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Griggs v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

September 30, 2002

HULLON GRIGGS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Document Nos. 43, 44

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendants= motions for summary judgment. In his complaint, the plaintiff, Hullon Griggs, alleges that defendant Officer Doug Haymans, an officer with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"), negligently permitted his police canine "Buddy" to attack and bite him. The plaintiff further claims that defendant District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (AMPD") negligently supervised and trained Officer Haymans in his use of the police canine. The defendants raise numerous grounds for dismissal in their motions for summary judgment, but the court will address only the argument regarding the plaintiff's failure to provide expert testimony regarding police canine operations, police joint operations, and the related supervision and training. Because of this failure, the court grants summary judgment to the defendants as a matter of law and consequently dismisses the plaintiff's complaint.

II. BACKGROUND

On May 26, 1996, at approximately 4:30 a.m., Hullon Griggs was inside of the Madison Grocery Store, located in Washington, D.C. Griggs Dep. at 12. According to Mr. Griggs, he had used cocaine several hours earlier and then broke into the grocery store to steal beer. Id. at 12, 17-18, 22. After the store's alarm began to sound, he moved to the back of the store. Id. at 20-21. Noticing through a window that a police car was present, Mr. Griggs allegedly hid under a tarp in a dark corner of the back room and fell asleep until Buddy, the police canine, awoke him. Id. at 24-25. Mr. Griggs heard Officer Haymans tell him to put his hands over his head. Because the canine was "on [Mr. Griggs'] arm," Mr. Griggs instead "snatched [Buddy] loose and pushed him back." Id. at 26, 32. Mr. Griggs asked Officer Haymans to restrain the canine because it was grabbing or biting him. Id. at 27. Officer Haymans did so, and handcuffed Mr. Griggs. Id. Mr. Giggs later noticed bite marks and scratches on his arms and legs. Id. at 28. Officer Haymans turned Mr. Griggs over to two MPD officers who took him to the precinct and then to a hospital. Id. at 35-36.

According to Officer Haymans, he followed standard WMATA procedures in apprehending Mr. Griggs. Haymans Dep. at 65. Pursuant to these procedures, when entering a crime scene, Officer Haymans always first warns that a police canine is about to enter. Id. at 61. If there is no response, he enters the space with his police canine and conceals himself while the canine searches the space. Id. Buddy, the police canine, is trained to physically apprehend, or "bite and hold," a suspect. Id. at 62. Officer Haymans' procedure is to remain concealed until he can see the suspect's hands. Id. at 65.

Officer Haymans became involved with the Madison Grocery Store crime scene on May 26, 1996 when he responded to an MPD request for a "Canine search." Id. at 67. Before entering the grocery store, Officer Haymans learned from officers at the scene that the suspect had peered out of a window, observed the officers, then retreated back into the darkness. Id. at 68, 70. Officer Haymans entered the store and initiated his canine's search while he remained in a safe part of the store. In a dark area, the canine began to pull and bite at a tarp. Id. at 75. Once it became apparent that a person was under the tarp, Officer Haymans "ran to the place of cover . . . [and] yelled, '[l]et me see your hands,' to the suspect." Id. at 76. Officer Haymans' account of the subsequent events is similar to Mr. Griggs' account. Id. at 76-93.

Mr. Griggs, represented by counsel, eventually filed suit against WMATA, Officer Haymans, and the MPD in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. On June 15, 1999, the defendant WMATA removed the case to the United States district court pursuant to § 81 of the WMATA Compact. D.C. Code § 1-2431(81). On August 31, 1999, this court denied defendant MPD's motion to dismiss. Order dated Aug. 31, 1999. WMATA and Officer Haymans filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment on the grounds of sovereign immunity, which this court denied without prejudice on January 28, 2000. Order dated Jan. 28, 2000. On April 6, 2000, this court granted defendant WMATA's motion for reconsideration in part and consequently dismissed WMATA as a defendant in this action. Order dated Apr. 6, 2000. The plaintiff elected to retain no experts for this case. Pl.'s Rule 26(a)(2)(B) Certification.

Two of the counts in Mr. Griggs' complaint have survived. The fist, count two, alleges that Officer Haymans was negligent in his control of his police canine and in permitting the canine to attack Mr. Griggs. Compl. at 10-11. The second, count three, alleges that the MPD negligently supervised and trained WMATA's police canine and WMATA Officer Haymans. Id. at 12-13.

Defendant Haymans moves for summary judgment as a matter of law because the plaintiff has failed to present expert testimony regarding the standard of care for police canine operations. Haymans' Mot. for Summ. J. at 2. Officer Haymans also argues that the court should grant summary judgment because he had qualified immunity to use the level of force necessary to arrest the plaintiff, and because any negligence is barred by the plaintiff's contributory negligence and assumption of risk. Id. at 3. Defendant MPD also moves for summary judgment as a matter of law, arguing that the plaintiff has failed to present expert testimony regarding the standards of care for police canine and joint operations and the related supervision and training. MPD's Mot. for Summ. J. at 5-8. The MPD argues that such testimony is necessary to demonstrate that the MPD was negligent in its supervision and training of Officer Haymans. Id. The MPD also argues, based on the directives in the court's August 31, 1999 Memorandum Opinion, that the plaintiff cannot prove negligent supervision by the MPD because the plaintiff has no evidence that the MPD was on notice that Officer Haymans behaved in a dangerous or incompetent manner. Id. at 2, 9-10; Griggs v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 66 F. Supp. 2d 23, 28-29 (D.D.C. 1999). Because the court grants summary judgment as a matter of law pursuant to the defendants' first arguments, the court does not reach the defendants' alternative arguments. *fn1

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose ...


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