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Brooks v. District of Columbia

November 20, 2006

RONALD BROOKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Ronald Brooks, brings this action against the District of Columbia and five individual police officers ("Officers") of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"), alleging violations of the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), and the common law of the District of Columbia. Specifically, he alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, assault, and Fourth Amendment violations against the individual defendants. Against the District of Columbia, he alleges respondeat superior liability, liability under Section 1983 for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, and respondeat superior liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

This matter is currently before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. ("Defs.' Mot.") [Dkt. No. 37]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, and the entire record herein,*fn1 and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion is hereby granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts*fn2

On the night of February 24, 2004, Defendant Officers stopped the vehicle of Plaintiff's friend Andre Bassett on the 2500 block of Pomoroy Road, S.E. As they were searching Mr. Bassett's vehicle, Plaintiff and his girlfriend, Quianna Butler, drove up to the scene. Ms. Butler stopped the car she was driving approximately 15-30 feet from the Officers and Plaintiff exited the vehicle.*fn3 At this point, the parties' versions of the facts diverge.

Plaintiff alleges that the Officers approached him, ordered him to put up his hands, and searched him, at which point they "savagely beat him about the body and face." Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that as he exited the car, the Officers came towards [him] and ordered him to put his hands up. Mr. Brooks complied. Mr. Brooks was ordered to lay down on the ground. He again complied. Defendant Roe placed his knee into Mr. Brooks' back while grabbing at his neck tightly and choking him.... While Defendant Roe was holding Mr. Brooks, one of the Defendants punched Mr. Brooks. Other officers punched and kicked Mr. Brooks. Mr. Brooks escaped the attack and attempted to run for safety; however, Defendant Wright tackled Mr. Brooks. While on top of Mr. Brooks, Defendant Wright punched Mr. Brooks squarely in the eye causing serious injuries.

Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 2. In his deposition, Plaintiff stated that over the course of 20-30 minutes the Officers punched him approximately 10-20 times in the face and kicked him in his body while he was on the ground. Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 1 at 54-59.

Defendants allege that after Plaintiff exited Ms. Butler's car, he began to walk toward the Officers with his hands in his pockets. Defendants claim the Officers, observing Plaintiff's pace to be aggressive, told Plaintiff to stop several times. When Plaintiff failed to stop, three of the Officers approached him, told him to get on the ground, conducted a pat down search and checked his identification. Two of the Officers returned to Mr. Bassett's vehicle and Plaintiff attempted to get up. The remaining Officer, Defendant Roe, attempted to hold him down. Plaintiff pushed and struck Defendant Roe, ran down the road toward a wooded area and fell down. Defendant Wright tackled Plaintiff, and Plaintiff threw two punches at him. Defendant Wright then threw one punch, hitting Plaintiff in the eye.

It is not contested that the Officers arrested Plaintiff and took him to Washington Hospital Center. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Wright was promoted to Lieutenant shortly after the incident. Plaintiff claims he "suffered serious damage to his eye, had trouble getting over the incidents of that night, and has as [sic] strong fear of police officers." Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 2 at 5-6. He seeks compensatory, consequential and punitive damages as a result of the foregoing.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on February 23, 2005. On December 30, 2005, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. After completion of discovery, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on April 10, 2006 [Dkt. No. 37], which Plaintiff opposed on May 12, 2006. As noted earlier, no Reply was filed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment will be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with any affidavits or declarations, show 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. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In determining whether the movant has met this burden, a court must consider all factual inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. McKinney v. Dole, 765 F.2d 1129, 1135 (D.C. Cir. 1985); see also Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. Once the moving party makes its initial showing, however, the nonmoving party must demonstrate "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; McKinney, 765 F.2d at 1135. Accordingly, the nonmoving party must provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find in his or her favor. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255-56. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Is Denied on the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim (Count 1) Against the Individual Defendants Because There Are Material Facts in Dispute

Defendants contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") in Count 1 because he "cannot establish the high degree of extreme and outrageous conduct to sustain his burden." Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on this claim because their conduct cannot, as a matter of law, be considered outrageous. Defendants further argue that Plaintiff has not shown the requisite degree of emotional distress to sustain an IIED claim. Plaintiff responds that he ...


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