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Linares v. Jones

April 28, 2008

HAROLD LINARES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CURTIS JONES, JR. ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter, arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and common law, is before the Court on the motion for partial summary judgment as to Defendants Curtis Jones, Stanley Rembish, Charles Ramsey and William Farr. Upon consideration of the motion, Plaintiff's opposition, and the relevant parts of the record, the Court will grant Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises from Plaintiff's encounter on January 3, 2002, with officers of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"). Plaintiff alleges that while entering his car near Nikki's Supper Club located at 1306 Good Hope Road in Washington, D.C., with two companions, he heard gun shots fired from outside and inside the car. 3rd Am. Compl. ¶ 14. MPD officers "pursued Plaintiff's automobile on Good Hope Road." Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff's vehicle collided with a white Mitsubishi automobile, his airbags deployed and Plaintiff lost consciousness. Id. Plaintiff's car was "quickly surrounded by [MPD] officers, including [Defendants] [Curtis] Reed, Jones and Rembish." Id. One of the officers "broke the car window and struck Plaintiff in his face [bringing him] back to consciousness." Id. The officers then pulled Plaintiff from the car through the driver's side window, and one officer proceeded to punch him "repeatedly in the face, and another [] officer punched [him] in the stomach," causing Plaintiff to "double[] over" presumably in pain. Id. ¶ 16. The officers continued to kick and punch Plaintiff while "yelling racially charged insults at him." Id. One officer slammed Plaintiff to the ground face down, and "stepp[ed] hard on the back of Plaintiff's head. The officers pushed Plaintiff into the gravel, causing abrasions on his face and arms." Id. While on the ground, Plaintiff was "struck in the face with a blunt object, severely damaging his nose" and causing him to lose consciousness again. Id. Plaintiff "suffered head trauma, developed bruises in both of his eye sockets and [suffered] pain in his lower back." Id. "When Plaintiff regained consciousness, the officers brought him to the side of the road and left him sitting on the curb. Eventually, they put [Plaintiff] in the back of a police car and took him to the police station." Id. ¶ 17.

Plaintiff alleges that during his transport to the Seventh District Headquarters, officers refused his request to be taken to a hospital. Id. After complaining "about the abuse and request[ing] again to be taken to a hospital, id., Plaintiff "was finally taken" to D.C. General Hospital. Id. ¶ 18. Despite his complaints to police officers, Plaintiff allegedly did not see a doctor but instead received "over-the-counter pain medications" from the officers. Id. Plaintiff was transported back to the police station and then to the Central Detention Facility ("CDF"), allegedly without ever seeing a doctor. Id. ¶ 19.

The Court previously awarded partial summary judgment to Defendants on certain counts of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. The surviving claims, set forth in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint ("Compl.") [Dkt. No. 67], are based on excessive use of force, the denial of medical care and negligent supervision. See Order (June 4, 2007).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is warranted "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). As a general rule, "[i]n deciding whether there is a genuine issue of fact before it, the court must assume the truth of all statements proffered by the party opposing summary judgment." Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 674 (D.C. Cir. 1999). All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The non-movant, however, "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id., 477 U.S. at 248. Thus, when facts are not controverted in opposition to a summary judgment motion, the Court "may assume that facts identified by the moving party in its statement of material facts are admitted." Local Civil Rule 7(h). When facts are disputed, however, "credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts, are jury functions, not those of a judge." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

III. ANALYSIS

Defendants contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on certain claims of the complaint, namely, (1) the constitutional and common law claims against Stanley Rembish for unreasonable use of force, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the deprivation of medical care (Counts I-IV), (2) the constitutional claim against Rembish, Jones and Reed for the alleged deprivation of medical care (Count IV) and (3) the negligent supervision and training claim against Ramsey, Farr and Jones (Counts V and VI).*fn1 Def.'s Mot. at 1. In addition, Defendants contend that all of the movants are shielded by qualified immunity, id., but this defense is applicable only to Rembish as he is the only movant sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations.*fn2 As both the Supreme Court and our Court of Appeals have instructed, this Court must first determine whether Rembish is protected by qualified immunity. Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 232 (1991) (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815 (1982)); Kalka v. Hawk, 215 F.3d 90, 94 (D.C. Cir. 2000); McSurely v. McClellan, 697 F.2d 309, 318, n. 17 (D.C. Cir. 1982).

A. Qualified Immunity

Courts have long held that qualified immunity protects a government official from suits for damages in the performance of discretionary duties unless the official "'knew or reasonably should have known that the action he took within his sphere of official responsibility would violate the constitutional rights of the [plaintiff], or if he took the action with the malicious intention to cause a deprivation of constitutional rights or other injury . . . ' " Harlow, 457 U.S. at 813 (quoting Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 322(1975)); accord Farmer v. Moritsugu 163 F.3d 610, 613 (D.C. Cir. 1998); Brogsdale v. Barry, 926 F.2d 1184, 1189 (D.C. Cir.1991). An official enjoys protection from liability "where [his] conduct is objectively reasonable in light of existing law." Farmer, 163 F.3d at 613 (citing Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639 (1987)). On the other hand, an official is not shielded from liability where he "could be expected to know that certain conduct would violate statutory or constitutional rights." Id. (quoting Harlow , 457 U.S. at 819).

"A court evaluating a claim of qualified immunity 'must first determine whether the plaintiff has alleged the deprivation of an actual constitutional right at all, and if so, proceed to determine whether that right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.'" Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999) (quoting Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999)). "If the law was clearly established, the immunity defense ordinarily should fail, since a reasonably competent public official should know the law governing his conduct." Harlow, 457 U.S. at 818-19. "'[C]learly established' for purposes of qualified immunity means that '[t]he contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. This is not to say that an official action is protected by qualified immunity unless the very action in question has previously been held unlawful, but it is to say that in the light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be apparent.'" Wilson, 526 U.S. at 614-15 (quoting Anderson, 483 U.S. at 640). Whether the law was "clearly established" depends largely "upon the level of generality at which the relevant legal rule is to be identified." Id. (internal citations omitted). This inquiry is an objective one. Id. at 615.

In Count I of the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that during his arrest Rembish, along with Jones and Reed, beat him repeatedly to the point of unconsciousness, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, which necessarily embodies protection against excessive force. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) ("Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment."); Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 7 (1985) ("[T]here can be no question that apprehension by the use of deadly force is a seizure subject to the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment."). In Count IV of the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Rembish, along with Jones and Reed, was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs while in custody, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. It is long established that "[t]he Due ...


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