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Albrechtsen v. Laughlin

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

July 18, 2019




         Mark Albrechtsen was driving in southwest Indianapolis when he encountered a motorcade returning from dropping off the Secretary of Veterans Affairs at the airport. Mr. Albrechtsen brought suit, alleging that two of the drivers in the motorcade, Defendants Brandon Laughlin and Christopher Walter, [1] unconstitutionally detained him when he was made to slow down on the side of the road. Even granting Mr. Albrechtsen the assumption that Defendants' actions could violate the Fourth Amendment, he has failed to establish that any such violation is well established. As a result, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, so the Court GRANTS their Motion for Summary Judgment. [Filing No. 64.]


         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, that 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. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not suffice to defeat summary judgment. 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. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable factfinder 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. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). 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, ” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. 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).



          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. Am. Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005). “Existence in the record of a videotape capturing the events in question” does not change this well-established procedure, though it does yield “an added wrinkle.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The Court may not credit a party's story which is “blatantly contradicted by” the video evidence such that “no reasonable jury could believe it, ” but instead must “view[] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.” Id. at 380-81.

         A. Motorcade Incident

         Mr. Albrechtsen's claims arise out of a driving incident on the morning of March 2, 2017, when he encountered a motorcade. At approximately 7:20 a.m. Mr. Albrechtsen was driving on Harding Street in Indianapolis. [See Filing No. 64-4 at 11.] Mr. Albrechtsen drove in the right lane with a white Volkswagen ahead of him. [Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:31.][2] Mr. Albrechtsen saw the motorcade in the center lane, one lane to his left, also driving northbound. [See Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:38.] The lead vehicle was a silver SUV, followed by two black SUVs. [See Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:42.] Though Mr. Albrechtsen did not know at the time who the drivers were, the motorcade was returning from the Indianapolis International Airport where they had dropped of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. [Filing No. 64-2 at 2.] The drivers were members of the Veterans Affairs police service. [Filing No. 64-1 at 3-4.]

         Harding Street comes to a “T” intersection that only allows for a right or left turn. [Filing No. 64-4 at 9.] As the cars approached the turn, Sam Parsons, driving the lead vehicle in the motorcade, turned on his right turn signal and moved from the center lane to the right, placing himself directly in front of the Volkswagen which was in front of Mr. Albrechtsen. [Filing No. 64-2 at 2; Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:46.] Following Captain Parsons' lead, the second and third vehicles, driven by Christopher Laughlin and Christopher Walter, respectively, also changed into the right lane in front of the Volkswagen, causing it to brake. [Filing No. 64-2 at 2; Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:49.] Officer Walter activated his emergency lights as he changed lanes. [Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:49.] The lane change caused the cars to brake and the Volkswagen to pull off to the side of the road to avoid making contact with the third car in the motorcade. [Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:49.]

         As the vehicles prepared to turn right at the intersection, Mr. Albrechtsen changed into the middle lane, passed the Volkswagon, and drove up alongside Officer Walter in the third motorcade vehicle. [Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:52.] He stopped and yelled out his window, “Just because you have your lights on doesn't mean you can do f****** s***, d***.” [Filing No. 64-4 at 33; Filing No. 67, Video 1 at 7:20:55-59.] Mr. Albrechtsen then accelerated past Officer Laughlin and ...

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