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Sears v. Lindaman

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

March 14, 2018

KEVIN KENNETH SEARS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN LINDAMAN; and BENTON COUNTY, IOWA, Defendants.

          ORDER

          C.J. Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. Background ...................................................................................... 2

         II. Applicable Law ................................................................................. 4

         A. Summary Judgment .......................................................................... 4

         B. Qualified Immunity .......................................................................... 6

         III. Discussion ..................................................................................... 8

         A. Officer Lindaman in His Individual Capacity ........................................... 9

         B. Benton County .............................................................................. 16

         IV. Conclusion .................................................................................... 19

         This matter is before the Court on John Lindaman and Benton County, Iowa's (collectively, “defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 15). Kevin Kenneth Sears (“plaintiff”) timely filed his resistance (Doc. 21), and defendants timely filed their reply (Doc. 24). The Court granted the parties leave to submit informal supplemental briefing and newly discovered authority. Defendants submitted newly discovered authority (Doc. 32), which the Court has considered. Plaintiff declined to avail himself of this opportunity. Although requested, the Court determined that oral argument was not necessary. For the following reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to recover damages allegedly incurred following his arrest in Benton County, Iowa for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, an offense of which he was never convicted. (Docs. 2; 15-1, at 10; 21-1, at 9).

         On the evening of September 17, 2014, and the early morning of September 18, 2014, plaintiff held a license permitting him to operate commercial motor vehicles. (Docs. 15-1, at 1; 21-1, at 1). The evening of September 17, 2014, plaintiff parked his self-owned semi-truck in front of a property he owned, but which was occupied by his daughter. (Docs. 15-1, at 1-2; 21-1, at 1). Plaintiff's daughter made a 911 call the evening of September 17, 2014, requesting that an officer be dispatched to have plaintiff move his truck away from the daughter's residence. During the phone call, plaintiff's daughter can be heard telling the dispatcher that plaintiff had been drinking, but that she did not know if plaintiff was drunk. The dispatcher, however, told Officer John Lindaman that plaintiff's daughter reported that plaintiff was, in fact, drunk. Thus, the dispatcher relayed that plaintiff was drunk, even though the dispatcher had only been informed that plaintiff had been drinking.

         Officer Lindaman was dispatched to the scene. When Officer Lindaman arrived, plaintiff was asleep in the sleeper compartment of the semi-truck. (Docs. 15-1, at 6; 21-1, at 6). Defendants allege, and plaintiff does not dispute, that the sleeper compartment is wholly separate from the driver/passenger area of the truck and that to get to the driver's seat from the sleeper compartment, one would have to walk out of the sleeper compartment and between the driver's and passenger's seats to reach the area from which the truck could actually be driven. (Docs. 15-1, at 6; 21-1, at 6). Thus, to exit the sleeper compartment of the truck through the driver's side door-as plaintiff allegedly did-plaintiff would have had to cross in front of the driver's seat.

         Upon his arrival at the scene, the truck was running, and Officer Lindaman could see the flicker from a television set coming from the sleeper area. (Doc. 15-2, at 74). Further, the truck was parked facing the opposite direction as traffic. (Docs. 15-1, at 4-5, 21-1, at 5). Officer Lindaman knocked on the driver's side door, plaintiff emerged, and the two engaged in a conversation. During that conversation, Officer Lindaman inquired as to whether plaintiff had been drinking. Plaintiff responded that he had been asleep and that Officer Lindaman had woken him up. Officer Lindaman repeatedly expressed to plaintiff his belief that plaintiff had been drinking and that plaintiff smelled of alcohol.

         Officer Lindaman ascertained that upon his arrival, plaintiff was in the sleeper compartment of the semi-truck and was not in the front compartment of the truck from which one would drive. Officer Lindaman thus was uncertain as to whether plaintiff could be considered to have been “operating” a motor vehicle within the meaning of Iowa's operating while intoxicated statute. Officer Lindaman contacted dispatch and requested that dispatch reach out to the Department of Transportation for guidance as to whether plaintiff was in violation of the statute. Officer Lindaman was unable to obtain such guidance and ultimately arrested plaintiff for operating while intoxicated. At some point prior to his arrest, plaintiff turned off the truck.[1] In turning off the vehicle, plaintiff would have been positioned in the driver's area and within reach of all of the driving controls.

         Plaintiff was taken before an Iowa state court magistrate the morning of September 18, 2014. The magistrate ordered plaintiff released. As a result, although the magistrate indicated a belief that probable cause existed for the arrest, no such finding appears to have been made on the record. (See Doc. 15-2, at 67-71). The state court ultimately suppressed much of the evidence obtained and the State subsequently dismissed the charges against plaintiff. (Docs. 15-1, at 10; 21-1, at 9). Iowa v. Sears, No. OWCR012800 (Benton Cnty., Iowa June 1, 2015) (slip op.).

         As a result of the above events, plaintiff alleges that his driving privileges were revoked. (Doc. 2, at 5). The revocation included plaintiff's privilege to operate commercial motor vehicles. Prior to his arrest, plaintiff alleges that he owned a trucking company and employed several drivers to transport goods throughout the United States and Canada. (Id.). Upon the revocation of plaintiff's driver's license, plaintiff could no longer obtain commercial vehicle insurance for those employed by the company. (Id.). As a result, plaintiff's company breached certain contracts and had to cease operations. (Id.). Plaintiff's suit aims to recover damages associated with the loss of his driving privileges and consequential damages stemming from plaintiff's inability to continue operating his trucking business. Defendants, in turn, claim they are immune from suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. Sum ...


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