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Harris v. Rambosk

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

November 5, 2019

ROBERT DALE HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN RAMBOSK, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Collier County, Florida, KASEY P. WINGO, individually, MICHAEL D. CHAPMAN, individually, SCOTT PEPIN, individually, and ROSS ANTHONY, individually, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant Michael D. Chapman's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #121) filed on June 10, 2019. Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. #127) on June 24, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I.

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when the Court is satisfied that “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “An issue of fact is ‘genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Baby Buddies, Inc. v. Toys “R” Us, Inc., 611 F.3d 1308, 1314 (11th Cir. 2010). A fact is “material” if it may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A court must decide ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., Inc., 357 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004)(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court views all evidence and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Tana v. Dantanna's, 611 F.3d 767, 772 (11th Cir. 2010). However, “if reasonable minds might differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then the court should deny summary judgment.” St. Charles Foods, Inc. v. America's Favorite Chicken Co., 198 F.3d 815, 819 (11th Cir. 1999)(quoting Warrior Tombigbee Transp. Co. v. M/V Nan Fung, 695 F.2d 1294, 1296-97 (11th Cir. 1983)(finding summary judgment “may be inappropriate even where the parties agree on the basic facts, but disagree about the factual inferences that should be drawn from these facts”)). “If a reasonable fact finder evaluating the evidence could draw more than one inference from the facts, and if that inference introduces a genuine issue of material fact, then the court should not grant summary judgment.” Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ., 495 F.3d 1306, 1315 (11th Cir. 2007).

         Qualified immunity provides “complete protection for individual public officials performing discretionary functions insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Sherrod v. Johnson, 667 F.3d 1359, 1363 (11th Cir. 2012) (quotation omitted). A defendant claiming qualified immunity must show that he acted “within the scope of his discretionary authority when the allegedly wrongful acts occurred.” Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1194 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Courson v. McMillian, 939 F.2d 1479, 1487 (11th Cir. 1991)). If that showing is made, then the plaintiff must establish “(1) that the facts, when construed in the plaintiff's favor, show that the official committed a constitutional violation and, if so, (2) that the law, at the time of the official's act, clearly established the unconstitutionality of that conduct.” Singletary v. Vargas, 804 F.3d 1174, 1180 (11th Cir. 2015)(citation omitted). It is undisputed that Deputy Chapman was acting within his discretionary authority as a law enforcement officer at all relevant times.

         II.

         Plaintiff Robert Dale Harris (Plaintiff) filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. #51) in this case on May 2, 2018. The Amended Complaint asserts claims against Deputy Michael D. Chapman (Deputy Chapman), a Collier County Sheriff's Office deputy, for false arrest and excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count V); malicious prosecution under § 1983 (Count VI); malicious prosecution under Florida law (Count VII); assault and battery under Florida law (Count XI); conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's civil rights under § 1983 (Count XII); and First Amendment retaliation under § 1983 (Count XIII).

         The undisputed facts relevant to the instant motion are set forth in the Court's previous Opinion and Order (Doc. #173) and are adopted herein. Deputy Chapman now moves for summary judgment on all Counts asserted against him. As to Plaintiff's claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and First Amendment retaliation, Deputy Chapman argues he is entitled to summary judgment because he had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff on April 4, 2014. Deputy Chapman alternatively argues that even if he lacked probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, he had arguable probable cause to arrest Plaintiff and is thus entitled to qualified immunity.

         As to Plaintiff's claims for excessive force and assault and battery, Deputy Chapman argues he is entitled to summary judgment because his use of force was objectively reasonable. Deputy Chapman alternatively argues that even if he “used excessive force, ” he did not violate clearly established law and is thus entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. #121, p. 22.)

         A. The False Arrest (Count V), Malicious Prosecution (Counts VI, VII), and First Amendment Retaliation (Count XIII) Claims

         Deputy Chapman argues he is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and First Amendment retaliation because Deputy Chapman had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for loitering and prowling and resisting arrest without violence. The Court disagrees.

         “Probable cause to arrest exists . . . when an arrest is objectively reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances.” Coffin v. Brandau, 642 F.3d 999, 1006 (11th Cir. 2011)(citation and quotation omitted). This standard is satisfied where “the facts within the collective knowledge of law enforcement officials, derived from reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient to cause a person of reasonable caution to believe that a criminal offense has been or is being committed.” Brown v. City of Huntsville, Ala., 608 F.3d 724, 734 (11th Cir. 2010). The Eleventh Circuit has recently stated:

“Because probable cause deals with probabilities and depends on the totality of the circumstances, it is a fluid concept that is not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules.” District of Columbia v. Wesby, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 577, 586, 199 L.Ed.2d 453 (2018) (quotation marks omitted). It “requires more than mere suspicion, but does not require convincing proof.” Bailey v. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 956 F.2d 1112, 1120 (11th Cir. 1992); see Wesby, 138 S.Ct. at 586 (“It requires only a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity, not ...

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