United States Fourth Circuit

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Henry v. Purnell, 08-7433

In plaintiff's section 1983 suit against a deputy sheriff claiming that the sheriff used excessive force in effecting his arrest by mistakenly drawing his firearm to shoot the plaintiff instead of his taser, district court's conclusion that sheriff's mistake was reasonable in granting his motion for summary judgment is affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded where: 1) the district court erred in limiting the scope of its Fourth Amendment reasonableness analysis to the adequacy of the sheriff's weapons training, instead of examining the totality of the circumstances; 2) district court's determination that the sheriff's conduct was reasonable as a matter of law was in error as, at this stage of the proceedings, there remain material factual issues in dispute on the failure to warn, to utilize the laser sight, and to distinguish the different safety locks, all of which are relevant to a decision on the objective reasonableness of the seizure; 3) the sheriff is entitled to summary judgment in his favor on plaintiff's section 1983 claim as, although it cannot be determined whether the sheriff's mistaken use of his firearm was objectionably reasonable under the circumstances, it can be said that he lacked "fair notice" regarding the potential unlawfulness of his actions; and 4) district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's state-law claim is reversed and remanded for the district court to determine whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this claim.

Appellate Information

  • Submitted 09/24/2010
  • Decided 03/23/2010
  • Published 09/24/2010



  • United States Fourth Circuit