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Adams v. Pritchard

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

April 1, 2019

ALTON ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY DAVID PRITCHARD; and JAY KOON, Lexington County Sheriff, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Alton Adams (Adams) filed this lawsuit alleging a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (§ 1983) for deprivation of property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and a state law claim for defamation/libel. The Court has jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1367. Pending before the Court is Defendants David Pritchard (Pritchard) and Jay Koon's (Koon; collectively with Pritchard, Defendants) motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Having carefully considered the motion, the response, the reply, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case arises from Adams's arrest for two counts of forgery on May 23, 2014, in Lexington, South Carolina. ECF No. 33-1 at 1. Adams's cousin, David Lawrence Adams, was arrested around the same time as Adams on a charge of Sexual Criminal Conduct with a Minor. ECF No. 36 at 1. During Adams's incarceration, his photo and general arrest information were uploaded as public inmate information on the Lexington County Detention Center (Detention Center) website. ECF No. 33-1 at 1. However, Adams's picture was inadvertently placed on David Adams's inmate information page, with David Adams's name and arrest information. Id..

         After Adams was arrested, he called his employer, Kevin Gunter, from the Detention Center and asked him to post bond on the forgery charges. ECF No. 36-1 at 2. According to Gunter's affidavit, Gunter informed Adams he was out of town and asked him to call back the following day. Id. After Gunter hung up with Adams, he searched for Adams on the Detention Center website. Id. Gunter “saw Alton's jail photo but the name was David Lawrence Adams. The charge was Sexual Criminal Misconduct with a Minor.” Id. Gunter subsequently disassociated himself with Adams and fired him from his position. Id. Gunter believed the photo was not an error, but rather Adams had engaged in some form of sexual misconduct (as opposed to the actual charges for forgery) under a false name. ECF No. 36 at 1. Gunter stated he did not learn the truth until 2016. ECF No. 36-1 at 2.

         According to Adams's affidavit, he went to the Lexington County Sheriff's Department (Sheriff's Office)[1] sometime in 2015 in an attempt to have this error corrected. ECF No. 36-3 at 1. Adams gave Pritchard the photo and Pritchard “took it to the back.” Id. According to Adams, while he was waiting on Pritchard to return, two other deputies “emerged from the back.” Id. One deputy informed Adams there was an active warrant out for him and the other deputy told Adams he smelled alcohol on Adams's breath. Id. Adams “left the photo behind and fled.” Id. at 2. Adams never attempted to contact Pritchard again. Adams made no further effort to have his photo removed from his cousin's profile until his counsel sent a letter to the Sheriff's Office General Counsel on or about January 20, 2017. See ECF No. 33-2. After Adams's counsel sent the letter, the error was timely corrected. ECF No. 37 at 5.

         In Adams's deposition, he acknowledged Pritchard had always been “fair” to him and they spoke to each other when they saw each other around town. ECF No. 33-2 at 48. Adams further stated he sought out Pritchard when he saw him in the Sheriff's Office because he thought Pritchard would help him. Id. at 48-49. Adams stated he knew Pritchard did not work at the Detention Center, where the error occurred, nor did Adams believe Pritchard posted the photo. Id. at 44-48.

         Adams filed this action on April 28, 2017. ECF No. 1. Defendants filed their answer on May 22, 2017. ECF No. 10. On July 30, 2018, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 33. Adams thereafter filed his response in opposition, ECF No. 36, and Defendants replied, ECF No. 37. Having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, the Court is now prepared to discuss the merits of the motion.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows 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). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The moving party has the burden of proving summary judgment is appropriate. Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         A party asserting a fact is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). Therefore, “[m]ere unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).

         “[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate.” Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1996). “Summary judgment is proper only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts.” Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The court must determine “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.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         IV. ...


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