United States District Court, District of Columbia
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Shalonya Kyle is suing Sergeant Duncan Bedlion and four other officers of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department because of their actions during and after a dispute at a party that she and her boyfriend attended in September of 2011. Kyle asserts that, when the officers arrived to respond to a noise complaint, a confrontation between her boyfriend and the officers ensued, and when she attempted to defuse the brewing altercation, Sergeant Bedlion pushed her into a hot barbeque grill and ordered another officer to arrest her. In the instant eight-count complaint, Kyle has brought various common-law tort claims, including assault and battery, negligence, and abuse of process, and she also alleges that the officers violated federal law- specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 1983-when, among other things, they falsely arrested her and used excessive force against her in violation of her Fourth and/or Fifth Amendment rights.
Before this Court at present is Defendants' motion for summary judgment, which argues that the officers are entitled to immunity for the alleged violations of Kyle's constitutional rights. As explained fully below, this Court concludes that, even assuming arguendo that the officers' treatment of Kyle transgressed the Constitution, the officers are entitled to qualified immunity because clearly established law did not prohibit Bedlion's use of force or Kyle's arrest as the facts presented themselves here (even when the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Kyle). And because this Court has determined that Kyle's federal claims cannot proceed, it will decline to exercise jurisdiction over Kyle's pendent state-law tort claims.
Accordingly, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be GRANTED with respect to Counts Six and Seven of Kyle's complaint, and the remaining claims will be DISMISSED. A separate order consistent with this memorandum opinion will issue concurrently.
A. The Facts Pertaining To The Officers' Handling And Arrest Of Kyle
The relevant facts, which have been construed as much as reasonably possible in Kyle's favor, are largely undisputed and are as follows.
On the evening of September 11, 2011, Sergeant Duncan Bedlion and Officer Diane Davis arrived at a party in the northeast quadrant of the District of Columbia in response to a complaint about the noise level; they were joined shortly thereafter by Officer Andrew Gamm. ( See Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Undisputed Facts"), ECF No. 51, 37-39, ¶¶ 1-3.) During the course of the officers' investigation, they entered the home, where Kyle was sitting on a couch with her boyfriend Darious Lewis. ( See Excerpts From Kyle's Trial Testimony ("Kyle's Trial Testimony"), Ex. 1 to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 51-1, at 6-7.) Some sort of confrontation ensued between the officers and another person in the home, and Lewis got up from the couch to try to exit, but the officers stopped him in the doorway. ( See Kyle's Deposition, Ex. 1 to Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 55-1, at 13-14.) Bedlion and Lewis then began to argue on the home's front porch. ( See Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 5-6; Kyle's Deposition at 14.) During this argument, Kyle stepped between the two men, with her back to Bedlion ( see Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 7, 12), grabbed Lewis's waist (Kyle's Deposition at 15), and placed her hand over Lewis's mouth ( id.; Undisputed Facts ¶ 7). Kyle never touched the officer. ( See Superior Court Trial Transcript, Ex. 1 to Defs.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 38-1, at 45.)
The argument escalated; at one point, Bedlion grabbed Lewis by the arm and Lewis pulled away, cursing at Bedlion. ( See Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 8-11.) Bedlion then immediately fired his pepper spray at Lewis ( see Kyle's Deposition at 16), while Kyle was still between the two men ( see Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 12-13). Kyle and Lewis stumbled away and "tumbl[ed] down the steps" to the porch, with Kyle still holding on to Lewis. (Kyle's Trial Testimony at 4; see also Undisputed Facts ¶ 14.) Bedlion followed behind them, and then grabbed and threw (or shoved) Kyle away from Lewis-Kyle landed in a hot barbeque grill about six feet away. ( See Kyle's Trial Testimony at 4 ("The police officer... placed [his] hands on my arms and just tossed me away into the grill."); Undisputed Facts ¶ 15.) Kyle sustained a second-degree burn on her arm (Kyle's Trial Testimony at 4), and Officer Davis, who had been in her police car up until that point, came over to assist Kyle, ( see Undisputed Facts ¶ 19). Davis helped Kyle up from the ground and told her to go inside and sit down, but Bedlion overruled this directive, ordering Davis to arrest Kyle. ( See Kyle's Deposition at 20 ("[B]y the time I reached the top of the steps a male officer said, No, arrest her, too.'"); see also Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 19-21.)
B. Procedural History
Following the arrest, Kyle was charged in Superior Court with two counts of assault on a police officer ("APO") under D.C. law. ( See Superior Court Trial Transcript at 95-96); see also D.C. Code § 22-405(b) (making it unlawful to "without justifiable and excusable cause, assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with a law enforcement officer on account of, or while that law enforcement officer is engaged in the performance of his or her official duties"). Lewis had also been arrested for APO, and both defendants went to trial. In April of 2012, Kyle was found not guilty on both APO counts ( see Superior Court Trial Transcript at 96), while Lewis, who was tried separately, was found guilty of this offense ( see generally Darious Lewis Docket Sheet, Ex. 5 to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 51-5).
After her acquittal, on September 21, 2012, Kyle filed the instant lawsuit against Bedlion, Davis, Gamm, and two other officers, Benjamin Rubin and Ronald Wright, who were involved at later stages of her arrest and prosecution. ( See generally Compl. ("Initial Compl."), ECF No. 1.) Kyle subsequently amended her complaint ( see Am. Compl. ("Compl."), ECF No. 13), to bring eight claims: (1) False arrest/false imprisonment under D.C. law against Bedlion, Davis, Gamm, and Rubin (Count One); (2) assault and battery under D.C. law against Bedlion (Count Two); (3) negligence under D.C. law against Bedlion, Davis, Gamm, Rubin, and Wright (Count Three); (4) abuse of process under D.C. law against Bedlion, Davis, Gamm, and Rubin (Count Four); (5) defamation under D.C. law against Bedlion, Davis, Gamm, and Rubin (Count Five); (6) unreasonable seizure (through false arrest and the use of excessive force) in violation of the Fourth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Bedlion, Davis, Gamm, and Rubin (Count Six); (7) in the alternative to Count Six, use of excessive force in violation of the Fifth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Bedlion (Count Seven); and (8) violation of the First Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Bedlion (Count Eight). ( See id. ¶¶ 96-177.)
On July 23, 2014, Defendants filed an initial partial motion for summary judgment ( see Defs.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 38); this Court denied that motion without prejudice, finding that an antecedent period of discovery was necessary ( see Mem. Op. and Order, ECF No. 45). Thereafter, the parties engaged in a full round of discovery, followed by a period of mediation. ( See Joint Status Report, ECF No. 50, at 1.) Then, on July 31, 2015, Defendants filed the motion for summary judgment that is before this Court at present. ( See Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Mot."), ECF No. 51, at 1-4.)
In their summary-judgment motion, Defendants argue generally that they are entitled to qualified immunity against Kyle's section 1983 claims and that her state-law claims fail either because of applicable state-law privileges or because they fail to state a claim under D.C. law. ( See generally Defs.' Mot.; Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. ("Defs.' Mem."), ECF No. 51, 5-36.) For her part, Kyle's brief in opposition begins by expressly "consent[ing] to the dismissal" of several of her claims, either partially or in full; specifically, she declines to pursue Counts One and Six as to Rubin and Gamm, and Counts Three, Five, and Eight in full. ( See Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), ECF No. 53, at 2.) With respect to the remaining claims, Kyle argues that the facts here entitle her to proceed to trial because, with respect to her section 1983 claims, she can overcome the qualified-immunity hurdle, and with respect to her state-law claims, she has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted and can prevail with respect to any applicable state-law privileges.
This Court has considered the parties' summary-judgment arguments as they pertain to the remaining contested claims- i.e., the excessive-force claim brought under section 1983 against Bedlion based on the Fourth Amendment (Count Six), or alternatively, the Fifth Amendment (Count Seven); the false-arrest claim brought under section 1983 against Bedlion and Davis based on the Fourth Amendment (also Count Six); and the false-arrest, assault, and abuse-of-process tort claims that are based on D.C. law, ( see Compl. ¶¶ 96-101 (alleging false arrest and false imprisonment against Bedlion and Davis (Count One)); id. ¶¶ 102-110 (claiming assault and battery against Bedlion (Count Two)); id. ¶¶ 138-48 (asserting an abuse-of-process claim against Bedlion, Davis, Rubin, and Gamm (Count Four)). Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to these claims is now ripe for this Court's review.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
A. Qualified ...