Ingram v. Shipman-Meyer

Decision Date20 March 2017
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 12-1915 (GK)
Citation241 F.Supp.3d 124
Parties Dayshawn INGRAM, Plaintiff, v. Michael SHIPMAN-MEYER, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Geoffrey D. Allen, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Chad Wayne Copeland, Matthew Robert Blecher, Robert A. Deberardinis, Jr., James Anthony Towns, Sr., Stephanie Litos, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


Gladys Kessler, United States District Judge

Plaintiff is Dayshawn Ingram, the son of the decedent, Anthony Chambers. Mr. Chambers died immediately after a violent encounter with the police. Plaintiff alleges that one of the police officers, Officer Michael Shipman-Meyer, illegally used a chokehold on his father, which caused his death. Plaintiff brings several claims against Officers Shipman-Meyer, William Karabelas, Stephen Rose, and Elizabeth LaDuca, as well as the District of Columbia, stemming from the death of his father.

Presently before the Court are Plaintiff's and Defendants' Cross-motions for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the parties' respective Motions, Oppositions, Replies, and Surreplies, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied in its entirety and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

A. Procedural Background

On September 19, 2012, Plaintiff commenced this action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Subsequently, Defendants removed the case from Superior Court to this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 et seq.

After extensive discovery, Plaintiff amended the Complaint he originally filed in Superior Court. First Amended Complaint ("FAC") [Dkt. No. 37]. Count One alleges that the four officers acted negligently, violating an applicable national standard of care, resulting in Mr. Chamber's injury and death. FAC ¶¶ 8-13. Count Two alleges that the officers committed assault and battery, resulting in Mr. Chamber's injury and death. Id. ¶¶ 14-17. Count Three alleges that the officers used excessive force in violation of Mr. Chamber's constitutional rights. Id. ¶¶ 18-22. Count Four alleges that the officers engaged in tortious conduct, and thereby violated the District's wrongful death statute. Id. ¶¶ 23-25. Finally, Count Five alleges that the District negligently failed to train the officers in the proper use of chokeholds, resulting in Mr. Chamber's injury and death. Id. ¶¶ 26-32. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages of $5,000,000 on each count.

On January 15, 2016, Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s MSJ") [Dkt. No. 56]. Plaintiff seeks summary judgment on parts of Counts One, Two, Three, and Five of his First Amended Complaint, but does not seek summary judgment as to any part of Count Four. See id. Plaintiff concedes that there is a genuine dispute as to whether or not the officers' actions caused the death of Mr. Chambers, and therefore that he cannot fully prevail on any of his claims at the summary judgment stage. Id. at 25 n.6. Instead, he essentially asks the Court to hold that he is entitled to judgment on all the other elements necessary to succeed on those claims, leaving only the issue of causation for trial. See id. Defendants filed an Opposition. Defendants' Opposition ("Defs.' Opp'n") [Dkt. No. 59].

The Defendants also cross-moved for summary judgment on all counts. Defs.' MSJ at 1. Plaintiffs filed an Opposition, to which Defendants filed a Reply, and both parties filed Surreplies. Plaintiff's Opposition ("Pl.'s Opp'n") [Dkt. No. 63], Defendants' Reply ("Defs.' Reply") [Dkt. No. 65], Plaintiff's Surreply ("Pl.'s Surreply") [Dkt. No. 68], and Defendants' Surreply ("Defs.' Surreply") [Dkt. No. 69].

B. Factual Background
1. The Court Will not Rely on Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts

As a preliminary matter, Defendants argue that their statement of material facts should be accepted, virtually in its entirety, because Plaintiff failed to comply with Local Rule 7. Defs.' Analysis of Material Facts, Exh. 1 to Defs.' Reply at 1 n.1 (citing LCvR 7 ) [Dkt. No. 65-1]. Defendants argue that, if the Court were to do so, there are essentially no material facts in dispute in this case. Defs.' Reply at 2 n.2. In other words, Defendants ask the Court to decide this case based almost exclusively on their characterization of what occurred.

Local Rule 7 requires a party moving for summary judgment to file a "statement of material facts" that it contends are undisputed. LCvR 7(h)(1). In addition, it requires that a party opposing a summary judgment motion must respond to the moving party's statement of facts with "a concise statement" of "all material facts" that remain in dispute. Id. Where the non-movant fails to "controvert" a statement of undisputed fact made by the movant, the Court may assume that the statement is admitted. Id. ; see also Broady v. Zanzibar on the Waterfront , LLC, 576 F.Supp.2d 14, 16-17 (D.D.C. 2008).

Both Plaintiffs and Defendants filed the required Rule 7 statement with their respective motions for summary judgment. Defendants, in their Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed the required response to Plaintiff's statement of material facts, indicating what facts Defendants believed remain in dispute. Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants' statement of material facts in his Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Instead, he simply resubmitted his original statement of material facts with only a few additional facts added. Given Plaintiff's failure to comply with Local Rule 7, Defendants argue that their statement of material facts should be admitted in its entirety. See Defs.' Analysis of Material Facts (asserting that all but one of Defendants' statement of material facts not in dispute have been admitted by failure to comply with the local rule).

Though "strict compliance with the local rule" is the norm, Broady , 576 F.Supp.2d at 16, there are cases in which it is unwarranted. See Hedgpeth v. Rahim , 213 F.Supp.3d 211, 218–19, 2016 WL 5720699, *5-6 (D.D.C. October 3, 2016) (refusing to admit Defendant's uncontradicted statement, where the statement was so biased that it did not accurately reflect what material facts were and were not in dispute). This is one such case.

In cases involving deadly force, "where the witness most likely to contradict the officer's story—the person [killed]—is unable to testify, courts ... may not simply accept what may be a self-serving account by the police officer. Instead, courts must carefully examine all the evidence in the record ... to determine whether the officer's story is internally consistent and consistent with other known facts. Courts must also look at the circumstantial evidence that, if believed, would tend to discredit the police officer's story, and consider whether this evidence could convince a rational factfinder that the officer acted unreasonably." Flythe v. District of Columbia , 791 F.3d 13, 19 (2015) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

Heeding the directive of the Court of Appeals, the Court carefully examined the evidence in the record to determine whether the account provided by Defendants, or any portions thereof, were contradicted by other record evidence. Flythe , 791 F.3d at 19. Having done so, the Court concludes that Defendants' Statement of Material Facts not in dispute is materially inaccurate. It presents—as undisputed—facts that Defendants' own witnesses contradict, and it omits facts that are inconvenient to its overall narrative. Consequently, the Court cannot simply rely on Defendants' version of what occurred in deciding these Motions.

Instead, the Court will present the relevant facts it has culled from the record and then identify the key issues of material fact that remain in dispute.

2. Statement of Undisputed and Disputed Facts

Anthony Chambers was 38 years old on June 8, 2012. That day he was staying with his sister, Valentina Chambers. Mr. Chambers was experiencing some sort of mental disturbance, possibly brought on by his use of PCP. Seeking assistance, Mr. Chambers contacted the Mayor's office.

Two employees of the Department of Behavioral Health ("DBH"), Linda Miller and Gary Yingling, were dispatched to the Chambers' residence to assist him. Mr. Chambers appeared agitated, telling them that a chip had been planted inside him by the government. The DBH employees asked Mr. Chambers to accompany them so that he could receive treatment, but he refused and then demanded that they leave. He threatened violence if they did not.

Believing Mr. Chambers to be a potential danger to himself or others, Miller and Yingling sought assistance from the police. They went to the First District police station, where Miller prepared a document authorizing the detention of Mr. Chambers for a psychiatric evaluation. Given Mr. Chamber's size, he stood 6' 4‘ tall and weighed more than 370 pounds, and prior behavior, they asked that multiple officers accompany them to assist in detaining and transporting him.

Four officers were assigned the task—William Karabelas, Stephen Rose, Michael Shipman-Meyer, and Elizabeth LaDuca. Exactly what the officers were told about their assignment is unclear. All the officers understood that they were acting on a civil matter, dealing with a mentally disturbed individual, and not there to make an arrest. The evidence suggests that neither the DBH employees nor the officers were aware that Mr. Chambers' mental health episode was drug-related. Deposition of Linda Miller ("Miller Dep.") at 19:1-4 [Dkt. No. 61-10], However, prior to heading to the Chambers' residence, some of the officers were apparently informed that Mr. Chambers was a butcher by trade, and therefore known to carry knives, and had threatened violence earlier that day. Significantly, Officer Shipman-Meyer was not made aware of either of these facts. See Deposition of...

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    ...Common law theories of vicarious liability are not identical to "bystander liability" under § 1983. For example, in Ingram v. Shipman-Meyer , 241 F.Supp.3d 124 (D.D.C. 2017), the court found a genuine existence of material fact going to three defendants' potential bystander liability under ......
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