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Dingle v. Dist. of Columbia

August 12, 2008

MONIQUE DINGLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.
MONIQUE DINGLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAURICE SCOTT, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Now before the court comes defendants District of Columbia, Sean Moore, Maurice Scott, Stuart Emerman, Nancy Oliver, and David Anderson's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [44]. Upon consideration of the motion, plaintiff's opposition [48], the entire record herein, and the applicable law, the Court will GRANT defendants' motion as to battery claims stemming from the May 23, 2005 incident, constitutional false arrest claims against the District of Columbia, and punitive damages claims against the District of Columbia and Officers Scott and David Anderson and DENY defendants' motion as to all other claims.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff Monique Dingle filed suit in this Court on February 24, 2006 against defendants Sean Moore, Maurice Scott, Stuart Emerman, Nancy Oliver, Brian Anderson, David Anderson, James Anderson, and the District of Columbia.*fn2 Plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed Brian and James Anderson, Oliver, and Emerman.*fn3 Plaintiff alleges a number of claims arising from two separate incidents involving the District of Columbia Police. Specifically, she alleges constitutional false arrest claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1983, common-law false arrest, assault and battery, and gross negligence. Plaintiff further seeks an award of punitive damages. In the motion currently before the Court, defendants have moved for summary judgment as to all claims except the assault and battery claims stemming from the May 8, 2005 arrest.

A. The May 8, 2005 Incident

At about 1:45 a.m. on May 8, 2005, plaintiff Monique Dingle and six female friends had left a party at an apartment and were standing outside of the building. (Compl. ¶ 10.) No more than fifteen people had congregated in the vicinity of the group. (M. Dingle Dep. 38:8-9.) Two police officers, including defendant Sean Moore, approached the group, told them the police had received a noise complaint, and instructed everyone to leave the area. (Id. 42:11-13.) As Officer Moore was talking, plaintiff received a phone call, answered the call, and made brief eye contact with the officer. (Id. 42:15-21.) Though the group of females had started walking away from the scene (see Goodbee Statement), Officer Moore nevertheless felt that he had been disrespected by plaintiff's answering of her phone (M. Dingle Dep. 43:19-44:7). Seething, Officer Moore hurled epithets at plaintiff and proceeded to push her on both of her shoulders. (Id.) Though plaintiff did not make any attempts at resisting Officer Moore's show of force (id. 45:2-11), the officer took her left arm, raised it behind her back, grabbed her neck, and slammed her onto the hood of a nearby car (id. 44:14-16). As plaintiff later testified, Officer Moore pounced on her almost immediately after commanding the group to leave the area, not giving her sufficient time to comply with his demands. (See id. 54:22-55:2.)

Officer Moore then told plaintiff he was arresting her for resisting arrest, took all of her belongings out of her pocket, and handcuffed her. (Id. 58:19-59:5.) Apparently, however, this initial display of force had not been sufficiently cathartic, so Officer Moore proceeded to grab plaintiff by her hair and slammed her face on the hood of the car. (Id. 61:17-22.) He then searched her and shoved her into the back of the patrol car. (Id. 62:21-65:13.)

After plaintiff had sat quietly for a while in the back of the patrol car, Officer Moore removed her handcuffs. (Id. 69:18-70:7.) Officer Moore then released her, giving her a citation and instructing her to pay the fine at the district police station. (Id. 74:17-18.) Upon exiting the vehicle, plaintiff attempted to retrieve her belongings, but she was unable to locate her eight-hundred-dollar dental retainer. (Id. 76:1-2.)

B. The May 23, 2005 Incident

Plaintiff felt she had been wrongly issued a citation, and she accordingly sought to challenge the twenty-five-dollar fine in court. (M. Dingle Dep. 82.) She traveled to the district police station on May 23, 2005, and told defendant Maurice Scott, who was stationed at the front desk, that she wished to set up a date for a court appearance. (A. Dingle Dep. 19:9-22.) Officer Scott responded by issuing an ultimatum to plaintiff: she could either immediately pay the fine listed on the citation, or she would be arrested. (M. Dingle Dep. 82:2-83:1.) Plaintiff's mother, who had accompanied her to the station, tried at length to explain to the officers that the citation clearly stated that plaintiff could request a trial date without first paying the fine. (A. Dingle Dep. 21:6-12.) Officer Scott rejected this overture and refused to give the citation form back to plaintiff. (Id.)

Five or six officers at the station, including Officers Scott and David Anderson, then huddled around plaintiff, handcuffs in hand, and said they were going to arrest her. (M. Dingle Dep. 85:6-86:2.) One officer kept repeating that plaintiff was resisting arrest. (Id.) Plaintiff and her mother felt that the officers were trying to intimidate them, and the officers physically restrained the movement of the pair, such that neither could leave the station. (A. Dingle Dep. 27-35.) Neither plaintiff nor her mother raised her voice in response to the apparent intimidation tactics. (Id.) Plaintiff ultimately stood up and removed her jewelry to facilitate the arrest. (M. Dingle Dep. 87:19-88:7.) The officers then decided not to handcuff plaintiff, and instead they took her behind closed doors to perform a "livescan" procedure. (Id. 96:3-10.) That procedure entailed scanning plaintiff's fingerprints and entering the data into the police computer system. (Anderson Dep. 26:3-11.)

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standards for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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). Affording substantial deference to the nonmoving party, the summary judgment standard mandates that the court "draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true." Brown v. Paulson, 541 F. Supp. 2d 379, 383 (D.D.C. 2008).

Summary judgment must be entered "against a party who fails 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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "In such a situation, there can be no 'genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 322-23.

The nonmoving party must clear a certain threshold in surviving a motion for summary judgment: "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment," and "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position will be insufficient." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 252 (1986); accord Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (holding that the nonmoving party "must do more that simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts").

Summary judgment is not appropriate "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Thus, the proper focus of the inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it ...


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