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Grady v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 26, 2015



GENE E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge

Raymond Grady’s First Amended Complaint (Docket No. 13) alleges that the United States is liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., for false arrest/false imprisonment and assault and battery. More specifically, Mr. Grady alleges that he was wrongfully handcuffed and physically detained without probable cause by Deputy U.S. Marshal John Doe 1, [1]and that he suffered injuries as a result. The United States moves for summary judgment on Counts I and II, arguing that the Deputy Doe 1’s actions were supported by probable cause, privileged, and otherwise objectively reasonable. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion.

I. Factual Background[2]

On January 15, 2013, the Eastern Pennsylvania Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force in Philadelphia received a request from North Carolina authorities for help in apprehending a fugitive who was believed to reside at an address on the 1200 block of South Dover Street in Philadelphia. The request was accompanied by a “collateral lead, ” which was given to Deputy U.S. Marshal John Doe 2. The collateral lead included the fugitive’s name, date of birth, social security number, and address, as well as information regarding the fugitive’s wife, Facebook page, and alleged offense (in this case, indecent liberties with a child). Also included in the collateral lead were photographs of the fugitive and links to a YouTube video in which the fugitive can be seen and heard preaching for more than ten minutes. In the course of his preliminary investigation, Deputy Doe 2 also obtained other pieces of information about the fugitive, including the fugitive’s driver’s license photograph.[3]Later that day, Deputy Doe 2 invited Deputy Doe 1 to help him arrest the fugitive. They agreed to meet the next morning near 1200 South Dover Street.

Between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on the morning of January 16, 2013, Deputy Doe 1 arrived in plain clothes near 1200 South Dover Street to search for and arrest the fugitive, but Deputy Doe 2 was running late. Deputy Doe 1 had received a general description of the fugitive as “a black male, approximately six-feet tall, one-hundred and eighty pounds, thirty years old and typically nicely dressed.” (Pl.’s Ex. 4 at 2).[4] Deputy Doe 1 also received a copy of the fugitive’s driver’s license photograph from 2010, in which the fugitive had a black mustache and goatee.

After arriving on location, Deputy Doe 1 observed Mr. Grady walking north on 28th Street from Wharton Street to a bus stop on Grays Ferry Avenue, a few blocks away from South Dover Street.[5] Mr. Grady is slightly over six-feet tall and, on January 16, 2013, was 28 years old, weighed 160 pounds, and wore facial hair in the form of a close-cut mustache and goatee. Deputy Doe 1 claims that Mr. Grady’s clothing appeared to be high-quality and expensive. Mr. Grady testified that his whole outfit cost $180, and he argues that he did not look like the fugitive because his facial hair, facial bone structure, and eyebrows appeared different than the fugitive’s.

Deputy Doe 1 encountered Mr. Grady within a few seconds of his arrival at the bus stop. Deputy Doe 1 identified himself as a U.S. Marshal, showed Mr. Grady his badge and (holstered) service weapon, and asked Mr. Grady to show him identification. Mr. Grady did not comply with Deputy Doe 1’s request. Mr. Grady testified that he was not sure that Deputy Doe 1 was indeed a U.S. Marshal, so he announced his intention to call 911 to verify Deputy Doe 1’s status as a law enforcement officer. Mr. Grady backed away from Deputy Doe 1, and put his cell phone to his ear. Deputy Doe 1 tried to knock Mr. Grady’s phone out of his hand, and Mr. Grady backed into the street. Deputy Doe 1 grabbed Mr. Grady’s arm and pulled him back onto the sidewalk. Deputy Doe 1 twisted Mr. Grady’s arm behind his back and Mr. Grady slipped and fell in the mud. Deputy Doe 1 pinned Mr. Grady on the ground and pushed him into a nearby chain link fence. Deputy Doe 1 handcuffed Mr. Grady and Mr. Grady remained kneeling until police arrived. Deputy Doe 1 had no backup on the scene and was not in a position to receive assistance from any other officer as he attempted to restrain and handcuff Mr. Grady.

As a result of the encounter, Mr. Grady suffered apparently minor physical injuries. He first went to the hospital the day after the incident, where he was diagnosed with bruising, cuts, and pain, for which he was prescribed ibuprofen. He took no pain medication after February 1, 2013, received no further treatment for his injuries, and reported having no pain six weeks after the incident.

II. Legal Standard

A court shall grant a motion for summary judgment “if 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). An issue is “genuine” if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A factual dispute is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Under Rule 56, the Court must view the evidence presented on the motion in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, “[u]nsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions are insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment.” Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev. Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 252 (3d Cir. 2010).

The movant bears the initial responsibility for informing the court of the basis for the motion for summary judgment and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue, the moving party’s initial burden can be met simply by “pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” Id. at 325. After the moving party has met the initial burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuinely disputed factual issue for trial by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual 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.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

III. Discussion

The FTCA provides that the United States “shall be liable . . . in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances . . ., ” 28 U.S.C. § 2674, and that the district courts “have exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages . . . for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred, ” id. § 1346(b)(1). The parties agree that the actions of Deputy Doe 1 and Deputy Doe 2 took place in Pennsylvania, so the Court will apply Pennsylvania law.

The First Amended Complaint makes two claims against the United States: one for false arrest/false imprisonment[6] and another for assault and battery. The United ...

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