Ouza v. City of Dearborn Heights

Decision Date05 August 2020
Docket NumberNos. 19-1191/1211/1393,s. 19-1191/1211/1393
Citation969 F.3d 265
Parties Ehsan Mohamad OUZA, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, v. CITY OF DEARBORN HEIGHTS, MICHIGAN ; Jordan Dottor; Gene Derwick, Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees. Ehsan Mohamad Ouza, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. City of Dearborn Heights, Michigan ; Jordan Dottor, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

CLAY, Circuit Judge.

In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action arising from a domestic disturbance incident, the parties appeal and cross-appeal multiple rulings of the district court. In Case No. 19-1191, Defendant Officers Gene Derwick and Jordan Dottor interlocutorily appeal the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds with regard to Plaintiff's excessive force claim. They also appeal the district court's ruling that they spoiled relevant evidence. In Case No. 19-1211, Plaintiff Ehsan Ouza appeals the district court's ruling that she cannot rely on evidence of her carpal tunnel

diagnosis to demonstrate injury from Defendants’ alleged excessive force, and she appeals the district court's failure to sanction Defendants for spoiling evidence by adopting an adverse inference against them. In Case No. 19-1393, Plaintiff appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant Dottor on qualified immunity grounds with regard to her false arrest claims and the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant City of Dearborn Heights on her municipal liability claim. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part the district court's order, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

A. Factual Background

The factual circumstances underlying these three appeals arise from a domestic disturbance incident and the subsequent arrest of Plaintiff at her home in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. The following facts are stated in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, except where noted. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (when evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party).

1. The First Incident

At approximately 8:00 a.m. on December 18, 2014, Plaintiff Ehsan Ouza was arguing with her adult son, Hassan. Plaintiff and her daughter, Maysaa, were trying to prevent Hassan from leaving the house and driving because they believed he was under the influence of drugs. Maysaa called her father, Mohamad, to ask him to help convince Hassan not to drive. Mohamad is Plaintiff's ex-husband. At the time, Plaintiff had a Personal Protection Order ("PPO") in effect against Mohamad because he had threatened her and physically abused her in the past. Mohamad told Maysaa to let Hassan drive the car, but Maysaa threatened to call the police on her brother if he drove. Mohamad then showed up at Plaintiff's house, in violation of the PPO, and took Maysaa's and Plaintiff's cell phones so that they could not call the police. At some point after Mohamad arrived at the house, Hassan pushed a wardrobe on top of Plaintiff.

Because Mohamad had taken her cell phone, Maysaa went to a nearby gas station to call the police. At 8:05 a.m., Defendant Officer Dottor was dispatched to the home in response to Maysaa's call. Dispatch reported "30 YOM vs mother and sister, No weapons, Male has been drinking and taking pills, ... Male has taken Xanax." (First Case Rep., R. 26-4, Pg. ID 185.) It also reported "Father and son vs mother and sister, Mother states son and father hit the mother. ... Father took the son from the location." (Id. ) When Officer Dottor arrived at the home approximately ten minutes later, Hassan and Mohamad were gone.

Officer Dottor interviewed Plaintiff and Maysaa about the incident. According to the case report prepared by Officer Dottor, Plaintiff reported that Hassan had pushed a wardrobe on top of her, that she had fallen as a result and that the wardrobe had landed on her stomach. Maysaa told Officer Dottor that Hassan had pulled her hair and was screaming at her. Maysaa reported that at some point during the argument, Mohamad had arrived "and took Hassan away from the residence." (Id. at Pg. ID 183.) Plaintiff and Maysaa told Officer Dottor that they were willing to prosecute, and Officer Dottor gave them a crime victim's rights card. On the case report for this first incident, Plaintiff was identified as the "victim" of domestic violence. (Id. at Pg. ID 182.) After giving her a victim's rights card, Defendant Dottor left Plaintiff's house.

2. The Second Incident

Soon after Officer Dottor left the house, Mohamad returned with Plaintiff's and Maysaa's cell phones. Mohamad pushed aggressively on the front door and was yelling and cursing. The women did not want Mohamad to come in, and Plaintiff begged Maysaa not to open the door. Maysaa cracked the door open only slightly in order to retrieve their cell phones. Mohamad then pushed his way into the house, causing Plaintiff to fall onto her back. Mohamad then got on top of Plaintiff, and refused to get off of her. Plaintiff grabbed a broken hanger that was on the floor nearby (presumably as a result of Hassan pushing the wardrobe over earlier) and "tapped" Mohamad's shoulder with it and bit him in order to get him off of her. (Maysaa Dep., R. 29-3, Pg. ID 342.) Maysaa then began pushing Mohamad and jumped on his back to try to get him off of Plaintiff, yelling, "Get out, get out, you're trespassing, get out, get out, don't touch my mother, get out." (Id. at Pg. ID 343.) Eventually, Maysaa was able to push Mohamad out of the house. At some point, she called 911 and reported that her father was hitting her mother.

At 9:55 a.m., Officer Dottor and Officer Derwick were dispatched to the house in response to Maysaa's second call. When Defendants arrived, Mohamad was standing outside of the house and he proceeded to tell Officer Dottor a false story. He said that he had stayed at the house from the time that Officer Dottor first investigated the prior incident involving Hassan until the present. Mohamad also told Dottor that Plaintiff had become upset and attacked him while he was walking out of the home and attempting to leave. Plaintiff and Maysaa disputed Mohamad's story. Plaintiff told Officer Dottor that Mohamad had forced his way into the house and attacked her, and that she had attempted to bite him and tap him with the hanger in self-defense. Plaintiff was visibly upset and crying hysterically. According to Plaintiff, Mohamad did not have any visible injuries. According to Defendants, Officer Dottor observed a small cut on the left side of Mohamad's face, which he believed to be from the hanger, and a bite mark on Mohamad's left arm.

Officer Dottor then placed Plaintiff under arrest for domestic assault and handcuffed her. As Defendants were escorting Plaintiff to their police car, Mohamad said, "What are you guys doing? I was trespassing. I hit her. Take me instead. She was just defending herself. What are you doing?" (Id. at Pg. ID 346; see also id. at Pg. ID 347 ("What are you doing? I trespassed. I assaulted her. She was defending herself. Please take me.").) Nevertheless, Defendants proceeded with the arrest.

Plaintiff alleges that while walking to the police car she told Defendant Dottor at least three times that the handcuffs were too tight and that her wrists were red and causing her pain. Dottor ignored her complaints. Officer Derwick transported Ehsan to the police department. While in transit, Plaintiff continued to complain about the handcuffs. Plaintiff was then booked into the Dearborn Heights Police Department Jail. She was released from custody the next day, and the prosecutor declined to prosecute.

3. Medical Treatment

Plaintiff alleges that she suffered and continues to suffer physical injury as a result of the excessively tight handcuffing. She says that the handcuffing caused pain and red marks on her arms. These marks were still present the day after her arrest, and Plaintiff provided pictures showing the marks in the district court. She also alleges that the excessively tight handcuffing caused her to experience carpal tunnel syndrome

, numbness, and tingling.

On January 19, 2015, approximately one month after her arrest, Plaintiff had x-rays taken of her wrists because she was experiencing bilateral wrist pain. Her treating physicians interpreted the x-rays as showing "[n]o evidence of fracture, erosive change, or significant degenerative change in either the right or left wrist." (Combined Medical Records, R. 26-13, Pg. ID 257.) Nevertheless, Plaintiff was still feeling symptoms of carpal tunnel

, numbness, and tingling a few weeks later. On February 11, 2015, she sought hand treatment from Dr. Edward Haas who diagnosed her with (a) bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome with left worse than right, and (b) left lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow ).1 (Haas Medical Records, R. 29-14, Pg. ID 435–37.) Dr. Haas recommended Plaintiff for occupational therapy and requested that she come back in a few weeks to evaluate whether she required a steroid injection.

On March 24, 2015, Plaintiff received a left carpal tunnel

steroid injection from Dr. Haas, but this did not help alleviate her pain, and, in fact, may have caused it to worsen. Over the subsequent months and years, Plaintiff continued to seek treatment from Dr. Haas and undergo painful hand therapy, which has not alleviated her pain. According to Plaintiff, "[t]o this day, [her] wrists and hands continue to cause her pain when she does any kind of activity with her hands for more than a few minutes." (Second Br. at 13 (citing Ehsan Dep., R. 29-2, Pg. ID 334).)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff sued Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that their actions violated her constitutional rights. She brought an excessive force...

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