United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Tiffany M. Lightle, Plaintiff,
Officer Matthew Olson, Officer Katie Winckler, City of Maple Grove, Katie Jean Allen, and Brokea, Inc., d/b/a Pearle Vision Maple Grove, Defendants.
S. Kushner, Esq., Law Office of Jordan S. Kushner,
Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.
M. Zipf, Esq., League of Minnesota Cities, St. Paul, MN, on
behalf of Defendants Officer Matthew Olson, Officer Katie
Winckler, and City of Maple Grove; Kyle S. Willems, Esq.,
Tewksbury & Kerfeld, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of
Defendants Katie Jean Allen and Brokea, Inc., d/b/a/ Pearle
Vision Maple Grove.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
March 9, 2017, the undersigned United States District Judge
heard oral argument on Motions for Summary Judgment of
Defendants Katie Jean Allen and Brokea, Inc., d/b/a Pearle
Vision Maple Grove's (“Pearle Vision”), and
Defendants Officer Matthew Olson, Officer Katie Winckler, and
City of Maple Grove (“Maple Grove”) [Docket Nos.
17, 27]. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are
Events at the Store
December 21, 2014, Plaintiff Tiffany M. Lightle
(“Lightle”), an African American, went with her
son and mother to Pearle Vision in Maple Grove, Minnesota, to
pick up replacement eyeglasses. Compl. [Docket No. 1-1]
¶ 8. While her son was being fitted for his new glasses,
Lightle and her mother were “killing time.” Zipf
Aff. [Docket No. 31] Ex. 1 (“Lightle Dep.”) at
19:4. They browsed the store's inventory trying on frames
displayed throughout the store. Id. 18:17-19:25. The
store was fairly busy; other customers were also browsing
inventory, and Pearle Vision employees were restocking frames
into display cases. Zipf Aff. Ex. 9 at 8-9.
they looked at glasses, Lightle alleges that a Pearle Vision
employee gave her and her mother “dirty looks.”
Lightle Dep. at 76:25-77:6. Lightle further alleges that this
employee watched and followed them around the store.
Id. 75:5-6. Lightle eventually discussed a pair of
purple frames with a different employee and also spoke with
other employees about sports and the weather. Id.
22:12-19; 71:11-25. Although Lightle was interested in the
purple frames, she decided against them after learning that
they would need to be refitted and placed on order, and that
she would have to be re-examined due to insurance rules.
Id. 71:20-25; 72:14-20; 74:3-17; 77:21-78:5. Once
her son's glasses fitting was completed, Lightle spoke
with an employee about when she could later return for an eye
exam, and then Lightle, her son and mother left the store
without incident. Id. 77:21-78:5; 79:10-16;
Lightle left, three employees approached store manager Katie
Jean Allen (“Allen”) to relay their suspicions
that Lightle had stolen a pair of Tiffany & Co.
(“Tiffany”) brand sunglasses. Carter Aff. [Docket
No. 22] ¶ 3; Segura Aff. [Docket No. 24] ¶ 3. The
employees relayed their observations that Lightle and her
mother were suspiciously shuffling sunglasses back and forth
in a section of the store where a pair of Tiffany sunglasses
was found to be missing from the sunglasses display board.
Carter Aff. ¶ 3; Segura Aff. ¶ 3.
Pearle Vision's policy that the eyewear racks are always
fully stocked. Hawley Aff. [Docket No. 23] ¶ 4. If a
pair of glasses is sold, employees are specifically trained
to immediately re-fill the now empty slot with new eyewear.
Id. ¶¶ 4, 5. This policy is primarily for
inventory control purposes, as it helps the store immediately
determine if a theft has occurred. Id. ¶¶
5, 6. Two of the employees who spoke with Allen recalled
seeing an empty slot of Tiffany sunglasses in the display
nearby where Lightle and her mother had been standing, and
one specifically remembered that the display was completely
full before Lightle and her mother approached the display.
Carter Aff. ¶ 3; Segura Aff. ¶ 3. Pearle Vision
reports all thefts to law enforcement if they have sufficient
proof. Zipf Aff. Ex. 4 (“Allen Dep.”) at
upon the reports of her employees, Allen made the decision to
contact the Maple Grove Police Department to report a
possible theft. Id. 75:17-19.
Police Investigation at the Store
Grove Patrol Officer Katie Winckler (“Officer
Winckler”) was dispatched to Pearle Vision in response
to Allen's call. Zipf Aff. Ex. 3 (“Winckler
Dep.”) at 17:13-16. Upon arriving at the store, Allen
reported to Officer Winckler that two women had been
suspiciously passing sunglasses back and forth and that after
they left, a pair of Tiffany sunglasses valued at $450 was
missing from the display case where the women had been
standing. Id. 17:18-18:1; 22:23-25; 33:14-16;
37:25-38:4. Lightle was identified as one of the women
through a Medica ID card she had used at the store.
Id. 17:18-20. Officer Winckler asked Allen if she
could view the store's surveillance video, but it was
unavailable. Id. 22:2-13. According to Allen, it can
take up to an hour-and-a-half to obtain the recorded video
for a specific timeframe. Allen Dep. at 37:20-22.
Officer Winckler's direction, Allen completed and signed
a citizen's arrest form, which included a statement
explaining the incident:
At around 3:30 Sunday the 21st two women came in with a young
boy to pick up MA glasses. The two women went to the eye
glass display and passed frames back and forth. Their
behavior gave the indication that they may be stealing. When
they left the store 1 frame from our sun board was missing. I
then called the police to report possible theft.
Winckler Dep. at 21:15-21; Ex. 1 at 10. Based upon the
information she received from Allen, Officer Winckler decided
to arrest Lightle for theft. Id. 24:19-25:11.
Winckler contacted Maple Grove Officer Matthew Olson
(“Officer Olson”) to provide him the information
Allen gave about the alleged theft. Id. 24:21-24;
Zipf Aff. Ex. 5 (“Olson Dep.”) at 15:16-18;
16:2-6. In addition to relaying what Allen had stated,
Officer Winckler told Officer Olson that she had enough
information to arrest Lightle for theft. Winckler Dep. at
26:2-4. Officer Olson ran Lightle's license plate and
identified a home address in Crystal, Minnesota. Olson Dep.
at 18:1-10. Officer Olson next requested that a Crystal
police officer check the address for Lightle's vehicle.
Id. 18:14-19. Crystal Officer Jonathan Wilkes
(“Officer Wilkes”) responded. Zipf Aff. Ex. 7
(“Wilkes Dep.”) at 11:11-15.
Events at the Crystal Residence
Wilkes drove to the Crystal address and spoke with Lightle.
Id. 13:8-12. Officer Wilkes told Lightle why he was
there and requested that she wait in the back of his squad
car. Lightle Dep. at 25:5-17; Wilkes Dep. at 13:8-2. Lightle
her time in the back of Officer Wilkes' squad car,
Lightle was not handcuffed and was permitted to use her cell
phone. Lightle Dep. at 34:12-16. Lightle testified that she
called Pearle Vision to see if there was some
misunderstanding, but the conversation was abruptly
terminated. Id. 25:19-26:1; 27:11-20. Shortly
thereafter, Lightle claims Officer Wilkes handed her his
phone with Officer Olson on the other end. Id.
27:20-22. According to Lightle, Officer Olson said that the
surveillance video shows her stealing a pair of glasses.
Id. 27:22-24. Lightle challenged that assertion
because the Pearle Vision employee she spoke with by phone
told her that the surveillance video was unavailable.
Id. 27:24-28:2. Lightle asserts that Officer Olson
then called her a liar and a thief, which was overheard by
the father of her children, who was standing nearby.
Id. 28:9; 43:23-44:7.
Wilkes does not recall allowing Lightle to use his phone to
speak with Officer Olson. Wilkes Dep. at 14:20-15:1. Officer
Olson denies speaking with Lightle on the telephone. Olson
Dep. at 21:21-23. Lightle was in Officer Wilkes' squad
car for 20 minutes before Officer Olson arrived.
arriving at the house, Officer Olson first spoke with Officer
Wilkes and Lightle's mother before questioning Lightle
about the missing glasses. Id. 24:10-17. Lightle
admitted to recently being at Pearle Vision, but denied
stealing a pair of glasses. Id. 25:7-13. Lightle
answered all of Officer Olson's questions while
continuing to deny stealing the glasses. Id.
on the totality of the circumstances, including the
information he received from Officer Winckler, Officer Olson
determined that he had sufficient information to charge
Lightle with theft. Id. 31:9-19. Lightle was not
taken into custody, but was rather issued a tab
chargeto appear at a later court date.
Id. 33:10-14. Olson's interaction with Lightle
lasted approximately 30 minutes. Id. 30:16-22.
Officer Olson Returns to the Store
next day, Officer Olson returned to Pearle Vision to secure a
copy of the surveillance video. Id. 33:17-18.
Officer Olson believed the video shows Lightle concealing a
pair of glasses in her winter jacket prior to exiting the
store. Id. 34:23-35:5; Olson Aff. [Docket No. 30]
¶¶ 2, 3.
thereafter, Officer Olson completed a police report. Winckler
Dep. at Ex. 1 at 4-6. The report includes what Allen reported
to Officer Winckler, Officer Olson's interaction with
Lightle at the Crystal house, Officer Olson's belief that
the surveillance video shows Lightle stealing a pair of
glasses, and the issuance of a tab charge for Lightle to
appear at a later court date. Id.
theft charges against Lightle were eventually dropped. Olson
Dep. at 35:19-36:1. The glasses were never recovered.
a year after the incident, Lightle filed this lawsuit in
state court. The Complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1981 and 1983, violations of the Minnesota Human
Rights Act, and false imprisonment, defamation, malicious
prosecution, and negligence. Lightle's claims arise from
her contention that she was arrested because of her race and
without probable cause. Defendants removed the case to
federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and now move for
summary judgment on all claims.
Summary Judgment Standard
56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
summary judgment shall be rendered if there exists no genuine
issue as to any material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. On a motion for
summary judgment, the court views the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Ludwig v.
Anderson, 54 F.3d 465, 470 (8th Cir. 1995). However, the
nonmoving party may not “rest on mere allegations or
denials but must demonstrate on the record the existence of
specific facts which create a genuine issue for trial.”
Krenik v. Cty. of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th
evidence sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a
verdict in favor of the nonmoving party has been presented,
summary judgment is inappropriate. Id. However,
“the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties is not sufficient by itself to deny
summary judgment. . . . Instead, ‘the dispute must be
outcome determinative under prevailing law.'”
Get Away Club, Inc. v. Coleman, 969 F.2d 664, 666
(8th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). “[S]ummary judgment
need not be denied merely to satisfy a litigant's
speculative hope of finding some evidence that might tend to
support a complaint.” Krenik, 47 F.3d at 959.
Federal Law Claims