United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE.
case arises out of the arrest of Edwin Krell
("Plaintiff) and his subsequent confinement at Queen
Anne's County Detention Center ("QACDC"). In
March 2018, Plaintiff filed a twelve-count complaint alleging
federal and state law claims against numerous state and local
officials, as well as Queen Anne's County. (Compl., ECF
No. 1.) In December 2018, this Court dismissed several of
those claims and parties, leaving two sets of defendants: (1)
two of the state troopers that arrested Plaintiff, Sergeant
Tyson Brice and Trooper First Class Kyle Braightmeyer, and
(2) the warden of QACDC, LaMonte Cooke. (Mem. Op. Mot.
Dismiss, ECF No. 27.)
brings a variety of federal and state law claims against
Brice and Braightmeyer (collectively,
"Defendants"). Plaintiff brings three federal
causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Count I alleges
violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process
Clause, Count II alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment,
and Count IV-brought only against Braightmeyer- alleges
violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection
Clause. Plaintiff also brings two claims under the Maryland
Declaration of Rights: Count VI alleges violations of
Articles 24 and 26, and Count VII alleges violations of
Articles 16 and 25. Plaintiff also brings numerous state law
claims: Count IX alleges negligence, Count X alleges gross
negligence, Count XI alleges intentional infliction of
emotional distress ("IIED"), and Count XII-brought
only against Braightmeyer-alleges state law battery. (Compl.
has been completed, and Defendants move to dismiss or for
summary judgment on all claims. (M.S.J., ECF No. 58.) The motions
have been fully briefed. No. hearing is required.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons
set forth below, the Court will grant this motion in part and
deny it in part.
was arrested in his home for a felony drug offense on March
3, 2015. (Braightmeyer Decl. ¶ 2, M.S.J. Ex. 8,
ECF No. 58-10.) The arrest was made pursuant to an arrest
warrant. (M.S.J. Ex. 3, ECF No. 58-6.) Two of the officers
involved in executing the warrant were Tyson Brice and Kyle
Braightmeyer. (Braightmeyer Decl. ¶ 2; Brice Decl.
¶ 2, M.S.J. Ex. 9, ECF 58-11.) Plaintiffs partner, Paul
Ellwood, was present at the time and was also arrested.
(Ellwood Depo. 14:12-18, 28:10-13, Opp'n Mem. Ex. E, ECF
crux of Plaintiffs allegations are as follows: upon entering
Plaintiffs home, Braightmeyer tackled him and pushed his head
into the ground with enough force to break the floor tile.
(Krell Depo. 120:11-17, Opp'n Mem. Ex. B, ECF No. 66-2.)
Braightmeyer then handcuffed Plaintiff behind his back and
lifted him off the floor by the handcuffs. (Id.
126:18-19.) Plaintiff told Defendants that he had previous
shoulder problems and was in severe pain, and asked that they
move the handcuffs to his front. (Id. 126:2-11.)
Braightmeyer refused and said "F this faggot... I'm
sticking to protocol." (Id. 130:11-18.) Despite
Plaintiff s pleas for medical help, Defendants refused to
render any aid. (Id., 147:5-14.) Defendants' use
of force during the arrest ultimately caused Plaintiff to
need surgery to repair a ruptured subscapularis tendon and a
torn rotator cuff. (Opp'n Mem. at 12, ECF No. 65;
Opp'n Mem. Ex. J, ECF No. 65-6.)
dispute virtually every aspect of this account. Defendants
deny Braightmeyer ever pushed Plaintiffs head into the
ground. (Braightmeyer Decl. ¶ 7; Brice Decl. ¶ 6).
Defendants deny Braightmeyer used any excessive force when
handcuffing Plaintiff. (Braightmeyer Decl. ¶ 7; Brice
Decl. ¶ 6.) Defendants deny Braightmeyer ever used a
homophobic slur. (Braightmeyer Decl. ¶ 8; Brice Decl.
¶ 9.) Defendants contend they did move Plaintiffs
handcuffs to the front when he requested. (Braightmeyer Decl.
¶ 9; Brice Decl. ¶ 7.) Defendants contend that
Plaintiffs shoulder injury predated his arrest and they did
not cause or exacerbate any of Plaintiff s injuries. (M.S.J.
Ex. 6 at 6, ECF No. 59.)
these divergent narratives about the course of events on
March 3, 2015, Defendants contend there are no genuine
disputes of material fact, and they move for summary judgment
on each claim.
Summary Judgment Standard
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule
56(a)). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating
the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact.
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157
(1970). If sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable jury
to render a verdict in favor of the non-moving party, then a
genuine dispute of material fact exists, and summary judgment
should be denied. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). But, the "mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
[non-moving party's] position" is insufficient.
Id. at 252.
genuine dispute exists, the facts and inferences derived
therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380
(2009). "Where the determination of what actually
happened depends on an assessment of the credibility of the
[parties'] respective witnesses, 'this assessment is
a disputed issue of fact that cannot be resolved on summary
judgment.'" Zoroastrian Or. & Darb-E-Mehr of
Metro. Wash, B.C. v. Rustam Guiv Found. of N.Y., 822
F.3d 739, 751 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Rainey v.
Conerly, 973 F.2d 321, 324 (4th Cir. 1992)).
case, it is Defendants' burden to show they are entitled
to judgment as a matter of law, but Plaintiff has the burden
of persuasion in establishing his claims. This means that the
Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, but Plaintiff still must present enough evidence
to show there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.
The Excessive Force Claims
are three excessive force claims pending against Defendants:
Count II alleges a violation of the Fourth Amendment, Count
VI alleges a violation of Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland
Declaration of Rights, and Count XII-alleged only against
Braightmeyer-alleges state law battery. These claims rise
and fall together, as the state law and state constitutional
claims parallel the Fourth Amendment claim. Hines v.
French, 852 A.2d 1047, 1069 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2004)
("The standards for analyzing claims of excessive force
are the same under Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland
Constitution as that under the Fourth Amendment of the United
States Constitution."); Rowland v. Perry, 41
F.3d 167, 174 (4th Cir. 1994) (explaining that a state law
battery claim is subsumed within a federal claim for
excessive use of force).
of excessive force during an arrest is "properly
analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's 'objective
reasonableness' standard." Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 388 (1989). The right to make a
stop or arrest necessarily involves the right to use some
degree of physical force so "[t]he question is whether
the officers' actions are 'objectively
reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances
confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent
or motivation." Id. at 396-97. A court analyzes
several factors to determine objective reasonableness,
including "the severity of the crime at issue, whether
the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the
officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting
arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight."
Id. "The extent of the plaintiffs injury is
also a relevant consideration." Bailey v.
Kennedy, 349 F.3d 731, 743 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Jones v. Buchanan, 325 F.3d 520, 527 (4th Cir.
prevail on an excessive force claim, a plaintiff must also
establish causation between the force alleged and the
plaintiffs injury. Evans v. Chalmers, 703 F.3d 636,
647 (4th Cir. 2012) ("Of course, constitutional torts,
like their common law brethren, require a demonstration of
both but-for and proximate causation."); Estate of
Anthony Anderson v. Strohman, Civ. No. GLR-13-3167, 2016
WL 4013638, at *10 (D. Md. July 27, 2016) (granting
defendants summary judgment where Plaintiff failed to
establish defendants' use of excessive force was the
actual cause of Plaintiffs death). "Court[s] look to
state law to determine what is required to show
[causation]." Estate of Anthony Anderson, 2016
WL 4013638, at *10.
Maryland law, expert testimony is not required to establish
causation where the plaintiffs injury falls into one of the
three Wilhelm categories; (1) the injury develops
"coincidentally with" or within a "reasonable
time after" the alleged act; (2) the proof of causation
is "clearly apparent" from the nature and
circumstances of the injury; or (3) the "cause of the
injury relates to matters of common experience, knowledge, or
observation of laymen," Wilhelm v. State Traffic
Safety Comm'n, 185 A.2d 715, 719 (Md. 1962). But
"[w]hen a complicated issue of medical causation arises,
expert testimony is almost always required." Giant
Food, Inc. v. Booker, 831 A.2d 481, 488 (Md. Ct. Spec.
medical questions" can arise when the plaintiff has a
pre-existing chronic injury that "cloud[s]
causation." Wiseman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
Civ. No. SAG-16-04030, 2017 WL 4162238, at *2-3 (D. Md. Sept.
19, 2017) (requiring expert testimony where a plaintiff had
chronic shoulder and knee problems prior to the fall that
allegedly worsened them); see also Am. Airlines Corp. v.
Stokes, 707 A.2d412, 419 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1998)
(requiring expert testimony where the plaintiff "had a
long history of chronic back problems that presented a far
more likely explanation for his ultimate" back injury
than the incident alleged). The purpose behind requiring
proof of causation is "to guard against raw speculation
by the fact-finder." Sakaria v. Trans World
Airlines, 8 F.3d 164, 172-7.3 (4th Cir. 1993).
alleges two instances of excessive force that resulted in two
different injuries. The first involves Braightmeyer allegedly
pulling Plaintiff up off the floor by the handcuffs and then
subsequently refusing to move Plaintiffs handcuffs to his
front. (Krell Depo. 126:2-19.) Plaintiff alleges this
resulted in shoulder injuries that needed surgical repair.
(Opp'n Mem. at 12.) The second involves Braightmeyer
allegedly slamming Plaintiff's face into the ground with
enough force that his face broke the floor tiles. (Krell
Depo. 120:11-17.) Plaintiff alleges this resulted in facial
lacerations. (Id. 121:14-16, ) The Court addresses
each injury in turn.
The Shoulder Injury
contend that Plaintiffs excessive force claims related to his
shoulder injury fail as a matter of law because Plaintiff has
not produced a medical expert to testify to causation between
the force alleged and Plaintiffs shoulder injury. (M.S.J.
Mem, Supp. at 16-17.) An expert is required, Defendants
argue, because Plaintiffs "serious pre-existing
injuries" complicate the causation analysis and
"the parsing out of pre-existing injuries is not
something in the purview of the normal
Court agrees. Plaintiff had extensive shoulder damage at the
time of his arrest. A summary of his medical records reveals
that between 2000-2015, Plaintiff had more than 100
documented visits to the emergency room related to his
shoulder. (M.S.J. Ex. 7.) Most of these visits involved
shoulder dislocations. (Id.) During one visit,
Plaintiffs shoulder dislocated and was reduced a total of
eight times. (Id. at 7.) Medical personnel
consistently informed Plaintiff that his shoulder needed to
be surgically repaired or the shoulder pain and dislocations
would continue. (Id.) Plaintiff acknowledged this,
but stated he was unable to follow up with an orthopedic
surgeon because he lacked medical insurance. (Krell Depo.
light of this history, Plaintiffs evidence that
Defendants' conduct caused his shoulder injuries is
inadequate. For example, Plaintiffs testimony that he was in
pain during his arrest (id. 107:9-10), and
Ellwood's corroboration of this (Ellwood Depo. 67:5), do
not establish that Plaintiff suffered new injuries during his
arrest or that Braightmeyer's use of force permanently
exacerbated his existing ones. Similarly, the shoulder
surgery he received five months later sheds no light on
whether Plaintiffs ruptured subscapularis tendon and torn
rotator cuff predated his arrest or arose as a result of it
(Opp'n Mem. Ex. J.) His medical records suggest a strong
possibility the former is true. Accordingly, none of the
three Wilhelm categories are implicated here: it is
not clear that his injury developed "coincidentally
with" Defendants' use of force, causation is not
"clearly apparent" from the nature of his injury,
and the cause of his injury does not relate to the
"common experience, knowledge, or observation of
laymen." See Wilhelm, 185 A.2d at 719.
short, the issue of causation here is a "complicated
medical question" for which expert testimony is
required. See Giant Food, 831 A.2d at 488. Because
Plaintiff has produced no such testimony, Plaintiff's
excessive force claims fail as a matter of law to the extent
they allege any shoulder injuries.
The Facial Injuries
s alleged facial injuries are another matter. Neither party
contends these injuries involve a "complicated medical
question" of causation that would necessitate expert
testimony. Therefore, the issue is whether there is a genuine
dispute of material fact as to whether Defendants used the
amount of force alleged, and if so, whether that force was
asserts that he obtained facial lacerations when, during his
arrest, Braightmeyer tackled him and forcefully pushed his
head into the ground. (Krell Depo. 120:11-21.) The whole
incident took approximately "ten seconds," but the
force was allegedly sufficient to break the tiles and cause
Plaintiffs face to be "a little scratched up."
(Id. 121:6-15.) Plaintiff contends that he did not
resist being handcuffed and was wearing only boxer shorts at
the time. (Id. 120:12-21; Braightmeyer Decl. ¶
5.) Ellwood was not in the room when the incident occurred,
but saw Plaintiff immediately ...