Meyer v. McGowan, C/A No. 2:16-cv-00777-RMG-MGB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Decision Date16 August 2018
Docket NumberC/A No. 2:16-cv-00777-RMG-MGB
PartiesParker Meyer, PLAINTIFF, v. Leigh Anne McGowan, individually; Charles Francis Wohlleb, individually; Anthony M. Doxey, individually; Michael Kouris, individually; City of North Charleston; DEFENDANTS.

Parker Meyer, PLAINTIFF,
Leigh Anne McGowan, individually; Charles Francis Wohlleb,
individually; Anthony M. Doxey, individually; Michael Kouris,
individually; City of North Charleston; DEFENDANTS.

C/A No. 2:16-cv-00777-RMG-MGB


August 16, 2018

Report & Recommendation

The Plaintiff, through counsel, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against City of North Charleston Police officers and the City of North Charleston ("the City"). Before the court is Defendants' Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment as to All Remaining Claims ("Defendants' Motion"). (Dkt. No. 120.) All pretrial proceedings in this case were referred to the undersigned pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), DSC. This court recommends that the Defendants' Motion be granted in part and denied in part.

Facts of the Case

The Plaintiff was arrested in her home on March 27, 2014, by Defendant McGowan and was charged with assault on a police officer. (Dkt. No. 54 ¶¶ 42, 101, 118, 119.) Defendants McGowan, Wohlleb, Doxey, and Kouris were police officers for the City of North Charleston ("City") at the time of the Plaintiff's arrest. (Id. ¶ 3.) At approximately 5:00 p.m. on March 27, 2014, the Plaintiff left her home, which she shared with her mother, and went to a work function. (Id. ¶ 43.) The Plaintiff returned home at 9:20 p.m. and fell asleep on her bed watching

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television on a laptop. (Id. ¶ 44.) At approximately 10:00 p.m., the Plaintiff woke up and went to retrieve items from her car. (Id. ¶ 45.) The door to the house locked behind the Plaintiff. (Id.) The Plaintiff pounded on her door and yelled to awaken her mother for about four minutes. (Dkt. No. 70-3. at 3-4.) The Plaintiff's mother, who has dementia and is referred to herein as "Jane Doe," was unable to open the door. The Plaintiff alleges that she directed her mother to a glass door where the Plaintiff explained to her mother how to open the door. (Id.) By 10:04 p.m., the Plaintiff alleges that she and her mother were back in their beds, and the Plaintiff again fell asleep watching television on a laptop. (Dkt. No. 54 ¶ 47.)

Meanwhile, the Plaintiff's neighbor, Jake Sadler, called 911 to report the events transpiring with the Plaintiff being locked out of her house.1 (Dkt. No. 70-2 at 3-4.) Mr. Sadler testified that he observed the Plaintiff banging on her door and yelling. (Id.) Mr. Sadler testified that the Plaintiff walked over next to the sidewalk, pulled up her dress, and appeared to urinate in the grass. (Id.) After she finished urinating, the Plaintiff returned to the door and resumed pounding and yelling. (Id.) The Plaintiff's account does not include that she urinated outside.

Defendant McGowan was the first officer to arrive at the Plaintiff's house in response to the 911 call. (Dkt. No. 70-10 at 3.) Upon arrival, Defendant McGowan noted a vehicle in the driveway with the interior light on, the hood still warm, and several wine bottles in the "back." (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 11, 42.) Defendant McGowan saw a pair of high heels next to the driver's door

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on the ground.2 (Id. at 11.) Defendant McGowan knocked on the front door and received no response. (Id. at 6.) Defendant McGowan then proceeded to the back yard to knock on the rear doors. (Id. at 6-7.) Defendant McGowan testified that as she walked through the gate to the backyard, she noticed a large green purse3 with blood on it. (Id.) Defendant McGowan could see the purse with her flashlight. (Id.) Defendant McGowan then radioed to dispatch at 10:22 p.m. that the car had an open "trunk" with wine inside, a bloody purse was on the ground, she was unable to locate "the victim," and no one was coming to the door.4 (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 6, 48.)

Defendant McGowan knocked on the back door and received no response. (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 14.) Defendant McGowan then met with Mr. Sadler, who repeated to her what he had told the 911 dispatcher. (Id. at 24-25.) Defendants Doxey and Wohlleb arrived on scene simultaneously but in different vehicles.5 (Dkt. No. 70-10 at 3.) Defendant McGowan briefed Defendants Doxey

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and Wohlleb on her investigation to that point. (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 14-16.) The three Defendants decided to attempt to wake up a resident of the home to conduct a wellness check. (Id.) Defendant Doxey went to the front door and began knocking while Defendants McGowan and Wohlleb stayed at the back door banging on it. (Id at 16-17.)

Defendant Wohlleb was able to open the back door, which was a sliding glass door, by lifting the door within the frame. (Dkt. Nos. 70-1 at 17-18; 70-4 at 4-5.) Defendants Wohlleb and McGowan entered the residence, which was dark, and announced their presence. (Id.) They did not receive a response. (Id.) At the same time, Defendant Doxey was knocking on the front door and saw an elderly lady coming to open the door. (Dkt. No. 70-10 at 5.) The lady turned away from Defendant Doxey knocking at the front door to face Defendants Wohlleb and McGowan, who were approaching from inside the home. (Id.; Dkt. Nos. 70-1 at 18; 70-4 at 5.) Defendant Doxey observed the lady escort Defendants Wohlleb and McGowan upstairs and out of his sight. (Dkt. No. 70-10 at 5-6.) Defendant Doxey then went around to the back of the house and entered through the open door. (Id. at 6.)

The elderly lady, who was Jane Doe, looked towards Defendants Wohlleb and McGowan. (Dkt. No. 70-4 at 5.) Defendant Wohlleb asked her if everything was "okay" and she said yes. (Id.; Dkt. No. 70-1 at 19.) Jane Doe did not appear to be injured or in any distress. (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 19.) Defendants Wohlleb and McGowan explained that they were responding to a family disturbance call and asked where her daughter was. (Dkt. No. 70-4 at 5.) Jane Doe told them the Plaintiff was upstairs in her bedroom. (Id.) Defendants Wohlleb and McGowan asked if Jane Doe would show them where Plaintiff was, and Jane Doe responded in the

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affirmative and escorted Defendants Wohlleb and McGowan upstairs. (Id.; Dkt. No. 70-1 at 19-20.)

Defendant McGowan found the Plaintiff laying in her bed on top of her covers in the same clothing that was described by Mr. Sadler in the 911 call. (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 20.) The Defendants' account and the Plaintiff's account of what happened in the Plaintiff's bedroom diverge at this point.

The Defendants' account is as follows: Defendant McGowan testified that she saw red wine spilled on the Plaintiff's shirt6 and that her knee was bleeding. (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 21.) Defendant McGowan could not recall how the Plaintiff woke up, but Defendant McGowan asked the Plaintiff how much alcohol she had consumed because Defendant McGowan was concerned the Plaintiff might need her stomach pumped. (Id. at 21-22.) Defendant McGowan testified that Plaintiff first said she had "too much" to drink and then "not enough." (Id. at 22.) The Plaintiff's speech was slurred, and she appeared disoriented. (Id.; see also Dkt. No. 70-4 at 6.) Defendant McGowan and the other Defendants asked the Plaintiff why her purse and shoes were outside. (Id. at 23.) The Plaintiff attempted to get up to retrieve the items from outside but was unsteady on her feet. (Id.) Defendants Doxey and Wohlleb went to retrieve the Plaintiff's items from outside leaving Defendant McGowan alone with the Plaintiff and Jane Doe. (Id. at 23, 27.) Defendant McGowan asked the Plaintiff if she needed EMS to come for her knee, but she declined. (Id. at 28.) Defendant McGowan continued to ask Plaintiff questions to make sure she appeared coherent and had not fallen or had a concussion. (Id. at 30-32.)

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Plaintiff became belligerent and angry. (Dkt. No. 70-1 at 30-32.) Defendant McGowan directed Jane Doe to go to another room because the Plaintiff was getting more agitated with her mother in the room. (Id. at 32-33.) The Plaintiff was demeaning her mother, who appeared fearful of the Plaintiff. (Id. at 35, 43.) Defendant McGowan testified that Plaintiff then lunged towards her and poked her in the eye while swinging her arms and hands. (Id. at 37.) Defendant McGowan was able to control the Plaintiff by getting one of her hands in a cuff. (Id.) Defendant McGowan radioed for Doxey to come back upstairs and Doxey and Wohlleb returned. (Id.)

The Plaintiff's account of what happened in her bedroom is as follows: The Plaintiff was awakened by a "brut[e]" that attacked her in her bed. (Dkt. No. 70-3 at 30.) The "assailant" that attacked her in the dark caused her knee to be carpet burned resulting in her bloody knee. (Id.) The Plaintiff testified that her knee was not injured before the carpet burn. (Id.) The Plaintiff agreed that Defendant McGowan was attempting to ask her if she needed medical attention and ask how much alcohol she had consumed. (Id. at 30-31.) The Plaintiff did not respond to the question because she was "terrified" and "yelling" for the officers to get out of her house. (Id. at 31.) The Plaintiff stated that she was disoriented because "there was a blob, a gigantic, violent blob in my room with a flashlight in my face." (Id. at 32.) The Plaintiff did not remember any other officers being in her room. (Id. at 33.) The Plaintiff testified that she never tried to get out of bed because Defendant McGowan "put [the Plaintiff] to the floor from [her] bed" by her wrist. (Id. at 34, 37.) Defendant McGowan then "violently and forcefully with a ...death grip on the back of [her] arm that caused a perfect handprint bruise, stood [the Plaintiff] up to [her] feet, once she'd beaten [Plaintiff] up, and took [Plaintiff] down the stairs." (Id. at 34.) The Plaintiff yelled for her mother to "stay out of this." (Id. at 35.)

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Defendant McGowan arrested Plaintiff and charged her with assault on a police officer under a North Charleston city ordinance. (Dkt. Nos. 70-1 at 38; 120-12.) The Plaintiff's charge was...

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