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Grove v. Wallace

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

December 19, 2016

TANIA GROVE, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, Tania Grove, has sued Defendants Kent Wallace, Kinross Charter Township, and Kim Holland regarding an incident that occurred on September 2, 2013, in which Wallace forcefully entered Grove's residence during a “civil standby.” In her first amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that (1) Wallace violated her Fourth Amendment rights (Count I); (2) the Township is liable for Wallace's violation (Count II); (3) Holland committed assault and battery (Count III); and (4) Wallace and Holland both committed the tort of invasion of privacy-unlawful intrusion on seclusion (Count IV).

         Wallace and the Township move for summary judgment/dismissal on Counts I, II, and IV, and Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on Count I against Wallace. The Court heard oral argument on the motions on December 7, 2016.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Plaintiff summary judgment and deny Wallace summary judgment on Count I, grant the Township summary judgment on Count II, and grant Wallace summary judgment on Count IV.

         I. Facts

         The facts material to the instant motions are largely undisputed.

         On the morning of September 2, 2013, Defendant Wallace, a police officer with the Kinross Township Police Department, was dispatched to 81 Evergreen Drive, Kincheloe, Michigan, for a so-called “civil standby” requested by Defendant Kim Holland. Plaintiff owned the residence, and Jason Grove, Holland's ex-husband, who was Plaintiff's then-fiancé, stayed there occasionally. Grove's and Holland's three children, for whom they shared joint custody, were staying with Plaintiff and Grove that week so that the children could participate in 4-H competitions at the Chippewa County Fair. Holland requested police presence while she picked up the children from Grove.

         That morning, Plaintiff, Grove and the children had gone to the fair grounds to take care of the children's animals. After they returned home, around 9:00 a.m., they went to the family room in the basement to watch movies. Later that morning, before noon, Plaintiff left the residence to get some exercise and locked the front door.

         Holland called the police around 11:00 a.m. When Wallace and Reserve Officer Gary Grabendike arrived at the Evergreen address, Holland told them that she was there to pick up her children and no one was answering the knocks on the door even though both vehicles (Plaintiff's and Grove's) were in the driveway. Wallace knocked on the front door several times without a response. Holland told Wallace that she was supposed to pick up the children between 11:00 a.m. and noon; Wallace suggested that they come back around noon and try again. Wallace and Officer Grabendike returned to their office, and Holland went to the fair grounds to search for Grove and the children.

         Wallace and Officer Grabendike returned to the residence around noon, where they met Holland and her husband. Wallace, Officer Grabendikek and the Hollands went to the front door, and Wallace knocked several times. Receiving no answer, Wallace told Holland and that there was nothing else he could do and suggested that she file a complaint with the friend of the court. As Wallace turned to walk away, he heard a baby or a child crying.[1] Wallace told Officer Grabendike that he was going into the residence. Wallace then knocked on the front door, announced himself, and yelled that he was going to come in if the occupants did not answer. Receiving no response, Wallace kicked the door several times with his foot and forced it open. Wallace entered and yelled “police department, ” at which point Grove came up the stairs. Wallace demanded that Grove produce identification, and Grove complied. Wallace left the residence after about ten minutes.

         II. Discussion[2]

         A. Fourth Amendment Claim Against Wallace

         In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that Wallace violated her Fourth Amendment rights by entering her house without a warrant. Wallace concedes that he lacked a warrant, but argues that there were exigent circumstances and that, therefore, he is entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff argues that she is entitled to summary judgment because there were no exigent circumstances and Wallace is not entitled to qualified immunity.

         “Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, ‘government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'” Phillips v. Roane Cnty., 534 F.3d 531, 538 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738 (1982)). Once a defendant raises the qualified immunity defense, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant official violated a right so clearly established “that every ‘reasonable official would have understood that what he [was] doing violate[d] that right.'” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 2083 (2011) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 3039 (1987)). An officer is entitled to qualified immunity either if he did not violate the plaintiff's ...

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