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Stallworth v. Champine

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 2, 2018

SCOTT CHAMPINE, et al., Defendants.



         In this action, Plaintiff Larry Stallworth alleges Defendant police officers Scott Champine and James Farris violated his Fourth Amendment rights and caused him physical injury during a traffic stop. (See First Am. Compl., ECF #14.) Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. (See ECF ## 40, 43.) For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendant Farris' motion and GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendant Champine's motion.[1]


         On March 1, 2014, Stallworth was at a nightclub in the City of Ferndale when another man, Francis Thomas, offered to drive Stallworth home. (See Stallworth Dep. at 138, ECF #45-2 at Pg. ID 137.) Stallworth accepted Thomas' offer, and the two of them left in Thomas' Lincoln Towncar. (See Id. at 138, 140, Pg. ID 137.) Stallworth sat in the back seat as Thomas drove. (See id.)

         Defendant Champine, a City of Pleasant Ridge police officer, witnessed Thomas driving erratically as Thomas was traveling northbound on Woodward Avenue. (See Champine Dep. at 21-24, ECF #43-5 at Pg. ID 687.) He pulled his marked police car behind Thomas' vehicle, activated his police lights, and effectuated a traffic stop. (See Id. at 28-29, Pg. ID 688-89.)

         Thomas had been drinking and did not have a valid driver's license, and he was concerned about facing possible criminal charges as a result of his driving. (See Thomas Dep. at 24-25, 29-31, ECF #54-2 at Pg. ID 1262-63, 1264.) So, once Thomas brought his vehicle to a complete stop, he “jumped over” to the front passenger seat, “grabbed [Stallworth] up under [his] arms[, ] and pulled [Stallworth] into the front [driver's] seat.” (Stallworth Dep. at 141, ECF #45-2 at Pg. ID 866.)

         Champine saw Thomas and Stallworth switch places, and he called for backup. (See Champine Dep. at 33-35, ECF #43-5 at Pg. ID 690.) Champine explained that he “needed the backup” because he was “working by [him]self, ” and the seat switching signaled to him that “somebody didn't want to be seen as the driver.” (Id. at 35, Pg. ID 690.) Shortly after Champine called for assistance, Defendant Farris, a City of Ferndale police officer, arrived on the scene. (See Id. at 38, Pg. ID 691.)

         Farris asked Stallworth to exit the vehicle, and Stallworth did so on his own. (See Stallworth Dep. at 144, 181-82, ECF #45-2 at Pg. ID 866, 876.) Stallworth says that after he stepped out of the car, Farris “grabbed” his arm so hard that his hearing aide fell out, “turned [him] around, ” and handcuffed him. (Id. at 146 180, Pg. ID 867, 875.) Farris then “pushed [Stallworth] towards the car and started patting [him] down.” (Id. at 147, Pg. ID 867.) Once Farris completed the pat down, he again grabbed Stallworth's arm - hard enough to leave a “red” mark - and placed Stallworth into the back seat of an unoccupied police car. (Id. at 157-58, Pg. ID 870.)

         Stallworth says that Champine later entered the police car and sat in the front seat.[2] (See Id. at 174, 220, Pg. ID 874, 885.) Stallworth says that he immediately told Champine that the handcuffs were injuring his wrists. (See id.) Champine did not respond to Stallworth's complaints. Instead, after the passage of some undetermined period of time, and near the end of the stop, either Champine or Farris took the cuffs off.[3]

         Champine eventually issued Stallworth a misdemeanor ticket for interfering with a police officer, and Champine then drove Stallworth home. (See Id. at 176, 189-90, Pg. ID 874, 878.) The state court ultimately dismissed Stallworth's ticket after two preliminary hearings. (See Id. at 230-31, Pg. ID 888.)


         Stallworth filed this action on February 26, 2016. (See ECF #1.) He amended his Complaint on August 29, 2016. (See ECF #14.) In the First Amended Complaint, Stallworth brings the following constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983:

. Excessive force against Defendants Farris and Champine;
. Unreasonable seizure/false arrest against Defendant Champine; and
. Malicious prosecution against Defendant Champine.[4]
Defendants moved for summary judgment on July 10, 2017, and July 31, 2017.

(See ECF ## 40, 43.) The Court held a hearing on the motions on January 8, 2018.


         Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. A movant is entitled to summary judgment when it “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact....” SEC v. Sierra Brokerage Servs., Inc., 712 F.3d 321, 326-27 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)) (quotations omitted). When reviewing the record, “the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Id. “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for [that party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Summary judgment is not appropriate when “the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury.” Id. at 251-52. Indeed, “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge....” Id. at 255.

         Defendants also assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity “protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person should have known.” Green v. Throckmorton, 681 F.3d 853, 864 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). “Once raised, it is the plaintiff's burden to show that the defendant[ ] [is] not entitled to qualified immunity.” Kinlin v. Kline, 749 F.3d 573, 577 (6th Cir. 2014).

         The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals “has generally used a two-step [qualified immunity] analysis: (1) viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, [the court] determines whether the allegations give rise to a constitutional violation; and (2) [the court] assesses whether the right was clearly established at the time of the incident.” Id. (internal punctuation omitted). “[U]nder either prong [of this inquiry], courts may not resolve genuine disputes of fact in favor of the party seeking summary judgment.” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014). Indeed, in Tolan, the Supreme Court vacated a grant of summary judgment on a qualified immunity defense because, among other things, the lower court “credited the evidence of the party seeking summary judgment and failed to properly acknowledge key evidence offered by the party opposing that motion.” Id. at 1867- 68. The Supreme Court explained that “[b]y weighing the evidence and reaching factual inferences contrary to [the non-moving party's] competent evidence, the court below neglected to adhere to the fundamental principle that at the summary judgment stage, reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id. at 1867. Simply put, “where the legal question of qualified immunity turns upon which version of the facts one accepts, the jury, not the judge, must determine liability.” Green, 681 F.3d at 864.



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