Allegation of body slam after being handcuffed


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Deanna Thomas erected a tent in Laketown Park in Kenner, Louisiana. On April 6, 2020, two officers from the East Jefferson Levee District Police Department—Officer Tewis and Lieutenant Arnold— approached Thomas, explained that she was unlawfully occupying a public space, and told her to leave. Thomas did not immediately comply, so the officers arrested her. One of the officers also directed a District employee to dispose of her property. Thomas alleges Tewis handcuffed her and then, while she was not resisting arrest, “body slammed” her into the ground in a manner that caused Thomas physical and emotional injuries.

After the arrest, Thomas sued the officers for violating the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force and unlawfully seizing her property. The district court held the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and entered summary judgment in their favor. Thomas appealed. The 5th affirmed on the unlawful seizure but reversed on the excessive force.


Thomas failed to carry her burden of presenting clearly established law demonstrating the unlawfulness of the officers’ alleged seizure in the district court. So she forfeited the argument, and we decline to exercise our discretion to consider it for the first time on appeal. We therefore affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the officers on Thomas’s unreasonable seizure claim.

But Thomas did produce evidence to support her claim that Tewis used excessive force, in violation of clearly established law, by throwing her to the ground while she was restrained and subdued. See Carroll. And while the extent of Thomas’s damages is unclear, she also produced some evidence suggesting the officers’ actions resulted in an injury that is more than de minimis under our precedents. See Alexander. A jury very well might find Thomas’s evidence incredible, but at the summary judgment stage we are bound to conclude Thomas created a genuine dispute of material fact. So we must reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Thomas’s excessive force claim.