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Ferguson v. Shippitka

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 24, 2018

LOIS FERGUSON, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER MICHAEL SHIPPITKA, et al., Defendants.

          Jolson Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE C. SMITH, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Officer Michael Shippitka and Police Chief Dennis Murphy's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 23). Plaintiff has filed her response and this Motion is now ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiff Lois Ferguson is a citizen of the State of Ohio and is employed as a community health worker with Celebrate One. She is 58 years old. (Doc. 22, Pl. Dep. at 13). During the timeframe relevant to this case, Plaintiff was employed as a packer at The Limited. (Id. at 17).

         During the relevant time frame, Defendant Dennis Murphy was the Police Chief for the City of Gahanna. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 5). Defendant Michael Shippitka was a police officer with the City of Gahanna. (Id.).

         This case arises out of an incident that occurred in the early morning hours on February 25, 2014. Ferguson was driving home after working the second shift (5 p.m. to 2 a.m.) at The Limited despite having a restriction on her Ohio driver's license to only drive during the daytime hours. (See Doc. 22, Pl. Dep. at 20 - 21). Plaintiff does not dispute that she should not have been driving outside of her license restriction. (Id. at 24). She further admits that both her front and rear license plates was not properly mounted on her car. (Id. at ¶ 25-26).

         Gahanna Police Officer Gary Lawrence was on routine patrol, traveling northbound on I-270 at approximately 2:30 a.m. when he observed Plaintiff's vehicle. Specifically, he observed that the rear license plate was not property displayed and therefore he initiated a traffic stop. (Doc. 23-3, Lawrence Aff. ¶¶ 3-5). Officer Lawrence checked Plaintiff's identification through the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (“LEADS”) and learned that her driver's license was restricted to only daytime driving. When Officer Lawrence questioned Plaintiff about the restriction and the improper display of the license plates, she did not dispute either issue. (Id., Lawrence Statement of Facts). At this time, Officer Michael Shippitka arrived at the scene. (Id.). Officer Lawrence then told Plaintiff that she was being issued a traffic citation, and her vehicle would be towed. (Id.).[1] Plaintiff then became very agitated. (Id.).

         Officer Shippitka described that he was standing at the driver's side door and Officer Lawrence was on the passenger's side. (Doc. 21, Shippitka Dep. at 19). Ferguson told Officer Shippitka she was not going to allow her car to be towed, locked the doors, and refused to get out of the vehicle. (Id.; see also Doc. 23-3, Lawrence Statement of Facts). Officer Lawrence told Ferguson she was not allowed to continue driving the vehicle because it was nighttime, and her vehicle had to be towed and impounded. (Id.). Plaintiff called her brother to explain the situation and asked if someone could drive out and pick up her and her car. (Doc. 22, Pl. Dep. at 30). Plaintiff maintains that she had arranged for her brother and his wife to drive thirty minutes across town and pick up her car, rather than having it towed. (Id. at 29 - 31). However, thirty minutes was too long to wait along side of a major interstate at 3 o'clock in the morning. (Id. at 29-31, 34). Officer Shippitka asked Plaintiff to get out of her vehicle, but she refused. (Doc. 21, Shippitka Dep. at 21). He then ordered her out, but she refused. (Doc. 22, Pl. Dep. at 34). Plaintiff did not want her car towed and impounded because “that is extra money.” (Id. at 37).

         Officer Shippitka explained to Plaintiff that she could be charged with Obstructing Official Business if she continued to remain in her vehicle. (Doc. 21, Shippitka Dep. at 22). When the tow truck arrived and backed in front of Plaintiff's vehicle, she finally got out of her vehicle. (Id. at 23-24). Officer Shippitka then explained to Plaintiff that he needed her car keys and she responded, “I'm not giving you my F'ing car keys.” (Id. at 24). Plaintiff admits to being frustrated. (Doc. 22, Pl. Dep. at 37). She said that the City of Gahanna was “thirsty” and they needed her money. (Id. at 40).

         Officer Shippitka again asked Plaintiff for her keys. (Doc. 21, Shippitka Dep. at 26-27). Shippitka describes that Plaintiff was becoming increasingly aggravated and again said, “I am not giving you my F'ing keys.” (Id.). Plaintiff admits that she said, “I'm not giving you all my keys. You're taking my car, I will not be locked out of my house. I'll take the car key off.” (Doc. 22, Pl. Dep. at 40). At that time, according to Plaintiff, Officer Shippitka “grabs her hands and starts squeezing.” (Id.). Officer Shippitka describes that he told Plaintiff, “I need your keys. Once again you are obstructing official business. We need the key to finish up the impound process and the inventory of your vehicle.” (Doc. 21, Shippitka Dep. at 27). Shippitka described that the whole incident with his hand on Plaintiff lasted 15 seconds. “At some point Ms. Ferguson said, “You're hurting me. I will give you my F'ing keys.” (Id.). And Officer Shippitka remembers Officer Lawrence say “Okay, you're hurting her.” (Id.). Officer Shippitka immediately let go of Plaintiff's hands and he put his hands in his coat. (Id. at 29-30). Plaintiff then removed her car key and the officers began the vehicle inventory process. (Id.). Officer Lawrence ultimately drove Plaintiff to the Speedway in Gahanna where she could wait for a ride home. (Doc. 23-3). Officer Lawrence issued Plaintiff a citation for Driving Outside Her License Restriction (in violation of Gahanna Code Section 335.07(B)), and Improper Display (in violation of Gahanna Code Section 335.09(A)). The morning following the incident, Plaintiff went to the BMV and received a new driver's license without the day time driving restriction. (Doc. 22, Pl. Dep. at 22).

         On February 25, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this case against Defendants Shippitka and Murphy alleging claims of violation of her Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for failure to supervise, control and discipline, and for punitive damages.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         The standard governing summary judgment is set forth in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material ...


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