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LYLES v. MICENKO

October 6, 2005.

ELISA LYLES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN MICENKO, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD LEON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, Elisa Lyles and Tom Mark ("the plaintiffs"), brought this action seeking damages for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various civil torts against the the District of Columbia, individual police officers, and their next door neighbors, John and Ellen Micenko ("the Micenkos"). See Pls.' Am. Compl. The Micenkos have moved for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record herein, the Court GRANTS the defendants' motion.*fn1

BACKGROUND FACTS

  In 1999, the parties resided in adjoining townhomes that shared a common facade in the Capitol Hill section of the city. Defs.' Statement of Facts ¶ 2; Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 1. Starting with a house painting dispute in July 1999, disputes constantly arose between Ms. Lyles and Mrs. Micenko across a wide range of issues. Defs.' Statement of Facts ¶¶ 4-5; Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 1. The acrimonious relationship culminated on or about August 20, 1999, with a dispute concerning the removal of an oil tank from the back of the Micenkos' property, which necessitated the involvement of Metropolitan Police Department Officers ("MPD"). Defs.' Statement of Facts ¶ 7; Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ¶¶ 2-6. According to the plaintiffs, the MPD on that occasion forced Ms. Lyles to stay at home as the police and the Micenkos determined whether the oil tank could be removed from the defendants' backyard through the plaintiffs' backyard. Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23-36; Pl. Lyles Dep. ¶¶ 27-32, 99-118. Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that the MPD and the Micenkos "intentionally and maliciously conspired" to intimidate the plaintiffs concerning these various disputes. Pls. Am. Compl. ¶ 51. Plaintiffs also allege that Ms. Lyles was arrested the next day by the MPD and held for two days by MPD on felony assault charges based on false allegations by the Micenkos that Ms. Lyles attempted to hit Mrs. Micenko with a copper pipe.*fn2 Id. at ¶¶ 40-49; Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 15. According to the plaintiffs, the police had no probable cause to arrest Ms. Lyles. As a result of her arrest and detention and subsequent prosecution for assault, the plaintiffs allege that Ms. Lyles suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder which adversely affected their marriage. Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶¶ 58-60, 72-74. Plaintiffs also contend that defendants defamed the plaintiffs by telling the surrounding neighbors that Ms. Lyles was "crazy." Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶¶ 67-69.*fn3

  The plaintiffs filed a suit in this Court on December 14, 2000 seeking monetary damages from the Micenkos for false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, slander and defamation, gross negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium. The Micenkos have moved for summary judgment as to Counts IV (i.e., Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress), V (i.e., Malicious Prosecution), VI (i.e., Slander and Defamation) and IX (i.e., Loss of Consortium) of the amended complaint.*fn4 The Court will address each of these counts separately and for the following reasons, GRANTS summary judgment to each of those counts, and Count VIII (i.e., Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress).

  ANALYSIS

  A. Standard of Review

  Summary Judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the record demonstrate 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 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 claims rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Additionally, to be a genuine issue of fact, it must be supported by sufficient admissible evidence such that a reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmovant. See Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242-43 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

  The moving party bears the initial burden of "identifying those portions of the `pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. In order to prevail on its motion for summary judgment, the movant must show that the nonmovant "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." Id. at 322.

  In opposing summary judgment, the "nonmoving party [must] go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the `admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324. The Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, giving the nonmovant the benefit of all justifiable inferences derived from the evidence in the record. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (1986). The nonmovant, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. However, it may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993). The nonmovant must present specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Greene, 164 F.3d at 675. If the evidence presented "is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

  However, a court ruling on summary judgment motions must not determine the credibility of witnesses or weigh material facts legitimately in dispute. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 ("[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge"); Exxon v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 663 F.2d 120, 126 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (holding that the function of the court is to determine whether relevant factual controversy exists; it is not to make determinations of contested fact) (emphasis added). The drawing of inferences is the jury's function so long as the competing inferences are reasonable under the law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

  B. Count IV: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

  Plaintiffs' allege that the defendants' conduct of initiating the complaint with the MPD that led to Ms. Lyles' arrest, incarceration and subsequent criminal trial, for a crime that Ms. Lyles maintains she never committed, caused her severe emotional distress. Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶¶ 58-60. However, after reviewing both parties' motions and accompanying documents in support of their positions, the Court finds that plaintiffs have failed to establish that the conduct of the defendants rose to the necessary level of "outrageousness" or that plaintiff suffered the necessary "severe emotional distress" and, therefore, grants defendants motion for summary judgment as to this count.

  To prove a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, "a plaintiff must show (1) extreme and outrageous conduct on the part of the defendant which (2) intentionally or recklessly (3) causes the plaintiff' severe emotional distress.'" Larijani v. Georgetown Univ., 791 A.2d 41, 44 (D.C. 2002). The conduct alleged must be "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Homan v. Goyal, 711 A.2d 812, 818 (D.C. 1998) (quoting Drejza v. Vaccaro, 650 A.2d 1308, 1316 (D.C. 1994). Liability does not extend to "mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities." ...


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