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Martin v. City of Nampa

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 25, 2016

SHANNON NOAH MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NAMPA, a municipal corporation organized under the laws of the State of Idaho; DENY BURNS, both in his official capacity as an employee of the Nampa Police Department and Individually; and JOHN DOES I-X, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it Defendant City of Nampa’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 17). The Court heard oral argument on May 27, 2016 and took the motion under advisement. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant Defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Martin suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a disease which has caused the vertebrae in Martin’s back to fuse together. Consequently, Martin walks with a “slow shamble” and has a hunched stature. Compl. at ¶ 8, Dkt. 1. On August 3, 2013, Martin shopped at a retail store in Nampa, Idaho. Id. at ¶ 11. Officer Deny Burns was on routine patrol when dispatch received an anonymous call that Martin was shopping at that store. Pl.’s Resp. at 1-2, Dkt. 23. Martin had three outstanding misdemeanor warrants. After the call, Burns and other officers were dispatched to the store in order to serve the warrants on Martin. Id.

         Burns approached Martin from behind as Martin entered the checkout area. Burns initiated contact with Martin by grabbing Martin’s wrist. Id. at 3, Dkt. 23. Martin responded by turning away from Burns. Id. Burns claims that Martin appeared to reach into his pocket, although Martin claims that he did not attempt to flee or display a weapon. Answer, ¶ 10, Dkt. 6; Compl., ¶ 14, Dkt. 1. Burns then grabbed Martin and knocked him to the ground. The facts are disputed as to whether Burns purposefully threw Martin to the ground or inadvertently lost his balance, causing both men to fall to ground. Compl., ¶ 16 (Dkt. 3); Answer, ¶ 10 (Dkt. 6). Martin fell to the ground with Burns landing on top of him. Officers then placed Martin’s arms behind his back. Pl.’s Resp. at 4, Dkt. 23. Martin’s spinal condition made it difficult for the officers to move his arms. Id.

         Martin sustained a wound on his nose and pain in his right shoulder. Compl., ¶ 18, Dkt. 1. Subsequent X-rays confirmed that Martin suffered a fractured scapula. Id. at ¶ 21. Martin then filed his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the City of Nampa and Officer Deny Burns. After he filed the suit, the Police Department conducted an internal investigation into this use of force on Martin. Pl.’s Resp. at 7. This investigation revealed large discrepancies between the Police Department’s written policies regarding use of force incidents and actual Police Department practice. Id.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, "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). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut, " but is instead the "principal tool [ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). There must be a genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact "that may affect the outcome of the case." Id. at 248.

         The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir.2000).

         This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by her [ ] affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         However, the Court is "not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation omitted). Instead, the "party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable facts." Sout ...


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