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Weddle v. Nutzman

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 4, 2017

PAUL WEDDLE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALAN NUTZMAN et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          ROBERT C. JONES United States District Judge.

         This case arises out of allegedly excessive force during an arrest. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 34).

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On or about March 2, 2014, Plaintiff Paul Weddle was arrested after his unauthorized use of an aircraft at the Boulder City Airport. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 30). Plaintiff alleges he was “assaulted and battered” despite not resisting or assaulting the arresting officers. (See id.). He has sued Officers Alan Nutzman, Chad Richner, David Olson, and Todd Cazet, as well as the City of Boulder City (“the City”) in this Court for: (1) violation of the Fourth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”); (3) battery; (4) negligence; and (5) civil rights conspiracy under § 1985. Defendants have moved for summary judgment.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

         A court must grant summary judgment when “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). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Id. A principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

         In determining summary judgment, a court uses a burden-shifting scheme. The moving party must first satisfy its initial burden. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24.

         If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations unsupported by facts. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

         At the summary judgment stage, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Id. at 249-50. Notably, facts are only viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party where there is a genuine dispute about those facts. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). That is, even where the underlying claim contains a reasonableness test, where a party's evidence is so clearly contradicted by the record as a whole that no reasonable jury could believe it, “a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated; and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). In order to hold a municipality liable for the actions of its officers, the allegedly unconstitutional actions must have been pursuant to an official municipal policy, ordinance, regulation, or officially adopted decision. Monell v. N.Y. City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). The Court of Appeals has explained:

In a Monell claim, there are three ways to show a policy or custom of a municipality: (1) by showing a longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the standard operating procedure of the local government entity; (2) by showing that the decision-making official was, as a matter of state law, a final policymaking authority whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy in the area of decision; or (3) by showing that an official with final policymaking authority either delegated that authority to, or ratified the decision of, a subordinate.

Villegas v. Gilroy Garlic Festival Ass'n, 541 F.3d 950, 964 (9th Cir. 2008) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Natural persons sued in their individual capacities may enjoy qualified immunity against claims of constitutional violations. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166-67 (1985). An official is not entitled to qualified immunity if: (1) there has been a constitutional violation; and (2) the state of the law was clear enough at the time of the violation that a reasonable person in the defendants' position would have known his actions violated the plaintiff's rights. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). Courts have discretion to address the second prong of the Saucier test first in order to avoid unnecessary constitutional rulings. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009). A “clearly established” right for the ...


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