration of the briefs, and for the reasons stated below, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 29, 2016, officials with the Latimer County Sheriff's Office (“LCSO”), along with other state and local law enforcement officials, conducted a raid on the shop and residence at the ranch property of the brother of Gary Lyons (“Mr. Lyons”). (Dkt. 66, at 1 (Defendants' Undisputed Fact No. 1)). The raid was conducted pursuant to two search warrants signed by a state District Court Judge. (Dkt. 66-5 (Search Warrants)). Law enforcement officials were searching for evidence of illicit drug possession. (Id.). Defendant Misty Johnson (“Deputy Johnson”), then a Deputy with the LCSO, was assigned to secure and search the shop building and the surrounding area. (Dkt. 66-1 (“Johnson Deposition I”), 50:12-15). Deputy Johnson and other officers in her assigned unit approached the shop building in marked patrol vehicles with lights activated. (Johnson Deposition I, 40:6-18). Several officers were in the patrol vehicle with Deputy Johnson, including Latimer County Deputy Cody Donoley and John Whiteaker, Chief of Police of the Town of Panama. (Johnson Deposition I, 38:20-39:2).[1] Deputy Johnson had been informed that multiple individuals were suspected to be on the property, and that gun violations and narcotic drugs were suspected to be found during the raid. (Johnson Deposition I, 45:20-25).

         As Deputy Johnson's vehicle approached the shop building, officers noticed a man standing near the shop building, behind a pickup truck, now identified as Mr. Lyons. (Dkt. 66-2 (“Donoley Decl.”), at 2); Dkt. 66-3 (“Whiteaker Decl.”), at 2; Dkt. 66-4 (“LCSO Incident Report”), at 26-27). Deputy Johnson advised the officers in her vehicle that she would secure him. (Dkt. 66, at 2 (Defendants' Undisputed Fact No. 4). As the vehicle stopped, Deputy Donoley, Chief Whiteaker, and Deputy Johnson exited the vehicle, with all three yelling words to the effect of, “Police, ” “law enforcement, ” and “search warrant.” (Donoley Decl., at 2-3; Whiteaker Decl., at 2; LCSO Incident Report, at 26-27). Mr. Lyons denies hearing any officer yelling these statements, but he does not dispute that the officers yelled such statements. (Dkt. 66-7 (“Lyons Deposition I”), 44:21-24; Dkt. 74-5 (“Lyons Deposition II”), 41:1-19).

         Deputy Johnson moved toward the pickup, repeatedly shouting at Mr. Lyons, whom she did not know or recognize, to stop and get on the ground. (Johnson Deposition I, 9:13-15; 50:4-7; 52:10-12). Deputy Johnson was particularly concerned that she could not see one of Mr. Lyons' hands and that he could be armed with a weapon. (Id. at 53:6-54:13). Despite the order to do so, Mr. Lyons did not get on the ground. (Id. at 50:23-51:10; 52:10-12; 55:1-11). Mr. Lyons does not dispute that Deputy Johnson ordered him to get on the ground, although he testified at deposition that he did not hear any such order. (Lyons Deposition I, 44:21-24; 45:23-25).[2]

         It is disputed whether Mr. Lyons turned away from Deputy Johnson following her commands, and whether Mr. Lyons began to walk away from Deputy Johnson. (Compare LCSO Incident Report, at 27 (Misty Johnson Narrative) (“Gary then turned away from me as if to walk away or run”) and Lyons Deposition I, 44:1-4 (Q. How did you-and just so I'm straight, at no time did you turn away from her or move from her; correct? A. Yes.”)). However, it is undisputed that Mr. Lyons remained standing for approximately twenty seconds as Deputy Johnson approached him. (Lyons Deposition I, 45:11-14).

         After Mr. Lyons failed to get on the ground, Deputy Johnson approached Mr. Lyons and performed an “arm bar” technique on Mr. Lyons in order to take him to the ground. (LCSO Incident Report, at 27).[3] Deputy Johnson then handcuffed Mr. Lyons behind his back while on the ground, and as she raised him from the ground, she noticed Mr. Lyons was bleeding from his forehead. (LCSO Incident Report, at 27; Dkt. 66, at 4 (Defendants' Undisputed Fact No. 12)). An ambulance was summoned to Mr. Lyons' aid, but Mr. Lyons refused medical treatment upon its arrival, apart from cleaning the wound and applying a bandage to the wound area. (Dkt. 66-14 (EMS Patient Care Report)). Mr. Lyons was then transported to the Latimer County Jail, where he again refused medical treatment. (Dkt. 66-15 (Jail Entry Log); Dkt. 66-16 (EMS Patient Care Report)). After being bonded out of jail, Mr. Lyons went to his residence. (Dkt. 66, at 5 (Defendants' Undisputed Fact No. 16). Later that morning, Mr. Lyon's girlfriend Donna Cantrell (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Cantrell”) noticed that Mr. Lyons appeared disoriented, and she took him to the Indian Clinic in Talihina, Oklahoma. (Dkt. 66, at 6 (Defendants' Undisputed Fact No. 17)). He was then transferred to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was determined to have a brain bleed. (Id.). Mr. Lyons remained in the hospital for treatment for approximately two weeks. (Id.).

         Ms. Cantrell filed an Amended Complaint as “Next Friend” of Mr. Lyons on March 28, 2017. (Dkt. 48). In the Amended Complaint, as amended pursuant to the Court's Order adding the Board of County Commissioners of Latimer County (“Board”) as a party defendant (Dkt. 50), Plaintiff asserts claims for (1) relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Deputy Johnson for unlawful use of excessive force, and (2) relief for negligence pursuant to the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act (“OGTCA”), 51 Okl. Stat. §§ 151 et seq., against the Board under a theory of respondeat superior for Deputy Johnson's actions. (Dkt. 48, ¶¶ 24-29).[4]

         On September 5, 2017, both Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's claims against them. (Dkt. 66). Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition on September 15, 2017. (Dkt. 74). Defendants filed a Reply on October 2, 2017. (Dkt. 78). The Motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.

         DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id. In making this determination, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255.

         However, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment may not simply allege there are disputed issues of fact; rather, the party must support its assertions by citing to the record or by showing the moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Cone v. Longmont United Hosp. Ass'n, 14 F.3d 526, 530 (10th Cir. 1994) (“Even though all doubts must be resolved in [the nonmovant's] favor, allegations alone will not defeat summary judgment.”) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). Moreover, “[i]n a response to a motion for summary judgment, a party cannot rely on ignorance of facts, on speculation, or on suspicion and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial.” Conaway v. Smith, 853 F.2d 789, 794 (10th Cir. 1988) (citations omitted). Thus, the inquiry for this Court is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         I. Real ...


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