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Zhi Chen v. District of Columbia

September 9, 2011

ZHI CHEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
ZHI CHEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Court

OPINION This matter is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Nicole Ha and the District of Columbia. Upon consideration of the parties' arguments, the relevant legal authorities, and the entire record in this case, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part, entering judgment for the District of Columbia as to all claims against it and for Nicole Ha as to some of the claims against her.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

The claims asserted by plaintiff Zhi Chen arise from her encounter with three officers of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") on April 21, 2007. On that date defendant Charles Monk, at that time an MPD officer, was moonlighting as a security guard at a Red Roof Inn located in the Chinatown neighborhood of the District of Columbia. DSMF ¶ 1; PSMF ¶¶ 1-2. According to Officer Monk, at some point in the very early morning, he was informed by the desk clerk on duty at the Red Roof Inn that "there was a problem with a room, an unpaid service." MSJ, Ex. 1 at 51. When the clerk called the room in question, an "Asian lady" answered the phone and agreed to come down and pay the balance due. Id. Shortly after the call, however, the lady ran through the lobby, past the desk clerk, and out the hotel's front door. Id. at 52.

Officer Monk says that after recounting this story, the clerk led him to the front of the hotel and pointed to a woman whom he identified as the "Asian lady" who had absconded from the hotel without paying her bill. MSJ, Ex. 1 at 52. Officer Monk then climbed into his truck and drove a short distance toward the woman, then got out of the truck and approached her. Id. at 53.

Ms. Chen was the woman that Officer Monk approached concerning the unpaid hotel bill. See MSJ, Ex. 1 at 55; PSMF ¶ 5. According to her, at around 2 or 3 a.m. on April 21, 2007, she had just left her job at the office of a bus company when Officer Monk appeared and "twisted" her left arm behind her back. Opp., Ex. 5 at 19-20. Officer Monk identified himself as a police officer and showed Ms. Chen his badge. Id. at 20. He then marched Ms. Chen to his truck, which was parked nearby, and, after he had removed a set of handcuffs from the trunk, placed them around Ms. Chen's wrists. Id. at 22-23. Then, while Ms. Chen stood behind his car with her hands cuffed together, he went into a nearby building and emerged soon afterward with two other police officers, Chancham Spears and defendant Nicole Ha. PSMF ¶¶ 9-11. Officer Monk then got back into his truck while one of the other two officers placed Ms. Chen in a police vehicle and the third officer entered a second police vehicle. Opp., Ex. 5 at 28-30. All three vehicles then traveled the short distance to the Red Roof Inn. Id. at 30-31.

Once at the Red Roof Inn, Officer Monk and his two fellow officers escorted Ms. Chen, who was still handcuffed, into the hotel lobby. Opp., Ex. 5 at 30-32. Ms. Chen, who has limited knowledge of English, asked for a Chinese interpreter, but was ignored. Id. at 32. None of the officers explained to Ms. Chen why she had been detained and brought to the Red Roof Inn. Id. Instead, while Officers Spears and Ha looked on, id. at 31, Officer Monk reached into one of Ms. Chen's pockets and pulled out a large roll of bills. Id. at 34. He took three $20 bills from the roll and replaced the remainder of the money in Ms. Chen's pocket. Id. Officer Monk then took the $60 he had removed from Ms. Chen's pocket to the hotel's front desk and gave it to the clerk there. Id. at 38. He gave Ms. Chen eighty cents in change, removed her handcuffs, and, after taking a photo of her, told her to "get out." Id. at 32-33, 38, 40. At Ms. Chen's request, Officer Monk obtained a receipt for her. Id. at 38. The receipt, listing charges incurred by a "Steven Blocker" who had stayed in Room 721 of the Red Roof Inn on the night of April 20, 2007, showed that a $59.20 balance had been paid in cash on April 20, 2007. See Opp., Ex. 2.

By Ms. Chen's account, she saw Officer Monk again later that day, at around 2 p.m., when he came into her workplace and apologized for taking her money. Opp., Ex. 5 at 47-48. With the help of a co-worker of Ms. Chen's who served as a translator, Officer Monk said, according to Ms. Chen, that a "Hispanic woman" had approached him earlier that day and "returned the money" that had not been paid for the balance due at the Red Roof Inn. Id. at 48. At that point Officer Monk realized that he had wrongly apprehended Ms. Chen and came to apologize to her and to return the $60 he had taken from her. Id. Ms. Chen refused to accept the $60 from him because he wanted to take the Red Roof Inn receipt back in exchange, and she had decided at that point that she "wanted to sue [him] with the help of a lawyer." Id. at 49.

Ms. Chen does not claim to have sustained any lasting physical injuries as a result of her encounter with Officers Monk, Spears, and Ha, see Opp., Ex. 5 at 52, but says that she continues to have "psychological issues" and "nightmares" resulting from the incident, in part because "according to Chinese custom, if [she] didn't commit any crime" but was arrested anyway, she "would have bad luck forever." Opp., Ex. 5 at 49, 60, 62. Her two operative complaints allege that Officers Monk and Ha are liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, 252 Compl. ¶ 34; common law false arrest, id. ¶ 29; violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, id.

¶¶ 57-58; and the tort of "personal injury," id. ¶ 22, which the Court has previously interpreted as an assault and battery claim. See Chen v. District of Columbia, 256 F.R.D. 267, 271 n.4 (D.D.C. 2009). Ms. Chen also brings a negligence claim against Officer Monk, 252 Compl. ¶ 38; a similar claim against Officer Ha has been dismissed. See Chen v. District of Columbia, 256 F.R.D. at 273-74. Ms. Chen's remaining claim against the District of Columbia is for negligent supervision and training of personnel. 1536 Compl. ¶ 40. Officer Ha and the District of Columbia have moved for the entry of summary judgment in their favor as to Ms. Chen's claims against them.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment may be granted if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits [or declarations] 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 also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). "A fact is 'material' if a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under the governing law; factual disputes that are 'irrelevant or unnecessary' do not affect the summary judgment determination." Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895.

When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; see also Mastro v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 849-50 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Washington Hospital Center, 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc); Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989). The non-moving party's opposition, however, must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits, declarations or other competent evidence, setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-moving party is required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find in her favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the non-movant's evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50; see Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. at 380 ("[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is 'no genuine issue for trial.'") (quoting Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff must have more than "a scintilla of evidence to support [her] claims." Freedman v. MCI Telecommunications Corp., 255 F.3d 840, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2001). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must "eschew making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

III. CLAIMS AGAINST ...


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