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Taylor v. United States

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

May 11, 2015

PAMELA TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant

For PAMELA TAYLOR, Plaintiff: Jude Chinedu Iweanoge, THE IWEANOGES' FIRM, P.C., IWEANOGE LAW CENTER, Washington, DC.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant: Wynne Patrick Kelly, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Civil Division, Washington, DC; Shuchi Batra, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

OPINION

ALAN KAY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

This Federal Tort Claims Act case was assigned to the undersigned for all purposes and trial on January 2, 2014. On September 4, 2014, this court concluded a two-day bench trial. As directed by the court, the parties submitted their proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law following the trial. See Plaintiff's Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [45] (" Pl.'s Findings" ); Defendant's Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Pursuant to Rule 52 [43] (" Def.'s Findings" ). This court now makes its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)(1). Any facts not expressly stated in the below findings are either immaterial or undisputed. For the reasons set forth herein, the court finds that the plaintiff has not met her burden of proof for her claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress (" IIED" ), assault, and battery. The court, therefore, enters judgment in favor of the United States.

I. BACKGROUND

This suit arises from a federal tort claim against the United States of America (" Defendant" ) for injuries sustained by Ms. Pamela Taylor (" Plaintiff" ) while in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service (" USMS" ). ( See Original Complaint for Damages Under the Federal Tort Claims Act [1] (" Complaint" )). Plaintiff alleges that Supervisory Detention Enforcement Officer Eric Clark (" Officer Clark" ) committed assault and battery against her while she was in the cellblock of the D.C. Superior Court, awaiting transport to the District of Columbia jail (" DC Jail" ). (Complaint ¶ ¶ 12, 21).

The Plaintiff claims that she followed Officer Clark's request to stop talking with a fellow inmate, responding " alright, you got it." (Trial Tr. [36], 35:16-18, 39:3-7). Further, the Plaintiff claims she was in full restraints (both leg and waist restraints) at all times in the cell block. (Trial Tr.[36], 65:24; Trial Tr. [37], 47:2-9). Plaintiff avers that Officer Clark " grabbed her by the back shackles" and slammed her face onto the ground with " a lot of force." (Trial Tr. [36], 35:18-22, 65:21-22). Plaintiff claims she could not break her fall and suffered serious injury. (Trial Tr. [36], 35:22, 39:16-25). Plaintiff further claims that she suffered emotionally and is now " nervous around authority figures." (Trial Tr.[36], 64:21-65:16).

The Government counters that Plaintiff was talking with another inmate and that Officer Clark ordered her to stop. (Answer [7] ¶ 11). The Government states that Plaintiff became belligerent and put her hand in Officer Clark's face. (Trial Tr. [37], 72:8-9). Officer Clark again informed the Plaintiff to be quiet or he would " place her on the ground." (Trial Tr. [37], 72:11-13). Plaintiff allegedly struck at Officer Clark's face for a second time, and Officer Clark testified that he utilized a leg sweep action to regain control of Plaintiff and place her in full restraints, as he testified that Plaintiff only had leg restraints on at the time of the incident. (Trial Tr. [37], 72:8-73:10, 75:5-7). The Plaintiff fell face first and did not break her fall. (Trial Tr. [36], 35:22; Trial Tr. [37], 76:9-14, 78:1-6). After restraining the Plaintiff, Officer Clark noticed blood on her face and called for medical assistance. ( Id. at 75:5-8).

DC Emergency Medical Services transported Plaintiff to George Washington Hospital where Plaintiff received treatment for her injuries that included a broken nose, two broken teeth, a split lip, and two black eyes. ( See Complaint ¶ 13; Trial Tr. [36], 38:7-10, 39:21-25). Plaintiff submitted medical bills from George Washington Hospital and Phillips & Green, MD totaling $11,512.22, as well as several thousand dollars of dental bills from The Washington Dental Health Care Center. (Trial J.Ex. 7-9). Plaintiff maintains that Officer Clark's actions were " malicious, willful, and intentional." (Complaint ¶ 16). Plaintiff brings this claim against the Defendant pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (" FTCA" ) (28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq. ) alleging that the actions constitute assault, battery, and IIED and asks for $300,000 in damages. (Complaint ¶ 21; J.Ex. 10). Defendant denies this claim and avers that Officer Clark took necessary action to defend himself and regain control of Plaintiff. (Answer ¶ 16). Further, Defendant claims that Officer Clark's actions were privileged under DC law. Evans-Reid v. Dist. of Columbia, 930 A.2d 930, 937 (D.C. 2007).

The undersigned conducted a two-day bench trial on September 3 and September 4, 2014. After considering witness testimony, evidence presented, and the proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law of the parties, the court finds that Plaintiff did not meet her burden and finds that Defendant is not liable for IIED, assault, and battery.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

A. Detention of Plaintiff and Cell Block Conditions

1. Plaintiff, a District of Columbia citizen, is currently incarcerated in a Texas federal detention facility. (Trial Tr. [36], 16:12-18:13, Sept. 3, 2014 morning session).

2. On March 17, 2010, Plaintiff appeared before a judge in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for a probation violation. (Trial Tr. [36], 23:23-25).

3. At that time, the court ordered the Plaintiff " stepped back" into custody to await transport to the DC Jail. (Trial Tr. [36], 26:1-5; Trial Tr. [37], 5:1-5, Sept. 3, 2014 afternoon session).

4. " Stepping back" is an action where the court orders a person not previously in custody to be held for a future court appearance. (Trial Tr. [36], 26:1-5).

5. Prisoners awaiting transport are held in the Superior Court cellblock. (Trial Tr. [36], 26:7-23; Trial Tr. [37], 5:4-6).

6. USMS is in charge of the safety and security of the Superior Court cellblock. (Trial Tr. [36], 26:7-21; Trial Tr. [37], 65:7-21).

7. The Superior Court cellblock is a dangerous place where inmates routinely act in a disruptive manner to other inmates and law enforcement -- everything from a " small scuffle to an all-out brawl." (Trial Tr. [38], 11:2-6, 41:19-24).

8. Approximately three months prior to the incident involving Plaintiff, a female inmate hid a folding knife in her genital area and stabbed an officer while ...


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