Hines v. French, 1784

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Citation852 A.2d 1047,157 Md. App. 536
Docket NumberNo. 1784,1784
PartiesMary Ann HINES, et vir. v. John FRENCH, et al.
Decision Date02 July 2004

Michael P. Tanczyn, Baltimore, for Appellant.

Philip S. Roberts (Harford County Dept. of Law, on the brief), Bel Air, for Appellee.

Panel: DAVIS, HOLLANDER, and JOHN J. BISHOP (retired, specially assigned), JJ. DAVIS, Judge.

August 29, 2001, appellants1 Mary Ann Hines and her husband Leon Hines filed an eight-count complaint in the Circuit Court for Harford County against appellees Deputy Sheriff John French, Sheriff Joseph Meadows, and Sergeant Gary Vernon of the Harford County Sheriff's Department, the Harford County Sheriff's Department, Harford County, the State of Maryland, Baltimore County 911 Dispatcher Jane Doe, Chief Terrence Sheridan of the Baltimore County Police Department, the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD), and Baltimore County. Appellants alleged assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and loss of consortium.

The BCPD, Baltimore County, and Chief Terrence Sheridan filed a Motion to Dismiss on September 18, September 24, and October 3, 2001, respectively. By orders dated October 16, 2001, the trial court granted the motions to dismiss of Baltimore County and Chief Terrence Sheridan. Additionally, on October 31, 2001, the State of Maryland filed a Motion to Dismiss and Sheriff Meadows, Deputy French, Sergeant Vernon, the Harford County Sheriff's Department, and Harford County collectively filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or For Summary Judgment. The circuit court eventually ruled on the outstanding motions in a memorandum opinion and order filed on September 30, 2003, wherein the court granted the motion to dismiss of the BCPD and the State of Maryland. The court also granted the collective Motions to Dismiss and/or For Summary Judgment of Sheriff Meadows, Deputy French, Sergeant Vernon, the Harford County Sheriff's Department, and Harford County.

Appellants filed their timely notice of appeal on October 29, 2003, presenting two questions for our review, which we combine into one question and rephrase as follows:

Did the trial court err by granting appellees' motions to dismiss and/or motion for summary judgment?

We answer appellants' question in the affirmative and, therefore, reverse in part, and affirm, in part, the judgment of the circuit court.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On the evening of August 29, 1998, appellant was returning to her home in Harford County from a party in Baltimore City. She was traveling alone in a 1998 Dodge truck bearing Maryland license tag 17F118. As she proceeded eastbound on Route 40, Baltimore County 911 dispatch issued a "be on the lookout" for a green Dodge truck with Maryland license 17F118. The report noted that the vehicle had been involved in a hit-and-run accident at the intersection of Mohrs Lane and Route 40 in Baltimore County—an intersection appellant would have crossed en route to Harford County. At approximately 8:15 p.m., Deputy French, who had received the dispatch call, observed appellant traveling on Route 40 in Harford County and, consequently, he began to pursue her.

At this point, the parties' version of the events diverge into two conflicting accounts of appellant's traffic stop and subsequent arrest. According to appellant, as she traveled in the right lane of the two eastbound lanes, she observed a police vehicle with flashing lights approach from the rear. The vehicle pulled along side her truck and the police officer motioned for her to pull over, which appellant claims she "did as promptly as was possible, given the speed of the traffic and the need to pull off onto the right shoulder of the road." After appellant pulled over, Deputy French, who was not in uniform, rapidly approached appellant's vehicle with his gun pointed at her and ordered her to exit the truck.

Appellant claims that, as she exited the vehicle, Deputy French "noted that she had TMJ scars [2] on her right jaw, and that she must be in pain, as they were so fresh." He then "grabbed her and threw her up against the side of the truck" and, "[a]fter slamming her head into the side of the truck, while laughing, [Deputy French] told [appellant] that it must have really hurt when her face hit the side of the truck." Deputy French then "pulled her crippled left arm up behind her back and handcuffed her hands so tightly" that appellant suffered lacerations on her wrists and hands. It was not until after the handcuffs were secured that Deputy French told appellant that she was a suspect in a hit-and-run accident.

Appellant asserts that she was subsequently placed in a police vehicle while Deputy French inspected her truck for damage. She maintains that Deputy French became visibly irritated when he did not discover damage to her vehicle and that he refused to loosen her handcuffs despite her protests that they were too tight. Afterward, other officers from the Harford County Sheriff's Department arrived and appellant was asked to submit to a breath test. She consented and several breath tests were performed but none indicated the presence of alcohol.

Appellees present a dramatically different version of events concerning appellant's traffic stop and arrest. According to Deputy French, he followed appellant with his lights and siren on for approximately one mile, during which time he observed her erratically drive halfway onto the shoulder of the road three times. Trooper John Cook of the Maryland State Police joined the pursuit and, with his siren and lights activated, he pulled along side appellant, motioning for her to pull over. Appellant shook her head to indicate a negative response and continued driving. Shortly thereafter, however, appellant pulled over but would not exit the vehicle or place her hands out the window in view of the officers when prompted to do so by Deputy French. As Deputy French approached appellant's truck, he noticed her reaching down on the inside of the truck door and, consequently, he drew his firearm and ordered her out of the vehicle. Appellant then complied with Deputy French's orders and she was subsequently placed under arrest. Although preliminary breath tests administered at the scene did not produce any positive results, appellant admitted to Deputy French that she was taking pain medication for chronic pain associated with recent surgery.

Appellant was transported to the Harford County Sheriff's Department where she was issued three citations, charging her with failure to drive in designated lane, eluding police, and negligent driving. She was released later that evening, after it was determined that she was not involved in a hit-and-run accident. Appellants returned to the sheriff's department four days later, on September 2, 1998, in an attempt to lodge an internal complaint against Deputy French. They spoke with Sergeant Vernon, assigned to the Harford County Sheriff Department's Internal Affairs Division, but appellants assert that he refused to take their claim. Sergeant Vernon reportedly stated that they "should be thankful that the police officer pulled [appellant] over that night[ ] because she was in no condition to drive."

On December 14, 1998, proceedings were conducted in the District Court of Maryland for Harford County regarding appellant's three traffic citations. Pursuant to an agreement between appellant and the prosecutor, the charge of eluding police was placed on the stet docket, a nolle prosequi was entered on the negligent driving charge, and a not guilty agreed statement of facts was presented on the charge of failure to drive in designated lane. Based on the not guilty agreed statement of facts, the district court found appellant guilty of failure to drive in designated lane.

As noted, supra, appellants subsequently filed their complaint in the Circuit Court for Harford County on August 29, 2001. Following the trial court's granting of appellees' various motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, appellants filed an appeal.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

Appellants contend that the trial court erred by granting appellees' motions to dismiss and/or for summary judgment. Concerning the motions to dismiss, they aver that their complaint successfully stated causes of action for which relief could be granted in regard to all the counts alleged and appellees named in the complaint. Likewise, the court also erred by granting summary judgment of the remaining counts, maintain appellants, because there were disputes of material facts that were either disregarded or decided in favor of appellees.

"In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Maryland Rule 2-322(b), trial and appellate courts must assume the truth of all well-pleaded, relevant, and material facts in the complaint and any reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom." Allied Inv. Corp. v. Jasen, 354 Md. 547, 555, 731 A.2d 957 (1999) (citing Bobo v. State, 346 Md. 706, 708, 697 A.2d 1371 (1997)). "Dismissal is proper only if the alleged facts and permissible inferences, so viewed, would, if proven, nonetheless fail to afford relief to the plaintiff." Bobo, 346 Md. at 709, 697 A.2d 1371. Thus, we will affirm the trial court only if the dismissal was legally correct. Jasen, 354 Md. at 555, 731 A.2d 957; Bobo, 346 Md. at 709, 697 A.2d 1371.

The trial court may grant summary judgment only when "there is no genuine dispute of material fact" and "the party in whose favor judgment is entered is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Md. Rule 2-501(e); Bagwell v. Peninsula Regional Med. Ctr., 106 Md.App. 470, 488, 665 A.2d 297 (1995). "`In reviewing a grant of a summary judgment, we are first concerned with whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists' and then whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." Grimes v. Kennedy Krieger Inst., Inc., ...

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