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Coble v. City of White House

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff sued Defendants for excessive force stemming from Plaintiff’s arrest. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court should not accept the nonmoving party’s version of the facts where the recordblatantly contradicts the facts.

    Facts.

    On April 6, 2007, Officer Curtis Carney, Jr. (Defendant) observed Jerry T. Coble (Plaintiff) crossing the fog line on a highway several times and ordered Plaintiff to stop. After Plaintiff refused to cooperate, Carney struggled with Plaintiff and handcuffed him with the assistance of Officer Scott Bilbrey (defendant), fracturing Plaintiff’s ankle in the process. According to Plaintiff, his ankle was visibly broken, yet Carney made Plaintiff walk on his fractured foot. Plaintiff testified that he was screaming and calling Carney names, and that Carney eventually stopped and dropped Plaintiff face-first on the ground. In contrast, Carney testified that, after handcuffing Plaintiff, he walked with Plaintiff to his car until Plaintiff said his leg was broken. Carney testified that once he saw Plaintiff’s leg was broken, he had Plaintiff sit down. Plaintiff subsequently suedDefendants alleging excessive force, among other causes of action. Upon a motion for summary judgment brought by Defendants, the district court rejected Plaintiff’s version of events because it was contradicted by an audio recording captured by a microphone worn by Carney that night. Finding that Plaintiff’s testimony failed to raise a genuine issue of fact, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Carney.

    Issue.

    When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, whether a court should accept the nonmoving party’s version of the facts when the record blatantly contradicts those facts.

    Held.

    No. The trial court’s ruling is reversed. When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court should not accept the nonmoving party’s version of the facts where the recordblatantly contradicts the facts.

    Discussion.

    Under Scott v. Harris, 560 U.S. 372 (2007), a court need not accept a nonmoving party’s version of the facts if those facts are “blatantly contradicted” by the record, such that no genuine issue of fact is created. Here, Plaintiff testified he had been screaming at Carney and that Carney dropped Plaintiff onto the ground face-first. The district court noted that the audio recording did not contain any audible screams or sounds of a body dropping to the ground, and therefore found Plaintiff’s testimony to be blatantly contradicted by the record. However, the lack of sound could be explained by any number of factors, such as the location of the microphone or whether the microphone was covered, and therefore the lack of sound does not blatantly contradict Plaintiff’s testimony. Moreover, even if part of Plaintiff’s version of the facts is blatantly contradicted by the record, Plaintiff’s entire version of the facts should not be discredited. Plaintiff’s testimony as to when Carney realized Plaintiff’s ankle was broken or how far Carney made Plaintiff walk was not blatantly contradicted by the audio recording and thus must be viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Since the audio recording does not blatantly contradict Plaintiff’s version of the facts such that no reasonable jury could believe any part of it, the district court should not have granted summary judgment in favor of Carney.


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