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Courtright v. City of Battle Creek

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 14, 2016

Jeff Courtright, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
City of Battle Creek; Craig Wolf and Todd Rathjen, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants-Appellants.

          Argued: March 9, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids. No. 1:14-cv-01297-Robert J. Jonker, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Paul D. Hudson, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK AND STONE, PLC, Kalamazoo, Michigan, for Appellants.

          Shawn C. Cabot, CHRISTOPHER TRAINOR & ASSOCIATES, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Paul D. Hudson, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK AND STONE, PLC, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Brad H. Sysol, BATTLE CREEK CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Battle Creek, Michigan, for Appellants.

          Shawn C. Cabot, CHRISTOPHER TRAINOR & ASSOCIATES, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: DAUGHTREY, MOORE, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          MARTHA CRAIG DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judge.

         Prompted by a phone tip, the Battle Creek Police Department dispatched two of its police officers, defendants Craig Wolf and Todd Rathjen, to a local hotel, leading to the arrest of plaintiff Jeff Courtright. Courtright then filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against Officer Wolf, Officer Rathjen, and the City of Battle Creek, alleging claims of excessive force, false arrest, and municipal liability. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss all claims against them, but the district court denied the motion. The defendants now seek relief on interlocutory appeal, contending that they are entitled to qualified immunity on the excessive-force and false-arrest claims and that the municipal-liability claim fails as a matter of law. Because Courtright alleged a plausible claim that the officers violated his clearly established constitutional rights, we affirm the district court's denial of the motion to dismiss the excessive-force and false-arrest claims. We also dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction, the appeal of the district court's denial of the motion to dismiss the municipal-liability claim.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In response to a phone tip that Courtright had "come out of his room [at the Traveler's Inn] with a gun and threatened to shoot" the dog of "another resident" at the hotel, Wolf and Rathjen were dispatched to the Traveler's Inn. In his complaint, Courtright averred that he "was nowhere near his room when the alleged incident was said to have taken place, " that he "attempted to tell Defendant Wolf that he was not in his room at the time the incident allegedly occurred, but was visiting friends, " and that he further attempted to tell Wolf that he did not "leav[e] his room with a gun and threaten[] to shoot any animal." Wolf nevertheless arrested Courtright for felonious assault. In handcuffing Courtright in the course of the arrest, Wolf and Rathjen "forcefully grabbed Plaintiff's arms and pulled them behind Plaintiff's back, " even though Courtright had told the officers that prior rotator cuff injuries and shoulder surgeries precluded him from placing his hands behind his back. Courtright repeatedly complained of pain to the officers after he was handcuffed, but neither officer "did anything to alleviate Plaintiff's pain." Though Courtright was jailed overnight, the prosecutor declined to issue a warrant, and Courtright was released the next day.

         Subsequently, Courtright sued Wolf, Rathjen, and the City of Battle Creek, alleging use of excessive force by Wolf and Rathjen in violation of the Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); false arrest by Wolf in violation of the Fourth Amendment and § 1983 (Count II); false arrest and false imprisonment by Wolf under state law (Count III); and municipal liability on the part of the City of Battle Creek ...


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