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Drury v. Dziwanowski

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 24, 2017

OFFICER P. DZIWANOWSKI, et al. Defendants


          Marvin J. Garbis United States District Judge

         The Court has before it the Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 21] filed by Defendants and the materials submitted by the parties relating thereto. The Court finds that a hearing is unnecessary.


         A. Factual Background

         On April 24, 2013, Plaintiff Edwin Drury (“Drury”) was arrested by two Anne Arundel County police officers, Cpl. Paul Dziwanowski (“Dziwanowski”) and Cpl. William Hicks (“Hicks”) (collectively referred to as “Defendants”). Drury presents claims against these Defendants, claiming that they wrongfully arrested him and, in the course of the arrest, violated his rights secured by the United States and Maryland Constitutions. The parties present substantially conflicting versions of the material facts.

         The events at issue grew out a convoluted dispute regarding ownership of a trailer. It suffices, for present purposes, to greatly summarize the matter.

         In or about May 2012, Bradford West (“Mr. West”) and/or his then wife, Ms. Dale Martin (referred to herein as “the First[1]Wife”), owned a Hudson trailer but were involved in divorce proceedings. Drury paid the First Wife for the trailer and was given a bill of sale from her but not the title document.

         Shortly thereafter the couple was divorced and there were issues in the divorce regarding the ownership of the trailer. About a month after the divorce, Mr. West married Cathy Jo (referred to as “the Second Wife”) and died shortly thereafter. The Second Wife contended that she owned the trailer and refused to provide the title document to the First Wife or Drury. In February 2014, John Bradford (“Mr. Bradford”) paid the Second Wife for the trailer who gave him the title document. Mr. Bradford, using with the title document, had the Department of Motor Vehicles transfer the title and he became the registered owner of the trailer.

         Mr. Bradford was, however, not able to obtain possession of the trailer and found that it was possessed by Drury, who claimed ownership by virtue of the bill of sale from the First Wife.

         On April 23, 2014, Mr. Bradford contacted the Anne Arundel County Police claiming that Drury was in possession of stolen property, i.e., the trailer. By the end of the day, Dziwanowski had spoken with Drury and Mr. Bradford. Dziwanowski understood that there was a dispute regarding the ownership of the trailer and suggested that the two of them seek to reach an agreement. However, there was no agreement.

         On April 24, Mr. Bradford called Dziwanowski and told him that he wanted Drury criminally charged. Dziwanowski, with another officer, Hicks, proceeded to Drury's residence. While the parties agree that Defendants arrested Drury at his residence, they present materially different versions of the event relating to the arrest.

         B. Procedural Context

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims against Anne Arundel County, Maryland (“the County”), Dziwanowski, and Hicks in ten Counts.

         Count I: Battery - Dziwanowski and Hicks.

         Count II: False Arrest - Dziwanowski, Hicks, and the County.

         COUNT III: False Imprisonment - Dziwanowski, Hicks, and the County.

         COUNT IV: Malicious Prosecution - Dziwanowski and Hicks.

         COUNT V: Conspiracy - Dziwanowski and Hicks.

         COUNT VI: Violation of Maryland Declaration of Rights - Dziwanowski and Hicks.

         COUNT VII: Maryland State Declaration of Rights Longtin Claim - County.

         COUNT VIII: 42 U.S.C. § 1983- Violation of Fourth Amendment - Dziwanowski and Hicks.

         COUNT IX: Inadequate Supervision and Discipline under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - County.

         COUNT X: Monell Claim - County.

         By the Memorandum and Order Re: Pending Motions [ECF No. 13] the Court dismissed all claims against the County.

         By the instant motion, Dziwanowski and Hicks seek summary judgment in regard to all claims against them.


         A motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings and supporting documents “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The well-established principles pertinent to such motions can be distilled to a simple statement.

         The Court may look at the evidence presented in regard to the motion for summary judgment through the non-movant's rose colored glasses, but must view it realistically. After so doing, the essential question is whether a reasonable fact finder could return a verdict for the non-movant or whether the movant would, at trial, be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. E.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970); Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991).


         Drury presents claims against Dziwanowski and Hicks for:

• Battery - Count I
• False Arrest - Count II
• False Imprisonment - Count III
• Malicious Prosecution - Count IV
• Conspiracy - Count V
• Constitutional rights violation (state) - Count VI
• Constitutional rights violation (federal) - Count VIII

         A. Legality of Drury's Arrest

         Defendants arrested Drury without a warrant and charged him with theft of less than $1, 000 (misdemeanor under Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 7-104), unauthorized removal of property (misdemeanor under Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 7-203), second degree assault, and resisting arrest. Charge Summary [ECF No. 25-17]. Defendants contend that the arrest was legal pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 2-203 (2008 Repl. Vol.) that provides, in pertinent part:

(a) A police officer without a warrant may arrest a person if the police officer has probable cause to believe:
(1) that the person has committed [an enumerated crime]; and
(2) that unless the person is arrested immediately, the person:
(ii) may cause . . . property damage to another;

         The enumerated crimes in § 2-203 include “a theft crime where the value of the property or services stolen is less than $1, 000 under § 7-104 or § 7-105 of the Criminal Law Article.” Id.

         “Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances within an officer's knowledge - or of which he possesses reasonably trustworthy information - are sufficient in themselves to convince a person of reasonable caution that an offense has been or is being committed.” Wadkins v. Arnold, 214 F.3d 535, 539 (4th Cir. 2000)(citing Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175-76 (1949)).

         There is no doubt that when Dziwanowski decided to arrest Drury he had reasonably trustworthy - in fact indisputable - information that Mr. Bradford was the legal title holder of the trailer at issue, that Mr. Bradford did not give Drury any right to possess the trailer, and that Drury had taken possession of the trailer and refused to give the registered owner, Mr. Bradford, possession.[2] Thus, there is no factual dispute regarding Defendants having probable cause to believe that Drury had committed a theft crime and that the value of the stolen property was at least[3] an amount less than $1, 000.

         However, the parties dispute whether Defendants had probable cause to believe that Drury would commit property damage if not immediately arrested.

         Dziwanowski states that that Mr. Bradford told him that Drury had said during a phone call that he would destroy the trailer rather than return it. Dziwanowski Dep. [ECF No. 21-3] 165:15-18. If the jury finds that this statement was made, it could find that there was probable cause to believe that, absent immediate arrest, Drury may cause damage to Mr. Bradford's property.

         However, there is evidence that could cause a reasonable jury to find that there was no probable cause to believe that there was concern for immediate property damage absent arrest. Mr. Bradford testified that he does not recall Drury's saying he would destroy the trailer. Bradford Dep. [ECF No. 25-3] at 76:2-5. Furthermore, Drury testified that he told Mr. Bradford he would give him the trailer if Mr. Bradford paid $2, 500. Drury Dep. [ECF No. 25-9] 57:1-8. Furthermore, the trailer itself was not at Drury's house. Drury states that he told the Defendants that the trailer was being worked on by a friend and he did not know its location. Id. at 73:1-16.

         The Court concludes that there are genuine issues of material fact that prevent summary judgment with regard to the claims based on the legality ...

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