Jones v. Chapman

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
PartiesTAWANDA JONES, et al. Plaintiffs, v. NICHOLAS DAVID CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. ELH-14-2627
Decision Date07 June 2017

TAWANDA JONES, et al. Plaintiffs,
NICHOLAS DAVID CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. ELH-14-2627


June 7, 2017


This civil rights case arises from the unfortunate death of forty-four year old Tyrone A. West, Sr. ("Mr. West" or the "Decedent") on July 18, 2013, following a traffic stop.1 Tawanda Jones, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Tyrone A. West, Sr.; Nashay West; Tyrone West, Jr.; and T.W., a minor child, by Mary Agers, as Guardian and next friend of T.W., plaintiffs, filed an Amended Complaint (ECF 33) alleging, inter alia, that Mr. West died as a result of the use of excessive force by the police during an illegal traffic stop. See ECF 33, ¶¶ 3, 14.2

In particular, plaintiffs filed suit against Baltimore City Police Officers Nicholas David Chapman; Jorge Omar Bernardez-Ruiz; Matthew Rea Cioffi; Eric Maurice Hinton; Alex Ryan Hashagen; Danielle Angela Lewis; Derrick Dewayne Beasley; and Latreese Nicole Lee

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(collectively, "BPD Officers" or "BPD Officer Defendants"). Plaintiffs also sued Anthony W. Batts, who was the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department ("BPD") at the relevant time. ECF 33, Amended Complaint, ¶ 10. In addition, plaintiffs sued David Lewis, an officer with the Morgan State University Campus Police ("MSU Police"), and Lance Hatcher, Chief of the MSU Police3 (collectively, MSU Defendants). All defendants were sued in their official and individual capacities. Id. at 1-3, 25.

The suit was instituted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on alleged violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution. Plaintiffs also claim violations of Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Right, and assert various tort claims under Maryland law.4 According to plaintiffs, Officers Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz effected an illegal traffic stop of Mr. West, unnecessarily sprayed him with "pepper spray" (ECF 33, ¶ 21), and they, along with officers who responded to the scene, repeatedly beat Mr. West with batons and fists, until he became unconscious and then died. Id. ¶¶ 12-20, 26-31.

The Amended Complaint (ECF 33) contains two claims and various counts within each "Claim," as follows. Claim I-Count I asserts a survival action by the Estate of Mr. West

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("Estate") against the BPD Officers and MSU Officer David Lewis for assault and battery. Claim I-Count II is a survival action by the Estate against BPD Officers and MSU Officer Lewis for false arrest. Claim I-Count III asserts a survival action by the Estate against BPD Officers and MSU Officer Lewis for false imprisonment. Claim I-Count IV asserts a survival action by the Estate against BPD Officers and MSU Officer Lewis for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, and Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Claim I-Count V is a survival action by the Estate against Batts and Hatcher, in their official and individual capacities, "for negligent supervision, training and retention and custom or policy of deliberate indifference." Id., ¶ 45. Claim I-Count VI sets forth a claim by the Estate against all defendants for funeral expenses. And, Claim II-Count I is a wrongful death claim lodged by the Decedent's children against all defendants.

Batts and the BPD subsequently moved to bifurcate the claims against the individual police officers and to stay discovery as to the Monell claim. ECF 69. By Memorandum (ECF 84) and Order of September 15, 2016 (ECF 85), I granted that motion. Specifically, I bifurcated Claim I - Count V as to Batts and stayed Monell discovery.5 Id.

By Order of October 14, 2016 (ECF 90), Commissioner Kevin Davis was substituted for former Commissioner Batts, in his official capacity only, as to the Monell and supervisory claims. See ECF 89; ECF 90; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(d). Based on the Court's prior rulings (ECF 28; ECF 29), the Amended Complaint (ECF 33), and the substitution of Commissioner Davis for former Commissioner Batts in his official capacity (ECF 89; ECF 90), the only claim

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remaining against Batts, in his individual capacity, and Commissioner Davis, in his official capacity, is "Claim I - Count V," the "survival action for negligent supervision, training and retention and custom or policy of deliberate indifference." ECF 33, Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 64-76.6 As indicated, that claim was bifurcated. See ECF 85.

The BPD Officer Defendants have moved for summary judgment (ECF 97), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 97-3) (collectively, "BPD Officers' Motion") and numerous exhibits. See ECF 97-4 to 97-19; ECF 98 (Autopsy Report). Plaintiffs oppose the BPD Officers' Motion (ECF 106), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 106-1) (collectively, "Opposition"), and several exhibits. See ECF 106-5 to 106-27. Defendants have replied (ECF 117, "Reply"), supported by additional exhibits. See ECF 117-2 to ECF 117-5.7

MSU Officer David Lewis also filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF 100), in which he joined the BPD Officers' Motion.8 Plaintiffs oppose the motion. ECF 101.9

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In addition, the BPD, former Commissioner Batts, and Commissioner Davis ("BPD Defendants") have moved for partial summary judgment (ECF 99), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 99-1) (collectively, "BPD Motion") and several exhibits. ECF 99-3 to ECF 99-13.10 Plaintiffs oppose the motion (ECF 103), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 103-1) (collectively, "BPD Opposition") and many exhibits. See ECF 103-3 to ECF 103-22. The BPD Defendants have replied (ECF 115, "BPD Reply"), supported by additional exhibits. See ECF 115-2 to ECF 115-5.

No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow I shall grant in part and deny in part the BPD Officers' Motion, which was joined by MSU Officer David Lewis. And, I shall grant in part and deny in part the BPD Motion.

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I. Factual Background11

Corinthea Servance appears to be the only non-party witness to the initial encounter between Mr. West and BPD Officers Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz.12 She knew Mr. West as a "hack" cab driver. ECF 106-6, Deposition of Corinthea Servance ("Servance Dep.") at 12:19-13:1. Because Ms. Servance does not drive, she would sometimes call Mr. West if she needed a ride. Id. at 13:2-13:11; 14:20-21.

During the early evening of July 18, 2013, Ms. Servance contacted Mr. West for a ride. Id. at 15:11-16:11.13 It was an "exceptionally hot" day in Baltimore. ECF 106-5, Deposition of Jorge Bernardez-Ruiz ("Bernardez-Ruiz Dep."), at 14:11-13. Mr. West picked up Ms. Servance at the corner of Stonewood Road and Loch Raven Boulevard in Baltimore City, driving a green Mercedes. Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 17:11-13; 18:8-12. Although Ms. Servance initially planned to go to her home, she decided instead to go to her mother's home, which was in the vicinity. Id. at 18:16-18; 19:12-18. Mr. West began driving westbound on Stonewood towards

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Northwood Drive. Id. at 23:5-19. But, he missed the right turn onto Kitmore Road. Id. at 24:5-17. As a result, Mr. West stopped his car near the intersection of Kitmore Road and Northwood Drive to allow another vehicle to pass. Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 30:3-8; id. at 30:16-20; 28:18-29:1; 157:14-21. According to Ms. Servance, "the rear wheel of the car had not cleared the intersection." Id. at 24:19-20; see also id. at 30:16-20 ("He [was] in the intersection. The rear wheels hat [sic] not passed the curb. The front of the car was like at the curb. The rear of the wheels were still kind of in the intersection."); id. at 31:7-9.

At her deposition, Ms. Servance testified that she and Mr. West sat in the car for "a minute or two," while the vehicle was "stopped." Id. at 158:9; id. at 158:12. She recalled, id. at 157:14-17: "We sat there because, as I said, it was a car going past, so we sat there. He ate like a piece of chicken or something and drank some water. I said [sic] the car, and we went down the street." Then, Mr. West backed his vehicle into the intersection of Northwood Drive and Kitmore Road, so that he could make a turn onto Kitmore Road. Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 31:11-21. Servance stated, id. at 32:2-4: "We were in the intersection, so he backed more into the intersection we were currently sitting in so he could make the turn into Kitmore." See also id. at 158:15-18.

The following deposition testimony of Ms. Servance is pertinent, id. at 157:18-158:14:

Q. So it was at that point where the back of Mr. West's car was partially in the intersection of Kitmore and—

A. Yeah. The car was still running. So we never parked and cut the motor off. But the back of the car, because he pulled, because he passed the street, so I said you went past Kitmore, you need to go down. He thought it was a one-way street because there's no line in the street.

Q. At the point that you parked, you were eating chicken and talking for a little bit before he backed up?

A. Maybe for like a minute or two, yeah. Wasn't a long period of time.

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Q. But did you park the car temporarily?

A. We stopped the car.

Q. Stopped the car temporarily?

A. Yes.

While Mr. West was on Northwood, he backed his vehicle into the intersection of Kitmore and Northwood. Officers Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz were traveling on the same road, in an unmarked police car. Bernardez-Ruiz Dep., ECF 106-5 at 15:11-20; ECF 106-7, Deposition of Nicholas Chapman ("Chapman Dep."), at 12:14-17. Bernardez-Ruiz did not remember the name of the street where he initially saw the Mercedes. ECF 106-5 at 15:8-10; see also id. at 17:6-9 (stating that the driver of the Mercedes had made a right hand turn onto either Kelway or Kitmore). And, Chapman said: "I forget which road it was." ECF 106-7 at 13:9. However, Ms. Servance was clear that Mr. West was on Northwood Drive. See, e.g., ECF 106-6 at 24:2-17, 30:9-11, 52:18-20.14 And, in the parties' submissions, they seem...

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