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Wood v. Wooten

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

October 22, 2019




         Plaintiff Mitchell Wood filed this action against Defendant Justin Wooten under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable seizure in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Justin Wooten's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 27.) Also pending is the Defendant's Motion to Exclude the Expert Testimony of Kevin Reaves and Lynda Hartwick. (Doc. 18.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

         I. Background

         As taken from Wooten's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (Doc. 29), and Wood's Response to such (Doc. 31), the facts relevant to the motion are as follows:

         Defendant Wooten was employed as a deputy sheriff of Scott County, Missouri, at all relevant times. On October 22-23, 2016, Plaintiff Wood was driving an automobile in Scott County. Scott County Deputy Sheriff Toby Haynes initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle Wood was driving due to an inoperable headlight. Wood confirmed the next day that the vehicle had a headlight out and he changed it. Haynes pulled Wood's vehicle over after midnight, at around 1:34 a.m. Wood produced his license and insurance card to Haynes. Haynes went back to his patrol vehicle to have communications run Wood's identification for driving status.

         Dispatch at the Scott County Sheriff's Department told Haynes that Wood had a warrant for a City of Dexter ticket. Dispatch verified the warrant upon Haynes' request. Wood does not contest that there was a warrant outstanding for his arrest when Haynes stopped him.[1] Haynes called Wooten on his cell phone from the site of the traffic stop to advise him that Wood was Shawn Wood's husband and that Wood had an outstanding warrant on a traffic ticket from Dexter.[2] Wooten told Haynes that he would call the Sheriff and then call Haynes back. Wooten contacted the Sheriff, who told Wooten to treat Wood like anyone else and bring him in if he has a warrant. Wooten called Haynes back and told him to bring Wood in on the warrant.

         Haynes never told Wood that he was under arrest and Wood did not believe he was under arrest at that time. Haynes did not handcuff Wood. Wood rode in the front seat of Haynes' patrol car during the fifteen-minute ride from the location of the stop to the jail.

         Upon arriving at the Scott County Sheriff's Department in the early morning of October 23, 2016, Wood and Haynes were met by Wooten in the parking lot. Haynes and Wooten talked about the headlight being out and the warrant for Wood's arrest. Wooten handcuffed Wood and told him that he was under arrest for driving while intoxicated (“DWI”).[3]

         In his Complaint, Wood asserts a single cause of action against Wooten in his individual capacity pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Wood alleges that Wooten unlawfully arrested him without probable cause for DWI. He claims that Wooten, in arresting and jailing Wood and causing a mug shot to be taken of Wood without a warrant or probable cause, made an unreasonable seizure in violation of Wood's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful arrest and seizures. Wood claims that, as a direct result of Wooten's actions, he suffered emotional harm and distress and monetary loss. Specifically, Wood alleges that he was forced to resign from his job as Superintendent of Schools and suffered humiliation and ridicule. He seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op. Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact is not the “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties.” State Auto. Ins. Co. v. Lawrence, 358 F.3d 982, 985 (8th Cir. 2004). “Instead, the dispute must be outcome determinative under prevailing law.” Mosley v. City of Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910-11 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations omitted). A fact is material when it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there is sufficient evidence in his favor to allow a jury to return a verdict for him. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. “If ‘opposing parties tell two different stories,' the court must review the record, determine which facts are material and genuinely disputed, and then view those facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party - as long as those facts are not ‘so blatantly contradicted by the record . . . that no reasonable jury could believe' them.” Reed v. City of St. Charles, Mo., 561 F.3d 788 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)). Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Armour and Co., Inc. v. Inver Grove Heights, 2 F.3d 276, 279 (8th Cir. 1993).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir. 2005). The Court may not “weigh the evidence in the summary judgment record, decide credibility questions, or determine the truth of any factual issue.” Kampouris v. St. Louis Symphony Soc., 210 F.3d 845, 847 (8th Cir. 2000). The court is required, however, to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chemical Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir. 1976).

         III. ...

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