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Westfall v. Luna

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

August 19, 2019

CONSTANCE WESTFALL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSE LUNA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          REED O'CONNOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 243), filed June 26, 2019; Plaintiff's Response (ECF No. 247), filed July 17, 2019; and Defendants' Reply (ECF No. 251), filed July 31, 2019. Having considered the motion, briefing, evidence, record, and applicable law, the Court DENIES Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 243).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 30, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its mandate in this case, affirming in part, dismissing in part, and reversing and remanding in part the Court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims brought by Plaintiff Constance Westfall (“Plaintiff” or “Westfall”).[1] See Fifth Cir. Judgment, ECF No. 132. The Fifth Circuit concluded that genuine fact issues exist as to whether certain of the officers' actions were objectively reasonable, and reversed the Court's entry of summary judgment (1) to Defendants Anderson, Luna, and Trevino on Plaintiff's false-arrest claims, and (2) to Luna on her excessive-force claim. See Westfall v. Luna, 903 F.3d. 534, 546 (5th Cir. 2018). The Fifth Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings on these two issues.

         On remand, this Court entered a final judgment with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) as to all claims by all parties on the claims that had been dismissed by this Court and affirmed by the Fifth Circuit. See Final J., ECF No. 190. The remaining Defendants, Anderson, Luna, and Trevino, now assert that additional information, obtained following the remand, establishes their entitlement to qualified immunity. See Mot. for Leave, ECF No. 212. In its discretion, the Court granted Defendants' Motion for Leave to file a Motion for Summary Judgment. The Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 243) is fully briefed and ripe for review. The Court adopts the Fifth Circuit's recitation of the facts as detailed below:

In the middle of the night in January 2014, the Southlake Police Department received a call reporting a trespass. The call was from a young woman. She reported that two teenage boys, one later identified as A.A., had entered her home without permission. She told the boys that they did not have permission to be in the house, and the boys left and walked toward the house next door. The caller was the older sister of one of A.A.'s friends. According to the caller, the boys were looking for a marijuana grinder.
Shortly thereafter, Trevino and Anderson arrived at the house to which the boys had returned. The house belonged to Westfall and her husband, Monte Westfall. Anderson and Trevino knocked on the front door of the house, and Westfall opened it. Trevino identified herself, asked for A.A., and relayed the allegations against A.A. Westfall responded by explaining that A.A. is her son and that his best friend lived in the house next door. Trevino asked Westfall to go get her son. Westfall went inside the house and closed the door because it was cold outside. She began looking for her glasses, without which she is legally blind.
While Westfall was inside the house, the Southlake Police Department dispatcher called Westfall's home phone number. Monte answered the call. Monte believed it was a prank call and hung up the phone. By this time, Luna had arrived at the Westfall residence and began knocking loudly on the front door. The dispatcher called the house number again. A.A. answered. The dispatcher told A.A. to meet the officers outside
A.A. and another teenage boy exited the house, with a third boy joining them soon afterwards. Trevino and Anderson began questioning the three minor boys outside. During the questioning, Trevino allegedly smelled marijuana on A.A.'s hands and asked the boys about the presence of marijuana. Then, Westfall exited the house, wearing boots and a coat over her nightgown.
While outside, Westfall complained about her inability to see the officers without her glasses and, in response to accusations that she had slammed the door in their faces, explained that she had only closed the door when the police first arrived because it was cold outside. Following this exchange, the officers stopped addressing Westfall, despite repeated requests that they identify themselves, and continued to question the minor boys.
Monte brought Westfall her glasses. Because it was cold, Westfall asked the officers to move inside of the house. The officers declined. Luna then asked Westfall to move to the side with him, so he could explain the situation to her. Westfall declined, and Luna said that was okay but asked her to stop talking. Westfall asked Luna why he was being so rude. A short while later, when Westfall spoke in response to a question by Trevino directed at the boys, Luna again instructed Westfall to stop talking.
Eventually, the boys admitted to the officers that there was marijuana in the house. After learning this from Anderson, Luna proclaimed that the officers could either wait for a search warrant or one of the boys could go into the house and retrieve the marijuana. Addressing Monte, Anderson explained to him that there was marijuana in the house and that, with Monte's permission, the officers would go upstairs and confiscate it. Anderson suggested that one of the boys take them upstairs. Westfall then said, “[A.A.], go get it.” A.A. went inside of the house. Anderson told Monte to also go inside, and Anderson followed him.
According to Westfall, Monte shut the door behind them. As Westfall turned to follow them into her house, Luna approached her and told her, “You are not going anywhere. You slammed the door in our face.” Westfall explained that she did not slam the door in his face, told Luna she was going into her house, and reached for the doorknob of the front door. Then, Luna “body-slammed” Westfall to the ground.
Defendants describe a more dramatic exchange leading up to the body-slam. According to Defendants, Westfall began to follow Anderson, Monte, and A.A. into her house when Anderson stopped her and told her she had to stay outside with the other officers. Defendants claim that Westfall insisted on going inside, and Anderson replied that she was not going to “walk up on [him]” and that he had already given her instructions to stay outside. Luna and Trevino asked Westfall to calm down and “get back over here.”
According to Defendants, Westfall continued to protest, saying, “Let me go, I don't want you people to go up there, ” and “stop telling me to calm down.” Then, Westfall “began to pursue” Anderson into the home, approaching him from behind “at a fast pace and in an aggressive manner.” It was only then, according to Defendants, that Luna “brought [Westfall] to the ground.”
Luna is 5'9” and weighs 175 pounds. Westfall is 5'5” and “has a small build.” Westfall landed on the corner of the brick porch on her back. Luna and Trevino then held Westfall on the ground for about five minutes. During the time that Westfall was pinned, Anderson was in the house and retrieved a metal tin containing about 2.5 grams of marijuana from inside of the house.
Luna and Trevino handcuffed Westfall and placed her in a police car. After Westfall was handcuffed, Officers Chris Melton and Thomas Roberson arrived at the Westfall residence. While in the back of the police car, Westfall asked repeatedly for medical assistance. Roberson and Luna called for medical assistance shortly after 3:00 a.m., about thirty minutes after Luna slammed Westfall to the ground. About fifteen minutes later, medics arrived, and Roberson went with Westfall to a nearby hospital. In total, less than an hour elapsed between the time Westfall was pinned and the time she was taken to the hospital.
The hospital staff noted that Westfall had numerous abrasions and bruises, bloody urine, high blood pressure, and an increased heart rate. Westfall was released from the hospital, taken to the Keller Police Department, and released on bail later that morning. Westfall was charged with interference with public duties under Texas Penal Code section 38.15, though the charges were ultimately dropped. An MRI later revealed that Westfall suffers from a herniation to the L5-S1 level of her lumbar, for which Westfall has received therapy and injections and is currently contemplating surgery.

Westfall, 903 F.3d. at 534-546. To the extent that new evidence exists, the Court will set forth the relevant facts in Section III. When disputed, the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmoving party.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper when the pleadings and evidence show “that 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). “[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The movant makes a showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact by informing the court of the basis of its motion and by identifying the portions of the record that reveal there are no genuine material fact issues. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         When reviewing the evidence on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must resolve all reasonable doubts and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. See Walker v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 853 F.2d 355, 358 (5th Cir. 1988). The Court cannot make a credibility determination in light of conflicting evidence or competing inferences. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. As long as there appears to be some support for the disputed allegations-such that “reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence”-the Court must deny the motion for summary judgment. Id. at 250.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants contend they are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's false-arrest claim under Heck v. Humphrey because the criminal proceeding related to the charges against her for interference with public duties did not terminate in her favor. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. 1, ECF No. 243 (citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)). Additionally, Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity on Plaintiff's false-arrest and excessive-force claims. Id. In response, Plaintiff argues that the false-arrest claim is not barred by Heck v. Humphrey and that Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity on her false-arrest claims because they did not have consent to search the Westfall residence. Pl.'s Resp. 1, ECF No. 247. Additionally, Plaintiff maintains that the Law of the Case Doctrine precludes Defendants from moving for summary judgment on the excessive-force claim. Id. at. 1. The Court takes up each issue in turn.

         A. Heck v. Humphrey The Supreme Court in Heck v. Humphrey, which involved a ...


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