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Carrico v. Knox County Sheriff's Office

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

June 28, 2018

ANGELA CARRICO, Individually and as administrator of the Estate on behalf of David Dehmann Plaintiff,
v.
KNOX COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, et al, Defendants.

          Chelsey M. Vascura, Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court for consideration of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 52), Plaintiffs Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 62), and Defendants Reply in Support. (ECF No.64.) For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Angela Carrico brings suit individually and as administrator for the Estate of David Levi Dehmann against Defendants[1], the Knox County Sheriffs Office, Knox County, Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer ("Shaffer"), Deputy Chase Wright ("Wright"), Sergeant Alan Hackman ("Hackman"), Deputy Terry Wolfe ("Wolfe"), and Deputy Brianna Copley ("Copley, together "Defendants") alleging use of excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as failure to intercede, deliberate indifference to Mr. Dehmann's need for medical treatment, ratification, and other state claims for acts that took place while Mr. Dehmann was in custody at the Knox County Jail.

         Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts. Plaintiff opposes.

         B. Factual Background

         On April 21, 2015, Corporal Tharp of the Mt. Vernon Police Department arrested David Dehmann for disorderly conduct and transported him to the Knox County Jail. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-18, ECF No. 1.) Mr. Dehmann was intoxicated at the time and unbeknownst to Defendants, was on blood thinning medication. (Wright Deck ¶ 19.) Following a preliminary examination and the removal of Mr. Dehmann's handcuffs, Sergeant Hackman directed Mr. Dehmann to walk down the intake hallway towards a holding cell. (Wright Deck ¶ 35, ECF No. 52-1.) Sergeant Hackman and Deputy Wolfe then proceeded to escort Mr. Dehmann down the hall. (Wright Dep. at 9:28-29.) Deputies Copley and Wright were also present in the hallway.

         While walking down the hallway, Mr. Dehmann slowed in front of Deputy Wright, pointed his finger in Deputy Wright's face, and said something to him. (Wright Deck ¶ 38; Defs.' Exhibit C, Intake Video at 8:04:02; Wright Deck ¶ 38; Copley Deck ¶ 17; Wolfe Deck ¶ 27). Deputy Wright swatted Mr. Dehmann's hand away and told Mr. Dehmann not to point at him. (Wright Deck ¶ 39); (Defs.' Exhibit C, Intake Video at 8:04:03; Copley Deck ¶ 18; Wolfe Deck ¶ 28.) Deputy Wright testified that in response Mr. Dehmann stated, "[o]h you want to fight me" and as illustrated in the image captured by the intake camera, moved into a "fighting stance." (Wright Deck ¶ 40); Defs.' Exhibit C, Intake Video at 8:04:03.) Mr. Dehmann then swung at Deputy Wright. (Defs.' Exhibit C, Intake Video at 8:04:05.) Deputy Wright avoided being struck by Mr. Dehmann.[2] (Wright Decl. ¶ 42.) He describes that he sidestepped Mr. Dehmann's "swing" and then "moved towards Dehmann (closing the gap). I got my right arm underneath his right arm and around Dehmann's chest. I positioned my body up against Dehmann's body and took Mr. Dehmann down to the floor." (Id. ¶ 43.) Deputy Wright testified that Mr. Dehmann's body landed on top of his, but Mr. Dehmann's head struck the floor. A review of the video shows Deputy Wright lifting Mr. Dehmann off the ground before taking him to the floor, where it appears he hit head first. (Defs.' Exhibit C, Intake Video at 8:04:03.) Mr. Dehmann lost consciousness briefly after the takedown. (Hackman Decl. ¶ 29-30); (Copley Decl. ¶ 20.) Defendants then placed a towel under Mr. Dehmann's head to stop the bleeding, retrieved smelling salts to improve his level of consciousness, and called for an ambulance. The call for the ambulance took place less than two minutes after the takedown. (Defs.' Exhibit 8.) The paramedics arrived around 8:16 PM, within twelve minutes of the call. (Id.) Mr. Dehmann was checked into the hospital around 8:47 PM, (McCann Dep. 18:19-22.)

         Doctors examined Mr, Dehmann at the emergency room and determined that he suffered a contusion to the left frontal parietal area of his head. (McCann Dep. 16:12 21.) Because the hospital he was initially transported to had no neurosurgical coverage, Mr. Dehmann was flown to Grant Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. (McCann Dep. 19:3-18.) Three days after the incident, he passed away.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows 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). The movant has the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact, which may be accomplished by demonstrating that the nonmoving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Barnhart v. Pickrel, Schaeffer & Ebeling Co., 12 F.3d 1382, 1388-89 (6th Cir. 1993). To avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); accord Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., 8 F.3d 335, 340 (6th Cir. 1993). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is 'genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970); see Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (stating that the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party and must refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing evidence). Furthermore, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will not be sufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury reasonably could find for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251; see Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 479 (6th Cir. 1995); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88 (finding reliance upon mere allegations, conjecture, or implausible inferences to be insufficient to survive summary judgment).

         III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff brings forth a number of constitutional claims under § 1983 to which Defendants assert qualified immunity. "In § 1983 constitutional torts like this one, qualified immunity prevents government officials from being held liable if (1) the officers did not violate any constitutional guarantees or (2) the guarantee, even if violated, was not 'clearly established' at the time of the alleged misconduct." Arrington-Bey v. City of Bedford Heights, 858 F.3d 988, 992 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009)). The defense of qualified immunity "ordinarily applies unless it is obvious that no reasonably competent official would have concluded that the actions taken were unlawful. Chappell v. City of Cleveland, 585 F.3d 901, 907 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). When qualified immunity is asserted, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that defendants are not entitled to the defense. Id. (citing Untalan v. City of Lorain, 430 F.3d 312, 314 (6th Cir. 2005)). A. Excessive Force Plaintiff brings a claim for use of excessive force against Deputy Wright in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiffs claim as a pretrial detainee[3], however, is governed by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Ayala-Rosales v. Teal, 659 Fed.Appx. 316, 319 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015)); see also Leary v. Livingston City., 528 F.3d 438, 443 (6th Cir. 2008) (explaining that pretrial detainees bring excessive-force claims under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process clause, whereas, "convicted prisoners may bring excessive-force claims under the Eighth Amendment.. . and 'free citizen[s]' may bring such claims under the Fourth Amendment."). Accordingly, the claim will be examined under the Fourteenth Amendment, although this differentiation is insignificant as the Supreme Court's decision in Kingsley, held that "a pretrial detainee's excessive force claim brought under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause is subject to the same objective standard as an excessive force claim brought under the Fourth Amendment. Clay v. Emmi, 797 F.3d 364, 369 (6th Cir. 2015).

         To establish a Fourteenth Amendment excessive-force claim, "a pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable." Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2473. To determine the objective reasonableness of a Defendant's conduct, the Supreme Court provided a non-exhaustive list of considerations including: "the relationship between the need for the use of force and the amount of force used; the extent of the plaintiffs injury; and effort made by the officer to temper or to limit the amount offeree; the severity of the security problem at issue; the threat reasonably perceived by the officer; and whether the plaintiff was actively resisting." Id. (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989)). Recognizing that "[o]fficers facing disturbances 'are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving . . . [the] court must judge the reasonableness of the force used from the perspective and with the knowledge of the defendant officer." Id. at 2474. (internal citations and quotations omitted). The objective reasonableness analysis gives deference to the "policies and practices needed to maintain order and institutional security . . . ." Id. The test is "reasonableness at the moment" force is used, "judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight." Graham, 490 U.S. at 396.

         The Kingsley decision directs the Court to review a plethora of factors to determine whether the Defendant's actions were objectively reasonable. Plaintiff asserts that Deputy Wright's act in utilizing the takedown method was objectively unreasonable to begin with and even if it was reasonable to perform a takedown of Mr. Dehmann, Deputy Wright used an excessive amount of force.

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