Carroll v. City of Westminster

Decision Date22 March 1999
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. MJG-94-2634.,Civ.A. MJG-94-2634.
Citation52 F.Supp.2d 546
PartiesEric Q. CARROLL, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF WESTMINSTER, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Brian L. Wallace, Baltimore, Maryland and David L. Moore, Baltimore, Maryland, for plaintiff.

Niccolo N. Donzella and Niccolo N. Donzella, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland; and Daniel Karp and Allen, Johnson, Alexander and Karp, Baltimore, Maryland, for defendants.

GARBIS, District Judge.

The Court has before it the Motion of Defendants City of Westminster and Chief Sam Leppo for Summary Judgment, Defendant Middleton's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, and the materials submitted by the parties relating thereto. The Court finds that a hearing is unnecessary.

As discussed herein, this case presents the question whether Defendants City of Westminster ("Westminster"), Westminster Police Chief Sam Leppo ("Leppo"), and John W. Middleton, M.D. ("Dr.Middleton"), violated the Constitutional rights1 of Plaintiff Eric Carroll ("Plaintiff" or "Carroll"), a Westminster police officer, when they obtained a urine specimen from him without informing him that the specimen would be tested for the presence of narcotics. The record may present evidence that could permit a finding that Dr. Middleton may not have used due care in his handling of Plaintiff's urine specimen.2 But, Plaintiff has failed to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendants conducted an unreasonable search of Carroll in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Accordingly, the instant case, based solely on constitutional violations and defamation claims, must be dismissed.

A. Plaintiff's Employment

From August 23, 1990 until his termination on December 20, 1993 because of a positive drug test result, Carroll worked as a Westminster police officer4 in Carroll County, Maryland. At all times relevant to the case, the Westminster Police Department was under the command of Chief Leppo. Plaintiff was the first African-American to serve as a uniformed officer in the Westminster Police Department. At the time Carroll was hired, Westminster had a policy that required all newly-hired police officers to sign a drug test waiver. Carroll, therefore, executed a drug testing waiver stating:

As a condition of employment with the Westminster Police Department, the undersigned employee agree's [sic] that the Police Department may at anytime [sic], with or without cause, require tests relating to the use of any drugs; such tests to include, but not be limited to chemical tests, urinalysis, polygraph, etc.; within the condition as a perquisite [sic] to employment with the Westminster Police Department.

Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Pl.Mot.Summ.J.") Ex. A.

During his employment, Carroll received satisfactory ratings and was recommended to receive salary increases. Leppo Dep. at 17-22. Carroll received the Officer of the Month Award on two occasions, as well as other letters and certificates of recognition for his work. Leppo Dep. at 26, 30-31; Pl.Mot.Summ.J.Exs. 2-I, 2-B, and 2-3. However, Carroll received discipline on six occasions for infractions committed while working as a Westminster police officer.5 Motion of Defendants City of Westminster and Chief Sam Leppo ("Defs.Mot.Summ.J.") Ex. E.

B. Events Leading Up to Carroll's Drug Test

During his May 9, 1993 work shift, Carroll drove himself to a hospital emergency room complaining that he had "tightness of the chest" and was "feeling really tired." Carroll Dep. at 123. Carroll was told that his blood pressure was very high and that he should seek follow-up treatment with his personal physician. Id. After leaving the hospital, Plaintiff continued his tour of duty, and the next day, May 10, went to see Dr. Middleton. Id. at 124. Dr. Middleton, who is retained by the Westminster police department to perform pre-employment and fitness for duty physicals6, had seen Plaintiff on one prior occasion,7 when he reported for an employment-related physical. Carroll Dep. at 118, 124. During the May 10 visit, Dr. Middleton took Carroll's medical history, performed a physical examination, and prescribed medication. Dr. Middleton also placed Carroll on disability for three days and advised Plaintiff to return in three days for a follow-up visit. Carroll Dep. at 125-26.

On May 12, 1993,8 Plaintiff returned to Dr. Middleton's office because he was still not feeling well.9 Pl.Dep. at 126-27; Middleton Dep. at 37-38. Before Carroll arrived at Middleton's office, however, Leppo received a tip that Plaintiff was using drugs. Based on the information provided by the tipper, Leppo called Dr. Middleton and told him to perform a urinalysis on Plaintiff.

C. The Tip

At approximately 8 a.m. on May 12, Leppo received a phone call from a person claiming that Carroll was using illegal drugs.10 Leppo Dep. at 58-59.11 Leppo then asked the caller to identify himself. Id. at 59. The caller identified himself as Alphonso McNeil and informed Leppo that he had known Plaintiff for 12-13 years. Id. McNeil then told Leppo that, at that very moment, Carroll was out on sick leave. Id. at 60. Leppo immediately checked the schedule and, with the assistance of his secretary, determined that Plaintiff was in fact out on sick leave. Id. Leppo also determined that Plaintiff "was off for several days. He may have been on a two or three day break. The sick leave may have been in conjunction with that." Id. at 61. Leppo also noted that "Eric had established a record of sick leave abuse. In fact, he had been written up for excessive use of sick leave." Id. at 60. Leppo then asked McNeil for a telephone number "because if he was going to make these allegations we need to do an investigation." Id. at 61. Leppo then called the work telephone number which McNeil had given him and verified that McNeil was employed there. Id.

D. May 12th Specimen Collection

Having verified McNeil's information (to the extent possible), Leppo contacted Dr. Middleton and told him to "do a drug and alcohol test on Mr. Carroll when he came in." Id. at 64.12 Dr. Middleton then asked Leppo whether he should inform Plaintiff that his urine would be screened for drugs. Leppo responded that it wasn't necessary to inform Carroll because Carroll had signed a drug testing waiver. Middleton Dep. at 73-74; Leppo Dep. at 65. Dr. Middleton then noted in Plaintiff's chart that "Chief Leppo called and informed me patient had an eyewitness of his use of heroin, and I asked — and asked that I obtain a urine specimen without patient's knowledge for drug screening." Middleton Dep. at 37 (reading Plaintiff's medical chart).

When Carroll arrived at Dr. Middleton's office, the physician examined Carroll and informed him that, in light of his high blood pressure, his urine would be tested for the presence of blood. Dr. Middleton told Carroll that he performed the "dip test" and that no blood was present in his urine. Carroll Dep. at 133.13 Then, without Carroll's knowledge, Dr. Middleton, or his nurse, Faye Decker, transferred the specimen to a plastic cup to be sent to a City-retained lab14 for drug testing.15 Approximately two weeks after the specimen was taken for drug testing, Leppo received the lab's report, which indicated that the sample tested positive for codeine and morphine, indicating heroin use. Defs. Mot.Summ.J.Ex. I.

On May 25, 1993 Leppo ordered Lieutenant Dan Brewer ("Brewer"), a member of the Department's Internal Affairs Division, to meet with Carroll to inform him that he had failed a drug test and, consequently, that he was suspended.16 On May 27, 1993, Brewer accompanied Carroll to Dr. Middleton's office to provide a second urine specimen for drug testing.17 Carroll Dep. at 64. At Dr. Middleton's office, Carroll was told to provide the urine specimen in two separate containers, which he protested because he believed it was being done to render the second test ineffective. Plaintiff Dep. at 65-67; 70-71. Brewer then drove Carroll to the Baltimore County Police Department in Towson, Maryland for a polygraph test,18 which was administered by Milton Duckworth of the Baltimore County Police Department. Upon completion of the test, Duckworth advised Carroll that he had failed. Defs.Mot.Ex. J at 46. Carroll volunteered that he had a brother who had a drug problem. Id. at 47. Duckworth repeatedly advised Carroll that he was under no obligation to talk to him. Id. Duckworth suggested that he invite Brewer into the room, and Carroll agreed. When Brewer arrived, Carroll stated that he had caught his brother using heroin and that he "grabbed the drugs by [his] hands ... and destroyed them ... and this was just the other day." Id. at 50. Carroll also stated that "around the 12th back a couple of weeks ago when I went for the physical I did the same thing." Moreover, Carroll told Brewer that "I didn't tell him [presumably either Duckworth or Middleton] that and I should have." Id. As described more fully below, Carroll was ultimately terminated as a result of the positive drug test.


On July 14, 1993, Carroll received a copy of the notification of the charges made against him. Defs. Ex. L at 3. On December 2, 1993, a hearing board convened pursuant to the Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights ("LEOBR") to consider the thirty charges pending against Carroll and to recommend what, if any, disciplinary action Leppo should take against Carroll. The LEOBR Board found Carroll guilty of seven charges and recommended termination as the appropriate remedy on each count. On December 20, 1993, Leppo informed Carroll that he had accepted the Board's recommendation. Defs. Mot.Summ.J.Ex. M. Although Maryland law provides law enforcement officers with an appeal as of right from an LEOBR hearing board...

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