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Swann v. City of Columbus Police

July 31, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Holschuh

Magistrate Judge Abel


This matter is before the Court on plaintiff Edward Swann's June 8, 2006 objections to the Magistrate Judge's May 30, 2006 Report and Recommendation, which recommended granting defendant City of Columbus' March 3, 2006 motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 109). Swann, an inmate at Orient Correctional Institution, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants violated his civil rights when police officers used excessive force during an arrest in 2003. He pleads violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights--including a claim that defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by preventing him from receiving adequate medical attention for the injuries he suffered during the alleged assault. In his response to defendant's motion for summary judgment, Swann alleged that defendant police officers conspired to create a fraudulent investigative report containing false statements about the details surrounding Swann's arrest.

The Magistrate Judge recommended dismissing Swann's claims because he failed to establish any grounds for finding municipal liability, he had not stated a claim pursuant to the Eighth Amendment because he was not convicted of any crime at the time of the alleged assault, there was no evidence that the City of Columbus had failed to train its officers or had failed to discipline them, that Swann did not make any allegations that the City was involved in the conspiracy, and Swann had failed to effectuate service on the Columbus police officer defendants.

In Swann's objections he re-raises many of the same arguments he raised in his response to defendant's motion for summary judgment. He also disputes defendant's factual allegations regarding the time of night officers arrived on the scene of his arrest and whether or not at the end of the police chase he ran into patrol car 144. He argues that the dispute over these facts raises genuine issues of material fact. He next argues that he should be allowed to include a Fourth Amendment violation amongst his claims. Additionally, Swann argues that he perfected service on defendant officers in a timely fashion: in his July 2004 complaint, he named John Doe defendants; on February 14, 2005, he states that he learned the identities of the officers; on March 7, 2005 he obtained the necessary forms to perfect service from the Clerk of Courts; and on March 9, this was noted on the docket.

Swann does not object to the dismissal of the alleged Eighth Amendment violations for cruel and unusual punishment at the time of his arrest and deliberate indifference to his medical needs following his arrest. Accordingly, these claims shall be dismissed.

I. Background

Swann filed this action claiming that police officers assaulted him following a car chase. On March 10, 2003, just after 1:00 a.m., Swann was spotted trying to break into the Custom Computer Warehouse. Swann fled the scene in a Jeep and was chased by Columbus police officers. The chase ended after Swann ran over road spikes and crashed into a van and tree.*fn1

Swann claims that Columbus police officers then physically dragged him from the car and assaulted him. He maintains that Officer James Carsey kicked him in the forehead three to four times and Officer Jennifer Sheafer twisted his arm until his elbow "popped." Officer Sheafer then allegedly put her hand over Swann's mouth causing him to lose consciousness. After he regained consciousness, Officer Sheafer pulled down Swann's pants and ridiculed him while he was walking in handcuffs.*fn2 Swann complained to officers of a pre-existing heart condition, so officers requested medical assistance. He was transported to Grant Medical Center for treatment. Hospital notes state that Swann admitted to smoking crack 1-2 hours prior to receiving treatment. Defs' Reply, Exh. A. He also admitted, that at the end of the chase, he hit his chest into the steering wheel. Notes also state that Swann had an abrasion on his forehead.

At 3:00 a.m., Officer Carsey contacted Sergeant Shirk to notify Shirk that they had a suspect who had resisted arrest. The investigation reveals that Swann suffered a three inch abrasion to his left forehead. Officer Carsey broke his left hand.

II. Analysis

A. Failure to Train

Swann's complaint argues that the City of Columbus is liable for the actions of its officers because it failed to provide adequate training to the officers on the use of force. In the Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge conducted a detailed analysis of this claim. Swann does not raise any new arguments. Liability for a municipality's failure to train is only found in very narrow circumstances. The first task in any municipal liability suit brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is to determine "whether there is a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation. City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989). "[A] municipality is liable for failure to train its police force, where the plaintiff proves that the municipality acted recklessly, intentionally, or with gross negligence" and "that the lack of training was so reckless or grossly negligent that deprivations of persons' constitutional rights were substantially certain to result." Id. at 382-83. (punctuation omitted) (citation omitted). For liability to arise, "the failure to train [must amount] to deliberate indifference to the rights of the persons with whom the police come into contact." Id. at 388. Therefore, "a municipality can be liable under § 1983 only where its policies are the moving force behind the constitutional violation." Id. at 389 (citation omitted) (punctuation omitted). "Only where a failure to train reflects a 'deliberate' or 'conscious' choice by a municipality- a 'policy' as defined by our prior cases- can a city be liable for such a failure under § 1983." Id.

A municipality has a policy of providing inadequate training when "the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymakers of the city can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need." Id. at 390. Further, the plaintiff must also be able to show that the inadequacy in training actually led to the injury. Id. at 391. This is the necessary causal link as mentioned earlier. Consequently, deliberate indifference for a municipality's failure to ...

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