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Huddleston v. City of Byrnes Mill

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

November 19, 2019

ELIJAH HUDDLESTON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF BYRNES MILL, MO., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of Byrnes Mill's Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. No. 47]. The City of Byrnes Mill is named as a defendant only in Counts I and III of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (the “SAC”), Count II is not at issue here. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion, which has been fully briefed. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.

         Facts and Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed: Plaintiffs Elijah Huddleston (“Elijah”) and Alyssa Huddleston (“Alyssa”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) are husband and wife who reside in the City of Byrnes Mill. Defendant City of Byrnes Mill (the “City”) is a municipal corporation located in Jefferson County, Missouri. Defendant Mike Smith (“Smith”) was employed by the City as Police Chief and a Police Officer. Defendant Roger Ide (“Ide”) was employed by the City as a Police Officer. Neither Smith nor Ide is a party to the instant action for summary judgment.

         On November 22, 2013, Alyssa called 911 to report a domestic dispute, telling the dispatcher that Elijah had a gun to her head and was going to shoot her. Since his felony conviction in 2006, Elijah has been unable to lawfully own or possess a firearm. Ide and Smith responded to the call at the Plaintiffs' home. After speaking to Alyssa, Smith had Ide place Elijah under arrest and remove him from the premises. Afterward, Alyssa gave consent to Byrnes Mill police officers to search Plaintiffs' residence and shed. In a written statement, Alyssa stated that Elijah threatened to sodomize her because she was drunk, wanted to rape her with his rifle, and choked her when she refused. However, the contents of the written statement are disputed to the extent that Alyssa testified at her deposition that Smith “told [her] how to write [her] statement and what not to put down.” Plaintiffs' SAC alleges that officers confiscated knives and cash on November 23, 2012 which were never returned. In the City's statement of facts, it asserts that no such property was found in a search and inventory of the Byrnes Mill Police Department evidence locker and Byrnes Mill City Hall. The City's assertion is supported by an affidavit of the Byrnes Mill City Attorney and by the original police report which mentions no knives or money being seized. In support of their own position on the matter, Plaintiffs cite a news article from after the search of the Police Department in which the new Byrnes Mill Police Chief said that he shut down the evidence locker room and opened an investigation because evidence was not packaged and labeled correctly. The City objects that the supporting news article is inadmissible hearsay under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). Plaintiffs also cite Elijah's deposition testimony in support of their assertion that knives and money were confiscated and never returned. Defendant disputes that assertion, again citing the original police report and City Attorney's affidavit.

         On December 3, 2013, Elijah was pulled over while driving by Officer Shawn Hendel. Alyssa, a passenger in Elijah's vehicle, then yelled “Help Me!” to get Hendel's attention. In the police report, Hendel wrote that Alyssa then accused Elijah of attempting to take off her pants and have sex with her while he was driving and that when she refused, he punched her in the stomach. The police report is disputed because Alyssa testified that she did not recall making those precise allegations. However, she testified that she did tell Hendel “Help me . . . arrest him, he's beating me up, ” with the intention of getting Elijah arrested. Hendel arrested Elijah for domestic assault in the third degree.

         On October 23, 2015, Officer Jamie Mayberry of the Byrnes Mill Police Department was dispatched to Plaintiffs' residence in reference to a subject illegally burning items. Upon arrival, Officer Mayberry observed a substantial amount of smoke in the neighborhood and two fires burning in Plaintiffs' yard. Elijah allowed Officer Mayberry onto his property to inspect the fires, and Officer Mayberry observed that one of the fires was burning in a barrel with a makeshift lid. Officer Mayberry ordered Elijah to put out the fires, but he refused to do so.

         In the SAC, Plaintiffs allege that the City is subject to municipal liability for the actions of Smith and Ide. Neither party has offered admissible factual information as to municipal liability. Plaintiffs offered as purported facts the City's alleged failure to have “general orders” for police officers and examples of police misconduct. However, in support of these proposed facts, Plaintiffs cited only news articles. The City has objected that these supporting news articles are inadmissible hearsay under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2).

         In the SAC, Plaintiffs allege that they “have been harassed by the Defendant and members of the Byrnes Mill police department by giving Plaintiffs an unwarranted and egregious amount of traffic tickets and fines.” Neither party has offered factual information regarding specific tickets and fines, including what about the said tickets and fines renders them “unwarranted.”

         Standard of Review

         “Summary judgment is proper where the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that no genuine [dispute] of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Davison v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 490 F.3d 648, 654 (8th Cir. 2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment is not appropriate if there are factual disputes that may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. “The basic inquiry is whether it is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Diesel Machinery, Inc. v. B.R. Lee Industries, Inc., 418 F.3d 820, 832 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Once the moving party has met its burden, “[t]he nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, and must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         To survive a motion for summary judgment, the “nonmoving party must ‘substantiate his allegations with sufficient probative evidence [that] would permit a finding in [his] favor based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy.'” Putman v. Unity Health System, 348 F.3d 732, 733-34 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting Wilson v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp., 62 F.3d 237, 241 (8th Cir. 1995)). The nonmoving party may not merely point to unsupported self-serving allegations, but must substantiate allegations with sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his or her favor. Wilson, 62 F.3d 237, 241 (8th Cir. 1995). “Mere allegations, unsupported by specific facts or evidence beyond the nonmoving party's own conclusions, are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment.” Thomas v. Corwin, 483 F.3d 516, 526-7 (8th Cir. 2007).

         Discussion

         As addressed in this Court's partial dismissal of Count I, [Doc. No. 58] the section headings of Count I in the SAC are understood to delineate separate and distinct § 1983 causes of action. Each of these claims are ...


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