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Mueller v. City of Greenfield

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

November 7, 2016




         This cause is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 39], filed on March 21, 2016. For the reasons detailed herein, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         Factual Background

         On July 9, 2013, as part of the Greenfield Police Department's "Operation Pull Over"-a special project designed to detect and stop intoxicated drivers-Officer Caleb Freeman conducted a traffic stop of Mark Mueller, citing him for traveling left of center. Mueller had recently also been stopped by Officer Freeman for failing to signal 200 feet prior to making a turn. Feeling that he was being harassed by Officer Freeman, Mueller called 911 and requested that another officer be dispatched to the scene. He also placed a call to his parents, Plaintiff Wayne Mueller and his wife Marlyne, requesting that they come to the scene to serve as witnesses. Shortly thereafter, Lieutenant Scott Laymon, the Officer in Charge for the July 9, 2013 night shift, arrived. Mark Mueller was asked to exit his vehicle and walked back to speak with the officers in front of Officer Freeman's patrol car, during which conversation he grew increasingly agitated and complained of harassment by the officers.

         While Mueller was speaking with the officers near Officer Freeman's patrol car, his parents Wayne and Marlyne arrived, parking their vehicle in front of their son's. Lt. Laymon approached their vehicle and instructed multiple times that the parents remain inside, but, disobeying those commands, Wayne and Marlyne exited their vehicle and began accusing the officers of "picking on" their son. After briefly exchanging words with the parents, Lt. Laymon instructed Officer Freeman to prepare the citation for Mark Mueller. Officer Freeman walked back to his patrol car to finish preparation, at which point Lt. Laymon and Marlyne began shouting at one another. Officer Freeman then walked back to the rear of the Muellers' vehicle.

         At this point, Plaintiff Wayne Mueller, who could be heard on Officer Freeman's dash cam, said, "You're just rookie and you're just picking on everybody." Defs.' Ex. E. He then, as also recorded, fell into the ditch adjacent to the shoulder of the road. Id. Immediately thereafter, Officer Freeman was observed in the dash cam, on top of Plaintiff, placing him under arrest. Officer Freeman stated: "You will not strike me sir." Id. at 23:03: 05-07. Plaintiff rejoined: "I didn't strike you." Id. at 23:03:09-10. Officer Freeman then informed Plaintiff: "You are going to jail today for battery on a law enforcement officer." Id. at 23:03:10-15.

         Officer Freeman explains more fully what was caught by video, saying that following his return to the group as they were located between Mark Mueller's car and his parents' vehicle, Plaintiff Wayne Mueller struck his arm, in response to which, Freeman reached for and grabbed Plaintiffs left arm in an attempt to use an arm-bar handcuffing technique to place Plaintiff under arrest. Plaintiff resisted by pulling away from his grasp, which resulted in the two men losing their balance and tumbling to the ground. Plaintiff, on the other hand, denies ever touching Officer Freeman and maintains that, in telling Officer Freeman to stop harassing his son, he had simply raised his hand, in response to which, Officer Freeman attempted the arm-bar takedown technique and threw him into the ditch.

         After Plaintiff was handcuffed, he was placed in the back of Officer Freeman's patrol car and taken to jail. While in jail, his left wrist began to sting, and the next day, on July 10, 2013, he visited the Community Hospital Emergency Room where he learned that his left wrist was in fact fractured. Plaintiff has since had two surgeries on his wrist and continues to complain of residual pain and deficits in his range of motion.

         As a result of the incident and arrest, Plaintiff was charged with Battery on a Police Officer and Resisting Law Enforcement, State v. Mueller, 30D02-1307-CM-000997. On June 20, 2014, he pled guilty to Resisting Law Enforcement, a Class A Misdemeanor; the Battery Count was dismissed.

         On January 22, 2015, Plaintiff commenced the action against Defendants City of Greenfield, Greenfield Police Department, and Officer Caleb Freeman pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that "the acts and omissions of Defendant Officer Caleb Freeman constitute(d) an unlawful use of excessive, unreasonable force, all in violation of the 4th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution of the United States." Dkt. 1 at ¶ 17. Plaintiff also raised a state law claim against Defendants, alleging that Officer Freeman was negligent in using excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary force in placing him under arrest. Id. at ¶ 20.

         On March 21, 2016, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on all counts. Dkt. 39. The motion became fully briefed on August 13, 2016, and is now ripe for decision.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Disputes as to material facts are genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist, the court construes all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See id. at 255. However, neither the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties, id. at 247, nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), will defeat a motion for summary judgment. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Illinois, Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000).

         The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The party seeking summary judgment on a claim on which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial may ...

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