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Partial judgment granted in federal case against deputy, sheriff

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

A federal judge has ruled on certain parts of a federal lawsuit stemming from a 2015 confrontation between a New Castle man and a Henry County Sheriff’s deputy.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, is hearing a claim from Murrell Loveless against Henry County Sheriff Ric McCorkle and Deputy Rex Harrold.

Loveless, 74, is alleging Harrold violated his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights and Indiana’s wrongful entry statute, along with several other claims, when Harrold tried to serve legal papers at Loveless’ home Aug. 1, 2015. 

Loveless is arguing Deputy Harrold had no right to enter his garage and knock on an interior door. Harrold was reportedly in plain clothes at the time, not an official uniform. 

Loveless also claims that Harrold used excessive force once he, Loveless, confronted the deputy for being in his house.

McCorkle is named as a defendant because he is the Harrold’s boss. 

McCorkle and Harrold asked the judge for “summary judgment” on different parts of Loveless’ claims over the summer.

Summary judgement is a court order that the parties in the case have already submitted enough facts for a ruling and those parts of the complaint don’t need to go to trial. 

Judge Magnus-Stinson granted some of those motions and denied others Sept. 20.

Motions granted 

Judge Magnus-Stinson ruled that Sheriff Ric McCorkle cannot be sued individually in the case because Loveless provided no argument or evidence showing McCorkle had any personal involvement in the incident.

The judge also dismissed Loveless’ claims that Harrold used excessive force, because Loveless did not address those claims when responding to the defendants’ motion for summary judgement.

The judge ruled Loveless did not refer to Indiana law in his argument of excessive force and, therefore, did not prove Harrold used excessive force during the incident. Because there was no excessive force, neither Sheriff McCorkle nor Harrold could have caused intentional infliction of emotional distress, either.

Loveless claimed the sheriff did not properly train Harrold how to serve legal documents, which contributed to the incident in 2015. In order to prove that claim, Loveless had to prove McCorkle, as sheriff, made a conscious choice to provide inappropriate training.

According to Judge Magnus-Stinson, Loveless failed to provide any evidence that might convince a jury that the sheriff had done this. Therefore, the judge ruled that part of the case in favor of McCorkle.

Magnus-Stinson also granted the defendants’ request to dismiss claims that Harrold had committed common law battery, assault and false imprisonment against Loveless. 

Motions denied

Judge Magnus-Stinson ruled against other motions for summary judgement from Harrold and McCorkle.

The claims will move forward that Harrold violated Loveless’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and Loveless’ right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Magnus-Stinson also denied the motion for summary judgement on the common law trespass claim against Deputy Harrold.

The defendants had argued Indiana law gives Harrold “law enforcement immunity” because he was acting in an official capacity. Magnus-Stinson looked at previous court cases involving law enforcement officers and trespass claims.

The judge decided she needed more information about the type of legal papers Harrold was serving and the circumstances surrounding the service before concluding if the deputy qualified for the state immunity. Therefore, she denied the motion of summary judgement.

Other claims

The lawsuit also contains active claims of common law battery, assault, false imprisonment and trespass against Sheriff McCorkle.

Loveless also cited Indiana Code 35-33-5-7(e), which says a person wrongfully injured by officers who are wrongfully on their property “may recover such damage from the responsible authority and the law enforcement officer or officers as the court may determine.”

A jury trial in the federal lawsuit is scheduled for February 2019.