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Lindsey v. Hyler

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

March 19, 2019

KYLE LINDSEY and ZAYNE MANN, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
BRANDON HYLER, individually and in his official capacity as a Webbers Falls Police Officer; THE CITY OF WEBBERS FALLS, OKLAHOMA; LARRY RUIZ, in his capacity as Chief of Police for the City of Webbers Falls; and BOB ROSS, in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Webbers Falls, Defendants-Appellees.


          Rusty Smith, Rusty Smith Law Group (Erin M. Moore, Erin M. Moore P.C., with him on the opening brief, and Ben Baker, Purcell, Oklahoma, with him on the briefs), Muskogee, Oklahoma, for Appellants.

          Thomas A. Le Blanc (Matthew B. Free, with him on the brief), Best & Sharp, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Appellees.

          Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, McKAY, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.


         Kyle Lindsey and Zayne Mann were seriously injured when Lindsey lost control of his utility vehicle on a gravel road after a brief police pursuit. They claim the accident was caused by an overzealous officer who should not have initiated a chase over a minor traffic infraction.

         Lindsey and Mann sought damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of both their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by Officer Brandon Hyler, the City of Webbers Falls, and several other municipal officials, based on Officer Hyler's conduct during the pursuit as well as his previous training. Lindsey and Mann also sought relief under Oklahoma law.

         The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on all federal claims and concluded that Officer Hyler was entitled to qualified immunity. We affirm. Because the record cannot credibly sustain plaintiffs' allegations, we conclude the district court appropriately dismissed their claims.

         I. Background

         At the time of the incident, Kyle Lindsey was a 21-year-old operator of a small utility task vehicle (UTV), a four-wheeled vehicle used for light construction and recreation. It had a steering wheel, seating for two people, and a cargo area immediately behind both seats. Although the UTV was equipped with seatbelts, it does not appear they were used. The manufacturer described the UTV as "an off-road vehicle not intended for use on public roads." R. 386-88. It warned purchasers that the UTV "is not designed for on-road safety." Id. The manufacturer also warned that "[a]brupt maneuvers or aggressive driving can cause rollovers or loss of control-even on flat ground-resulting in crushing or other injuries." Id.

         One night in November 2015, Lindsey and his friend, Zayne Mann, were riding the UTV after spending the afternoon drinking beer on the outskirts of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. Around 9:15 P.M., Lindsey exited the parking lot of a convenience store and turned onto a public access road. After witnessing the UTV roll through a stop sign, Officer Hyler initiated a traffic stop by turning on his emergency lights. Disregarding this cue, Lindsey proceeded onto a state highway. Officer Hyler then activated his siren.

         Lindsey did not stop, but instead accelerated toward an overpass beyond which the highway transitioned from pavement to gravel. Traveling on the gravel section of the road, the UTV began to kick up a cloud of dust. Having momentarily lost sight of the UTV, Officer Hyler slowed his vehicle before continuing pursuit.

         After driving along the gravel road for less than a mile, Officer Hyler came upon the UTV, which was rolled on its side near a bend in the road. Lindsey and Mann were seriously injured, and later testified they did not recall the details of the accident. Both were cited for a variety of traffic and criminal violations, although these charges were later dismissed. They subsequently filed these constitutional claims against Officer Hyler.

         II. Analysis

         Lindsey and Mann argue the district court erred in granting summary judgment. They contend questions of fact remain regarding their claims of excessive force and outrageous police conduct. We review de novo a district court's decision to grant a motion for summary judgment. Schutz v. Thorne, 415 F.3d 1128, 1132 (10th Cir. 2005); see also Trask v. Franco, 446 F.3d 1036, 1043 (10th Cir. 2006) ("On appeal, we review the award of summary judgment based on qualified immunity de novo."). Summary judgment becomes appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact, such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         In applying the summary-judgment standard, we view the evidence and draw inferences in the manner most favorable to the non-moving party. Schutz, 415 F.3d at 1132. But the non-moving party must nonetheless establish facts such that a reasonable jury could find in his favor. Id. Unsubstantiated allegations will not suffice. Burke v. Utah Transit Auth. & Local 382, 462 F.3d 1253, 1258 (10th Cir. 2006).

         In cases where, as here, defendants have asserted the affirmative defense of qualified immunity, plaintiffs must also satisfy a familiar two-part burden. E.g., Medina v. Cram, 252 F.3d 1124, 1128 (10th Cir. 2001). The plaintiff must not only demonstrate that the defendant violated a constitutional right, but also that the right was clearly established at the time of the violation.

         A. Constitutional Claims ...

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