ADAMS v. METIVA No. 93-1615.
31 F.3d 375 (1994)
Gene Autrey ADAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Paul METIVA, Defendant-Appellee.
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.
Decided August 1, 1994.
Donald S. McGehee (argued and briefed), Office of the Atty. Gen. of Michigan, Lansing, MI, for defendant-appellee.
Before: MILBURN and BATCHELDER, Circuit Judges; and CONTIE, Senior Circuit Judge.
CONTIE, Senior Circuit Judge.
Plaintiff-appellant, Gene Autrey Adams, appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant-appellee, Paul Metiva, in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the district court.
This § 1983 suit arises from a traffic stop which escalated into a confrontation between plaintiff Adams, a passenger in a car which was stopped for emitting excessive fumes by defendant, police officer Paul Metiva.
Plaintiff, Gene Autrey Adams, is a black male truck driver, a freight hauler, from St. Louis, Missouri, who on June 27, 1991, dropped off a load from New Jersey in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He then went to a friend's
A criminal trial was held on October 11, 1991. On October 16, 1991, plaintiff was acquitted by a jury of all charges. Plaintiff was issued a seat belt restraint violation and was notified of a hearing date, but failed to contest the citation or pay the fine.
On May 21, 1992, plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The complaint alleged violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the use of excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiff alleged pendent state claims of malicious prosecution, false arrest and imprisonment, and assault and battery.
On January 29, 1993, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court granted in an opinion and order of March 31, 1993. Plaintiff timely filed a notice of appeal.
Plaintiff first argues that the district court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment in regard to whether an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment occurred.
A. Standard of Review
This court reviews an order granting summary judgment de novo. Patton v. Bearden,
B. Contested Facts
A careful review of the transcript of the criminal trial, in which plaintiff was acquitted of resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, obstructing justice, and disorderly conduct, reveals the following.
Defendant Metiva testified that he decided to make a traffic stop on a vehicle because excessive fumes were coming from it and pulled the car over on Nancy Street, a high crime area where illegal drug transactions are not unusual. Defendant testified he arrested Martindale, the driver of the car, because he was unable to produce his license or proof of insurance and Metiva smelled alcohol on Martindale's breath. Metiva then handcuffed Martindale and placed him in the front seat of the patrol car for transportation to the station.
Metiva testified that he next approached the passenger side of the car to obtain identification from plaintiff Adams, who responded with vulgarities. Defendant testified he ordered plaintiff out of the car to conduct a pat-down search, but that plaintiff was fidgety so he was unable to perform a thorough pat-down. Defendant reiterated his request for identification and claimed that plaintiff responded by moving close to him and threatening him if he did not leave plaintiff alone. Defendant asked plaintiff to get back in the car and plaintiff complied.
Defendant returned to his police vehicle, requested assistance, and within a few minutes, Deputy Troy Bevier arrived. After explaining the situation to Deputy Bevier, defendant and Bevier approached the passenger side of the car to obtain identification from plaintiff, who again allegedly responded with vulgarities and refusal. Defendant asked plaintiff to get out of the car so he could perform a second pat-down search for weapons.
Defendant testified that while he was performing the second pat-down, plaintiff turned around, struck him in the chest with his right hand, knocked off his clip-on tie, and started to walk away. Defendant testified he ordered plaintiff to stop and told him he was under arrest. Defendant testified that when plaintiff did not stop, he sprayed plaintiff with mace in order to effect an arrest. While defendant was spraying the mace, he told plaintiff to lie on the ground so that defendant could handcuff him, but plaintiff refused. Defendant testified that he and Deputy Bevier "herded" plaintiff back to Martindale's car and plaintiff sat back down in the passenger seat. Defendant testified that several other officers arrived, including Trooper Bradley Breedveld, who went back to the car with defendant and helped him persuade plaintiff to get out of the car. Metiva then handcuffed plaintiff and transported him to the station in the patrol car.
Defendant's account of the events is essentially corroborated by the testimony of Deputy Sheriff Bevier, who testified that plaintiff responded to his request for identification with vulgarities and refused to give him any information. He testified that when plaintiff was ordered to get out of the car for a second pat-down search, defendant would not allow them to search him, pushed both officers away, and swung his left arm around, striking Trooper Metiva "in the upper region." Bevier testified that Metiva told
Trooper Breedveld testified that when he arrived, plaintiff was sitting in Martindale's car and appeared to be very upset, accusing the police of being racist, that it was not fair to spray him with mace, that he was from out of state, and that they didn't treat blacks in such a manner where he came from.
In contrast to the officers' testimony, at his criminal trial plaintiff testified that he was a truck driver from St. Louis, Missouri, who delivered a load to Ypsilanti, Michigan, on the morning of June 27, 1991 after driving most of the night. He then went to the home of a friend where he drank two or three beers, worked on his friend Martindale's car, and fell asleep about 8:30 p.m. Plaintiff testified that Martindale woke him up and asked him to go with him to his wife's house on Nancy Street and that he fell asleep in the car after putting on his seat belt. He awoke when a police officer (Metiva) called him Spud, demanded identification, and ordered him to get out of the car. Plaintiff alleges that he got out of the car, told the officer that he had no identification, and that his name was Gene Autrey. He testified he put his hands on the car as ordered and submitted to a pat-down search. Plaintiff stated the officer was "getting rough with me," and that at this point plaintiff might have said "a few cuss words" because the officer was trying to rough him up, pushed him, and was carrying on.
Plaintiff testified he got back in the car and nodded off again when two officers approached the vehicle and wanted to search him again. Defendant testified that when he got out of the car, he asked the police, "[W]hats the problem, you know, have I, what have I done. You know, why you all harassing me.... By this time they never tell me I was under arrest so anyway I started across the street." Plaintiff testified that he did not strike or have any physical contact with Officer Metiva. Plaintiff testified that he was cooperating with the officers and that the reason he left to go across the street was to make a phone call so that someone could come and pick him up. Plaintiff testified that Metiva was constantly getting violent, and that he didn't want to give Metiva any problems because plaintiff knew for a fact that getting locked up or having anything against his record would mean he would lose his job. He testified that no one ever told him he was under arrest, or that a crime had been committed, or that he was being charged with an offense so he thought it was okay to leave. He testified that while he was walking away, he wasn't really paying that much attention, when Metiva walked up and grabbed him from behind and ripped off his shirt. Plaintiff testified he asked defendant why he had torn his shirt off. Plaintiff stated, "About this time you know, I'm getting upset and I told them, you know, what have I done, you know. And he [Metiva] said you ever been sprayed with mace? I said no and I looked and he sprayed the mace in my face." Plaintiff testified that he had cooperated with Metiva until Metiva tore his shirt off and then he didn't want to have anything more to do with Officer Metiva because he believed he had done nothing wrong and was never told he was under arrest. Plaintiff testified that when Metiva told him to get on the ground to be handcuffed, he was afraid to do so because he figured the police were going to beat him. Plaintiff testified Metiva constantly sprayed him with mace, while calling him Spud. He testified Metiva told him to get back in the car and that he complied. Plaintiff stated at trial, "I couldn't see and my eyes, face, felt like it was on fire. And my eyes was running and I was gagging and stuff." Plaintiff testified that Metiva continued to spray him with mace while he was sitting in Martindale's car.
Plaintiff testified that when the other officers arrived, he complained to them that he had been sprayed with mace and that his shirt had been torn off of him. He stated that again no one ever told him he was under arrest or with what crime he was being
Plaintiff's account of his treatment by Metiva was corroborated by two disinterested witnesses, who did not know plaintiff. Darrell Sanderford testified that at the time the incident occurred, he was on his front porch on Nancy Street when the police pulled over a yellow Cadillac right in front of his house, which was at a distance from the street equal to the distance between the witness stand and the second row of seats in the courtroom. He testified that defendant Metiva spoke with plaintiff and that plaintiff got out of the car, was searched, and then got back in the car. Sanderford testified that after the backup sheriff arrived, plaintiff got out of the car and was searched again. Sanderford testified that the police turned plaintiff around and had his hands on the hood on top of the car during the search. Sanderford testified, "I guess he was kind of like fed up, because they were like harassing him, you know, and he walks away from them." Sanderford testified that he never saw Adams hit either of the police officers and that he never took his eyes off of plaintiff so it was not possible for plaintiff to strike Metiva without Sanderford observing it. In regard to the spraying of mace, Sanderford testified:
Joint Appendix at 150-51, 153.
Sanderford testified that he never saw Adams walking toward either of the officers in a threatening manner, nor did he see anything about plaintiff that looked like he might be armed or dangerous. Sanderford testified that instead plaintiff:
Joint Appendix at 153-54. Finally Sanderford testified that Adams did not act like a person who had been drinking.
The witness, Lee Clay, testified that he was sitting on Sanderford's front porch and saw plaintiff get out of the car and submit to a pat-down search. He stated that it seemed as if plaintiff was being harassed. He testified he saw plaintiff step out of the car a second time and walk around in front of the car when the officer yelled at him to stop. When plaintiff did not stop, the officer pulled
Joint Appendix at 169. Clay testified that the spraying of mace lasted about six minutes.
This version of events was also corroborated by Alvin Martindale, the driver of the car, who was sitting in the police car. He stated that plaintiff "was not violent, but just like I said walking just like almost don't want to be bothered, that's the only thing." Martindale testified that his neighbors came up to him afterward and told him that they had seen what had happened and that "it wasn't right."
It is evident from this testimony at the criminal trial and the Adams and Martindale depositions that the following material facts are contested:
Throughout his opinion the district court disregarded the testimony of the two witnesses from the criminal trial, stating that "the trial court has at least some discretion to determine whether the respondent's claim is plausible," relying on Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co.,
C. Unreasonable Seizure
Plaintiff does not contest the legality of the two Terry pat-down searches per se, but alleges he was unnecessarily roughed up during them. He contends that he was arrested without probable cause.
An arrest must be predicated on probable cause that a crime has been committed. Henry v. United States,
In the present case, it is contested whether plaintiff was acting in a drunken, disorderly manner and threatened and then assaulted Metiva as the two police officers allege, or whether plaintiff walked away after being subjected to two pat-down searches in which he was roughed up and had his shirt torn off him even though he committed no violent or threatening actions. We believe these contested issues of material facts are determinative of whether there was probable cause to arrest defendant, and the district court erred in stating in its opinion that even if plaintiff did not assault Metiva, there was probable cause for arrest because plaintiff did not stop when ordered to do so by the police and plaintiff refused to lie down on the ground and be handcuffed. Plaintiff alleges that he was wearing his seat belt, that although he asked the police what he had done, he was never informed they wanted to write him a ticket for a seat belt infraction, that he was never told he was under arrest, that he was afraid to lie down and be handcuffed because he would be beaten, that he merely wanted to cross the street to make a phone call, and that he informed the police of his intention. If this account is accepted as true as must be done on a summary judgment motion, Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356, there would be no lawful reason to further detain plaintiff after the second pat-down search because no weapons were found on him. Because the test for whether a seizure has occurred is whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave, United States v. Mendenhall,
It is contested whether plaintiff refused to get out of the car, refused to tell defendant his name, refused to allow a full Terry pat-down search, and then walked away after being told he was under arrest. If plaintiff was wearing his seat belt as he alleges and did not assault Officer Metiva or act in a drunken and disorderly manner, there would be no further reason to detain him even though he was unable to provide
To conclude, because there are material issues of contested facts in regard to whether the arrest of plaintiff was based on probable cause, the district court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment and is reversed on this issue.
We must next decide whether the district court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment in regard to the use of excessive force.
The district court's opinion stated that plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that suggests that it was objectively unreasonable for defendant to use mace in order to effect an arrest. We disagree. First, as discussed previously, whether the arrest was a lawful seizure depends on contested issues of material facts. But even if it were reasonable to spray plaintiff with mace in order to get him to stop when he refused to stop, there are still contested facts in regard to whether the use of force was excessive.
Plaintiff and witnesses Clay and Sanderford testified that Metiva continued to spray plaintiff with mace after the mace had gotten in plaintiff's eyes, he was groping around, had turned around, and was heading back (or was being "herded" back) to Martindale's car. Plaintiff and both witnesses testified that Metiva continued to spray mace in plaintiff's face even after he was seated in the car, could not see, and was incapacitated. In spite of this testimony, the district court stated the following:
Joint Appendix at 32.
Upon a motion for summary judgment, the district court is not to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513-14, and must consider the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. In the present case, however, the district court's version of the facts is not the most favorable to plaintiff and is not supported by the evidence. The district court found that even if defendant continued to spray plaintiff with mace once he was in the car, this use of force would be reasonable because plaintiff would not lie down on the ground to be handcuffed, and since he was
In regard to whether this macing of plaintiff would constitute excessive force, in Graham v. Connor,
(citations omitted). This court in Zamieski emphasized that the standard is an objective one without regard to the officers' underlying intent or motivation. Id. at 276.
In the present case, if the contested facts are construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the severity of the alleged "crime" at issue was either no infraction or, at most, a seat belt infraction, a failure to stop after twice submitting to a pat-down search for weapons in which plaintiff allegedly was roughed up, and a failure to lie down on the ground to be handcuffed. Although defendant alleges plaintiff assaulted him, the two witnesses testified that plaintiff was not acting violently and never touched defendant. Plaintiff alleges that he was wearing his seat belt, indicating that there was no reason to obtain identification from him and that the seat belt infraction was used as a pretext for the treatment he received. It is for the jury to decide which version of the contested facts to believe in order to determine whether it was reasonable to use mace in order to get plaintiff to stop.
In regard to the second factor, if no assault occurred and plaintiff was not acting in a threatening or violent manner as plaintiff and two witnesses allege, plaintiff did not pose an immediate threat to the police officers. In regard to the third factor, whether plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest is contested as plaintiff alleges he was never told he was under arrest or why he was being further detained after submitting to two pat-down searches. Moreover, plaintiff's alleged flight was an announced walking to his friend's house across the street. Defendant relies on People v. Suchodolski,
If all inferences from contested facts regarding the Zamieski factors are drawn in favor of plaintiff, the alleged seat belt citation was a pretext for Metiva's demand for identification,
Moreover, even if all the facts are not construed in plaintiff's favor and plaintiff pushed or struck Metiva as alleged by the police, there is still a contested issue of material fact in regard to whether spraying mace in defendant's face after he returned to the car constituted excessive force. The district court found that such force would have been reasonable because plaintiff admitted that he failed to obey defendant's command to get on the ground and submit to being handcuffed. Plaintiff argues that this order was superseded by Metiva's demand that he return to Martindale's car. Metiva testified he "herded" defendant back into Martindale's car and never alleged that it was necessary to spray mace in plaintiff's face so that he could handcuff him once he was back in the car. Given the effects of mace, which usually is blinding and incapacitating, in this instance, the district court, instead of construing the facts in a light most favorable to plaintiff, hypothesized and drew inferences in defendant's favor, inferences which contradict the account of the two witnesses and of defendant himself. We find that if the jury determines that plaintiff's version of events is true, this action would constitute excessive force as a matter of law. See McDowell v. Rogers,
Next, we must decide whether qualified immunity shields defendant from section 1983 liability.
"To successfully state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must identify a right secured by the United States Constitution and the deprivation of that right by a person acting under color of state law." Russo v. City of Cincinnati,
In Russo v. City of Cincinnati, 953 F.2d at 1043, this court indicated that when a motion for summary judgment is brought claiming qualified immunity, a plaintiff must effectively pass two hurdles. First, the allegations must state a claim of the violation of clearly established law. Second, the plaintiff must present evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue as to whether the defendant in fact committed the acts that violated the law. Both are questions of law for the court to decide.
In the present case, both the right to be free from unreasonable seizures, California v. Hodari,
It is the province of the jury, not the court, to decide on the credibility of the defendant's account of the need for force. As this court stated in Brandenburg v. Cureton,
The same is true in the present case. The legal question of immunity is completely dependent upon which view of the facts is accepted by the jury. As this court in Holt v. Artis,
As discussed previously, plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to create genuine issues in regard to whether defendant arrested plaintiff without probable cause and then used excessive force, which are both objectively unreasonable actions in light of clearly established law. A reasonable person would know that creating a pretext of a seat belt violation in order to harass the passenger of a car and refusing to allow the passenger to leave after two pat-down searches revealed no weapons would violate the right to be free from unreasonable seizures. A reasonable person would know that spraying mace on a blinded and incapacitated person sitting in a car would violate the right to be free from excessive force. Because defendant's alleged conduct would violate clearly established constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would know, and plaintiff's version of events is supported by sufficient evidence, the district court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. Hall v. Ryan,
We must finally decide whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment in regard to plaintiff's state law claims.
The Michigan Governmental Immunity Act provides that an officer and employee of a governmental agency is immune from tort liability for injuries to persons or damages to property caused by the officer while in the course of employment if the following are met:
M.C.L.A. § 691.1407(2).
In the present case, even if defendant reasonably believed he was acting in the scope of his employment when he arrested plaintiff, we believe there is a question whether defendant was grossly negligent in effecting the arrest. The district court stated that it was not convinced that defendant's actions constituted gross negligence, i.e. were "so reckless as to demonstrate a lack of concern for whether an injury results." We disagree. It is for the jury to decide whether Metiva sprayed mace in the face of a blinded and incapacitated person, and whether this was a grossly negligent action, demonstrating lack of concern for whether an injury would result. Therefore, under Michigan law, defendant does not have governmental immunity.
Defendant claims that even assuming arguendo that governmental immunity did not shield defendant from liability, plaintiff has failed to make out prima facie claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.
In order to prevail on a claim of false arrest and false imprisonment, a plaintiff must show that his arrest was not legal, i.e., without probable cause. Brewer v. Perrin,
To establish a prima facie claim of malicious prosecution under Michigan law, a plaintiff must show: (1) that a criminal prosecution was instituted against plaintiff by defendant and was terminated in plaintiff's favor; (2) absence of probable cause for the criminal proceeding; and (3) malice or a primary purpose in bringing the action other than bringing the offender to justice. Coogan v. City of Wixom,
Plaintiff contends defendant intentionally lied in his incident report in order to procure a criminal proceeding against him which defendant knew was not supported by probable cause. If substantiated, this assertion would provide the basis for a malicious prosecution. King v. Arbic,
For these reasons, the district court's grant of summary judgment in regard to plaintiff's state law claims is hereby reversed.
To conclude, the judgment of the district court is hereby REVERSED. A grant of summary judgment is not proper where, as here, issues of credibility are determinative of the case at hand.
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