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Coner v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 12, 2019

LATOYA CONER,
v.
OFFICER DUANE WILLIAMS, JR., et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge

         Pending before the court is a motion for. summary judgment brought by plaintiff Latoya Coner, individually and as mother of the minor child S.M. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant in part and deny in part plaintiff s motion.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Latoya Coner is the mother of the minor child S.M., who was fourteen years old at all times relevant to this matter. Defendants Duane Williams, Jr. and Lonnie White, Jr. are former officers of the Baltimore Police Department ("BPD").[1] Mr. Williams was a BPD officer from May 2009, ECF 45-3 at p. 4, until his resignation in February 2016, ECF 45-3 at pp. 15-16.[2]Mr. White was a BPD officer from March 31, 2005, until his termination on or about December 29, 2017. ECF 45-4 at p. 3.

         When S.M. was around eight years old, he was diagnosed with provisional bipolar disorder.. ECF 54-2 at p. 4. On January 14, 2015, Ms. Coner and S.M. had a disagreement related to S.M.'s treatment for his disorder. Specifically, S.M. refused to attend an appointment for mental health services at a Baltimore treatment center that day, ECF 54-2 at pp. 4-5, and an employee of the treatment center advised Ms. Coner that she could obtain an emergency petition for immediate treatment of S.M. by contacting BPD, ECF 54-2 at p. 5. Following this advice, Ms. Coner contacted BPD later that day, falsely claiming that S.M. had pushed her down some steps in order to obtain police assistance in executing an emergency petition for S.M.'s treatment. ECF 54-2 at p. 5. At no time during this incident or afterwards did Ms. Coner inform the police that S.M. had not assaulted her. ECF 54-2 at p. 14.

         Mr, White, along with another officer, responded to Ms. Coner's call. ECF 45-4 at pp. 7-8. Speaking to Mr. White, Ms. Coner again falsely claimed that S.M. had physically assaulted her, and also informed Mr. White that S.M. had a mental health condition for which he was taking medication. ECF 45-4 at p. 9. Ms. Coner requested that Mr. White not arrest S.M. ECF 45-4 at p. 9. Based upon this information, Mr. White handcuffed S.M. and called for a police vehicle to transport S.M. to Sinai Hospital pursuant to an emergency petition. ECF 45-4 at p. 10. Mr. White also called Mr. Williams to let him know that he was escorting a minor child to Sinai Hospital, relaying a factual summary of the situation to Mr. Williams. ECF 45-3 at p. 7. Mr. Williams heard the initial 911 dispatch call come through the police dispatch center and originally had intended to respond to the 911 call. ECF 45-3 at p. 7. Mr. Williams traveled to the hospital soon thereafter.

         Mr. White escorted S.M. through the intake procedures at Sinai Hospital, maintaining S.M.'s restraints throughout the process. ECF 45-4 at p. 10-11. Mr. White claimed that S.M. was unruly and hostile during the intake process, often swearing and yelling at the physician, the hospital staff, and the officers in his hospital room. ECF 45-4 at p. 13. While hospital staff was attempting to take S.M.'s vitals, Mr. Williams and Mr. Ranabhat arrived at Sinai Hospital and began observing S.M., with Mr. Williams describing S.M. as "irate." ECF 45-3 at p. 9. At some point after Mr. Williams and Mr. Ranabhat's arrival, Mr. White explained that Ms. Coner had claimed that S.M. had assaulted her and that S.M. had mental health challenges. ECF 45-4 at p. 17.

         After observing S.M. for a few minutes, Mr. Williams asked the medical personnel to step out of the hospital room, leaving S.M. alone with Mr. Williams, Mr. White, and Mr. Ranabhat. ECF 45-3 at p. 9. Mr. Williams instructed Mr. White to readjust S.M.'s handcuffs so S.M. could place his hands in front of himself rather than behind his back. ECF 45-3 at pp. 6, 9. After the medical personnel left the hospital room, Mr. Williams began attempting to calm S.M. by explaining that the BPD officers were there to help him. ECF 45-3 at pp. 6, 11. S.M. responded by cursing at Mr. Williams. ECF 45-3 at pp. 6, 11. Mr. Williams then struck S.M. with an open hand across the face twice. ECF 45-3 at pp. 6, 12.[3] S.M. had a visible handprint mark on his face after the assault. ECF 54-2 at p. 9. Mr. White claimed that he was in the vestibule leading to S.M.'s hospital room during the assault, that he did not witness Mr. Williams striking S.M. and that he was otherwise unaware of the incident. ECF 45-4 at pp. 17-20. Mr. Williams disputed this claim, asserting that Mr. White was behind him in the hospital room when he slapped S.M. ECF 45-3 at p. 12.[4]

         As a result of Mr. Williams's assault, S.M. sustained a ruptured eardrum, hearing loss, balance and mobility difficulties, and problems sleeping. ECF 45-1 at p. 7. It is uncertain at this time whether S.M. will ever regain full hearing capabilities. ECF 54-2 at p. 12. Additionally, S.M. has become more withdrawn and adverse to people touching him or being behind him. ECF 54-2 at p. 13. Neither Mr. Williams nor Mr. White ever claimed to have been in fear of S.M. Mr.

         White claimed that at no point while he was in the hospital room with S.M did he fear for his safety, ECF 45-4 at p. 14, nor did he fear for the safety of the hospital staff, id. at p. 14. Mr. Williams asserted that he did not fear for his safety at any point while S.M. was handcuffed. ECF 45-3 at p. 14. None of the officers involved in the incident reported Mr. Williams's assault to the BPD. ECF 45-3 at p. 14; ECF 45-4 at p. 22.

         In January 2016, Mr. Williams was arrested for assaulting S.M, ECF 45-3 at pp. 14, 15 and in February 2016, he resigned as a BPD officer, ECF 45-3 at pp. 15-16. Mr. Williams pleaded guilty in the related criminal case in September 2016, and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation and two years of unsupervised probation, ECF 45-3 at pp. 3, 15.

         On December 29, 2017, the BPD terminated Mr. White based on its conclusion that Mr. White had lied about whether he had been in the hospital room when Mr. Williams assaulted S.M. ECF 45-4 at p. 3. Mr. White entered an Alford plea in his related criminal case and was sentenced to unsupervised probation. ECF 45-4 at p. 23.

         Ms. Coner initiated suit in this District on February 8, 2017. On April 28, 2018, Ms. Coner filed her ...


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