Rudavsky v. City of S. Burlington, Case No. 2:18-cv-25

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
Writing for the CourtWilliam K. Sessions III U.S. District Court Judge
Docket NumberCase No. 2:18-cv-25
Decision Date11 May 2021


Case No. 2:18-cv-25


May 11, 2021


(ECF Nos. 112, 114, 115)

Plaintiff Matthew Rudavsky ("Rudavsky" or "Plaintiff") brings this action claiming that he was assaulted by a police officer while in the custody of the South Burlington Police Department ("SBPD"). Now before the Court are three motions for summary judgment: the first filed by the City of South Burlington, Trevor Whipple, Paul Edwards, and Jeffrey Martel (the "Municipal Defendants") (ECF No. 112); the second filed by Christopher Bataille and Patrick Mulcahy (the "Officer Defendants") (ECF No. 114); and the third filed by David Solomon (ECF No. 115). On April 26, 2021, the Court held a hearing on these motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Municipal Defendants' motion for summary judgment and

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the Officer Defendants' motion for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part, and Solomon's motion for summary judgment is granted.

Factual Background

I. Undisputed Facts

Rudavsky is 39 years old and lives in Burlington, Vermont. ECF 114-4 at 6. On January 12, 2015, Rudavsky was subject to conditions of release for an unlawful trespass charge. ECF 114-5. Included in his conditions were the conditions that he must not drink any alcoholic beverages and that he must submit to an Alco sensor upon request of a law enforcement officer. That January, the SBPD employed the following individuals in the following positions: Defendant Christopher Bataille as a patrol officer, Defendant Patrick Mulcahy as a police officer, Defendant David Solomon as a Sergeant, Defendant Jeffrey Martel as a Lieutenant, Defendant Paul Edwards as the deputy chief, and Defendant Trevor Whipple as the police chief. The SBPD also employed Sergeant James Mills, Nicholas Holden and Sergeant Edward Soychak.

Incident on January 12, 2015

On January 12, 2015, Rudavsky was working for Daniel McFadden at D&M Moving. ECF No. 114-4. Rudavsky, McFadden, and one other worker were moving someone's belongings out of a residence on Pearl Street. At approximately nine a.m., Rudavsky

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began drinking. He drank a large bottle of wine, some beer, and "possibly some hard alcohol" that he believes the owners had put in a box outside to be thrown away. He drank to the point of intoxication, while managing to hide his consumption from his coworkers.

Once the contents from the residence on Pearl Street were loaded into a van, the three men drove in the van to Maplefields to stop for coffee. Back in the van, Rudavsky had a disagreement with McFadden about his pay. Rudavsky asked to be dropped off at the next closest spot to pull over: 5 Dorset Street. Rudavsky believes that he threw his coffee cup at the side of the truck. McFadden called the SBPD and described a verbal altercation in which Rudavsky ended up throwing his cup of coffee in the cab and threatening that he would burn the truck. ECF No. 121-21.

Rudavsky then entered a construction site at the Dorset Street location and asked to borrow a phone. He next remembers the SBPD asking him to come out and speak to them, which he did. He does not recall the conversations between himself and the officers, nor their identity, though he does recall that they were all males, and that there were approximately four of them.

Soychak, Mills, Mulcahy and Holden first responded to the call about a disorderly subject in the Dorset Street area. Soychak testified that the subject matched the description, and they followed him into a motel under construction. ECF No. 114-

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13. Mulcahy, who was in Phase 3 of a Field Training program with Holden, testified to observing Rudavsky being escorted by Mills and Soychak. ECF No. 114-7. Soychak testified that the officers became concerned that Rudavsky was incapacitated and put him into protective custody. ECF No. 114-13 at 14. They ran a criminal check on him and determined that he had conditions of release not to drink. Rudavsky at this time made several unsavory statements, such as that he "had fucked Mills's daughter."1 Rudavsy was having trouble walking and would not complete his sentences. At one point, he tried to leave.

Mulcahy and Mills placed Rudavsky in handcuffs. Mulcahy testified that:

He became verbally aggressive and abusive; he made several threats towards my family. At one point he turned to Sergeant Mills and said something to the effect of, I'm going to make a move on him, directed towards me; at which time I opened my expandable baton and displayed it, in an attempt to gain compliance, so we didn't have a fight inside of the lobby. Once the baton was displayed he backed down, and stopped being as threatening and abusive towards me, at which time I collapsed the baton and put it back in its holster.

ECF 114-7 at 84.

Bataille was also dispatched to 5 Dorset Street to assist the officers already on scene. He observed Mills and Mulcahy attempting to escort Rudavsky, who was in wrist restraints and

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refusing to walk. According to Bataille, Rudavsky smelled strongly of alcohol and seemed to "strongly dislike" Mulcahy and Mills, so he introduced himself and asked if Rudavsky would be willing to take a breath test. ECF No. 114-6 at 118. Rudavsky said he was unwilling.

Bataille transported Rudavsky from 5 Dorset Street to the police station. He testified that during the drive Rudavsky was at times joking and conversational, and at other times sad or angry. He asked Bataille to take him somewhere for detox at one point, and began crying. Rudavsky recalls being placed in the back of the police cruiser, but not many other details, and cannot recall if he was in handcuffs while transported to the SBPD. ECF No. 114-4 at 24. He cannot recall any conversations that occurred on the drive, nor getting out of the vehicle.

Mulcahy testified that he helped get Rudavsky out of Officer Bataille's car, and helped walk him to the booking area, where they removed his handcuffs. ECF No. 114-7, at 123, 126. The SBPD booking area includes a main room equipped with computers, an adjacent room known as the AFIS room in which fingerprints are taken, and another adjacent room known as Mass Holding One (a holding cell containing a bench). Each of these rooms has a video camera (although not all of the videos have audio), and recordings of the interactions at the SBPD are available. ECF No. 114-W.

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At the SBPD booking area, Rudavsky refused a Datamaster test of his breath. ECF No. 114-24. This was a violation of his conditions of release. After some discussion, Rudavsky was taken to the fingerprinting room but refused to have his fingerprints taken. He walked toward the door of the room. Bataille took Rudavsky by the arm and led him back to the fingerprint machine, saying that if he didn't have his fingerprints taken then, he would have to return to the station later to be fingerprinted. Mulcahy testified that he heard the conversation escalating in the fingerprinting room and so walked inside.

Rudavsky resisted having his fingerprints taken. He balled his hands into fists, and brought a finger in front of Mulcahy's face, pointing. Bataille tried again to get him to do the fingerprints, asking Mulcahy to hold one arm, but Rudavsky still resisted. ECF No.114-7 at 33-34. Rudavsky did not follow commands to put his hands behind his back. Instead, he held his arms at his sides and to his chest.

The officers concluded that Rudavsky would not cooperate with providing his fingerprints, and tried to get him up against the wall to contain him. Holden heard noises and came in to the booking area to assist. ECF No. 114-12 at 42. Holden grabbed Rudavsky's right arm and made sure Rudavsky didn't move so the three officers could gain control of his arms. The video shows a

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struggle, and all three officers working to handcuff Rudavsky against the wall.

Louis Dekmar ("Dekmar") agreed in his deposition that Rudavsky became actively resistant in the fingerprinting room. ECF 114-14 at 193. Dekmar has been retained by Plaintiff as an expert witness. He is the chief of police for the City of LaGrange, Georgia. Id. at 6.

Bataille placed Rudavsky in handcuffs and led him from the fingerprinting room to Mass Holding One using a non-compliant escort. Mulcahy and Holden were nearby while Bataille led Rudavsky to Mass Holding One, but were not touching Rudavsky. The handcuffs were single locked but not double locked or checked for proper fit. Bataille testified that he did not double lock Rudavsky's handcuffs prior to leaving the AFIS room because Rudavsky was not compliant and the AFIS room is full of sharp objects.

Many of the facts of the events in Mass Holding One are disputed, though there is a video recording of the room. The parties agree that once in Mass Holding One, Bataille told Rudavsky to sit and Rudavsky did end up sitting on a bench in the room. The order to sit was the only instruction given by the officers to Rudavsky; neither Bataille nor Mulcahy told him to stop wiggling. Bataille testified that "[i]t was my intent to move him to a seated position for more stability and [sic] give

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me the ability to properly make those cuffs comfortable for him." ECF No. 114-6 at 159-60.

The parties agree that SBPD's written policies instruct that officers, "upon placing handcuffs on a subject will, as soon as reasonably possible, check the handcuffs for proper fit and double lock them for safety." ECF 114-25, ¶47. The parties agree that failing to double lock handcuffs can cause nerve damage and crush injury and soft and sometimes hard tissue damage. Dekmar testified that it is important that handcuffs be applied properly, and that the safest position to handcuff a subject offering any kind of resistance is to place her or him on the ground. ECF No. 114-14 at...

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