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Mechler v. Hodges

October 11, 2006

KURT CHARLES MECHLER, D.C., PLAINTIFF,
v.
R.W. HODGES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: District Judge Susan J. Dlott

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' oral Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. For the reasons that follow, and consistent with its oral ruling in open court on September 22, 2006, the Court GRANTS IN PART Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and DIRECTS a verdict in favor of Defendants as to the Plaintiff's claims for unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. The Court DENIES Defendants' motion as to Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for excessive force against Defendant Hodges.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn1

Pro se Plaintiff Kurt Charles Mechler, D.C. ("Mechler") sued the City of Milford, Ohio ("City") and several City employees (collectively, "Defendants") in December 2002, alleging that Defendants violated his federal constitutional rights by obtaining personal information about him, issuing a subpoena to him, and arresting him in connection with an inquiry into City business tax liability. (See generally docs. ##s 1, 20 (original and first amended complaints), and #104 (order on cross-motions for summary judgment).) In June 2005, Senior Judge Herman Weber of this Court issued an order on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, preserving Mechler's Fourth Amendment claims concerning his December 19, 2000 arrest, but granting summary judgment to Defendants -- and denying summary judgment to Mechler -- on Mechler's other claims. (Doc. #104 at 44-46.) Plaintiff subsequently filed two motions asking the Court to revise, modify, or otherwise reconsider its June 2005 summary judgment order. (See docs. ##s 107, 114.) The Court denied these motions on March 1, 2006. (See doc. # 123.)

The case proceeded to trial on September 18, 2006. At the close of Plaintiff's evidence on Friday morning, September 22, 2006, Defendants made a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). The Court granted in part Defendants' Motion and directed a verdict for Defendants as to Plaintiff's § 1983 unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution claims. The Court advised the parties that it would issue this Order further explaining its reasons for so ruling.

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides that an individual may seek redress in this Court, by way of damages, against any person who under color of state law, including any statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, subjects such individual to a deprivation of any right, privilege, or immunity secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff argued that Defendants, Carol Woerner and Officer Ralph W. Hodges, violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from malicious prosecution and unlawful arrest when they secured a warrant for his arrest and placed him under arrest for violating Milford's tax code on December 19, 2000. Additionally, Plaintiff argued that Officer Hodges violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force. In order to prevail on his claim, Plaintiff had to prove three elements: (1) that Defendants acted under color of state law; (2) that Defendants deprived Plaintiff of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from malicious prosecution, unlawful arrest, or the use of excessive force; and (3) that as a proximate result, Plaintiff suffered injury or damages. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978); O'Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990, 995 (6th Cir. 1994).*fn2

In support of their Rule 50(a)(1) motion, Defendants argued that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because under the evidence Plaintiff presented at trial, it was clear that 1) Defendants did not subject Plaintiff to a constitutional deprivation; and/or 2) Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants concluded that no reasonable jury could find for Plaintiff on his claims of malicious prosecution, unlawful arrest, or excessive force under the Fourth Amendment.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) provides for judgment as a matter of law in jury trials. Under Rule 50(a)(1),

If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1).

The Supreme Court has stated that in making this determination, "the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000). The Supreme Court has instructed further, "the court should give credence to the evidence favoring the non-movant as well as that 'evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that the evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.'" Id. (citation omitted).

The Court holds that, even when all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of Plaintiff, the Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiff's ยง 1983 ...


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