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Rouse v. Florio

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 30, 2019

THERESA ROUSE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
P.O. CHRIS FLORIO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants P.O. Chris Florio (“Officer Florio”), P.O. John Romeo (“Officer Romeo”), and P.O. Billy Shiflett's (“Officer Shiflett”) (collectively, the “Officer Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 36). This action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018) arises from Plaintiffs K.V.[1] and Theresa Rouse's interaction with Officer Defendants in May 2016. The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the following reasons, the Court will grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         On May 7, 2016, Plaintiff K.V., a thirteen-year-old boy, and other juveniles, entered a gas station (the “Gas Station”) on 900 N. Monroe Street in Baltimore, Maryland. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15, ECF No. 5). At around 12:00 p.m., Sergeant Michael Brinn (“Sergeant Brinn”) and Officer Anthony Ward (“Officer Ward”), who are not named as Defendants in the Amended Complaint, [3] responded to a call-for-service at the Gas Station regarding juveniles who were fighting. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. [“Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. A [“Ward Incident Report”] at 1-2, ECF No. 36-3; Pls.' Resp. Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. [“Pls.' Resp.”] Ex. 3 [“Florio Interrogs.”] at 7, ECF No. 39-3). As Officers Brinn and Ward approached the Gas Station, they saw male juveniles rolling and smoking an object that appeared to be a hand-rolled cigar. (Ward Incident Report at 2). The Gas Station owner approached Sergeant Brinn and told him that these were the juveniles who were smoking marijuana inside his store, prompting his 9-1-1 call. (Id.). Officer Ward smelled marijuana on one of the juveniles, M.H., searched him, and found a hand-rolled cigar containing green leaves. (Id.).

         Thereafter, other officers, including Officer Defendants, arrived at the Gas Station. (See id.; Florio Interrogs. at 7; Defs.' Mot. Ex. D [“Shiflett Interrogs.”] at 7, ECF No. 36-6). Officer Romeo and Officer Ryan Ernst (“Officer Ernst”) stopped three more juveniles who Sergeant Brinn had observed inside the Gas Station who smelled of marijuana. (Ward Incident Report at 2; Florio Interrogs. at 14). Officer Shiflett arrived and monitored the crowd gathered in front of the Gas Station. (See Shiflett Interrogs. at 7).

         Plaintiff Theresa Rouse heard about the incident and walked up to the Gas Station, where she saw that M.H. was one of the detained juveniles. (See Defs.' Mot. Ex. C [“Rouse Dep.”] 16:1-6, 22:8-12, ECF No. 36-5; Pls.' Resp. Ex. 2 [“Rouse Crim. Charges”] at 2, ECF No. 39-2). Rouse told Officer Defendants that she was the grandmother of one of the juveniles. (Rouse Dep. 16:8-10). Officer Defendants allege that Rouse said she was the grandmother of M.H. specifically. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. J [“Florio Incident Report”] at 2, ECF No. 36-12). Officer Shiflett called M.H.'s mother, who denied that Rouse was M.H.'s grandmother but said Rouse was dating M.H.'s grandfather. (Id.; Rouse Dep. 22:19-21). Officer Defendants then asked Rouse to leave and she did. (Rouse Dep. 16:12-14).

         Meanwhile, K.V. had fled the Gas Station, but Sergeant Brinn apprehended him in a nearby alley. (See Ward Incident Report at 2; Defs.' Mot. Ex. E [“K.V. Dep.”] 12:2-13, ECF No. 36-7). Sergeant Brinn searched K.V. and brought him back to the Gas Station to sit with the other juveniles. (Ward Incident Report at 2). Rouse then returned to the scene and saw the officers detaining K.V., her actual grandson. (Rouse Dep. 16:16-21). A cell phone video (the “Cell Phone Video”) taken by an onlooker offers a view of what happened next. (Florio Interrogs. at 12; see generally Defs.' Mot. Ex. G [“Cell Phone Video”], ECF No. 36-9).

         Officer Florio observed two other officers searching or adjusting the handcuffs on K.V. as K.V. sat on a curb with his head close to his knees. (Cell Phone Video 00:01- 00:33). Rouse approached the Officers, protesting their treatment of K.V., at which point Officer Florio told her to “get back.” (Id. 00:32-00:36). Around this time, Officer Florio also told Rouse to dispose of the lit cigarette she had in her hand. (See Rouse Dep. 30:1- 2). As Officer Florio approached her, Rouse, who was facing Officer Florio, “plucked” her cigarette behind him. (Id. at 30:1-3; see Cell Phone Video 00:35-00:38). Officer Florio then moved to arrest Rouse. (Cell Phone Video 00:38-00:40). Defendants allege Rouse stepped back to resist arrest, whereas Rouse alleges she was pushed back. (Florio Interrogs. at 7-8; Rouse Dep. 29:3-5).

         Officer Florio and Officer John Rosenblatt (“Officer Rosenblatt”) then forced Rouse to the ground, Officer Florio put his knee against her back, and pulled her hands behind her body to handcuff her while she lay on her stomach. (Cell Phone Video 00:38-00:49; see Florio Interrogs. at 7-8). Officers Florio and Rosenblatt then carried Rouse by her hands and feet to a nearby police car. (Cell Phone Video 00:38-01:04). When Officers Florio and Rosenblatt could not get Rouse fully into the police car, they then carried her to the Gas Station curb and sat her there. (Id. 01:04-01:45). Rouse then fell to her side and yelled that she was injured and needed to go to the hospital. (Id. 01:45-02:37). Officer Florio then called an ambulance, which took Rouse to the hospital. (Florio Incident Report at 2).

         The Officers continued to detain the juveniles, including K.V., at the Gas Station until their parents or guardians arrived to pick them up. (See Ward Incident Report at 2). At approximately 1:12 p.m., about twenty minutes after Rouse's arrest, K.V. was released to his mother. (Id.; K.V. Dep. 13:13-15, 14:17-19). Upon Rouse's release from the hospital, she was charged with second-degree assault, possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, reckless endangerment, and disorderly conduct, all of which were eventually dismissed. (Rouse Crim. Charges at 2-3)

         On November 22, 2017, Plaintiffs sued Officer Defendants, John Doe Officers (collectively, with Officer Defendants, “All Officer Defendants”) and John Doe Supervisors, and the City of Baltimore (the “City”). (ECF No. 1). On November 29, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an eight-count Amended Complaint, alleging: violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution against the City[4] (Count I); violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against John Doe Supervisors (Count II); false arrest in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against All Officer Defendants (Count III); excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against All Officer Defendants (Count IV); failure to intervene to stop the excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment against All Officer Defendants (Count V); malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment against Defendants (Count VI); and abuse of process in violation of the Fourth Amendment against Defendants (Count VII). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 31-126). Plaintiffs bring their claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018). (Id. at 7, 15, 17, 20, 23, 25, 27). They seek compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (2018). (Id. ¶¶ 1, 126).

         On January 24, 2019, Officer Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 36). On February 7, 2019, Plaintiffs filed an Opposition. (ECF No. 39). On February 27, 2019, Officer Defendants filed a Reply. (ECF No. 40).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Summary judgment is proper when the movant demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A). Significantly, a party must be able to present the materials it cites in “a form that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2), and supporting affidavits and declarations “must be made on personal knowledge” and “set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

         Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to identify evidence showing there is genuine dispute of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). The nonmovant cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact “through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Othentec Ltd. v. Phelan, 526 F.3d 135, 141 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party's case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265. A “genuine” dispute concerning a “material” fact arises when the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the nonmovant has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case where she has the burden of proof, “there can be ‘no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         B. ...


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