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Feirson v. Dist. of Columbia

March 29, 2005

BRUCE AND MARY ANN FEIRSON PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Sgt. Bruce and Mary Ann Feirson bring this action against the District of Columbia ("the District") and Michelle Smith-Jefferies, M.D. ("Dr. Smith-Jefferies"), Taunya Brownlee, M.D. ("Dr. Brownlee"), and Craig Throne, M.D. ("Dr. Thorne") (collectively"physician defendants") for injuries suffered by Sgt.*fn1 Feirson during an"attack exercise" as part of his training as a District of Columbia police officer. Presently before the Court are the physician defendants' motions for summary judgment on Sgt. Feirson's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the common law and on Mary Ann Feirson's common law claim for loss of consortium.*fn2 For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant each physician defendant < s="" motion="" for="" summary="">

BACKGROUND

This case arises from Sgt. Bruce Feirson < s="" participation="" in="" the="" armament="" systems="" proficiency="" ("asp")="" training="" program="" conducted="" by="" the="" metropolitan="" police="" department="" ("mpd").="" asp="" training="" teaches="" mpd="" officers,="" such="" as="" sgt.="" feirson,="" how="" to="" use="" the="" asp="" baton="" through="" both="" classroom="" instruction="" and="" physical="" exercises.="" one="" of="" those="" exercises="" is="" an"attack"="" exercise="" in="" which="" trainees,="" equipped="" with="" an="" asp,="" must="" fend="" off="" an="" instructor="" acting="" as="" a="" violent="" suspect.="" during="" one="" of="" these="" attack="" exercises="" sgt.="" feirson="" was="">

Within the MPD, the Medical Services Division ("MSD") of the Human Services department is responsible for the medical care of police officers. As part of that responsibility, police officers receive medical care through the Police and Fire Clinic ("clinic") for injuries suffered on the job. In February of 1997, the District of Columbia transferred operation of the clinic to PFC Associates, a private professional health organization. The physician defendants were all at the relevant times of this lawsuit employed by PFC Associates. Dr. Smith-Jefferies and Dr. Thorne, at different times, were the Medical Directors of the clinic. MPD also maintains liaisons within the clinic who coordinate medical care for police officers.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the evidence demonstrate that"there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party may successfully support its motion by"informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c))).

In determining whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to preclude summary judgment, the court must regard the non-movant's statements as true and accept all evidence and make all inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A non-moving party, however, must establish more than the"mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the non-moving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322."If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant fails to offer"evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Id. at 252.

ANALYSIS

I. Section 1983

The physician defendants move for summary judgment on Sgt. Feirson's section 1983 claim. They observe that under this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order of March 30, 2004, confirmed in a September 14, 2004 Order denying plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, Sgt. Feirson's section 1983 claim was dismissed against the District of Columbia. In that earlier Memorandum Opinion, the Court ruled that Sgt. Feirson could not establish that the District's actions constituted an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment or excessive force under the Fifth Amendment. See March 30, 2004 Mem Op. at 13, 17. The physician defendants argue that the March 30, 2004 Order (as confirmed by the September 14, 2004 Order) established the law of this case as to Sgt. Feirson's section 1983 claim, and therefore they should be granted summary judgment on Sgt. Feirson's section 1983 claims against them.

The physician defendants' arguments on this point draw heavily from the law of the case doctrine. Under this doctrine, when the same issue is presented to the same court, in the same case, the results should be the same. See LaShawn A. v. Barry, 87 F.3d 1389, 1393 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (under the law of the case doctrine"the same issue presented a second time in the same case in the same court should lead to the same result"). The doctrine is particularly persuasive here. Unless plaintiff can present additional facts relevant to his section 1983 claims against the physician defendants, this Court's ruling that plaintiff cannot establish constitutional violations against the District of Columbia pursuant to section 1983 should also govern Sgt. Feirson's section 1983 claims against the physician defendants.

Sgt. Feirson does not present any new or unique facts relevant to his section 1983 claims against the physician defendants that would convince the Court to re-examine its previous decision regarding Sgt. Feirson's section 1983 claims. Plaintiff's response to the physician defendants' motions is merely to reargue his motion for reconsideration of the March 30, 2004 Order. See Pl. Opp. at 27 (premising all his arguments regarding ...

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