Rahim v. United States, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-11152-IT

Decision Date02 December 2020
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 1:18-cv-11152-IT
Citation506 F.Supp.3d 104
Parties The ESTATE OF Usaamah Abdullah RAHIM, BY Rahimah RAHIM, in her capacity as personal representative of the estate of Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America, John Doe 1, and John Doe 2, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts

Joseph B. Simons, Sara Attarchi, Simons Law Office, Boston, MA, for Plaintiff.

Annapurna Balakrishna, U.S. Attorney's Office, Boston, MA, for Defendant United States of America.

Reginald M. Skinner, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendant John Doe 1.

Erika P. Reis, Nicole M. O'Connor, City of Boston Law Department, Boston, MA, for Defendant John Doe 2.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

TALWANI, D.J.

On June 2, 2015, law enforcement officers in Boston, Massachusetts, shot and killed Usaamah Abdullah Rahim. Plaintiff Rahimah Rahim,1 in her capacity as the personal representative of Rahim's estate, filed suit against the United States, Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") agent John Doe 1, and Boston police officer John Doe 2. Now pending before the court are Defendants’ pre-discovery Motions for Summary Judgment [#38], [#40], [#71], contending, inter alia , that the individual Defendants are protected by qualified immunity and that Plaintiff cannot show an unreasonable use of force.

The court rejects Defendants’ attempt to litigate this case through factual accounts that Plaintiff has not been permitted to test in discovery. And in the absence of those portions of the record, Defendants have failed to demonstrate the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Accordingly, Defendants’ motions are DENIED without prejudice to renewal after Plaintiff has had an opportunity to conduct limited discovery, including depositions of individuals on whose testimony Defendants seek to rely.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff alleges that the killing violated Rahim's Fourth Amendment rights pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). Am. Compl. [#22]. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants are liable under state law for negligence, wrongful death, assault, and battery. Id. 2 The United States filed notice to substitute as the defendant for each of Plaintiff's claims against John Doe 1 except the Bivens claim, Notice [#35]; Order [#55], and as a result those claims are dismissed against John Doe 1 and are now treated as claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq. , against the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d)(1).

No discovery has taken place. See Scheduling Order [#15]; Elec. Clerk's Notes [#58]. In December 2018, John Doe 2 filed a Motion to Dismiss [#36] in which he relied on facts set forth in a Report of the Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley on Findings in the Shooting Death of Usaamah Abdullah Rahim ("District Attorney's Report") [#37-1]. The court concluded that the District Attorney's Report [#37-1] was not properly considered on a motion to dismiss, where it had been mentioned but not adopted in the Amended Complaint [#22], and denied John Doe 2's Motion to Dismiss [#36] without prejudice to John Doe 2 reasserting his legal arguments on a motion for summary judgment. See Mem. & Order [#72].

Meanwhile, the United States and John Doe 1 filed the pending Motions for Summary Judgment [#38], [#40], and Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [#42], and John Doe 2 has now filed his Motion for Summary Judgment [#71], incorporating arguments and exhibits submitted by John Doe 1 in support of his Motion for Summary Judgment [#40].3 Plaintiff has opposed the motions, see Oppositions [#52], [#53]; Statements of Material Fact [#50], [#51], [#59].4 Plaintiff's counsel also filed an Affidavit [#52-13] seeking discovery pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) and a Supplemental Affidavit [#73] clarifying the asserted need for discovery. John Doe 1 responded to the affidavit, see Resp. to Supp. Rule 56(d) Aff. [#76], and the United States and John Doe 2 joined his response, see United States Resp. to Supp. Rule 56(d) Aff. [#78]; John Doe 2's Mot. to Join Resp. to Pl.’s Supp. Rule 56(d) Aff. [#77]; Elec. Order [#80].

II. Standard of Review

Qualified immunity is an "immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability." Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985). The Supreme Court has therefore "repeatedly ... stressed the importance of resolving immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation." Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227, 112 S.Ct. 534, 116 L.Ed.2d 589 (1991) (per curiam). A "driving force" behind the doctrine is to "ensure that ‘insubstantial claims’ against government officials be resolved prior to discovery." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 n.2, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987) ). A qualified immunity defense may thus be asserted on a motion to dismiss where the allegations of the complaint fail to state a plausible claim for relief, and if successful, may thereby avoid discovery altogether. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684-85, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

Where the allegations of the complaint, when accepted as true, do raise a plausible claim for relief, a qualified immunity defense may be raised on a motion for summary judgment. Under Rule 56, summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "A dispute is genuine if the evidence about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the point in favor of the non-moving party ... [and] [a] fact is material if it has the potential of determining the outcome of the litigation." Baker v. St. Paul Travelers, Inc., 670 F.3d 119, 125 (1st Cir. 2012) (internal citation omitted). When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must take all properly supported evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115 (1st Cir. 1990). The court properly "give[s] no heed to speculative, unsupported, or unreasonable conclusions." Showtime Entm't, LLC v. Town of Mendon, 769 F.3d 61, 69 (1st Cir. 2014). The moving party is responsible for identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party shows the absence of a disputed material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth "specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).5 "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Id. (emphasis original).

Generally, such a motion is brought after the parties have completed discovery. See Celotex Corp, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548 ("In our view, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial") (emphasis added). Nonetheless, unless a local rule or court order provides otherwise, the movant may file a summary judgment motion before discovery is complete or before it has even commenced. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ("a party may file a motion for summary judgment at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery"). However, "the party opposing the motion for summary judgment bears the burden of responding only after the moving party has met its burden of coming forward with proof of the absence of any genuine issues of material fact." Celotex Corp, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

Even if the movant meets its burden, to prevent a court from "swinging the summary judgment axe too hastily," a responding party may move pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) for discovery (or additional discovery) prior to a summary judgment decision. Resolution Trust Corp. v. North Bridge Assocs., 22 F.3d 1198, 1203 (1st Cir. 1994). Such a motion may be granted "[i]f a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). "A basic tenet of [ Rule 56(d) ] practice is that the party seeking discovery must explain how the facts, if collected, will ‘suffice to defeat the pending summary judgment motion.’ " Asociacion de Periodistas de P.R. v. Mueller, 680 F.3d 70, 77 (1st Cir. 2012) (internal citation omitted). The filing party must supply the court with a statement (1) explaining her inability to adduce facts essential to filing an opposition to the summary judgment motion; (2) providing a plausible basis for believing that the sought-after facts can be assembled with a reasonable time; and (3) indicating how these facts would influence the outcome of the pending summary judgment motions. Velez v. Awning Windows, Inc., 375 F.3d 35, 40 (1st Cir. 2004). The court may refuse such a request if it concludes that the party opposing summary judgment is unlikely to garner useful evidence from supplemental discovery. Hicks v. Johnson, 755 F.3d 738, 743 (1st Cir. 2014).

III. Evidence Considered on Pre-Discovery Summary Judgment

"A party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). Here, Plaint...

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