On the morning of June 8, 2018, Michael Renfroe‘s mother, Faye Renfroe, contacted the Madison County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) requesting assistance in taking Michael into protective custody pending an involuntary-commitment proceeding for mental illness. Faye reported that Michael had been found walking naked on the side of a state highway in Madison County, Mississippi, and that he had been showing other signs of mental illness. Faye was advised that the MCSD did not have jurisdiction or authority to provide such assistance at that time.
Later that evening, at approximately 10:00 p.m., the MCSD received a call from Willard McDaniel and his wife regarding an attempted burglary at their home. McDaniel stated that two individuals had attempted to enter his home and burglarize his truck. He provided dispatch with a description of the pickup truck that the suspects were driving. Deputy Parker, wearing his MCSD uniform and driving a marked MCSD vehicle, responded to the call and began searching for a truck fitting the description. In his affidavit, Deputy Parker stated that he was unaware of Faye’s earlier call to the MCSD seeking to commit Michael.
While driving down Old Natchez Trace Road, Deputy Parker observed that there was no traffic on the road, and as a result, he decided to turn off his blue lights and siren to avoid alerting potential suspects to his presence. Deputy Parker left the patrol car’s high-beam headlights on. He also left his dash camera engaged the entire time he was present in the area, which showed all but the last eight seconds of his encounter with Michael and Amanda.
Deputy Parker eventually approached a white Chevrolet truck traveling on the road. Without any instruction from Deputy Parker, the driver of the truck stopped the vehicle and parked it on the right side of the road. Deputy Parker then proceeded to stop his patrol car. As the patrol car came to a stop, Deputy Parker observed the driver, later identified as Michael, emerge from the driver’s side of the truck, wearing only pajama bottoms. Without being instructed, Michael then extended his hands out by his sides, showing his open palms, and then dropped down onto his hands and knees.
Deputy Parker radioed dispatch and reported that he had found the truck described in the burglary, that he was exiting his patrol car, and that a man wearing no shirt had emerged from the vehicle and was lying on the ground. Deputy Parker then exited the patrol car and stood behind the open driver’s side door. Deputy Parker admitted that he did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer; however, he stated that his patrol car was parked slightly at an angle, and the open driver’s side door of the vehicle was marked with the MCSD emblem.
Deputy Parker asked Michael if there were any other occupants in the vehicle. In response, Michael looked back at the truck and instructed someone to exit. Amanda, Michael’s wife, exited the passenger side and walked toward the back of the truck. As Deputy Parker ordered Amanda to get on the ground, Michael suddenly rose from the ground and began running toward Deputy Parker yelling, “Now, M . . . F . . . , let’s do this.” Deputy Parker stated that as Michael sprinted toward him, he feared for his life. Deputy Parker deployed his taser in an attempt to stop Michael, but Michael snatched the taser darts from his chest and continued to charge toward Deputy Parker.
After that point, Michael and Deputy Parker were out of the view of the dashcam. Deputy Parker stated that he did not have time to insert another cartridge into his taser before Michael began assaulting him. Deputy Parker threw his taser down and prepared to defend himself by fighting Michael off of him. A struggle ensued, and Michael began assaulting Deputy Parker. According to Deputy Parker, Michael placed his hands around Deputy Parker’s throat and tried to choke him. Michael also hit Deputy Parker on the side of his head. Deputy Parker stated that he attempted to strike Michael in his face, but Michael deflected his attempts.
Deputy Parker managed to free himself from Michael and stepped back away from him, but Michael started running toward him again. In response, Deputy Parker drew his weapon and fired four rapid shots at Michael, stepping backward after each shot. Deputy Parker explained that he fired his weapon until he felt like Michael was no longer a threat to his safety. Michael died at the scene as a result of his injuries.
In his affidavit, Deputy Parker asserted that when Michael began assaulting him, he feared for his life. Deputy Parker stated that he only used deadly force to prevent Michael from seriously injuring or killing him. The record reflects that at the time of the altercation, Deputy Parker was 5’11 and weighed 150 pounds, and Michael was 6’2 and weighed 205 pounds.
In 2018, Amanda filed a federal complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Deputy Parker was liable for violating Michael’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable seizure of his person. Amanda filed an amended complaint adding Sheriff Tucker as a defendant in his individual and official capacities. In 2019, the district court entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker on the federal claims. The district court also dismissed Amanda’s state-law claims without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). The 5th affirmed (Renfroe).
After the federal district court dismissed her state-law claims without prejudice, Amanda filed a complaint against Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker in their official and individual capacities in the Madison County Circuit Court. The circuit court granted the motion for summary judgment after finding that Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker were immune from suit under the provisions of section 11-46-9(c)-(d) of the MTCA. MCOA affirms.
A. Res Judicata
Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker argue that the doctrine of res judicata barred Amanda’s state-law claims after her federal claims were dismissed by the district court. However, res judicata only applies to final judgments on the merits. As stated, the federal district court entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker on the federal claims, but the court dismissed Amanda’s state-law claims without prejudice. Dismissal without prejudice is not an adjudication on the merits, and therefore, res judicata does not apply. We therefore find that res judicata did not bar Amanda from bringing her state-law claims in the circuit court.
B. Official-Capacity Claims
Amanda asserted the following state-law claims against Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker in their official (and individual) capacities: intentional infliction of emotional distress as to Michael, loss of consortium and intentional infliction of emotional distress as to Amanda, assault and battery as to Michael, and related wrongful death damages.
MSC has held that claims based on allegedly tortious acts by government employees acting within the course and scope of their employment fall under the MTCA and may only be brought against the employees in their official capacity. However, torts in which malice is an essential element are not within the course and scope of employment and therefore these intentional torts are outside the scope of the MTCA’s waiver of immunity, and the MTCA does not apply. Accordingly, any legal action against a governmental employee for claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery must necessarily proceed against him or her as an individual.
Because the MTCA does not apply to claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery against governmental employees in their official capacity, we find that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker for the claims against them in their official capacities.
C. Individual-Capacity Claims
Upon review, we find that these claims are defeated by the doctrine of collateral estoppel. MSC has explained that collateral estoppel exists to prevent parties from relitigating issues authoritatively decided on their merits in prior litigation to which they were parties or in privity.
The record shows that although the federal district court dismissed Amanda’s state-law claims without prejudice, the district court granted summary judgment as to Amanda’s federal individual-capacity claims against Deputy Parker and Sheriff Tucker, including her claim that Deputy Parker used excessive force against Michael, and dismissed these claims with prejudice.
In granting summary judgment, the federal court ruled as a matter of law that Deputy Parker’s use of force was objectively reasonable and not excessive, explaining: “A reasonable officer under these circumstances would have perceived a threat of death or serious bodily harm, so the use of deadly force was not excessive.”
Amanda asserts that Deputy Parker is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery because his use of force was unnecessary and deadly. However, her assertion contradicts the district court’s finding that Deputy Parker’s use of force was objectively reasonable and not excessive. The specific issue of whether Deputy Parker’s force was unnecessary and excessive was addressed and ruled upon by the district court. As a result, Amanda is collaterally estopped from bringing her state-law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, and, accordingly, loss of consortium, against Deputy Parker in his individual capacity and Sheriff Tucker vicariously.
D. Genuine Issue of Material Fact
Even if collateral estoppel did not apply, summary judgment is still proper here because Amanda failed to meet her burden of proving the existence of a genuine issue of material fact as to these claims.
1. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Mississippi’s standard for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress is very high, focusing specifically on the defendant’s conduct and not the plaintiff’s emotional condition. The severity of the conduct at issue must be so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.
The federal court addressed the issue of whether Deputy Parker used excessive force on Michael and ruled that Deputy Parker’s use of force was objectively reasonable and not excessive. Our review of the record also confirms that Deputy Parker’s use of force was objectively reasonable and not excessive. Therefore, Deputy Parker’s actions could not be considered to evoke outrage or revulsion in civilized society. Additionally, we find that there was no evidence whatsoever that any conduct by Deputy Parker was so extreme in degree as to be beyond all possible bounds of decency or to be atrocious and utterly intolerable.
2. Assault and Battery Claims
Here, the federal court found that based on Michael’s conduct leading up to the shooting, a reasonable officer under these circumstances would have perceived a threat of death or serious bodily harm. Our review of the record confirms that Deputy Parker was considerably smaller than Michael and that Deputy Parker’s attempt to use non-lethal force failed to stop Michael from attacking him.
After our review, we find that Amanda failed to submit sufficient evidence to support her claim that Deputy Parker intentionally and unlawfully shot and killed Michael by using unnecessary deadly force. Accordingly, we find that Amanda failed to prove the existence of a genuine issue of material fact that merits trial instead of mere unsubstantiated allegations as to her state-law individual-capacity claims for assault and battery.
3. Loss of Consortium Claim
Because Amanda’s state-law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery fail, her loss of consortium claim also fails. Mississippi law dictates that if the underlying personal injury claim is disposed of, the loss of consortium claim cannot be maintained on its own.