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Ronkin v. Vihn1

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

October 16, 2014

KARISSA A. RONKIN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDY B. VIHN [1] , Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For KARISSA A. RONKIN, Plaintiff: Devon M. Jacob , LEAD ATTORNEY, JACOB LITIGATION, Mechanicsburg, PA; Dennis E. Boyle, BOYLE LITIGATION, Camp Hill, PA.

For ANDY B. VIHN, Defendant: Kathleen Ann Carey, LEAD ATTORNEY, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

REGGIE B. WALTON, United States District Judge.

The plaintiff, Karissa Ronkin, brings this action against defendant Andy Vinh, a Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (" WMATA" ) police officer, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), alleging constitutional

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and common-law violations arising from her September 16, 2010 arrest for unlawful entry and disorderly conduct while in the WAMATA Gallery Place Metrorail Station (the " Gallery Place Station" ). See generally Complaint (" Compl." ). Currently before the Court is Defendant Vinh's Motion for Summary Judgment (" Def.'s Mot." ) as to all of the plaintiff's claims, and the Motion of Plaintiff Karissa A. Ronkin for Partial Summary Judgment (" Pl.'s Mot." ) on Counts II and III of her complaint. After carefully considering the parties' submissions,[2] the applicable legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court concludes for the following reasons that the plaintiff's motion must be denied in its entirety and the defendant's motion must be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The events preceding the plaintiff's arrest are largely uncontested. On the evening of September 16, 2010, the defendant was employed as a WMATA Transit Police Officer, and was on duty at the Chinatown entrance of the Gallery Place Station. Def.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 1-2; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3. At approximately 10:00 p.m.,[3] the plaintiff and two of her friends entered the Gallery Place Station through the Chinatown entrance. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 6; Def.'s Facts ¶ 2. The " [d]efendant observed [the plaintiff] and her friends . . . horse-playing, so he advised the group that horse-playing needed to be taken outside." Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7; Def.'s Facts ¶ 5. The plaintiff took offense to the defendant's tone, resulting in them engaging in a heated verbal exchange. Id. ¶ ¶ 9-11; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 6; see Def.'s Mem., Exhibit (" Ex." ) 1, (Deposition of Karissa A. Ronkin (" Ronkin Depo." )) at 28:3-29:22. Following the verbal exchange, the defendant " told . . . [the plaintiff] and her party to go ahead and catch a cab and leave the station and not utilize the station." Pl.'s Br., Ex. 2 (Deposition of Andy Vinh (" Vinh Depo." )) at 31:3-9; id. at 52:16-53:12; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 9. The plaintiff and her friends then left the station,[4] Pl.'s Facts ¶ 15, but the defendant

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was unaware that the plaintiff had fully exited the station at this time. See Pl.'s Br., Ex. 2 (Vinh Depo.) at 43:2-12. The defendant did not explicitly tell the plaintiff that she could not come back into the station, Pl.'s Br., Ex. 2 (Vinh Depo.) at 38:20-39:4; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 8, instead, she was told to leave and to take a taxi, Pl.'s Br., Ex 2 (Vinh Depo.) at 52:16-53:12; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 21.

" [A]pproximately five minutes after [the plaintiff] left, the [WMATA station] manager [said to the defendant] . . ., 'hey, . . . didn't you tell that girl[, the plaintiff,] to leave,'" Pl.'s Facts ¶ 16; see Def.'s Facts ¶ 8, whereupon the defendant told the plaintiff, " 'I told you to leave, go ahead and leave; don't come through the station.' [The plaintiff] refused to adhere to [the defendant's] warnings to her . . . [and] she demanded that she wanted to use the station," Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 2 (Vinh Depo) at 41:22-42:4; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 9; see also Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 21-22. According to the defendant, the plaintiff stated, " I'm [twenty-one] fucking years old[,] I can do whatever I want[,] I want to ride the Metro system." [5] Pl.'s Facts ¶ 23; Def.'s Facts ¶ 11. At that point, the defendant began repeatedly " yell[ing] at [the plaintiff] to 'take a cab,' and that 'this is my station, leave,' and in response, [the plaintiff] stated, 'It is your fucking station . . . yeah' and then turned around and began to walk away from the [d]efandant back toward the exit as instructed." Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 11; Def.'s Facts ¶ 10. " [W]hile [the plaintiff] made the statement [it's your fucking station . . . yeah,] . . . [the defendant] decided to place [her under arrest]." Pl.'s Facts ¶ 31; Def.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 31. Part of the encounter was recorded by an unknown person, see Pl.'s Br., Ex. 3 (YouTube Recording), and the recording was later posted on YouTube by an unknown person, Def's Facts ¶ 16; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 16.

A. The Plaintiff's Arrest

While the parties generally agree about the events that preceded the plaintiff's arrest, their stories dramatically diverge as to the circumstances of the arrest. The defendant explains that after making the decision to arrest the plaintiff he " repeatedly state[ed] 'come here, come here' while reaching for [the plaintiff]." Def.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 34; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 34. According to the defendant, the plaintiff " push[ed] [the d]efendant away, t[old] him to get off of her and . . . her resistance caused them both to fall on the floor." Def.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 35. The defendant contends that when the plaintiff pushed him, he " los[t] his balance while reaching for her, and as a result of [the plaintiff's] physical attack on [him], and her physical resistance to him, both fell to the floor." Id. ¶ 36. And while the defendant admits that the plaintiff had not engaged in conduct

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the allowed him to " take [the plaintiff] to the ground," id. ¶ 37; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 37, " he [alleges that he] did not use a take down to subdue [the p]laintiff," Def.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 37. The plaintiff, on the other hand, maintains that the defendant used a take-down maneuver whereby he " grabbed her around the neck[] and threw her to the ground." Pl.'s Facts ¶ 36.

Following the plaintiff's arrest, she was " charged with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct/public intoxication." Def.'s Facts ¶ 17; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 42. However, " [t]he prosecuting attorney entered a nolle prosequi on both charges on October 7, 2010." Def.'s Facts ¶ 18; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 18. The plaintiff filed her complaint in this Court on May 7, 2012. Def.'s Facts ¶ 19; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 19; see Compl. at 14.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Before granting a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court must find that " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). " A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 692, 383 U.S.App.D.C. 74 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, " the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (citation omitted). " Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment . . . ." Id. The movant has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that the non-moving party " 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." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the non-moving party " must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Accordingly, the non-moving party must not rely on " mere allegations or denials . . . but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there [are] genuine issue[s] for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (second omission in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). " The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position [is] insufficient" to withstand a motion for summary judgment, but rather " there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Id. at 252.

III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. The Plaintiff's Constitutional Claims

To establish a claim against the defendant under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, the plaintiff must show that the defendant, while acting under color of state law, deprived her of the " rights, privileges, or immunities ...


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