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Meehan v. Thompson

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 14, 2014

Kathleen Meehan, Plaintiff - Appellee
Officer Scott Thompson, in his individual and official capacities as a police officer for the City of Edina, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted May 14, 2014.

Page 937

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis.

For Kathleen Meehan, Plaintiff - Appellee: Paul Applebaum, Andrew Marshall Irlbeck, Applebaum Law Firm, Saint Paul, MN.

For Officer Scott Thompson, in his individual and official capacities as a police officer for the City of Edina, Defendant - Appellant: Mark R. Bradford, Mark P. Hodkinson, Daniel R. Olson, Bassford & Remele, Minneapolis, MN.

Before WOLLMAN, MELLOY, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.


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WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.

Kathleen Meehan sued Officer Scott Thompson for abridging her Fourth Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for battery and false imprisonment under Minnesota state law. Thompson asserted the defenses of qualified and official immunity and moved for summary judgment. The district court denied Thompson's motion, and we reverse and remand.


We recount the facts of this case in the light most favorable to Meehan, the non-moving party. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1863, 188 L.Ed.2d 895 (2014) (per curiam). Where possible, we rely on evidence from a videotape of the incident recorded by a dashboard camera mounted in a police cruiser at the scene. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-81, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007).[1]

On the night of April 28, 2011, Meehan and her husband hosted a small dinner gathering at their home in Edina, Minnesota. The gathering was attended by a neighbor, a family friend named Kitty Anderson, and Kitty's daughter Katie Anderson. Katie left the gathering in her car after consuming several alcoholic drinks. She crashed into another vehicle about ten blocks away and called her mother for assistance. Kitty and Meehan, both of whom had also been drinking alcohol, left the gathering, and Kitty drove her car to the scene of the accident, with Meehan in the passenger's seat. When they arrived, they discovered police officers already conducting field sobriety tests on Katie. Kitty parked her car, and the two women exited the vehicle and approached the officers. The officers ordered the women to get back into the car, and they complied. Katie was ultimately arrested for driving while intoxicated, her blood alcohol content testing out at .11.

An officer then approached Kitty's car and asked Kitty if she had been drinking. Kitty responded that she had been. The officer instructed Kitty to step out of the

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car to perform field sobriety tests. Kitty failed the tests, and, after a preliminary breath test revealed that her blood alcohol content was .18, she was also arrested for driving while intoxicated.

That left Meehan, who had remained in the passenger's seat of Kitty's car while Kitty performed the field sobriety tests. Meehan had forgotten her own cell phone at home, so she used Kitty's phone to call her husband and relay to him the events unfolding at the scene.

Officer Thompson arrived sometime during the course of the two DWI arrests. The other officers at the scene asked Thompson to tend to Meehan and informed him that Meehan " seem[ed] to be a little worse than [Kitty Anderson]." Thompson approached the front passenger's side door of Kitty's car and observed Meehan speaking on a cell phone. Thompson asked Meehan if she had been drinking, and Meehan replied that she had been. Another officer approached the driver's side door and informed Meehan that Kitty wanted her phone back, to which Meehan replied that she was using it. Meehan then asked her husband over the phone to meet her at Lund's, a nearby grocery store, and asked Thompson, " I can go to Lund's, right?" to which Thompson replied, " No, you're not going to Lund's." Meehan asked him why she could not go to Lund's, and Thompson replied, " I'm not going to tell you this again. I'm not going to repeat myself. You need a sober adult to come take care of you or I'm taking you to detox. That's the end of it." Meehan relayed Thompson's statement to her husband and informed him of her location. Meehan then asked Thompson if she could call a taxi, and Thompson denied the request.

Thompson then instructed Meehan to exit Kitty's vehicle, as it was about to be towed. Meehan complied and followed Thompson back to his squad car. Once there, Thompson told Meehan that she would have to perform a field sobriety test. According to Meehan, Thompson did not ask her to perform a preliminary breath test. Meehan asked Thompson why it was necessary for her to perform a field sobriety test, as she had not been driving. Thompson replied by ordering Meehan to get up against his squad car, and when Meehan again asked why, Thompson replied, " Get up against the car or I'll put you against the car." Meehan complied, and Thompson frisked her. Meehan later testified, " I recall vividly his big black boot coming in between my legs and shoving them apart before he frisked me. . . . It was violating and violent. It was horrid." Meehan does not allege that she suffered any lasting physical injuries from the frisk.

Thompson then placed Meehan in the back of his squad car. Thompson himself got into the driver's seat and told Meehan that he was giving her an opportunity to find a ride home. Meehan again called her husband to coordinate a ride home. Meehan's husband could not come himself, as he had also been drinking, but he offered to call Meehan's sister and ask her to retrieve Meehan. While Meehan was on the phone with her husband, Thompson looked up her address and learned that she lived about a mile away. Another officer then asked Meehan again to return Kitty's phone, whereupon Meehan gave her sister's number to her husband, ended the call, and gave the phone to the officer.

Thompson and Meehan waited in Thompson's squad car for approximately three and a half minutes. According to Meehan, Thompson then told her, " I've lost my patience with you. I'm taking you to detox." When Meehan reminded Thompson of his statement that he would give her an opportunity to find a safe and sober ride home, Thompson replied, " I

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don't see one, do you?" Thompson then transported Meehan to a detox facility ten miles away in Minneapolis. Approximately three minutes after Thompson left the scene, Meehan's husband arrived with a neighbor to pick up Meehan.

Thompson and Meehan arrived at the detox facility at about 11:40 p.m. On the intake form, Thompson wrote that he had taken Meehan into custody because she had " refused [a preliminary breath test] or to cooperate with her care." He also indicated, by checking boxes on the form, that Meehan was " obviously under the influence" of alcohol and that she exhibited symptoms of bloodshot and glassy eyes, slurred speech, anger, agitation, uncooperativeness, and talkativeness. A blood test revealed that Meehan's blood alcohol content was .082. The intake staff noted that Meehan had ...

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