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Alabi-Shonde v. Patterson

United States District Court, D. Delaware

February 6, 2014

KUNBI ALABI-SHONDE, as natural guardian of O.S., a Minor, and L.S., a Minor, Plaintiffs,
v.
MATTHEW PATTERSON, Individually and in his official capacity of Security Guard, DAVID JIMINEZ, Individually and in his Official capacity of Security Guard IPC INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, GENERAL GROWTH PROPERTIES, INC., CHRISTIANA MALL HOLDINGS, LLC, CHRISTIANA MALL, LLC, Cpl. Amber Smith, in her individual capacity as an officer of the DELAWARE STATE POLICE, and corp. Raymond Shatley, in his individual capacity as an officer of the DELAWARE STATE POLICE, Defendants.

Stephen Price Norman, Esq. and Daniel C. Herr, Esq., of THE NORMAN LAW FIRM, Wilmington, DE. Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

William A. Crawford, Esq., of Franklin & Prokopik, Wilmington, DE. Attorneys for Defendants David Jiminez, Matthew Patterson, IPC International Corporation, General Growth Properties, Inc., Christiana Mall Holding, LLC and Christiana Mall, LLC.

Michael F. McTaggart, Esq., of the State of Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE. Attorney for Defendants Cpl. Amber Smith and Cpl. Raymond Shatley.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kunbi Alabi-Shonde, as mother and natural guardian of minor plaintiffs O.S. and I.S. (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), filed this action against several defendants, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and various state tort laws.[1] The Court has original subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 over Plaintiffs' claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Presently before the Court are two defense motions for summary judgment: (i) the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the State Defendants Shatley and Smith (the "Shatley/Smith Motion") (D.I. 95); and (ii) the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Counts I and IV of the Complaint, filed by Mall Defendants Patterson and Jiminez (the "Patterson/Jiminez Motion") (D.I. 98), both of which are opposed by Plaintiffs. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant both motions.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[2]

The Complaint asserts two causes of action against the State Defendants Shatley and Smith: (i) Unlawful Detention, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I), against both State Defendants; and (ii) Excessive Force, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II), against defendant Shatley. Plaintiffs also assert claims against Mall Defendants Patterson and Jiminez: (i) Unlawful Detention, in violation of 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 (Count I), against both Mall Defendants; and (ii) False Imprisonment (Count IV), also against both Mall Defendants.

Following discovery, the State Defendants and Mall Defendants moved for summary judgment. (D.I. 95; D.I. 98) The Court heard oral argument on the motions on June 19, 2013. ( See Transcript of June 19, 2013 hearing ("Tr."))

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' claims arise from a series of incidents at the Christiana Mall ("the Mall") on December 15 and 16, 2010. Plaintiffs allege in their Complaint that minors I.S. and O.S., respectively a fifteen and thirteen year-old African American male, were wrongfully stopped, handcuffed, and detained by Patterson and Jiminez, public safety officers with IPC, while on Mall premises at approximately 6:30 a.m. on December 16, 2010. ( See, e.g., D.I. 35 at ¶¶ 16, 18-20, Counts I & IV) Plaintiffs further allege that I.S. and O.S. were then wrongfully handcuffed and transported from the Mall to the police station by Delaware State Police officers, where they were further detained and unlawfully and forcibly restrained. ( See, e.g., id at ¶¶ 33, 35, Counts I & II)

The Mall usually opens between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. (Patterson Depo. at 32, A-82) People are allowed into the Mall to exercise during the hours before the Mall stores open. (Patterson Depo. at 33-34, A-83) Individuals riding a bus, which stops at the Mall, are not permitted to come into the Mall. (Jiminez Depo. at 84, A-117) When people are allowed in to exercise or "walk the mall, " there are signs at each door prohibiting conduct or "[a]ny activity that would be inconsistent with the general purpose of the mall." (Patterson Depo. at 32-35, A-83)

On November 4, 2010, a cell phone was stolen from the AT&T kiosk in the Mall. (Patterson Depo. at 42-43, A-85) The theft occurred prior to the Mall's opening. (Patterson Depo. at 41, A-85) Mall video of the incident showed a young black male moving around the kiosk, reaching inside, and then hiding from a patrol officer before fleeing the property. (Patterson Depo. at 40-45, A-85)

On December 15, 2010, Patterson learned that a cell phone had been stolen from a customer in the Mall. (Patterson Depo. at 45, A-86) A review of surveillance footage revealed three young males inside the Mall between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. (Patterson Depo. at 47, A-86) The youths were observed lifting up tarps on kiosks, taking sugar packets from behind counters, and moving the covers over kiosks. (Patterson Depo. at 47, A-86)

Also on December 15, 2010, Smith responded to a theft complaint at the Mall. (Smith Depo. at 24, A-6) Smith made contact with Mall security personnel, who escorted her to the victim, who was in the food court area of the Mall. (Smith Depo. at 27, A-7) The victim reported that, upon her return from a walk in the Mall, she reached into her pocket and noticed that her cell phone and a pair of black gloves were missing. (Smith Depo. at 29, A-8) After speaking to the victim, Smith contacted Mall security and viewed the surveillance tape from earlier that morning; the tape showed a male walking in between tables in the food court and reaching into a jacket pocket that was hanging over the back of a chair. (Smith Depo. at 30-31, A-8)

On December 16, 2010, Patterson and Jiminez saw the three boys from the previous day again arrive together at the Mall. (Patterson Depo. at 51, A-87) They watched the three boys walk together from the "park and ride" into the Mall - "joking, talking with each other [and] pushing." (Patterson Depo. at 51, A-87) Patterson and Jiminez went into the Mall to speak with the boys about having allegedly violated the Mall Code of Conduct the previous day by stealing sugar packets. (Patterson Depo. at 53, A-88) Patterson and Jiminez observed two boys, later identified as O.S. and I.S., separate once they were in the Mall. (Patterson Depo. at 53, A-88) One boy appeared to be acting as a lookout for the other, as he seemed to be paying a lot of attention to the hallways and seemed to have no other reason for where he was stationed. (Patterson Depo. at ...


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