United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Christopher Thomas alleges that police officers from the Anne
Arundel County Police Department (“AAPD”) and
Howard County Police Department (“HCPD”) used
excessive force while arresting him after a high-speed
pursuit. The Court previously dismissed all of the claims
except those against Defendants Howard County, Anne Arundel
County, HCPD Officer Jeremy Duncan, and AAPD Corporal Jeffrey
Rothenbecker. ECF No. 67. Defendants Anne Arundel County and
Rothenbecker filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 75,
as did Defendants Howard County and Duncan, ECF No. 76.
Plaintiff has responded only to the Rothenbecker Motion. ECF
No. 77. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the following reasons, Defendants Anne Arundel
County and Rothenbecker's Motion for Summary Judgment is
denied and Defendants Howard County and Duncan's Motion
for Summary Judgment is granted.
early morning hours of June 3, 2014, an AAPD officer
attempted to pull over Plaintiff, who was driving a Toyota
Yaris. ECF No. 76-4 at 7. Plaintiff fled and the AAPD officer
pursued him, eventually joined by other officers from the
AAPD and HCPD, as well as a helicopter. See ECF Nos.
76-4 at 9, 76-5 at 3. Plaintiff's vehicle stopped only
after hitting “stop sticks, ” at which point
Plaintiff exited the car. ECF No. 75-3 ¶ 9. On the scene
when Plaintiff exited the car was Defendant Rothenbecker and
his canine partner “Rocky, ” who had been in
pursuit. Id. ¶ 3. Rothenbecker had heard, over
the radio, that when the AAPD officer originally attempted to
pull over Plaintiff, Plaintiff drove directly at the officer,
forcing him to dive back into his police cruiser for cover.
Id. ¶ 4.
here that the record evidence indicates that the parties'
accounts diverge. Defendants claim that when Plaintiff exited
the vehicle, two officers attempted to place him in
handcuffs, but he began to resist and refused to listen to
verbal commands. Id. ¶ 10; ECF No. 76-6 at 3.
Defendant Rothenbecker specifically claims that Plaintiff
“refused to roll onto his stomach and place his hands
behind his back and instead began to kick and flail, ”
and that “officers were unable to get control of the
driver and he began to stand to his feet.” ECF No. 75-3
¶ 10. Rothenbecker states that he warned Plaintiff to
stop fighting, or he would deploy Rocky. Id. ¶
13. He claims that Plaintiff continued resisting, and
therefore Rothenbecker gave Rocky the order to apprehend.
Id. ¶ 14.
deposition testimony attached to Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, Plaintiff tells a different story. He claims that
when he exited the car, he was on his knees attempting to lay
down when a handcuff was placed on him. ECF No. 76-4 at 12.
Plaintiff explains that as he was being handcuffed, he was
forced to the ground by a dozen unknown officers who started
kicking him and swearing at him. Id. at 15-16. He
claims he “curled up in a fetal position” to
protect himself, the officers backed off, and then Rocky
began attacking him. Id. at 16.
undisputed that Plaintiff suffered multiple bites by Rocky,
and that he began to resist the canine attack. See
id. at 17-18; ECF No. 75-3 ¶ 14. Plaintiff claims,
paradoxically, that he tried to get his hands into
Rocky's mouth to stop him from biting him; Defendants
claim Plaintiff struck Rocky with a closed fist. ECF Nos.
76-4 at 18, 75-3 ¶ 14; 76-6 at 3. Defendant Duncan,
after providing a warning, then deployed his taser for one
five-second cycle, incapacitating Plaintiff. ECF Nos. 75-3
¶ 15; 76-5 ¶ 5. Officers then placed Plaintiff
under arrest. ECF No. 76-6 at 3.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, summary judgment is appropriate only when
the Court, viewing the record as a whole and in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, determines that there
exists no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986). The
burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that there
exists no genuine dispute of material fact. See Pulliam
Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir.
1987). To defeat the motion, the nonmoving party must submit
evidence showing facts sufficient for a fair-minded jury to
reasonably return a verdict for that party. See Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).
Additionally, a party must be able to put facts to be
considered in support of or opposition to a motion for
summary judgment in an admissible form. See Williams v.
Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Dep't, 86 F.Supp. 398,
407 (D. Md. 2015).
district court is obligated to thoroughly analyze an
unopposed motion for summary judgment to determine whether
the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter
of law. See Maryland v. Universal Elections, Inc.,
729 F.3d 370, 380 (4th Cir. 2013). “Although the
failure of a party to respond to a summary judgment motion
may leave uncontroverted those facts established by the
motion, the district court must still proceed with the facts
it has before it.” Robinson v. Wix Filtration
Corp., 599 F.3d 403, 409 n.8 (4th Cir. 2010) (internal
initial matter, Defendant Rothenbecker's Motion for
Summary Judgment relies, in part, on Requests for Admissions
that Defendant claims were served on May 24, 2018 and deemed
admitted when no response was received after thirty days.
See ECF No. 75-1 at 3; Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3).
Plaintiff's counsel has submitted a sworn affidavit
claiming that he reviewed and signed Plaintiff's Response
to the Rothenbecker Requests for Admissions on June 19, 2018.
ECF No. 77-1. Plaintiff has also filed a copy of these
responses with the Court. ECF No. 77-2.
of whether Plaintiff properly responded to the Requests for
Admissions, the Court holds “considerable discretion
over withdrawal of admissions once they have been
made.” Kress v. Food Emp'rs Labor Relations
Ass'n, 285 F.Supp.2d 678, 681 (D. Md. 2003). Even if
the Court came to the conclusion that the requests had been
deemed admitted, it better “promote[s] the presentation
of the merits of the action” not to resolve the case on
a technicality. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(b). It also appears that
Defendants never notified Plaintiff's counsel that they
had not received a response to the Request for Admissions,
apparently seeking to take advantage of the
“conclusively established” admissions.
See ECF Nos. 77 ¶ 6; 78 at 4. Therefore, any
prejudice suffered by Defendants is due only to their wager
that the Court would resolve this dispute on a discovery
failure. While the Court will not deem the admissions
conclusively established, Defendant correctly observes that a
denial of an admission is not evidence sufficient to
establish a genuine dispute of material fact for the purposes
of a motion for summary judgment. See Bland v. Norfolk
& S.R. Co., 406 F.2d 863, 866 (4th Cir. 1969)
(“In regard to the pleadings, however, ‘an
adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or
denials of his pleading, but his response, by affidavits or
as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Therefore,
the Court must turn to the evidence in the record to
determine whether Defendants are entitled to summary
has brought claims for assault (Count I), battery (Count II),
excessive force pursuant to the Fourth Amendment (Count III),
negligence (Count IV), conspiracy to interfere with civil
rights (Count V), violations of the Maryland Declaration of
Rights (Count VII), equal ...