Glass v. Abbo

Decision Date03 September 2003
Docket NumberNo. CIV. 02-40315.,No. CIV. 02-40183.,CIV. 02-40183.,CIV. 02-40315.
Citation284 F.Supp.2d 700
PartiesDavid GLASS, Plaintiff, v. Timothy ABBO and John Weise, Defendants. James Patrick, Plaintiff, v. Timothy Abbo, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

Timothy P. Murphy, St. Clair Shores, MI, for David Glass, plaintiff.

William P. Hampton, Secrest, Wardle, Farmington Hills, MI, for Timothy Abbo, Bloomfield Township Police Officer, John Weise, Bloomfield Township Police Officer, defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

GADOLA, District Judge.

Before the Court are two companion cases in which Defendants have filed nearly identical motions for summary judgment. Both complaints contain one count under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging wrongful arrest — that is, alleging that Defendants, both Bloomfield Township police officers, violated Plaintiffs' right to be free from unreasonable seizure under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they arrested Plaintiffs. Both cases arise out of the same traffic stop in which Plaintiff Glass was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Plaintiff Patrick.

The Court held a hearing on both motions on June 24, 2003. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff Patrick's case (No. 02-40315), and the Court will deny summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff Glass's case (No. 02-40183).

I. BACKGROUND

At a traffic stop on November 14, 1999, Plaintiff Patrick was arrested for failing to stop upon police signal in violation of Bloomfield Township Ordinance 338.28.1202a.3.2a(1). Additionally, Plaintiff Glass was arrested for hindering a police officer in the discharge of his duty in violation of Bloomfield Township Ordinance 137.16.01(a). The essential facts regarding Plaintiff Patrick's failure to stop are not in dispute; however, the facts surrounding Plaintiff Glass's conduct at the traffic stop are in considerable dispute.

A. Arrest of Plaintiff Patrick

During the evening of November 14, 1999, Defendant Abbo randomly checked license plates of vehicles while on patrol in a semi-marked police vehicle. Defendant Abbo ran a check of a license plate on a Mercury, and the check indicated that the licence plate was registered to a 1999 Ford Taurus and not a Mercury. The vehicle in question was a rented vehicle driven by Plaintiff Patrick. Plaintiff Glass was a passenger in the vehicle.

Plaintiffs noticed Defendant Abbo's vehicle following them while driving near the intersection of Telegraph Road and Square Lake Road in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiffs saw Defendant Abbo activate what appeared to be emergency lights. At this juncture, Plaintiff Patrick reports that he was unsure of whether the driver following him was actually a police officer. According to Plaintiff Patrick, he also was unsure of whether this apparent semi-marked police vehicle was attempting to stop him. Because the area was completely dark and because Plaintiff Patrick was suspicious of the apparent semi-marked police vehicle, Plaintiff Patrick did not immediately stop his vehicle. Rather, Plaintiff Patrick moved to the right lane and slowed down. To reduce the possibility of a misunderstanding, Plaintiff Patrick prompted Plaintiff Glass to call 911 and advised the 911 operator of their situation.

At approximately the same time, a second police vehicle joined the pursuit. This second pursuing vehicle was a fully-marked police vehicle driven by Defendant Weise. According to Plaintiff Patrick, Defendant Weise gave him multiple directions to stop. Nonetheless, even after Defendant Weise joined the pursuit in a fully-marked police vehicle, Plaintiff Patrick did not stop. Instead, Plaintiff Patrick elected to continue driving until he arrived at a gas station.

The gas station at which Plaintiff Patrick eventually stopped was the first illuminated area after Defendant Abbo turned on his emergency lights. Plaintiff Patrick pulled over roughly three miles after the semi-marked police vehicle began the pursuit and about a half-mile after the fully-marked vehicle joined the pursuit. At the stop, Plaintiff Patrick was arrested for failing to stop upon police signal in violation of Bloomfield Township Ordinance 338.28.1202a.3.2a(1).

B. Arrest of Plaintiff Glass

Once Plaintiff Patrick stopped at the gas station, Plaintiff Glass alleges that he heard a command to "get out of the car" and that he immediately did so. Plaintiff Glass then heard a command to "get back in the car" and began to comply. However, according to Plaintiff Glass, Defendant Weise then told Plaintiff Glass to stay out of the vehicle.

Plaintiff Glass purportedly asked Defendant Weise why Defendants ordered Plaintiff Patrick to stop the vehicle. According to Plaintiff Glass, Defendant Weise did not respond; instead, Defendant Weise instructed Plaintiff Glass to put his hands behind his back because he was being arrested. Plaintiff Glass then lost his balance and, while holding on to the vehicle, Plaintiff Glass reportedly asked Defendant Weise to give him a moment to gain his balance. Defendant Weise did not respond. At this point, Plaintiff Glass alleges that Defendant Abbo rushed over to the passenger's side of the vehicle and sprayed Plaintiff Glass with a substance. The substance is purported to be pepper spray.

Defendants disagree with Plaintiff Glass's account of the facts surrounding his arrest. In short, Defendants perceived Plaintiff Glass to be uncooperative and belligerent during the stop. According to Defendants, Plaintiff Glass ignored instructions to stay in the vehicle. According to Defendants, Plaintiff Glass was shouting at Defendants and waving his hands at Defendants in a threatening manner. According to Defendants, Plaintiff Glass grabbed hold of the vehicle to avoid being handcuffed. Finally, Defendants aver that they sprayed Plaintiff Glass with pepper spray after he ignored repeated warnings to release the vehicle. Once Plaintiff Glass was subdued by the spray, Defendants handcuffed him and charged him with hindering a police officer in the discharge of his duty in violation of Bloomfield Township Ordinance 137.16.01(a)

C. Procedural History

Subsequently, the Honorable David Kerwin, District Judge for the State of Michigan's Forty-Eighth Judicial District Court held a probable cause hearing in the underlying criminal case to this civil action. After hearing testimony from Defendant Abbo and Defendant Weise, Judge Kerwin dismissed the charges against Plaintiff Patrick and Plaintiff Glass. Judge Kerwin first ruled that Defendants acted in complete absence of probable cause, but he then amended that ruling by stating that Defendant Abbo had probable cause to order the traffic stop but not the arrests.

Thereafter, Plaintiff Glass filed suit in this Court against Defendant Abbo and Defendant Weise alleging that Defendants "intentionally deprived [Plaintiff] Glass of the right to be free from unreasonable seizure, guaranteed to [Plaintiff] Glass under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments." Compl. (No. 02-40183) at ¶ 20. Later, Plaintiff Patrick also filed suit lodging this same wrongful arrest complaint against Defendant Abbo. See Compl. (No. 02-40315) at ¶ 20. In both cases, Defendants have moved for summary judgment.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the existence of an essential element of the nonmoving party's case on which the nonmoving party would bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Martin v. Ohio Tpk. Comm'n, 968 F.2d 606, 608 (6th Cir.1992).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See 60 Ivy St. Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987). The Court is not required or permitted, however, to judge the evidence or make findings of fact. See id. at 1435-36. The moving party has the burden of showing conclusively that no genuine issue of material fact exists. See id. at 1435.

A fact is "material" for purposes of summary judgment where proof of that fact would have the effect of establishing or refuting an essential element of the cause of action or a defense advanced by the parties. See Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir.1984). A dispute over a material fact is genuine "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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Thus, where a reasonable jury could not find that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict, there is no genuine issue for trial and summary judgment is appropriate. See id.; Feliciano v. City of Cleveland, 988 F.2d 649, 654 (6th Cir.1993).

Once the moving party carries the initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issues of material fact are in dispute, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to present specific facts to prove that there is a genuine issue for trial. To create a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must present more than just some evidence of a disputed issue. As the Supreme Court of the United States has stated, "[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the [nonmoving party's] evidence is merely colorable, or...

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