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Hill v. City of Oklahoma City

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 11, 2017

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBIN J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now before the Court is Defendant City of Oklahoma City's (“OKC”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 38) and Defendant Bill Citty's (“Citty”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 40). Plaintiff has responded and both Motions are now at issue.

         I. Background

         This case concerns an altercation between police officers (Defendants Jeffrey Coffey, Christopher Schubert, Austin Childs, and Timothy Owens) and Plaintiff Anthony Hill that took place at about 1:55 a.m. on March 2, 2012, when Coffey initiated a traffic stop in Oklahoma City near an apartment complex. Plaintiff was driving the vehicle. Coffey stated 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 the officers, Plaintiff was belligerent and Coffey deployed a Taser to immobilize Plaintiff and place him in handcuffs. Childs called Shubert, a Drug Recognition Expert Officer, to the scene. 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 the officers 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 officers punched, kicked, and Tased him again, with the entire incident lasting 50 minutes to an hour.

         Non-defendant Lt. Bullard was also present during the incident but it is unclear exactly when he arrived and what his role was during the altercation. Bullard states he attempted to grab Plaintiff before he was in handcuffs, but missed. While Plaintiff testified that after Coffey and Childs kicked and punched him, “the lieutenant” shot him with a Taser (Hill Deposition, Dkt. No. 38-70, p.7), he bases his arguments on the “grab and miss” line of events and never mentions Taser usage by Bullard in his responses to the dual motions for summary judgment. Bullard's version of events are consistent with the fact that Bullard was not certified to use a Taser and had not been issued one. (Citty Affidavit, Dkt. No. 38-1.) For these reasons, the Court will accept the “grab and miss” version of events as undisputed fact. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         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 Bullard states he interviewed Plaintiff, and Plaintiff denies this fact. However, Plaintiff agrees Bullard did ask him questions.[1] Hospital staff released Plaintiff into police custody. The officers performed booking procedures and ultimately released Plaintiff.

         Defendant Citty is the Oklahoma City Police Department Police Chief. Police procedures require a supervisor to investigate an officer's use of force beyond routine handcuffing. Once the investigation is complete, a Division Commander reviews it, and then a three-person Screening Committee determines if the use of force was justified and appropriate. Here, Bullard states he conducted a use of force investigation. This fact was problematic because in some arguments, Plaintiff disputes the fact, but several other places he claims a constitutional violation occurred because Bullard performed the investigation.

         Based on the evidence presented, the Court will accept Bullard did conduct the required use of force investigation as an undisputed fact. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The Police Operations Manual requires the investigating superior to perform the following tasks in the investigation: (1) interview all employees, suspects, and witnesses or take their statements, (2) take photographs of any injured person, and (3) take photographs of damaged property. (Police Operations Manual, Dkt. No. 38-54, p. 2.) The record includes a thirty-nine (39) page report that includes all the required items, plus other documentation. (Use of Force Report, Dkt. No. 38-43.) The report states Bullard interviewed Plaintiff while at the hospital and lists a few answers Plaintiff provided. (Use of Force Report, Dkt. No. 38-43, p. 5.) Plaintiff stated he answered some of Bullard's questions in the hospital. (Hill Deposition, Dkt. No. 38-79, pp 15-17.) The answers to the questions are disputed, but immaterial.

         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.)

         Plaintiff alleged violations of his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985. The claims against OKC include malicious prosecution, conspiracy, failure to instruct, supervise, control, and discipline, and ratification. Plaintiff names Citty in his individual capacity and the claims include conspiracy, failure to instruct, supervise, control, and discipline, and ratification. Plaintiff also requested punitive damages against both Defendants.

         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).

         III. Malicious Prosecution

         Plaintiff's first cause of action is malicious prosecution brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff brought the claim against Defendants Coffey, Childs, Schubert, and Owens and the Court granted judgment in Defendants' favor. ...


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