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Irish-Miller v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 24, 2017



         Presently before the court is defendants Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“LVMPD”) and Officers Ryan Fryman, C. Hartfield, D. Denton, D. Viskoc, and R. Wright's (the “officers”) amended motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 55).

         Plaintiff Justin Irish-Miller has filed a response (ECF No. 56), and defendants have filed a reply (ECF Nos. 57, 58).

         I. Introduction

         a. The encounter

         This case arises out of the September 19, 2012, police action at which time plaintiff gave a suspect of a drug-related crime a ride in his vehicle and was subsequently detained by police.[1]See (ECF No. 56).

         Plaintiff states that while he was waiting for his overheated car to cool down a van of undercover police officers seized both the suspect and plaintiff. (Id.). Specifically, plaintiff avers that he “was pushed into his car, had his shoulder grabbed, chin slammed into the hood, and handcuffed.” (Id. at 3) (citing (ECF No. 56-1)). Plaintiff submits that he was then cursed at by an officer and put “in a chokehold.” (Id. at 4) (citing (ECF No. 56-1)).

         Plaintiff further alleges that the officers then threw him “head first into the floor of the van, ” hitting his face on the floor and that he eventually lost consciousness after an officer put his knee on his neck. (Id. at 4) (citing (ECF No. 56-1)). Mr. Irish-Miller regained consciousness after having been transported to a different location and noticed his teeth felt broken. (Id.) (citing (ECF No. 56-1)). He asserts that the officers then read him his Miranda rights after an interrogation at the new location. (Id.) (citing (ECF No. 56-1)).

         b. Plaintiff's claims

         In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges the following claims: (1) violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against all defendants; (2) municipal liability in relation to the first claim, against all defendants; (3) negligent supervision and training against LVMPD; (4) negligence and gross negligence against all defendants; (5) violation of the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments against the officers; (6) negligence against the officer defendants; (7) assault and battery against the officers; (8) battery against all defendants; (9) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) against all defendants; (10) negligent infliction of emotional distress against all defendants; (11) negligence per se against all defendants; and (12) a request for punitive damages.[2](ECF No. 21).

         c. Submitted arguments

         Regarding the constitutional allegations, defendants relevantly assert qualified immunity and argue that there is no evidence that an LVMPD policymaker's decision resulted in a violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. (Id.).

         Against the state-law allegations, the officers first claim discretionary immunity. (Id.). Next, the officers contest that they are not liable under IIED because their conduct was neither extreme and outrageous nor willful, in light of the totality of the circumstances. (Id.). Third, defendants acknowledge that assault and battery requires unlawful touching, but they contend that the contact at issue was lawful. (Id.). Fourth, defendants contend that there can be no liability based upon negligence or negligent training because plaintiff has failed to establish a breached duty. (Id.). Finally, defendants state that punitive damages are inappropriate because there is no “evil motive or intent, or . . . a reckless or callous indifference to Plaintiff's constitutional rights.” (Id. at 27).

         Plaintiff responds that there are relevant material disputes of facts as to various challenged claims. See (ECF No. 56). Next, plaintiff asserts that he was subjected to more than a Terry stop and Officer Fryman cannot product articulable facts supporting his decision to detain plaintiff. (Id.). Third, he argues that the officers used unreasonable force. (Id.). Fourth, plaintiff pleads alternative forms of liability. (Id.). Fifth, plaintiff asserts that the elements are met as to his claims and, finally, that federal law permits punitive damages in this case. (Id.).

         II. Legal Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow summary judgment when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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). A principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323- 24 (1986).

         For purposes of summary judgment, disputed factual issues should be construed in favor of the non-moving party. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). However, to be entitled to a denial of summary judgment, the non-moving party must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.

         In determining summary judgment, the court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000). Moreover, “[i]n such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.” Id.

         By contrast, when the non-moving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the non-moving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the non-moving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the non-moving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

         If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T. W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         The Ninth Circuit has held that information contained in an inadmissible form may still be considered for summary judgment if the information itself would be admissible at trial. Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Block v. City of Los Angeles, 253 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2001) (“To survive summary judgment, a party does not necessarily have to produce evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial, as long as the party satisfies the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56.”)).

         III. Discussion

         a. Constitutional claims

          1. Qualified immunity

         When a plaintiff brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, government officials sued in their individual capacities may raise the affirmative ...

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