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Womack v. Bradshaw

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

September 10, 2014

MARIE WOMACK, Plaintiff,
DEPUTY PAUL BRADSHAW, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Marie Womack, Plaintiff: Brandon C. Potter, Whiteaker & Wilson, P.C., Springfield, MO.

For Paul Bradshaw, Howell County, Missouri, Defendants: Patricia A. Keck, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jill Patterson, Keck & Austin, LLC, Springfield, MO.

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This civil rights action arises from injuries sustained by Plaintiff Marie Womack during her arrest for two misdemeanors. Plaintiff alleges that Howell County Sheriff's Deputy Paul Bradshaw used excessive force in wrestling her to the ground following her initial detention. After the incident, Plaintiff filed a three-count lawsuit in this Court against Defendants Paul Bradshaw (" Sergeant Bradshaw" ) and Howell County, Missouri (" Howell County" ) (collectively " Defendants" ). The complaint alleges an excessive force claim against Sergeant Bradshaw under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I), a municipal liability claim against Howell County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II), and a claim for attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) (Count III).

Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 55). Finding no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

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Undisputed Factual and Procedural Background[1]

In the early morning hours of April 26, 2012, Howell County Sheriff's Deputy Derek Hughston (" Deputy Hughston" ) responded to a call that four individuals in a vehicle were engaged in suspicious activity. As Deputy Hughston approached the scene, he noticed a vehicle leaving a driveway. Deputy Hughston followed the vehicle, and eventually stopped it after it veered into the other lane of traffic. The vehicle contained two occupants: Plaintiff in the driver's seat and William D. Burnside in the passenger's seat. While speaking with Plaintiff, Deputy Hughston observed that she had bloodshot, glassy, and watery eyes, displayed slurred speech, and smelled of alcohol.

Deputy Hughston instructed Plaintiff to exit the vehicle and requested she take a breathalyzer test. She eventually submitted to the test, and it gauged her blood alcohol content at .26, over three times the legal limit. This test, combined with his previous observations, led Deputy Hughston to arrest Plaintiff for driving while intoxicated. Deputy Hughston handcuffed Plaintiff's arms in front of her body and placed her in the back of his unlocked car. After securing her, he waited at the scene for a tow truck to arrive.

Sergeant Bradhsaw, the only other Howell County officer on duty, overheard that Deputy Hughston had stopped two individuals in the vehicle, so he decided to assist him. When Sergeant Bradshaw arrived at the scene, he parked his car behind Deputy Hughston's. Sergeant Bradshaw's car, unlike Deputy Hughston's, had a functioning dashboard camera, which videotaped the events. Since Sergeant Bradshaw did not activate his lights, the microphones in his car and on his person were not on during the relevant events. Deputy Hughston, however, had a functioning microphone both on his person and in his squad car.

Sergeant Bradshaw's dashboard camera and Deputy Hughston's squad car microphone captured the majority of the following events. After arriving on the scene, Sergeant Bradshaw talked with Deputy Hughston at the front of Deputy Hughston's car. Deputy Hughston's personal microphone did not record this conversation because he deactived it to ensure that their discussion did not override the recording of any statements made by Plaintiff while in the squad car. The microphone in the squad car, however, recorded several statements from Plaintiff. She remarked that she wanted out of the vehicle to smoke a cigarette and that she could exit the vehicle if she really wanted to do so. Plaintiff then knocked on the window to get the officers' attention.

Sergeant Bradshaw looked around inquisitively before realizing that the noise was coming from the back of Deputy Hughston's squad car. He then approached the rear passenger-side door, which Plaintiff unlocked.[2] Sergeant Bradshaw opened

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the door about one-half to three-quarters of its capacity. He then rested his right arm on the top and side of the door and slightly leaned his body into the car. Sergeant Bradshaw maintained this pose for approximately forty-five seconds as he talked with Plaintiff.

Upon opening the door, Sergeant Bradshaw asked, " Yes, ma'am?" Plaintiff requested to exit the vehicle in order to smoke a cigarette. Sergeant Bradshaw said, " No." She then inquired why she could not have a cigarette while waiting for the tow truck to arrive. Sergeant Bradshaw responded that she could not exit the vehicle because she was under arrest and that she could not have a cigarette in her mouth because they suspected her of driving while intoxicated. Plaintiff retorted that she had gum in her mouth. Sergeant Bradshaw quickly requested that she spit out the gum. She refused. Bradshaw again ordered her to expel the gum, and again she refused. Sergeant Bradshaw then alerted Deputy Hughston that Plaintiff had gum in her mouth. Plaintiff then yelled that she had it the entire time.

As Deputy Hughston approached the rear passenger-side door, Plaintiff ducked under Sergeant Bradshaw's arm and exited the vehicle. Sergeant Bradshaw then grasped her left arm as she faced the approaching Deputy Hughston. Both Sergeant Bradshaw's and Plaintiff's backs were turned away from the dashboard camera as they stood a few feet to the right of the open car door. Plaintiff then stated that she wanted a cigarette, and Sergeant Bradshaw responded by telling her to return to the vehicle. As Sergeant Bradshaw pulled her towards the back door, she said, " No." Plaintiff then pulled back from Sergeant Bradshaw as he held ...

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