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Madison v. Harford County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 7, 2014

ANTHONY MADISON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HARFORD COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: COUNT IV (ASSAULT & BATTERY)

MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.

The Court has before it Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count IV [Document 49] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court finds a hearing regarding the instant motion unnecessary.

I. SUMMARY BACKGROUND[1]

On the evening of June 11, 2009, Dwight Jerome Madison ("Madison"), a United States Navy veteran suffering from mental illnesses, was arrested for trespassing and transported to the Harford County Detention Center Processing Center (the "Detention Center") where he was held for processing. After arriving at the Detention Center, Madison interacted with several Detention Center personnel - Jennifer Huey ("Huey"), Emma Virginia Courtney ("Courtney"), Christopher Jones ("Jones"), Sherman Kirk ("Kirk"), Theresa Pounds ("Pounds"), and Rickey Harper ("Harper") (collectively the "DC Defendants"). There was an incident, during which Huey fired a taser, striking Madison who then fell to the floor and was severely injured. Madison was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and died as a result of his injuries the next day.

In the Amended Complaint [Document 14], Plaintiffs presented claims against the Harford County Council, the Harford County Executive, Sheriff Jesse L. Bane, Officer Todd Johnson, Officer Jason Flemmens, [2] and the DC Defendants in seven Counts:

Count I Survival Action
Count II Wrongful Death
Count III Excessive Force/Police Brutality
Count IV Assault & Battery
Count V Deprivation of Civil Rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Count VI Negligent Training and Supervision
Count VII Intentional/Negligent
Infliction of Emotional Distress

In the Memorandum and Order Re: Summary Judgment/Dismissal the Court [Document 44], the Court held:

1. Counts I and II presented "derivative claims" and remained pending[3] to the extent that substantive claims presented by other Counts may remain pending.
2. All claims in Counts III, VI and VII were dismissed.
3. "Defendants are granted summary judgment with regard to all claims in Count V."
4. Count IV remained pending due to inadequate briefing, but Defendants were granted leave to file the instant Motion for Summary Judgment regarding the claims therein.

[Document 44] at 46-47, 49.

The Court stated:

The Court shall not dismiss the assault and battery claim in Count IV.
* * * *
While Defendants' motion nominally seeks summary judgment on all claims, the briefing by both sides does not adequately address the question of whether Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Count IV. The Court needs to be informed as to the parties['] respective contentions with reference to the legal and factual issues presented by the claims in Count IV.
Under the circumstances, the Court shall provide that Defendants may file a motion for summary judgment specifically with regard to Count IV to which Plaintiffs may fully respond.
* * * *
* * * In response, Plaintiffs must specify which particular Defendants they contend can be held liable on Count IV for which particular actions and present evidence in support of these particular contentions.

Id. at 46-47.

In their response to the instant motion, Plaintiffs seek to have the Court effectively "reopen" the case, consider claims not made in the Second Amended Complaint, permit additional discovery, and revise its prior decisions. The Court declines to do so and determines - pursuant to the Memorandum and Order Re: Summary Judgment/Dismissal - whether Defendants are entitled to summary judgment[4] with regard to Count IV.

II. DISCUSSION

As to the Court's directive that Plaintiffs "specify which particular Defendants they contend can be held liable on Count IV for which particular actions and present evidence in support of these particular contentions, " Plaintiffs contend that they present viable assault and battery claims with regard to the tasering incident and with regard to events prior to the tasering.

Under Maryland law, the tort of battery is an unpermitted intentional touching that is harmful or offensive. See Janelsins v. Button , 648 A.2d 1039, 1042, 102 Md.App. 30, 35 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1994). "Assault is the attempt to cause a harmful or offensive contact with another or to cause an apprehension of such contact...." Wallace v. Poulos , 861 F.Supp.2d 587, 596 n.9 (D. Md. 2012). In Maryland, "a law enforcement officer is not liable for assault and battery or other tortious conduct performed during the course of his official duties unless he acted with actual malice toward the plaintiff, i.e. with ill will, improper motivation or evil purpose.'"[5] Littleton v. Swonger, 502 F.Appx. 271, 275 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Goehring v. United States , 870 F.Supp. 106, 108 (D. Md. 1994)).

A. The Tasering

Plaintiffs contend that they have presented evidence adequate to permit a finding that:

• Huey assaulted Madison by pointing the taser at Madison and threatening to use the taser on him. [Document 50] at 18.
•Courtney assaulted Madison by "order[ing] Huey to fire the Taser." Id. at 19.
• "Huey battered Madison by shooting him with a Taser." Id. at 20-23.
• Courtney battered Madison by "order[ing] Huey to fire the Taser." Id.
• Jones, Kirk, and Harper battered Madison because "[o]nce Madison was immobilized by the electrical current, [they] let go of Madison and/or pushed him to the ground." Id. at 23-24.

The Court finds that Plaintiffs have produced no evidence adequate to establish that the taser was used other than in a good faith effort to maintain and restore discipline.[6] Thus, the taser was used without actual malice. Nor is there any evidence adequate to establish that any Defendant intentionally pushed Madison to the ground.

B. Pre-Tasering

Plaintiffs contend that they have presented evidence adequate to permit a finding that:

• Jones, Kirk, and Harper assaulted Madison "by surrounding and looming above him immediately before they battered him." Id. at 19.
• Jones, Kirk, and Harper battered Madison prior to the tasering by "intentionally attack[ing] Madison as he sat in a chair."[7] Id. at 36-38.

Assuming, but not by any means holding, that the evidence would support a finding that the Defendants assaulted or battered Madison prior to the tasering, there is no evidentiary basis whatsoever for a finding of actual malice.

Finally, Plaintiffs neither pleaded a gross negligence claim against any Defendant nor presented evidence that would be adequate to establish gross negligence in the circumstances confronting the Defendants relating to the tasering of Madison or the events prior to the tasering.

IV. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons:

1. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count IV [Document 49] is GRANTED.
2. Judgment shall be entered by separate Order.

SO ORDERED.


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