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Redden v. Smith

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

May 10, 2019

GARY REDDEN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON SMITH, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment (#38). The motion has been fully briefed. For the reasons explained below, the motion will be GRANTED IN PART, with the remaining state law false-imprisonment claim REMANDED to the Circuit Court for Pemiscot County, Missouri.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 17, 2014, the Pemiscot County Sheriff's Department responded to a call about a house fire. A deputy sheriff, Brian James, arrived on scene and witnessed a mobile home “fully engulfed” in flames. James learned that two individuals lived there- plaintiff Gary Redden Jr., a minor at the time, and his father, Gary Redden Sr.

         James immediately began investigating what happened. Among other things, he spoke with plaintiff at the scene and quickly “suspected that plaintiff may have set the fire and that plaintiff had done so intentionally.” Therefore, James contacted defendant Brandon Smith-a juvenile officer-and “requested that defendant [] conduct an investigation of plaintiff's involvement in the fire.”

         Plaintiff and his father made their way to the Pemiscot County Sheriff's Department for further questioning where they were met by James and defendant. Defendant then interviewed plaintiff about what happened. Plaintiff's father was present. During the interview, plaintiff was told

[Y]ou're a juvenile, this will stay on your juvenile record if you've done it. That means when you turn seventeen here in so many days … it goes away. If it comes over here, if you make us prove it and all that, and it comes over here to the adult court showing that you did it, it's staying on your adult record forever.

         [#40, Ex. D, Video Recording of Plaintiff, 18:16-18:34]. Plaintiff was then told he could “make this very, very easy” or “very hard on [himself] and [his] future.” [Id. at 19:06-19:12]. Thereafter, plaintiff admitted he started the fire. [Id. at 22:00-25:00]. While plaintiff concedes that he was repeatedly told he was not “under arrest, ” the parties disagree in their briefing whether plaintiff was “in the custody of defendant” at that point. Notably, however, the video interview includes a statement by defendant to plaintiff that he “doesn't want [him] going outside.” [Id. at 47:35-48:00]. And defendant acknowledged during the underlying juvenile proceeding that plaintiff was in defendant's custody “the minute he walked in[to]” the Sheriff's Department. [#42-1, 16:22-25].

         The next day, on May 18, 2014, plaintiff was transported from the Pemiscot County Sheriff's Department to Lakeland Behavioral Health Systems. Once again, the parties disagree on the facts. Their stories diverge on whether plaintiff was directed by defendant to go to Lakeland, or whether plaintiff's father voluntarily committed him into Lakeland's care. However, in the juvenile proceeding, Redden Sr. denied giving consent; instead, he stated he was merely asked by police officials “for a social security number and a birth day.” [Id. at 109:17-25, 110:1-25]. Further, defendant admitted during that hearing that he had no records of consent and that he never gained Redden Sr.'s written consent himself, stating “[t]he hospital does all that.” [Id. at 26:21-25, 27:1-4]. In fact, defendant expressly stated that “it was [his] decision” to send plaintiff to Lakeland. [Id. at 17:1-25]. Notwithstanding this record, defendant counters, now, by citing his own unsupported statements to the contrary and explaining, without evidentiary support, that Lakeland “wouldn't take [plaintiff] if [Redden Sr.] didn't [consent].” [Id. at 41:4-24].

         Factual differences aside, the parties do agree that defendant waited thirty-two days after plaintiff was placed in Lakeland's care before filing a petition with the Pemiscot County Circuit Court seeking authorization to place plaintiff into a mental health facility. That petition was filed on June 19, 2014. Plaintiff remained at Lakeland for a total of thirty-seven days, having been released on June 25, 2014, so that he could appear before the Pemiscot County Circuit Court for an initial hearing. The juvenile court ordered plaintiff to be released into his father's custody at that time. On August 20, 2014, another hearing was held by the Pemiscot County Circuit Court in which it was concluded that “based upon the evidence … the Juvenile Office failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the allegations set forth in the [June 19, 2014] petition are true.” Therefore, the claims against plaintiff were ultimately discharged. [Id. at 123:7-25].

         In this action, plaintiff asserts two individual capacity claims against defendant.[1]He alleges defendant violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures and violated Missouri law by falsely imprisoning him. In essence, plaintiff claims there was no legal justification for his prolonged detention, and he takes particular issue with defendant having acted without a court order. In his motion for summary judgment, defendant argues, in chief, that he “never arrested plaintiff or took him into custody and never required plaintiff to stay at Lakeland, ” which defendant says makes it impossible for plaintiff to prove the necessary elements of his Fourth Amendment and state law claims.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary Judgment involves the “threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial.” Walls v. Petrohawk Properties, LP., 812 F.3d 621, 624 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). In other words, summary judgment is appropriately granted if, in viewing the record in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and his or her entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once this initial burden is met, the nonmoving party must then set forth, by affidavit or other rebuttal evidence, specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact actually exists. Grey v. City of Oak Grove, Mo., 396 F.3d 1031, 1034 (8th Cir. 2005); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). To satisfy this burden, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-248, 106 S.Ct. 2505). Thus, “when opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonably jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss.” Id. Moreover, even when a dispute is genuine-such that a jury could reasonably favor either side-it must also be the case that the disputed facts are material in that they “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

         III. ...


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