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Franklin v. Randolph County Commissioners

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

July 11, 2019




         Plaintiff Traci Franklin was arrested in Winchester, Indiana in 2016. Ms. Franklin and her husband, William, brought suit against Winchester Police Department patrolman Austin Highlen, the City of Winchester, Randolph County Sheriff's Deputy Jerry Hammons, the Randolph County Commissioners, and the Randolph County Sherriff's Department, alleging a host of claims arising out of Ms. Franklin's arrest.

         Two Motions are currently pending. The first is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the city of Winchester and Officer Highlen, (collectively, the “Winchester Defendants”), [Filing No. 51], and the second is a Motion to Dismiss/Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Randolph County Commissioners, the Randolph County Sheriff Department, and Deputy Hammons, (collectively, the “Randolph County Defendants”), [Filing No. 59]. For the reasons described herein, the Court GRANTS the Winchester Defendants' Motion, GRANTS IN PART the Randolph County Defendants' Motion, and REMANDS the remaining claims to the Randolph Circuit Court.

         I. Legal Standard

         Although the Randolph County Defendants styled their Motion as a “Motion to Dismiss/Motion for Summary Judgment, ” [Filing No. 59 at 1], given the parties' reliance on matters outside of the pleadings, the Court will construe the Randolph County Defendants' Motion as a Motion for Summary Judgment.

         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. SeeFed. 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. Am. 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 Ind. Univ., 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 in Part I. 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).

         In the early months of 2016, Traci Franklin was working as a licensed professional nurse at a long-term care center in Richmond, Indiana. [Filing No. 52-1 at 5.] At the time, she was living with her husband, William, in a home they owned in Winchester, Indiana. [Filing No. 52-1 at 10.]

         On April 9, 2016, Ms. Franklin went to work at 2:00 p.m. and was scheduled to work until 10:00 p.m. [Filing No. 52-1 at 11.] When another employee did not come into work, Ms. Franklin worked until 11:30 p.m., or slightly later. [Filing No. 52-1 at 11.] When she left work, it was snowing, and visibility was poor. [Filing No. 52-1 at 11.] At some point during her drive home, Ms. Franklin was run off the road by a large truck, which upset her. [Filing No. 52-1 at 13.] As Ms. Franklin was driving into Winchester, she came to a stop sign and did not come to a complete stop due to the slick road. [Filing No. 52-1 at 12.]

         Shortly after driving through the stop sign, Ms. Franklin turned left into the driveway of her house, and, as she did so, she noticed police lights behind her. [Filing No. 52-1 at 12.] Deputy Jerry Hammons then approached Ms. Franklin's car and asked Ms. Franklin if she knew why he was there. [Filing No. 52-1 at 12.] He explained that she did not come to a complete stop at the stop sign. [Filing No. 52-1 at 12.] Deputy Hammons then used a flashlight to look through the windows of Ms. Franklin's car. [Filing No. 52-1 at 13.] Ms. Franklin was unable to produce her driver's license or car registration when Deputy Hammons requested them. [Filing No. 52-1 at 13.]

         Deputy Hammons then went to his squad car and returned to Ms. Franklin's car with a ticket. [Filing No. 52-1 at 14.] By this point, one or more other officers had arrived on the scene, including Officer Austin Highlen. [Filing No. 52-1 at 14.] Ms. Franklin took the ticket from Deputy Hammons and said “with a little bit of an attitude, ” “Okay. I've got it. I'll take care of it.” [Filing No. 52-1 at 14.] Deputy Hammons then said, “You're coming with me. You're under arrest.” [Filing No. 52-1 at 14.] Ms. Franklin asked why she was under arrest. [Filing No. 52-1 at 14.]

         At some point, Deputy Hammons instructed Ms. Franklin to get out of her car and she opened her car door. [Filing No. 52-1 at 16.] As she struggled to get out of the car, Deputy Hammons grabbed her arm and stretched it back against her car aggressively. [Filing No. 52-1 at 16.] Deputy Hammons told Officer Highlen to “tase her, ” and then repeated the instruction four times. [Filing No. 52-1 at 14; Filing No. 52-1 at 16.] Officer Highlen refused and did not tase Ms. Franklin. [Filing No. 52-1 at 15.] Around the time Officer Highlen “stepped in, ” Ms. Franklin put her feet up and hit either Deputy Hammons or Officer Highlen or both with her feet or legs. [Filing No. 52-1 at 16.]

         Ms. Franklin requested that a woman search her. [Filing No. 52-1 at 17.] Instead, Deputy Hammons put his hands on Ms. Franklin, around the front of her and around the back and said that he was an officer and could touch her wherever he wanted. [Filing No. 52-1 at 17.] The pat-down search took less than one minute and Officer Highlen did not participate in the search. [Filing No. 52-1 at 18.] During this time, Ms. Franklin's hands were cuffed behind her back and she was wearing her scrubs from work. [Filing No. 52-1 at 17; Filing No. 52-1 at 18.] The pants to Ms. Franklin's scrubs were falling down and she requested help pulling them back up several times, but was not given any help. [Filing No. 52-1 at 18.]

         Throughout her interactions with Deputy Hammons and Officer Highlen, Ms. Franklin was agitated and she “yelled out” that if the officers “could hurry up, it would be nice” because she was “really, really cold and it was freezing.” [Filing No. 52-1 at 15.] She “might have said a word or two” of profanity because she was “very frustrated.” [Filing No. 52-1 at 15.]

         Ms. Franklin got into Deputy Hammons' squad car and was transported to jail, during which time she complained about being nauseated, complained about her arm “nonstop, ” and asked to be taken to the emergency room. [Filing No. 52-1 at 18; Filing No. 52-1 at 19.]

         Once she arrived at the jail, Ms. Franklin requested a menstrual pad but was never provided with one. [Filing No. 52-1 at 20.] She also continued requesting medical attention for her arm but was not provided with any. [Filing No. 52-1 at 20.]

         On April 13, 2016, a few days after her release from jail, Ms. Franklin went to Ball Memorial Hospital for an X-ray. [Filing No. 52-1 at 24.] The Hospital referred her to an orthopedic specialist, who recommended that she wear a sling and soft cast and attend physical therapy. [Filing No. 52-1 at 24; Filing No. 52-1 at 26.] Ms. Franklin's arm was not fractured. [Filing No. 52-1 at 35.]

         On May 10 and 11, 2016, Ms. Franklin visited the Center for Psychological Development and met with a psychologist. [Filing No. 52-1 at 27.] From May 11 through May 17, 2016, Ms. Franklin was admitted to the St. Vincent Stress Center. [Filing No. 52-1 at 28.]

         On September 21, 2016, counsel for the Franklins sent a Notice of Tort Claim to the Randolph County Commissioners, the Mayor of Winchester, the Randolph County Sheriff, and the Winchester Police Department. [Filing No. 53-1 at 1.] The Notice of Tort Claim stated that Ms. Franklin believed that the officers involved in her traffic stop were Jerry Hammons of the Randolph County Sheriff Department, and Austin Highlen of the Winchester City Police. [Filing No. 53-1 at 2.] Further, the Notice provided as follows:

That the officers were employees of the Defendants, and each of them, and were acting within the scope of their employment
Mrs. Franklin and her husband believe that the officers were careless and negligent and used excessive force which was not warranted in the instance described above, violated her civil rights and caused her physical, emotional, and mental injuries as a result of their unwarranted actions.

[Filing No. 53-1 at 2.]

         On April 9, 2018, the Franklins filed suit against the City of Winchester, the Randolph County Commissioners, (the “Commissioners”), and the Randolph County Sheriff Department, (the “Department”), in the Randolph Circuit Court. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] On May 2, 2018, the Commissioners and the Department removed the case to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. [Filing No. 1 at 1.] On July 9, 2018, the Franklins sought leave to file an amended complaint in this matter, [Filing No. 22], which was granted on August 2, 2018, [Filing No. 26]. The Franklins' Amended Complaint added Deputy Hammons and Officer Highlen as defendants in the matter. [Filing No. 22-1.]

         In their Amended Complaint, the Franklins allege that:

• the actions of Deputy Hammons and Officer Highlen constitute a “Monell § 1983 violation of the Civil Rights Act for which Randolph County Commissioners and the City of Winchester, Indiana are liable, ” [Filing No. 22-1 at 3];
• the officers “were careless and negligent and used excessive force” against Ms. Franklin and “violated her civil rights and caused her physical, emotional, and mental injuries as a result of their unwarranted actions, ” [Filing No. 22-1 at 4]; and
• “[a]s a direct and proximate result of the carelessness and negligence of the Defendants, ” William Franklin “lost the services and consortium of his wife, ” and “will continue to incur such damages in the future, ” [Filing No. 22-1 at 4].

         The Winchester Defendants moved for summary judgment, and that Motion is now fully briefed and ripe for the Court's review. [Filing No. 51.] In addition, the Randolph County Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss/Motion for Summary Judgment, which is also ripe for the Court's review. [Filing No. 59].



         In order to rule on the Motions filed by the Winchester Defendants and the Randolph County Defendants, the Court first considers the Franklins' federal claims, beginning with claims that the Franklins withdrew in response to the pending Motions. Next, the Court considers claims that the Franklins failed to address in their response briefs. The ...

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