Irish v. Fowler, 1:15-cv-00503-JAW

Decision Date03 February 2020
Docket Number1:15-cv-00503-JAW
Citation436 F.Supp.3d 362
Parties Brittany IRISH et al., Plaintiffs, v. Jason FOWLER et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maine

Scott J. Lynch, Lynch & Van Dyke, Lewiston, ME, for Plaintiffs.

Christopher C. Taub, Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, ME, for Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This tragic case returns to the Court on a motion for summary judgment by the Defendants, Maine State Troopers Darrin Crane, Jason Fowler, and Micah Perkins. The PlaintiffsBrittany Irish, the estate of Kyle Hewitt, and Kimberly Irish—brought an action against the Defendants, alleging that despite knowing of her old boyfriend's threats of violence against Brittany Irish, the troopers left a voicemail message for him, implicitly informing him that she had gone to law enforcement to report that he had sexually assaulted her, and then law enforcement failed to protect her and the other plaintiffs from the ensuing and predictable harm. The Court concludes that the record does not demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Maine State Sergeant Crane was acting in a deliberately indifferent manner and that he is entitled to summary judgment in his favor.

Taking the facts and inferences in the light most hospitable to the Plaintiffs, the Plaintiffs have shown sufficient disputed facts to raise a jury issue as to whether Maine State Detectives Fowler and Perkins violated the Plaintiffs' substantive due process rights. However, because the Court finds that the law on state-created danger was not clearly established when the events in this case took place, the Court concludes that the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and grants their motion for summary judgment.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 10, 2015, Brittany Irish, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Kyle Hewitt, deceased, and Kimberly Irish (Plaintiffs) filed a three-count complaint in this Court, bringing a civil rights action against the state of Maine, the Maine State Police, and ten certain known and unknown state of Maine police officers (Defendants). Compl. at 1 (ECF No. 1). After this Court granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss, the Plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and on March 1, 2017, the First Circuit vacated this Court's order with respect to the individual defendants and remanded the case for further discovery. Irish v. Maine , 849 F.3d 521, 529 (1st Cir. 2017). On March 23, 2017, the Court received the mandate of the First Circuit, which returned jurisdiction to the Court. Mandate (ECF No. 17). On September 13, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint, naming Jason Fowler, Micah Perkins, John Darcy, and Andrew Levesque as Defendants. First Am. Compl. (ECF No. 32). On October 26, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint naming Jason Fowler, Micah Perkins, and Darrin Crane (Individual Officers) as Defendants. Second Am. Compl. (ECF No. 38). On November 30, 2017, the Individual Officers answered the Second Amended Complaint. Answer (ECF No. 42).

After the parties engaged in discovery, the discovery period closed on October 29, 2018. Order Granting Mot. to Amend Scheduling Order (ECF No. 54). On December 14, 2018, the Defendants filed a motion to exclude one of the Plaintiffs' experts. Defs.' Mot. to Exclude D.P. Van Blaricom (ECF No. 59). The Plaintiffs responded on January 11, 2019. Pls.' Obj. to Defs.' Mot. to Exclude D.P. Van Blaricom (ECF No. 62). The Defendants replied on January 25, 2019. Defs.' Reply in Support of Mot. to Exclude D.P. Van Blaricom (ECF No. 67). On March 13, 2019, the Court ruled on the motion to exclude Mr. Van Blaricom. Order on Mot. to Exclude D.P. Van Blaricom (ECF No. 68).

On March 20, 2019, the parties filed a joint motion for approval of a Local Rule 56(h) schedule, which the Court granted on the same day. Jt. Mot. for Summ. J. Schedule (ECF No. 69); Order Granting Mot. for Approval of Local Rule 56(h) Schedule (ECF No. 70). On April 17, 2019, the parties jointly filed a stipulation of facts (JSF). Joint Stipulated Facts (ECF No. 72) (JSF ). On April 26, 2019, the Individual Officers filed a statement of material facts (DSMF). Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (ECF No. 79) (DSMF). On the same day, the Individual Officers filed a motion for summary judgment. Mot. for Summ. J. of Defs. Jason Fowler, Micah Perkins and Darrin Crane (ECF No. 80) (Defs.' Mot. ). On June 11, 2019, the Plaintiffs filed a response to the Individual Officers' Motion for Summary Judgment as well as a response to their statement of material facts, which included a statement of additional material facts. Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 87); Pls.' Opposing Statement of Material Facts with Additional Statement of Material Facts (ECF No. 88). On July 8, 2019, the Plaintiffs filed an amended response to the Individual Officers' motion for summary judgment as well as an amended response to their statement of material facts (PRDSMF), which included an amended statement of additional material facts (PSAMF). Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 95) (Pls.' Opp'n ); Pls.' Opposing Statement of Material Facts with Additional Statement of Material Facts (ECF No. 96) (for paragraphs 1-112, PRDSMF; for paragraphs 113-336, PSAMF). On July 31, 2019, the Individual Officers filed a reply to the Plaintiffs' response to their statement of material facts and the Plaintiffs' statement of additional material facts (DRPSAMF) as well as a reply to the Plaintiffs' opposition to their motion for summary judgment. Defs.' Reply Statement of Facts (ECF No. 99) (DRPSAMF); Defs.' Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 100) (Defs.' Reply ). The Court ordered oral argument, which it held on January 22, 2020. Min. Entry (ECF No. 103).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND1
A. The Relationship Between Brittany Irish and Anthony Lord

Brittany Irish met Anthony Lord in June of 2011, when she was sixteen years old. DSMF, Attach. 1 at 18:17-19:01 (Dep. of Brittany Irish ). In July of 2011, Brittany Irish's parents took out a protection from abuse or protection from harassment order against Mr. Lord.2 DSMF ¶ 7; PRDSMF ¶ 7. Brittany Irish believed that they had done so because her father discovered that Mr. Lord was a registered sex offender and because she was underage and had just had a child. DSMF ¶ 8; PRDSMF ¶ 8. Mr. Lord had a significant criminal history, including convictions for criminal trespass in 1999 and assault in 2002, a "charge of Felony Class A ... gross sexual assault in 2002, which lead to a Felony Class C conviction in 2002," probation violations in 2003 and 2009, and a domestic violence "assault charge Class D in 2015, for which he served forty-five days in jail and was on probation for a third time." PSAMF ¶ 280; DRPSAMF ¶ 280.

In October of 2011, Brittany Irish became romantically involved with Kyle Hewitt.3 DSMF ¶ 1; PRDSMF ¶ 1. Mr. Hewitt and Brittany Irish began living together in May of 2012. DSMF ¶ 2; PRDSMF ¶ 2. For a brief period in 2013, Brittany Irish was romantically involved with Mr. Lord. DSMF ¶ 5; PRDSMF ¶ 5. In December 2013, Brittany Irish gave birth to her and Mr. Hewitt's son. JSF ¶ 1. In March of 2014, Brittany Irish and Mr. Hewitt moved to an apartment in Bangor, Maine. DSMF ¶ 3; PRDSMF ¶ 3. Brittany Irish and Mr. Lord once again became romantically involved beginning in April or May of 2015.4 DSMF ¶ 6; PRDSMF ¶ 6. In early June of 2015, Mr. Hewitt moved out of the apartment he and Brittany Irish shared, but he had moved back in as of July 10, 2015. DSMF ¶ 4; PRDSMF ¶ 4.

On June 30, 2015, Mr. Lord spent the night at Brittany Irish's residence. JSF ¶ 2. Brittany Irish has never taken out a formal order for protection against Mr. Lord, DSMF ¶ 9; however, on July 7, 2015, Brittany Irish called the Bangor Police Department (BPD) "to report being harassed and threatened by her ex-boyfriend Anthony Lord."5 BPD Harassment Report ; see also DSMF ¶ 9; PRDSMF ¶ 9; PSAMF ¶ 194; DRPSAMF ¶ 194. On that same day, BPD officer Michael Brennan called Mr. Lord and advised him that Brittany Irish had contacted the police about Mr. Lord's harassing and threatening her and that Mr. Lord "was to stop attempting to contact her."6 PSAMF ¶¶ 137, 194; DRPSAMF ¶¶ 137, 194. As of July 12, 2015, Brittany Irish wanted to spend her life with Mr. Lord. JSF ¶ 3. As of July 14, 2015, Brittany Irish was engaged in a romantic relationship with Mr. Lord involving regular intimate relations,7 and on that day, she sent him a text message stating that she wanted to have a baby with him. JSF ¶ 4-5; DSMF ¶ 10; PRDSMF ¶ 10.

B. The Evening of July 14, 2015

On July 14, 2015, Brittany Irish arrived at her friend Amber Adams' house at approximately 5:00 p.m.8 DSMF ¶ 11; PRDSMF ¶ 11. At 7:04 p.m., Brittany Irish sent Mr. Lord a text message telling him that she was probably going to come see him that night.9 DSMF ¶ 12; PRDSMF ¶ 12. At 8:15 p.m., Brittany Irish sent Mr. Lord a text message telling him that she loved him. JSF ¶ 6. At 8:43 p.m., Brittany Irish sent Mr. Hewitt a text message telling him that she was not going to visit Mr. Lord that night; however, at the time she sent this text message, Brittany Irish was planning to see Mr. Lord.10 DSMF ¶ 13; PRDSMF ¶ 13.

At approximately 10:00 p.m., Brittany Irish left Ms. Adams' house and drove to an IGA store in Orono, Maine, to meet Mr. Lord.11 DSMF ¶ 14; PRDSMF ¶ 14. Brittany Irish spoke to Mr. Lord on the phone throughout this drive.12 DSMF ¶ 15; PRDSMF ¶ 15. Upon meeting Mr. Lord, Brittany Irish told him that she had a kidney infection, and he offered to drive her in his car to a hospital emergency room located in Lincoln, Maine. JSF ¶ 7. Brittany Irish left her car in the parking lot at the IGA and got into Mr. Lord's car. JSF ¶ 8.

Brittany Irish later reported to Maine State Police (MSP) Detectives Micah Perkins...

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  • Irish v. Fowler
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    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
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