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Haywood v. Hough

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

April 25, 2019

BARBARA HAYWOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
LAWRENCE HOUGH, et al., Defendants.

          Hon. Robert J. Jonker Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELLEN S. CARMODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Hubbard's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 127); Defendant Eagle's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 129); and Defendant Hough's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 130). The Court finds oral argument unnecessary. W.D. Mich. LCivR 7.2(d). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the undersigned recommends that Defendants' motions each be granted in part and denied in part as detailed herein.

         BACKGROUND

         In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following. (ECF No. 1). On February 14, 2016, she travelled to the Chippewa Correctional Facility to visit her husband. At the conclusion of this visit, Plaintiff was detained by Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Inspector Pete Hubbard and Kinross Township Police Officer Paul Eagle. Chippewa County Sheriff's Deputy Lawrence Hough subsequently joined the group.

         Plaintiff was falsely accused of passing contraband to her husband. Plaintiff was then handcuffed and threatened with “an additional charge of obstruction of justice if [she] did not consent to having her vehicle searched.” Hubbard also stated that he was going to “make sure Plaintiff was never going to see her husband again.” Plaintiff's car keys were then seized and her vehicle searched. Marijuana was discovered in Plaintiff's vehicle at which point she was placed in a police vehicle. Hough informed Plaintiff that if she did not consent to a search of her hotel room, she would be charged with “transportation and possession of marijuana.” Plaintiff, under duress, consented to a search of her hotel room, where more marijuana was discovered. Plaintiff's visitation privileges with her husband were subsequently terminated.

         Plaintiff initiated the present action on June 5, 2017, against Hough, Eagle, and Hubbard alleging the following causes of action: (1) denial of her right to intimate association; (2) unreasonable search and seizure; (3) conspiracy to violate her rights; (4) common law conversion; (5) use of excessive force; (6) false arrest/imprisonment; (7) assault and battery; (8) ordinary negligence; and (9) negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff seeks an unspecified amount in money damages. Defendants Hough, Eagle, and Hubbard now move for summary judgment. Defendants also argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment “shall” be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party moving for summary judgment can satisfy its burden by demonstrating “that the respondent, having had sufficient opportunity for discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of his or her case.” Minadeo v. ICI Paints, 398 F.3d 751, 761 (6th Cir. 2005). Once the moving party demonstrates that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, ” the non-moving party “must identify specific facts that can be established by admissible evidence, which demonstrate a genuine issue for trial.” Amini v. Oberlin College, 440 F.3d 350, 357 (6th Cir. 2006).

         While the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the party opposing the summary judgment motion “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Amini, 440 F.3d at 357. The existence of a mere “scintilla of evidence” in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient. Daniels v. Woodside, 396 F.3d 730, 734-35 (6th Cir. 2005). The non-moving party “may not rest upon [his] mere allegations, ” but must instead present “significant probative evidence” establishing that “there is a genuine issue for trial.” Pack v. Damon Corp., 434 F.3d 810, 813-14 (6th Cir. 2006).

         Moreover, the non-moving party cannot defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment by “simply arguing that it relies solely or in part upon credibility determinations.” Fogerty v. MGM Group Holdings Corp., Inc., 379 F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2004). Rather, the non-moving party “must be able to point to some facts which may or will entitle him to judgment, or refute the proof of the moving party in some material portion, and. . .may not merely recite the incantation, 'Credibility,' and have a trial on the hope that a jury may disbelieve factually uncontested proof.” Id. at 353-54. In sum, summary judgment is appropriate “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Daniels, 396 F.3d at 735.

         While a moving party without the burden of proof need only show that the opponent cannot sustain his burden at trial, a moving party with the burden of proof faces a “substantially higher hurdle.” Arnett v. Myers, 281 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2002). Where the moving party has the burden, “his showing must be sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.” Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986). The Sixth Circuit has emphasized that the party with the burden of proof “must show the record contains evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it.” Arnett, 281 F.3d at 561. Thus, summary judgment in favor of the party with the burden of persuasion “is inappropriate when the evidence is susceptible of different interpretations or inferences by the trier of fact.” Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 553 (1999).

         B. Qualified Immunity

         The doctrine of qualified immunity recognizes that government officials must be able to carry out their duties without fear of harassing litigation. See Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183, 195 (1984). As is well recognized, they can do so only if they reasonably can anticipate when their conduct may give rise to liability for damages, and if unjustified lawsuits are quickly terminated. Ibid. Generally, when government officials perform discretionary functions, they 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. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). The question whether a defendant enjoys qualified immunity is a question of law for the Court to resolve. See Virgili v. Gilbert, 272 F.3d 391, 392 (6th Cir. 2001).

         When evaluating claims of qualified immunity, the Court employs a two-step analysis. The Court first determines “whether the facts that a plaintiff has alleged or shown make out a violation of a constitutional right.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009). If such fail to establish a violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights, the defendant is entitled to immunity. Ibid. On the other hand, if the facts establish a violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights, the Court must then determine whether the right in question was “clearly established” at the time the defendant acted. The defendant is entitled to qualified immunity unless his “conduct violated a clearly established constitutional right.” Ibid. The contours of the right in question “must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.” Fisher v. Harden, 398 F.3d 837, 845 (6th Cir. 2005).

         Generally, to find a clearly established constitutional right, the district court “must find binding precedent by the Supreme Court, its Court of Appeals or itself.” Fisher, 398 F.3d at 845. In extraordinary circumstances, however, the decisions of other courts may suffice if such decisions “both point unmistakably to the unconstitutionality of the conduct complained of and are so clearly foreshadowed by applicable direct authority as to leave no doubt in the mind of a reasonable officer that his conduct, if challenged on constitutional grounds, would be found wanting.” Fisher, 398 F.3d at 845-46. In short, “existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741 (2011).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Fourth Amendment (Counts II, V and VI)

         Plaintiff argues that her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure was violated in multiple ways throughout the course of the subject incident. The parties have all identified or presented various evidence in support of their respective positions. However, because Defendants are moving for summary judgment, the facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. The facts relevant to these claims, when viewed in Plaintiff's favor, reveal the following.

         On February 14, 2016, Plaintiff travelled to the Chippewa Correctional Facility (UCF) to visit her husband, Lonnell Haywood. (ECF No. 128-3 at PageID.833). When Plaintiff arrived at the facility, she parked her car on prison property. (Ibid.). Before being permitted to meet with her husband, Plaintiff was subjected to a search. (ECF No. 129-2 at PageID.944-45). Upon meeting her husband in the prisoner visitation room, Plaintiff embraced her husband and the pair shared a kiss.[1](ECF No. 128-6 at PageID.884). During this kiss, Corrections Officer Cassandra Wilcox observed “what appeared to be a green object being passed by mouth from [Plaintiff] to Mr. Haywood.” (Ibid.). Plaintiff “had a difficult time getting the object into Mr. Haywood's mouth and Mr. Haywood had a difficult time swallowing the object.” (Ibid.). Wilcox “observed the object as being dark green in color” and “believed it may have been marijuana.” (Ibid.). Wilcox informed her supervisor what she observed. (Ibid.). Plaintiff's visit with her husband lasted approximately 90 minutes and was not interrupted or prematurely terminated. (ECF No. 128-3 at PageID.833; ECF No. 129-2 at PageID.986; ECF No. 129-3 at PageID.1014). The Chippewa Correctional Facility visitation guidebook provides that “a visit shall be terminated” if the visitor “smuggles, conspires to smuggle or attempts to smuggle any item into or out of the facility.” (ECF No. 128-3 at PageID.867) (emphasis added).

         At the conclusion of her visit with her husband, Defendant Hubbard approached Plaintiff and asked her to accompany him. (ECF No. 129-2 at PageID.947). Defendant Hubbard was employed as an MDOC Corrections Officer. (ECF No. 128-3 at PageID.832). Plaintiff agreed and followed Hubbard to a nearby room where Defendant Eagle was waiting. (ECF No. 129-2 at PageID.947). Defendant Eagle was employed as a police officer with the Kinross Police Department. (ECF No. 130-3 at PageID.1115). In response to questioning by Hubbard and Eagle, Plaintiff denied passing any illegal contraband to her husband and instead jokingly stated that she passed him a Jolly Rancher candy.[2] (ECF No. 129-2 at PageID.947). Hubbard and Eagle continued to detain Plaintiff for approximately 40 minutes, awaiting Defendant Hough's arrival. (Id. at PageID.947-48, 982). Defendant Hough was employed as an MDOC Inspector as well as a Chippewa County Deputy Sheriff. (ECF No. 130-3 at PageID.1115). Upon Hough's arrival, Plaintiff was escorted by Defendants Hough, Eagle, and Hubbard to the prison lobby where she was handcuffed. (ECF No. 129-2 at PageID.948).

         Defendant Hough then repeatedly threatened to take Plaintiff to jail unless she “consented” to a search of her vehicle. (Id. at PageID.948-49). Plaintiff eventually agreed to permit a search of her vehicle, but only because she “was scared to death.” (Ibid.). Defendants Eagle and Hubbard proceeded to search Plaintiff's vehicle, discovering a small quantity of marijuana in the process. (Id. at PageID.949). Plaintiff was then placed in Defendant Hough's police vehicle. (Id. at PageID.942-43). Defendants Eagle and Hough first attempted to place Plaintiff in the rear seat of Hough's vehicle. (Ibid.). As Plaintiff attempted to enter the vehicle, Hough “was guiding [Plaintiff's] neck.” (Ibid.). Plaintiff was experiencing difficulty, however, entering the vehicle at which point Defendant Eagle “went around to the other side of the car” and “proceeded to pull [Plaintiff's] hips. . .so [she] would fit in the car.” (Id. at PageID.976). Plaintiff was unable, however, to enter the back seat, at which point she was placed in the front seat. (Id. at PageID.942-43). Defendants Hough and Eagle did not act maliciously and they were not attempting to hurt or injure Plaintiff. (Id. at PageID.958-59, 976-77). Moreover, despite the pain and discomfort Plaintiff experienced when attempting to enter the back seat of Hough's vehicle, she did not request any help or treatment. (Id. at PageID.959-60). Throughout this encounter, Defendants Hough, Hubbard and Eagle made derogatory and racially motivated comments concerning the fact that Plaintiff, a white woman, is married to a black man. (Id. at PageID.947, 950, 979-80, 987).

         Hough then began threatening to take Plaintiff to jail if she did not permit him to search her hotel room. (Id. at PageID.951). Because she felt “threatened, ” Plaintiff agreed to allow Hough to search her hotel room. (Id.). Hough subsequently transported Plaintiff to her hotel room, travelling a route unfamiliar to Plaintiff at a high rate of speed which made Plaintiff afraid. (Id. at PageID.949, 951-52). On the way to the hotel, Hough detoured to assist at the scene of an accident. (Id. at PageID.951-52). This detour lasted 20-30 minutes. (Id. at PageID.959). Plaintiff testified that she was afraid that Hough was “going to take [her] out and beat [her] to death.” (Id. at PageID.952). Upon arriving at the hotel, a search of Plaintiff's room revealed another small quantity of marijuana, as well as an expired Michigan Medical Marijuana Program card. (ECF No. 129-2 at 952-53; ECF No. 130-4 at PageID.1119). Defendant Hough then transported Plaintiff back to the Chippewa Correctional Facility where Plaintiff was released from custody and informed that she would be notified if criminal charges were filed against her. (ECF No. 129-2 at PageID.953). Plaintiff was later charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and a warrant for her arrest issued. (ECF NO. 130-5 at PageID.1121).

         A. Search of Plaintiff's Vehicle

         Because of its relevance to the discussion in the subsequent section, it is necessary to initially address Plaintiff's claim that the search of her vehicle was unlawful. Plaintiff alleges that while she permitted Defendants Hubbard and Eagle to search her vehicle, she did not freely consent to this ...


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