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Loveless v. McCorkle

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

September 20, 2018

MURRELL D. LOVELESS, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD A. MCCORKLE Individually And In His Official Capacity As Sheriff of Henry County, REX A. HARROLD Individually And In His Official Capacity As A Deputy Sheriff of Henry County, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         This case arises from a failed attempt to serve civil process at the home of Plaintiff Murrell Loveless. Mr. Loveless alleges that Sheriff Richard McCorkle and Sheriff's Deputy Rex Harrold violated federal and state constitutional law, as well as state statutory and common law when Deputy Harrold entered Mr. Loveless' home without a warrant to serve civil process, and then assaulted Mr. Loveless while inside. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on some of Mr. Loveless' claims. For the reasons described below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' Motion.

         I.

         Legal Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941-42 (7th Cir. 2016). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome-determinative. Montgomery v. American Airlines Inc., 626 F.3d 382, 389 (7th Cir. 2010). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Gekas v. Vasilades, 814 F.3d 890, 896 (7th Cir. 2016). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Miller v. Gonzalez, 761 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to “scour every inch of the record” for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them. Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University, 870 F.3d 562, 573-74 (7th Cir. 2017). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

         II.

         Background

         The following factual background is set forth pursuant to the standards detailed above. The facts stated are not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light most favorable to “the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

         Defendant Richard McCorkle is the Sheriff of Henry County, Indiana. [Filing No. 37-2 at 4.] Defendant Rex Harrold is a sheriff's deputy in Henry County, and at the relevant time, he was working as a civil process server for the county. [Filing No. 37-1 at 10.] Plaintiff Murrell Loveless was approximately 70 years old at the time of the incident and lived in a house in Henry County, along with several family members, including his granddaughter, Kayla. [Filing No. 37-3 at 7.] On August 1, 2015, Deputy Harrold came to Mr. Loveless' home to service civil process on Kayla. [Filing No. 37-1 at 16; Filing No. 37-4 at 10; Filing No. 37-4 at 35.] The house is located at the end of a 175-foot driveway off of a county road. [Filing No. 37-3 at 21.] As Deputy Harrold drove up the driveway to the home, he did not see a front entry door. [Filing No. 37-1 at 18.] He exited his vehicle and walked to the east side of the home, where he located a front door that “was being worked on” and seemed “unapproachable, ” as it was covered with or surrounded by boards. [Filing No. 37-1 at 18.] He returned to the south side of the house, where he saw two garage doors that were closed. [Filing No. 37-1 at 18.] He also identified a “service” entry door into the home's attached garage, where there was a doorbell. [Filing No. 37-1 at 18; Filing No. 37-3 at 20.] Approximately 18 feet into the garage was a door that led from the garage into the interior of the home. [Filing No. 37-1 at 20.] From here, the parties present differing accounts of the events that transpired.

         In Deputy Harrold's version of events, the service door into the garage was “standing wide open.” [Filing No. 37-1 at 19.] Deputy Harrold testified that he did not see a doorbell at that door.[1] [Filing No. 37-1 at 48.] He entered via the open door and walked through the attached garage to the interior door to the home. [Filing No. 37-1 at 19.] The interior door was open approximately one inch, and Deputy Harrold knocked loudly on the door, announcing himself as “Sheriff's Department.” [Filing No. 37-1 at 19.] Mr. Loveless then opened the door, cursing and shouting at Deputy Harrold to leave. [Filing No. 37-1 at 21.]

         According to Mr. Loveless' evidence, the service door into the garage was always kept shut, as was the interior door into the house. [Filing No. 37-3 at 33; Filing No. 37-4 at 26; Filing No. 37-5 at 31-33.] None of the adults in the home heard a doorbell ring. [Filing No. 37-4 at 27; Filing No. 37-4 at 41; Filing No. 37-5 at 10; Filing No. 37-5 at 12-15.] Mr. Loveless heard a knock at the interior door, but did not hear the words “Sheriff's Department.” [Filing No. 37-3 at 24.] He was upset to hear a knock at the interior door, because it was his expectation that visitors would ring the doorbell at the exterior door in order to gain entry. [Filing No. 37-3 at 22-24.] Mr. Loveless opened the door and did not recognize the person standing there as a police officer, because he was wearing a t-shirt and did not have a visible badge. [Filing No. 37-3 at 24.] Mr. Loveless told the individual to “get the f--- out” of his house. [Filing No. 37-3 at 24.]

         A scuffle then ensued between Mr. Loveless and Deputy Harrold, about which the parties' accounts also differ. Both parties agree that that the service entry door hit Deputy Harrold's foot as he attempted to walk out of the garage. [Filing No. 37-3 at 39; Filing No. 37-1 at 23.] Mr. Loveless alleges that, at some point during the scuffle, Deputy Harrold hit him with his forearms, [Filing No. 37-3 at 26], and pushed him down onto or into the trunk of a car, [Filing No. 37-3 at 28], injuring Mr. Loveless' shoulder that was healing from a recent surgery, [Filing No. 37-3 at 39]. The parties agree that at some point, Deputy Harrold placed Mr. Loveless in handcuffs. [Filing No. 37-1 at 28; Filing No. 37-3 at 26.]

         As a result of this incident, Mr. Loveless filed suit against Deputy Harrold and Sheriff McCorkle in their official and individual capacities, raising the following claims:

• Unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution;
• Excessive force, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution;
• Common law battery;
• Common law assault;
• Common law trespass;
• Violation of Ind. Code § 35-33-5-7(e);
• Common law false imprisonment; and
• Intentional infliction of emotional distress, (“IIED”).[2]

[Filing No. 1; Filing No. 33.] Mr. Loveless appears to raise all of these claims against Sheriff McCorkle and Deputy Harrold in both their official and individual capacities.

         Defendants move for partial summary judgment, seeking resolution of the following claims:

• All Indiana constitutional claims, on the basis that the Indiana Constitution does not provide a private cause of action for violations;
• Section 1983 and Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure claim against Deputy Harrold in his individual capacity, on the ...

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