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Hill v. City of Oklahoma City

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

July 10, 2017

ANTHONY HILL, Plaintiff,
CITY OF OKLAHOMA CITY, et al., Defendants.


          ROBIN J. CAUTHRON United States District Judge.

         Now before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Jeffrey Coffey, Christopher Schubert, Austin Childs, and Timothy Owens (the “moving Defendants”) (Dkt. No. 47). Plaintiff has responded and the Motion is now at issue.

         I. Background

         At about 1:55 a.m. on March 2, 2012, Officer Coffey initiated a traffic stop in Oklahoma City near an apartment complex. Plaintiff Anthony Hill was driving the vehicle. Coffey states he observed the vehicle straddling lane lines, so he conducted a field sobriety test on Plaintiff. Whether Plaintiff committed a traffic violation and whether he passed the sobriety test is disputed. After the test was complete, Coffey asked or told Plaintiff to sit in the back seat of the patrol car. Officer Childs, who observed Coffey initiate the traffic stop, arrived shortly thereafter. When Plaintiff did not sit in the patrol car, the two officers attempted to place Plaintiff in handcuffs.

         The accounts of what followed differ. According to Defendants, Plaintiff was belligerent and Coffey deployed a Taser to immobilize Plaintiff and place him in handcuffs. Childs called Sergeant Shubert, a Drug Recognition Expert Officer, to the scene. Officer Owens also responded. Plaintiff stood up and when the four officers tried to place Plaintiff in the patrol car, he broke free and rushed at the officers. This is when Defendants Tased Plaintiff a second time, put him in maximal restraints, and loaded him into the patrol car.

         According to Plaintiff, Coffey and Childs punched him about ten times each, Tased him, and kicked him many times in the body and head before placing him in handcuffs and then in the patrol car. Plaintiff was dragged out of the patrol car and the four Defendants punched, kicked, and Tased him again, with the entire incident lasting 50 minutes to an hour.

         The apartment manager, Patti Sangster, partially observed the altercation for thirty minutes to an hour. She testified that the sound of screams woke her up and she observed a man in handcuffs and police officers laughing. She saw a man spitting up blood, answering the officers' questions respectfully, and being Tased by the officers while in handcuffs. A couple of days after the incident, the same man who identified himself as Anthony Hill came to ask if she had observed the incident.

         Defendants transported Plaintiff to Deaconess Hospital to remove the Taser probes and to determine whether Plaintiff was under the influence of drugs. For disputed reasons, no one performed medical tests on Plaintiff to detect intoxicating substances. Plaintiff's injuries were photographed and he was released. Nurse Monique Ritz testified that while she did not specifically remember this incident, normally the treating physician determines why a patient requires treatment and sometimes the doctor would talk to police officers to get all the facts rather than only the patient.

         The incident resulted in Plaintiff's prosecution in the City of Oklahoma City Municipal Criminal Court for the following citations: straddling lane lines, interference with official process by resisting, driving under the influence, possession of marijuana, and assault and battery on a city official. The case was eventually dismissed on August 13, 2013, with the City of Oklahoma City stating “upon further review and investigation [the City] moves for dismissal of the above captioned action.” (Mot. to Dismiss Municipal Case, Dkt. No. 47-12.) The Municipal Judge granted the Motion for good cause shown. (Order of Dismissal, Dkt. No. 47-12.)

         II. Standard

         The standard for summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment may only be granted if the evidence of record shows “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). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of material fact requiring judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material if it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If the movant carries this initial burden, the nonmovant must then set forth specific facts outside the pleadings and admissible into evidence which would convince a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmovant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). All facts and reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The facts presented need not be produced in a form admissible at trial, “but the content or substance of the evidence must be admissible.” Thomas v. Int'l Bus. Machines, 48 F.3d 478, 485 (10th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).

         The moving Defendants argue for judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's malicious prosecution, conspiracy, and unlawful restraint claims. Defendants also raise qualified immunity as to the malicious prosecution and conspiracy claims. Where the defense is raised, the Court will address qualified immunity as the first ground for summary judgment. See Bowden v. Hignite, No. CIV-06-0811-F, 2007 WL 1994070, at *5 (W.D. Okla. July 5, 2007) (citing Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991)).

         III. Malicious Prosecution

         Plaintiff's first cause of action is malicious prosecution brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Moving Defendants have raised the defense of qualified immunity. In order to overcome qualified immunity, “a plaintiff must establish that the defendant's conduct violated a federal constitutional or statutory right and that the right was clearly established at the time of the conduct.” Hulen v. Yates, 322 F.3d 1229, 1237 (10th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). If a plaintiff fails to establish either prong, the defendant will ...

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