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Lori M. Kreider v. Detective Roland W. Breault

January 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yohn, J.


Plaintiff, Lori M. Kreider, brings this action against the United States of America, Detective Roland W. Breault (collectively, the "federal defendants"), and the City of Lancaster, alleging a constitutional violation and common-law tort claims. Currently before the court is the federal defendants' motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant in part and deny in part the federal defendants' motion.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History*fn1

A. Factual Background

This dispute arises out of the execution of an arrest warrant for Kyjaun Shivers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on May 6, 2007. (Fed. Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Statement") ¶ 3; Answer and Objections of Pl. to Defs.' Statement ("Pl.'s Objections") ¶ 3.) During the course of Shivers's arrest, plaintiff was arrested for hindering apprehension and for obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function. (Id.) She claims that Detective Roland W. Breault ("Detective Breault") used excessive force in effectuating her arrest.

On the evening of May 6, 2007, a joint fugitive-apprehension task force composed of law-enforcement officers from the United States Marshals Service, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania State Parole Board, the Lancaster County Sheriff's Department, and the Lancaster City Bureau of Police (the "task force") was briefed by State Parole Agent Damien Mscisz ("Agent Mscisz") as to the whereabouts of parole absconder Kyjaun Shivers. (Mot. of Fed. Defs. for Summ. J. Ex. 1 ("Criminal Compl.") at 3.)*fn2 The task force included Detective Breault, a police officer with the Lancaster City Bureau of Police who had been specially deputized by the United States Marshals Service. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 2; Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts Contra Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Statement") ¶ 3.) Agent Mscisz informed the task force that Shivers was wanted on felony robbery charges and a Pennsylvania state parole violation. (Criminal Compl. at 1.) He also advised them that Shivers often stayed with the plaintiff at 806 Highland Avenue in Lancaster, Pennsylvania ("the Residence").*fn3 (Id. at 3.) Later that evening, members of the task force confirmed Shivers's presence at the Residence when he was observed looking out of an upstairs window. (Id.) The task force began attempting to contact the occupants of the Residence around 11:15 p.m. in order to execute the warrant for Shivers's arrest. (Id.; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff, her mother, and Shivers (collectively, the "occupants") were watching television upstairs when members of the task force first rang the doorbell of the Residence. (Compl. ¶ 10; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 7.) Plaintiff looked out the window, but seeing nothing, decided to ignore the doorbell given the late hour. (Compl. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 8.) The task-force officers continued ringing the doorbell, and their pounding on the door grew louder and louder. (Compl. ¶ 12;

Defs.' Statement ¶ 15; Pl.'s Objections ¶ 15; Criminal Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff's mother, the owner of the Residence, directed plaintiff and Shivers not to answer the door. (Compl. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 8.) The occupants continued to ignore the ringing doorbell and pounding at the door for twenty to thirty minutes. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 15, Pl.'s Objections ¶ 15; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 10.) During this time, a marked police van pulled up outside the Residence and an amplified voice began announcing, "806 Highland Avenue come out. Exit the residence." (Compl. ¶ 14; Criminal Compl. at 3.)

Eventually the plaintiff decided to open the front door and was descending the staircase from the second floor to the first when members of the task force burst through the door using a battering ram. (Compl. ¶ 15; Criminal Compl. at 3.) When the task-force officers encountered plaintiff upon entering the Residence, she was standing on the fourth or fifth step up from the bottom of the staircase. (Aff. of Pl. Supplementing Compl. and Answers to Interrogs. ("Pl.'s Aff.") ¶¶ 5-6.) According to plaintiff, Shivers and her mother were standing at the top of the staircase, approximately eight steps above her, in clear view of the officers entering through the doorway. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶¶ 6-8.)

The evidence proffered by the plaintiff and the federal defendants support competing accounts of what occurred next. I must accept plaintiff's version for the purposes of this motion. According to plaintiff, men dressed in black and holding guns appeared and ordered her to "freeze and get your hands up," and she complied. (Compl. ¶ 15; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 9.) At the time, plaintiff did not know that these individuals were police officers because they did not identify themselves, and the word "police" did not appear on their clothing. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Nevertheless, she did not resist, did not attempt to flee, was visibly unarmed, and presented no threat to the officers. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 10.) Although plaintiff was standing "frozen" with her hands up, Detective Breault grabbed her and dragged her down four or five steps and off of the staircase. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Detective Breault screamed at plaintiff, demanding, "Where is your boyfriend?" (Compl. ¶ 16;

Pl.'s Statement ¶ 19), to which she responded, "Who? I don't have one." (Compl. ¶ 16; Defs.' Statement ¶ 24). He then grabbed her and pushed a piece of paper in her face. (Compl. ¶ 16; Defs.' Statement ¶ 24.)

Next, Detective Breault flung plaintiff face first into her mother's couch and pressed the back of her neck, forcing her face into the cushion and making it difficult for her to breathe. (Compl.¶ 17; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff felt as though she was suffocating, and believed that Detective Breault was attempting to kill her. (Id.) Despite the protests of plaintiff's mother and Shivers, Detective Breault continued to hold plaintiff's head down. (Id.) Plaintiff was lying prone when Detective Breault proceeded to pull her right leg behind her, jamming it into her back with such force that her heel reached all the way up to her shoulder blades. (Compl. ¶ 17; Pl.'s Aff.

¶ 13.) This caused her to cry out in pain. (Compl. ¶ 17; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 14.) Keeping plaintiff's leg pulled up behind her back by pressing his own leg against her leg, Detective Breault then grabbed plaintiff's arms, pulling them backward. (Compl. ¶ 18; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 14.) As plaintiff describes it, her arms were pulled so far behind her back and her right leg was pushed so far up her back that her arms actually met her foot. (Compl. ¶ 18; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 14.) Detective Breault then placed handcuffs on plaintiff while keeping her right leg "smashed into her back." (Compl. ¶ 19; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff's buttocks and breasts were exposed throughout the incident as the small sundress she was wearing lifted up. (Compl. ¶ 18.)

Plaintiff was charged with hindering apprehension and obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function. (Compl. ¶ 19; Criminal Compl. at 1-2.) She was transported to the police station for processing. (Compl. ¶ 19; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 17.) Once there, the officer taking her picture asked her to raise her leg so that he or she could photograph her leg tattoo. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff states that she told the officer that she could not lift her leg because her leg "had been twisted around her back" and she was in excruciating pain. (Id.) Ultimately, plaintiff ...

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