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Morozov v. Howard County

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

May 28, 2013

ORLANDO MOROZOV[1], Plaintiff,
v.
HOWARD COUNTY, MD, et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.

The Court has before it Defendant Howard County Police Officer Jennifer Sarver's Motion for Summary Judgment [Document 55] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court finds a hearing unnecessary.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

In the early morning hours of April 15, 2008, Carlton Ruben Lucas ("Lucas"), a tow truck driver employed by L&K Recovery, a repossession company, arrived at the home of Plaintiff Orlando Morozov[3] (the "Plaintiff" or "Morozov") and attempted to repossess a Honda Accord owned by Plaintiff as permitted by state law.[4]

Upon arrival at Morozov's home, Lucas rang the doorbell and Morozov answered. Lucas said he was there to take the Honda and that he (Lucas) "had called the police and the police knew he was taking the car." Pl.'s Dep.[5] at 8:5-20. In response to this information, Morozov said nothing, got into the Honda, which was parked in his driveway, and then backed the Honda out of the driveway onto the street. Id. at 9:1-10. In the meantime, Lucas got into his tow truck and, as Morozov began to drive up the street, Lucas tried to hit or block him with the tow truck, forcing Morozov to go "over on my neighbor's yard" to avoid a collision. Id. at 11:13-18, 12:11-21. In order to evade repossession of his vehicle, Morozov proceeded to park the Honda about a block from his home and then headed back to his house on foot. Id. at 13-14.

While Morozov was moving the Honda, Defendant Officer Jennifer Sarver ("Officer Sarver") - in response to a telephone call from Lucas[6] - arrived at Plaintiff's home and met Lucas. Morozov was not yet back. Lucas told Officer Sarver that Morozov tried to "back over" him when he attempted to repossess the vehicle. [Document 155] at Ex. 3 (Statement of Probable Cause). Lucas then left before Morozov returned. After Morozov returned, he met Officer Sarver and, at some point, two male Howard County officers joined her at Morozov's home.[7] Pl.'s Dep. at 35-38.

One of the male officers told Morozov that Lucas had complained Morozov tried to hit him with his car. Morozov responded that Lucas had actually tried to hit him. Id. at 63:7-13, 73. Officer Sarver asked Morozov for identification and he produced his passport. Id. at 41. One of the male officers told Morozov he needed to see a driver's license. When Morozov responded that he did not have it with him[8]; the male officer became "very nasty". See id. at 42-44.

One of the male officers asked Morozov where the Honda was and, in light of the officer's prior "attitude", Morozov did not answer. Id. at 48. The male officer continued to ask the location of the Honda and stated that he would arrest Morozov if he did not tell him; Morozov remained unresponsive. Id. at 48-49. The male officer then placed Morozov in handcuffs, the other male officer searched him, and one of them (hereinafter referred to as "the Driver") placed Morozov in the back of a patrol car.[9] Id. at 49-50. The Driver proceeded to drive Morozov around his neighborhood in the patrol car in search of the Honda.[10] At some point, the Driver saw a car fitting the description of the Honda. Morozov confirmed that it was his car and handed the Driver his keys. Id. at 52-55. At Morozov's request, the Driver got his wallet and tax papers out of the Honda. Id. at 55. The Driver took Morozov to central booking for processing. Morozov was released on bail several hours later. Morozov, upon returning home, learned that someone, presumably the Driver, had returned his wallet, tax papers, and car keys to his wife while he was being processed.[11] After his release, Morozov did not return to the place at which he had parked the Honda.

Morozov never saw Lucas after the April 15 incident. A week or two after his arrest, Morozov received a letter from Honda stating that his vehicle had been repossessed and disclosing its storage location.[12] There is no evidence establishing when and by whom the Honda was repossessed. Eventually, Morozov went to the private tow yard where the Honda was stored, paid the pertinent costs, and secured its release.

Plaintiff was charged with the first and second-degree assault of Lucas. On May 25, 2008, the first-degree assault charge was nolle prosequied and on August 19, 2008, the second-degree assault charge was nolle prosequied.

II. PROCEDURAL FRAMEWORK

Morozov filed the initial Complaint in this matter on June 9, 2010 [Document 1] and the Amended Complaint [Document 2] the following day presenting claims against Howard County, Maryland, Lucas, Officer Sarver, and "Doe" defendants. The Court granted Howard County's dismissal motion, dismissing all claims against it [Document 13]. On December 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint [Document 24] against Officer Sarver, Lucas, and L&K Recovery alleging claims in the following counts:

On June 5, 2012, the Court dismissed all claims against Officer Sarver in Count IV [Document 36]. On July 19, 2012, the Court approved Morozov's voluntary dismissal with prejudice of all claims against Lucas and L&K Recovery [Document 41].

There remain pending only the claims in Count III against Officer Sarver. By the instant motion, she ...


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