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HUDSON v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

June 9, 2005.

GRACE HUDSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSEMARY COLLYER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Grace Hudson and her grandson, Karim Clayton, sue the District of Columbia and Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") officers John Hackley and Richard Merritt ("Defendant Officers") for police brutality, assault and battery, deprivation of civil rights, negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. Plaintiffs sue the officers in their individual and official capacities. A single motion for summary judgment on two different sets of allegations has been filed by the Defendants. See Defendants Merritt and Hackley's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Hudson's Constitutional Claims and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiffs' Negligent Tort Claims and Plaintiff Clayton's False Arrest Claim ("Defs.' Mem."). Defendant Officers move for summary judgment as to Ms. Hudson's claim of an "unreasonable seizure" in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and all Defendants move for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' negligence claims and Mr. Clayton's false arrest claim. The motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part. BACKGROUND

On the night of November 8, 2001, Officers Merritt and Hackley arrived at the 600 block of Keefer Street N.W., Washington, D.C. The officers were in uniform and drove a marked MPD vehicle. Defs.' Mem. Exh. 1, Deposition of Karim Clayton ("Clayton Dep.") at 26. Finding "quite a few people on the street," Clayton Dep. at 24, the officers ordered the crowd to disperse. Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Defs.' Facts") ¶ 3.

  While clearing the area of people and debris, Officer Merritt discovered a paper bag containing a video game console on a lawn across the street from Ms. Hudson's home. Clayton Dep. at 26-27. Officer Merritt asked to whom it belonged. Id. at 27. Tamar Madison, a friend of Mr. Clayton, claimed the bag and attempted to snatch it away from Officer Merritt. Id. at 27, 30. See Defs.' Mem. Exh. 4, Clayton's Answer to Interrogatory No. 19 ("Then [Tamar] grabbed the bag that the Play Station 2 was in."). Officer Merritt allegedly responded by striking Mr. Madison with his fist. Clayton Dep. at 30. Gad Doreous, another friend of Mr. Clayton, who had been sitting on a car across the street, got up and "asked the officer what was going on." Id. at 31. In response, Officer Merritt allegedly struck Mr. Doreous twice with his fists. Id. at 31-32.*fn1

  Mr. Clayton watched the altercation between his friends and the officers from the front porch of Ms. Hudson's home. He called to Mr. Doreous to retreat to the porch. Mr. Doreous broke away from Officer Merritt, who gave chase. Id. at 32-33. Upon reaching the porch, Officer Merritt allegedly produced a metal baton and repeatedly struck Messrs. Doreous and Clayton. Id. at 33. The two men backed into the house, closing and locking the door behind them and shutting out Officer Merritt and the other police officers. See id. at 34-35 (Mr. Clayton "pulled Gad into [his] house").

  According to Mr. Clayton, as he stood inside the house with his foot against the locked door, Ms. Hudson descended the stairs and joined him behind the front door. Id. at 35; Defs.' Mem. Exh. 6, Deposition of Grace Hudson ("Hudson Dep.") at 13. Soon thereafter, a police officer allegedly kicked the door open, knocking Ms. Hudson to the floor. See Defs.' Mem. Exh. 4, Clayton's Answer to Interrogatory No. 19 ("The police officer kicked the door open. The door hit my grandmother, and my grandmother fell to the ground.").*fn2

  Ms. Hudson is not certain what caused her fall and described the event variously. See Hudson Dep. at 14-17. "It was like, you know, two people coming in the door and just hit by me . . . he is coming in and I am going out." Id. at 14. "He came in the door and I was going to the door to find out what the disturbance was." Id. at 15. "But all I know, when I saw this tall big policeman coming in the door, and I was going to find out what was happening, the next thing I know I was down on the floor with my head hitting the frame of the door." Id. at 15-16. "I don't know whether he pushed me or his coming in with the force to get to the boys or whatever. All I know I was down on the floor." Id. at 16. "Like he hit me coming in the door. I didn't say he hit me with his fist." Id. at 13.

  An officer called an ambulance to take Ms. Hudson to the hospital emergency room and the police arrested Messrs. Clayton and Doreous. Mr. Clayton was found not guilty of simple assault and possession of a prohibited weapon.

  LEGAL STANDARDS

  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). See also 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 that "might affect the outcome of the suit," id., and "can be resolved only by a finder of fact because [it] may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party," id. at 250.

  In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. ANALYSIS

  The Court is not asked to rule on the accuracy of Plaintiffs' recollection of the events of November 8, 2001. Rather, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' own descriptions of those events demonstrate, as a matter of law, that Ms. Hudson's constitutional claim is without merit and that they are also entitled to summary judgment on the negligence claims and false-arrest claim.

  A. Ms. Hudson's Constitutional Claim

  Ms. Hudson asserts that the MPD officers violated her constitutional right, enforceable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, to be free from unreasonable seizure by law enforcement officials.*fn3 The question raised is whether the officers' forcible entry into her home, during which ...


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