Hutchinson v. the West Va. State Police

Decision Date05 August 2010
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 3:07-0424
Citation731 F.Supp.2d 521
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
PartiesChasity HUTCHINSON, Plaintiff, v. The WEST VIRGINIA STATE POLICE, et al., Defendants.

Georgia Lee Gates, ACLU of West Virginia Foundation, Morgantown, WV, Leah P. Macia, Spilman Thomas & Battle,Terri S. Baur, ACLU of West Virginia Foundation, Charleston, WV, for Plaintiff.

Michael D. Mullins, Peter J. Raupp, Robert Lee Bailey, Natalie C. Schaefer, Steptoe & Johnson, Charleston, WV, for Defendants.


ROBERT C. CHAMBERS, District Judge.

Pending before this Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 168). For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion.

General Background

This case arises out of the search of a home, on July 8, 2005, and into the early hours of July 9, 2005. Although some material facts remain at issue, the following general description of the search is undisputed.

On July 8, 2005, between 11 and approximately 11:40 p.m., a West Virginia State Police Special Response Team ("SRT") executed a warrant to search Plaintiff's residence. The SRT consisted of eight officers: First Sgt. R.D. Stonestreet (the team leader), Trooper Travis Berry, First Sgt. C.J. White, Sgt. J.L. Phillips, Cpl. R.D. Arthur, TFC. Todd Berry, Sr. Trooper T.J. Mikell, and Trooper M.L. Ogelsby. The team was accompanied by a K-9 Officer, J.M. Pack. The SRT was assembled because the police anticipated the search may have involved officer exposure to the dangers associated with individuals with violent histories, the manufacture of methamphetamine, and firearms.1

On July 8, 2005, the SRT entered Plaintiff's home pursuant to a valid warrant. As a team, the officers cleared the residence for dangers; secured the occupants (four); and searched the premises for items consistent with the manufacture of methamphetamine and for firearms. The K-9 Officer, J.M. Pack, never entered the home and, as a result, has been dismissed from this action. The four occupants of the residence were: Plaintiff Chastity Hutchinson, Josh Hutchinson (Plaintiff's brother), Mike Allen (Plaintiff's stepfather), and Edward Glenn (Plaintiff's then-fiancé). Josh Hutchinson was in the kitchen, allegedly snorting a pain pill prescribed for injuries related to a recent car accident. Mike Allen had recently returned from work and was in the living room, near the steps. Edward Glenn was moving toward the living room from an upstairs bedroom. Chastity Hutchinson was in the shower.

Immediately following entry, Josh Hutchinson was secured in the kitchen and laid face-down on the floor, unhandcuffed. He was then monitored by two officers (Oglesby and White), who remained in or near the kitchen with him, until he was transported to a local hospital, by ambulance, at approximately 12:25 a.m. Mike Allen and Edward Glenn were secured soon after entry. They were detained in the living room, where they were laid face-down. Mike Allen was handcuffed and, it appears, Edward Glenn was left unhandcuffed. Chastity Hutchinson was found, showering, in the home's only bathroom. She was taken into custody and forcibly escorted to the living room, where she was laid face-down, unhandcuffed, alongside Mike Allen and Edward Glenn. While Josh Hutchinson, Mike Allen, Edward Glenn, and Chastity Hutchinson were takeninto custody and first detained, the SRT conducted an initial sweep to clear the residence. A secondary, more thorough, sweep was then conducted. No additional occupants were found.

The exact timing of the SRT's entry into the residence and the subsequent search and detentions is disputed.2 However, it is undisputed that: (1) an ambulance left the residence to transport Josh Hutchinson to St. Mary's Hospital at 12:25 a.m., and (2) the relevant events transpired over about an hour.

Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Motion

Chastity Hutchinson's claims pertain to the SRT's conduct, and the conditions of her detention, during the time between entry and when Josh Hutchinson was transported to the hospital at approximately 12:30 a.m. Ms. Hutchinson claims that she was unlawfully detained during this time and that she was subjected to excessive and unlawful force in the course of her detention. Specifically, Ms. Hutchinson brings six causes of action against Col. David Lemmon, Superintendent of the West Virginia State Police, in his official and individual capacity, and West Virginia State Police Officers First Sgt. R.D. Stonestreet, Trooper Travis Berry, First Sgt. C.J. White, Sgt. J.L. Phillips, Cpl. R.D. Arthur, TFC. Todd Berry, Sr. Trooper T.J. Mikell, and Trooper M.L. Ogelsby, in their official and individual capacities. Ms. Hutchinson demands judgment against the defendants, jointly and severally, on counts of: (1) assault and battery; (2) illegal seizure of her person in violation of the U.S. and West Virginia Constitutions; (3) excessive force (which Plaintiff characterizes as a claim for the deprivation of her "right to freedom from physical abuse, coercion and intimidation"); (4) unreasonable invasion of her right to privacy (a tortious claim based on the alleged intrusion of Plaintiff's seclusion); (5) the tort of outrage (also referred to as intentional infliction of emotional distress); and (6) failure to train employees in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (against Defendant Lemmon and the W.V. State Police). Plaintiff seeks damages for pain, suffering, and mental anguish. She also seeks punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees, expenses and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims. Defendants contend Ms. Hutchinson has failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact with regard to each of her allegations. Additionally, they claim qualified immunity. The two primary issues at the heart of Defendants' motion are: (1) the length of time Chastity Hutchinson was forced to remain unclothed and/or uncovered following her removal from the shower; and (2) whether SRT members subjected Ms. Hutchinson to excessive force and/or unlawful battery in the course of her detention. Also at issue is whether Plaintiff can establish a triable question with regard to the adequacy of the officers' training.

Standard of Review

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure of materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of materialfact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (emphasis in original). In other words, the availability of summary judgment turns on whether a proper jury question exists in a pending case. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court will not "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter[.]" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Rather, the Court draws any permissible inference from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec.Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Still, to withstand summary judgment, the nonmoving party must offer some "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Thus, if the nonmoving party has the burden of proof on an essential element of his or her case and does not, after adequate time for discovery, make an evidentiary showing sufficient to establish that element, then summary judgment will be granted. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ("In our view, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.").

Detailed Factual Background

Taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the facts are as follows. TFC. Todd Berry came upon a locked bathroom door during the initial sweep of the home. Todd Berry Depo. (Doc. 173-18), at 60. He was immediately joined by another officer, whom he believes to be Cpl. Arthur, and together they breached the bathroom door. Id. at 60-63. The officers found Chastity Hutchinson stepping out of the shower. TFC. Berry then "moved up [into the bathroom] ... to make sure no one else was in that shower or if she was a decoy for somebody standing there," and "[t]he team member that was behind [TFC. Berry took Chastity Hutchinson] out of the bathroom." Todd Berry Depo. (Doc. 173-18), at 61-62; see also id. at 65 ("[H]e was right behind me and took custody of her."). At that point, TFC. Berry "cleared the toilet ... exited the bathroom and went right to the first bedroom that would have been on [his] right." Id. at 62.

The officer who took custody of Chastity Hutchinson grabbed her by the hair and pushed her down toward the ground, before forcibly escorting her to the living room. Despite attempts to reach for a towel, Ms. Hutchinson was not allowed to cover herself while in the bathroom, or during her removal. At two different points in her deposition, Ms. Hutchinson describes the scene. 3

[T]he next thing I know, there's two guys kicked open my bathroom door and had me at gun point, screaming.... "Get down, bitch, now." ... "Get down." I wrapped one arm around

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