Ashley v. City of Bridgeport, Civil No. 3:17-cv-724(AWT)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
Writing for the CourtAlvin W. Thompson United States District Judge
PartiesMALCOLM O. ASHLEY, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF BRIDGEPORT; LT. RONALD MERCADO; OFFICER RODERICK DODA; OFFICER MARIE CETTI; and ST. VINCENT'S MEDICAL CENTER, Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil No. 3:17-cv-724(AWT)
Decision Date31 March 2021

MALCOLM O. ASHLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BRIDGEPORT; LT. RONALD MERCADO;
OFFICER RODERICK DODA; OFFICER MARIE CETTI;
and ST. VINCENT'S MEDICAL CENTER, Defendants.

Civil No. 3:17-cv-724(AWT)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT

March 31, 2021


RULING ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The plaintiff, Malcolm O. Ashley ("Ashley"), brings this action against the City of Bridgeport, Ronald Mercado, Roderick Doda, Marie Cetti, and St. Vincent's Medical Center seeking damages for injuries arising out of an incident that took place in April 2015. Defendants City of Bridgeport (the "City"), Lieutenant Ronald Mercado ("Mercado"), Officer Roderick Doda ("Doda"), and Officer Marie Cetti ("Cetti") (collectively, "the Municipal Defendants") move for summary judgment on Counts One, Two, Three, and Four of the Amended Complaint. Defendant St. Vincent's Medical Center ("St. Vincent's") moves for summary judgment on Counts Five and Six.1

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For the reasons set forth below, the motions for summary judgment are being granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following is an overview of the factual background. Additional details are discussed in connection with that defendant and the issues to which they are most relevant.

On April 4, 2015, the plaintiff was parked at a gas station in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A Georgia resident, the plaintiff was in Bridgeport to meet with city officials about a development initiative. While the plaintiff was standing outside his vehicle at the gas station, Officer Cetti and Officer Vicens were dispatched to the gas station in separate vehicles and upon arrival, the officers questioned the plaintiff about why he had been at the gas station for so long without purchasing any gas. The plaintiff told the officers that he had a back injury and was experiencing some pain, so he had stopped to stretch his back. The plaintiff was not found to be in violation of any motor vehicle laws. Cetti performed a patdown of the plaintiff and found a knife belonging to the plaintiff. The Municipal Defendants contend that Cetti "put Ashley's knife into the backseat of his car." Municipal Defendants' Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement ("Municipal Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1"), ECF No. 270-2, ¶ 27. The plaintiff states that Cetti "failed to return the Gerber combat knife." Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement in Opposition

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to Defendant City of Bridgeport's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 for Municipal Defs."), ECF No. 286, at 11, 29. In an interview with the City of Bridgeport Department of Police, Office of Internal Affairs, the plaintiff stated that "the male officer [Vicens] took my knife," Municipal Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1, Ex. B City of Bridgeport Office of Internal Affairs File ("OIAFILE"), ECF No. 268, 000058 at line 43, but in the Amended Complaint, the plaintiff alleges that Cetti searched him and took the knife. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 186-1, Count One ¶¶ 29-30. The officers did not issue the plaintiff a citation, but instead told him to leave the gas station.

After this encounter, the plaintiff got into his vehicle and left the gas station. The officers then left the gas station in their respective vehicles. Vicens passed the plaintiff's vehicle and, subsequently, Vicens, Cetti, and the plaintiff were driving in close proximity to each other on State Street, with Vicens' vehicle directly in front of the plaintiff's vehicle and Cetti's vehicle directly behind the plaintiff's vehicle. While they were on State Street, Vicens stopped his vehicle and activated his emergency lights. The plaintiff stopped behind him. Cetti also activated her emergency lights and stopped her vehicle behind the plaintiff's. Cetti did not exit her vehicle. Vicens exited his vehicle and spoke to the plaintiff, who did not exit his vehicle and was not issued a citation.

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Afterwards, the plaintiff drove to Bridgeport Police Headquarters. Upon arriving at Police Headquarters, the plaintiff entered and went to the front desk, with the intention of filing a "citizen's complaint." He spoke to Officer Killian first. Two additional officers, Lt. Mercado and Officer Doda, came out to speak with the plaintiff. While Mercado was speaking with the plaintiff, Doda requested the assistance of medics. Medics arrived at Police Headquarters, and the plaintiff was transported on a gurney into an ambulance. He was then transported to St. Vincent's Medical Center. Doda rode in the ambulance with the plaintiff. Doda completed a State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Police Emergency Examination Request ("PEER Request").

The ambulance arrived at St. Vincent's, and the plaintiff expressed that he did not want to be there. In due course, a member of the St. Vincent's medical staff gave the plaintiff an injection of a sedative. The plaintiff was admitted to St. Vincent's that evening and was discharged the following day, April 5, 2015.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"A motion for summary judgment may properly be granted . . . only where there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried, and the facts as to which there is no such issue warrant the entry of judgment for the moving party as a matter

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of law." Rogoz v. City of Hartford, 796 F.3d 236, 245 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Kaytor v. Elec. Boat Corp., 609 F.3d 537, 545 (2d Cir. 2010)) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a)). "The function of the district court in considering the motion for summary judgment is not to resolve disputed questions of fact but only to determine whether, as to any material issue, a genuine factual dispute exists." Id. (quoting Kaytor, 609 F.3d at 545) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)).

When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must respect the province of the jury. "In reviewing the evidence and the inferences that may reasonably be drawn, the court 'may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence . . . . Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.'" Kaytor, 609 F.3d at 545 (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)). "Where an issue as to a material fact cannot be resolved without observation of the demeanor of witnesses in order to evaluate their credibility, summary judgment is not appropriate." Id. at 546 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note (1963)).

When reviewing the evidence on a motion for summary judgment, "'the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party,' Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150, 'even

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though contrary inferences might reasonably be drawn,' Jasco Tools Inc. v. Dana Corp., 574 F.3d 129, 152 (2d Cir. 2009)." Kaytor, 609 F.3d at 545. "Summary judgment is inappropriate when the admissible materials in the record 'make it arguable' that the claim has merit, for the court in considering such a motion 'must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe.'" Id. (quoting Jasco Tools, 574 F.3d at 151-52).

Because credibility is not an issue on summary judgment, the nonmovant's evidence must be accepted as true for purposes of the motion. Nonetheless, the inferences drawn in favor of the nonmovant must be supported by the evidence. "[M]ere speculation and conjecture is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Stern v. Trustees of Columbia Univ., 131 F.3d 305, 315 (2d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting W. World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d. Cir. 1990)). Moreover, the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmovant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which [a] jury could reasonably find for the [nonmovant]." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

Also, the nonmoving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in his pleadings since the essence of summary judgment is to go beyond the pleadings to determine if a genuine

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issue of material fact exists. See Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000). "Although the moving party bears the initial burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact," id., if the movant demonstrates an absence of such issues, a limited burden of production shifts to the nonmovant, who must "demonstrate more than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, . . . [and] must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial," Aslanidis v. United States Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir. 1993) (quotation marks, citations and emphasis omitted). "Accordingly, unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact." Weinstock, 224 F.3d at 41. If the nonmovant fails to meet this burden, summary judgment should be granted.

Summary judgment is inappropriate only if the issue to be resolved is both genuine and related to a material fact. Therefore, the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment. A material fact is one that would "affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248. As the Court observed in Liberty Lobby: "[T]he materiality determination rests on the substantive law, [and] it is the substantive law's identification of which facts are critical and which facts are

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irrelevant that governs." Id. Thus, only those facts that must be decided in order to resolve a claim or defense will prevent summary judgment from being granted. When confronted with an asserted factual dispute, the court must examine the elements of the claims and defenses at issue on the motion to determine whether a resolution of that dispute could affect the disposition of any of those claims or defenses. See Crawford v. Franklin Credit Mgmt. Corp., 758 F.3d 473, 486 (2d Cir. 2014) ("[A] complete failure of proof...

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