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Daum v. Miller

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 9, 2018

CHRISTINA DAUM, Plaintiff,
v.
CPL. EUGENE MILLER, CPL. DICK, CPL. LAYFIELD, POLICE OFFICER LOWE, CPL. BLAKEMAN, TROOPER KESTER, CAPTAIN DIXON, DE STATE POLICE-TROOP 7, Defendants.

          Christina Daum, Holiday FL - Pro Se Plaintiff

          Michael F. McTaggart: State of Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE - attorney for defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NOREIKA U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         On August 25, 2014, Plaintiff, Christina Daum ("Plaintiff or "Ms. Daum"), filed a Complaint, pro se, against Delaware State Police Troop #7 and individual defendants, Corporal Eugene Miller, Corporal Dick, Corporal Layfield, Trooper Lowe, Corporal Blakeman, Trooper Kester, Captain Dixon and Delaware State Police Troop 7 (collectively "Defendants"), alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for actions that purportedly (D.I. 1 at 1):

deprived plaintiff of rights of handicap, race, color, sex and religion secured under the Constitution and laws of the United States, conspiring for the purpose of impeding and hindering the due course of justice with intent to deny plaintiff equal protection of law, causing physical harm by dragging plaintiff into police station while unconscious, failing to provide medical care in a timely fashion, abusing power, negligence, intentional injury, conspiring and refusing or neglecting to prevent deprivations and denials to plaintiff
* * *
[and] violated equal protection laws by their dereliction of duties, flagrant false arrests, harassment, physical abuse, emotional abuse, malicious prosecution, discrimination, slander, and blatant abuse of power.

Ms. Daum's Complaint also appears to assert state law claims for abuse of process, physical and mental abuse and intentional infliction of pain. (Id.). Presently pending before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all pending claims. (D.I. 35). The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343, and supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         No discovery has been taken in the case.[1] In support of their motion, Defendants submitted approximately 600 pages of Appendices, [2] including the applicable arrest warrants, the transcripts of Ms. Daum's preliminary hearing and trial, Ms. Daum's Plea Agreement, a declaration of Corporal Miller and car dash camera footage from Corporal Miller's police car. (D.I. 37). In addition to referencing allegations in her Complaint, Plaintiff submitted the car dash camera footage from Corporal Miller's police car (D.I. 45) as well as "Progress Notes," dated between June 22, 2011 and July 15, 2013, and letters from Richard L. Todd, Ph.D., Plaintiffs therapist (D.I. 44 at 7-13; D.I. 47).

         Plaintiff concedes that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all claims for false arrest but opposes Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to claims asserting excessive force and violation of due process and constitutional rights. (D.I. 44 at 1).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs claims arise from her interactions with Troop 7 officers on August 23, 2012 and October 1, 2012.[3] The facts are largely undisputed, but where disputes are alleged, they are noted below.

         A. August 23, 2012

         On August 23, 2012, Corporal Miller responded to a complaint "about a female removing property from a residence" at 9 Carriage Lane, Rehoboth, Delaware. (D.I. 37, A-15; A-600). When Corporal Miller arrived on the scene, Corporal Dick of the Delaware State Police was already present. (Id.). Corporal Miller observed a parked white van. (Id.). He spoke to the driver of the van, Teferi Nessibov, and observed Ms. Daum in the passenger seat of a white van. (D.I. 37, A-20; A-600). Corporal Miller spoke briefly with Ms. Daum, and she appeared to tell him that her lawyer had instructed her not to talk to him. (D.I. 37, A-600; A-603).

         Corporal Miller also spoke with Leonard Marchone and Bonnie Helder. (D.I. 37, A-600-01). Mr. Marchone, who rents the property from Ms. Helder, advised that he saw Ms. Daum carrying boxes to the white van and attempting to remove a ladder from a shed at the rear of the residence. (D.I. 37, A-20-22; A-600). The boxes contained property belonging to Mr. Marchone and Ms. Helder. (D.I. 37, A-24). The police observed damage to the lock on the shed. (D.I. 37, A-28). The police inspected the boxes and found equipment, fishing poles, golf clubs, and family pictures that belonged to Mr. Marchone, and some linens that belonged to Ms. Helder. (D.I. 37, A-28). Mr. Nessibov, the driver of the minivan, confirmed that Plaintiff had taken items from the shed and placed them in the white van and granted police access to look in the white van. (D.I. 37, A-16).

         Corporal Miller then again tried to speak to Ms. Daum. She attempted to verify the insurance on the van, but ultimately shut and locked the door of the van. (D.I. 37, A-601). Corporal Miller was "eventually able to remove [Ms.] Daum from the minivan and place[] [her] in [his] marked police car." (D.I. 37, A-601). Plaintiff alleges that she was placed in the backseat of Corporal Miller's "car for almost an hour without turning the car on or putting the air conditioner on" (D.I. 1 at 9) and that she was left in the back of the vehicle "for approximately 40-50 minutes" in 95-degree heat. (D.I. 44 at 1-2). According to Corporal Miller's dash camera (which was submitted by Defendants (D.I. 37, A-603) and by Plaintiff (D.I. 45)), however, Ms. Daum was in the vehicle for approximately 12 minutes. (D.I. 37, A-603; D.I. 45). Plaintiff also alleges that the vehicle and air conditioning were off while she was in the car. (D.I. 1 at 9). The dash camera footage, however, suggests that the car was on - as the car radio can be heard on the recording during the time Ms. Daum was in the car.[4] (D.I. 37, A-603). Finally, Plaintiff alleges that her requests for medical assistance were ignored and that she subsequently passed out due to heat. (D.I. 37, A-9; D.I. 44 at 1). The dash camera footage recorded Plaintiff shouting for Mr. Nessibov to call for medical assistance, but not when Corporal Miller approached the vehicle. (D.I. 37, A-603).

         After completing the witness interviews, Corporal Miller transported Plaintiff to Troop 7. Plaintiff alleges that she was unconscious or drifted in and out of consciousness throughout her time in the police car. (D.I. 1 at 1; D.I. 44 at 1-2). Corporal Miller stated that Ms. Daum "had her eyes closed and appeared to be breathing but sweating. (D.I. 37, A-601). He further stated that for the "short ride of a few minutes to Troop #7, [Ms.] Daum was seated upright in her seat, against the headrest and was not slumped over in any way." (Id.). Before he arrived at Troop 7, he requested assistance. (Id.). He stated that he "did see [Ms. Daum] open her eyes slightly when [they] arrived at the police Troop." (Id.).

         Corporal Oliphant assisted Corporal Miller in removing Ms. Daum from the car. (Id.). Ms. Daum alleges that she was "drag[ged] into [the] police station while unconscious." (D.I. 1 at 1). Corporal Miller attested that he attempted to move Ms. Daum's leg, and she resisted and moved her leg back, indicating to Corporal Miller that she was cognizant. (D.I. 27, A-601). Nevertheless, Trooper Miller and Corporal Oliphant together pulled Plaintiff from the vehicle and carried her under the arms as her legs dragged on the ground. (Id.). Another civilian employee then came to assist, and the three carried Ms. Daum into the Troop. (Id. at A-601-02).

         Once inside, Corporal Oliphant attempted to rouse Ms. Daum with smelling salts. (D.I. 37, A-602). Paramedics were called, and they transported her to Beebe Medical Center. (Id.). Sternum rubs were administered by both the paramedics and the Emergency Room doctor. (Id.). Ms. Daum was treated and released that same day. (D.I. 37, A-602).

         Trooper Miller obtained an arrest warrant based on his investigation and Ms. Daum was indicted on six charges . (D.I. 37, A-12). On March 25, 2013, she pleaded guilty to Criminal Trespass First Degree and Disorderly Conduct in connection with the August 23, 2012 incident. (D.I. 37, A-127).

         B. October 1, 2012

         According to Plaintiffs Complaint and notes from her therapist, Dr. Todd, at some time prior to 12:45 p.m. on October 1, 2012, Ms. Daum was told by a police officer that she was going to be arrested. (D.I. 1 at 1; D.I. 44 at 7). On October 1, 2012 at 7:20 p.m., Ms. Daum called 911 to report terroristic threatening. She testified that she was on the phone with the Dispatch Center for approximately 10 minutes. (D.I. 37, A-263). After being dispatched at 7:28 p.m., Trooper Lowe and Corporal Blakeman responded to the scene at approximately 7:34 p.m. and entered Ms. Daum's residence. (D.I. 37, A-264). The officers spoke with Ms. Daum and she related several landlord-tenant matters. The officers advised her that these were civil matters, outside of their jurisdiction, and would not be discussed. (D.I. 37, A-233). Ms. Daum then asserted that she had been threatened by "one or both of her tenants." (D.I. 37, A-284-85).

         Ms. Daum raised issues about recording the ongoing events and discussed calling 911 to do so. (D.I. 37, A-237-38). The officers advised Plaintiff that the motor vehicle recorder ("MVR") was recording everything. (Id.). Coiporal Blakeman further told Plaintiff that she cannot abuse 911 by calling for non-emergency reasons and if she calls while the officers are on the scene, she would be arrested. (D.I. 37, A-237-239). Corporal Layfield then arrived and entered the residence, while Corporal Blakeman stepped outside to call the Dispatch Center to determine if threats had been heard during Plaintiffs initial 911 call. (D.I. 37, A-286).

         Shortly thereafter, the officers left Plaintiffs residence to confirm the statements that Plaintiff had made and talk to tenants. (D.I. 37, A-286-287). Trooper Lowe testified that Plaintiff started shouting in the parking lot causing a scene before eventually returning inside and calling 911. (D.I. 37, A-307). Plaintiff admitted that she shouted to a neighbor as well as called 911. (D.I. 37, A-443-44). After being advised of this call by the Dispatch Center, Corporal Blakeman told Trooper Lowe to arrest Plaintiff as she had been warned she would be arrested for abusing 911 if she called again for non-emergency reasons. (D.I. 37, A-237-39; A-288).

         Trooper Lowe asked Ms. Daum to open the door and advised that she was under arrest for misusing 911. (D.I. 37, A-288). Plaintiff asked Trooper Lowe if she was being arrested for calling 911, and then asked him wait a minute and closed the door when he replied yes. (D.I. 37, A-330-31). Trooper Lowe attempted to open the door, but it was secured by a chain. (D.I. 37, A-288). Through the opening, Trooper Lowe could see Plaintiffs walking away, toward the back of the apartment. (D.I. 37, A-289). After again asking Plaintiff to open the door and not receiving a response, Trooper Lowe forced the door open and saw Plaintiff "walking with a cane at a rapid pace toward the back of the residence." (D.I. 37, A-289). Trooper Lowe asked Plaintiff to stop, and when she did not, Trooper Lowe, joined by Corporal Kester grabbed her and attempted to handcuff her. (D.I. 37, A-289). Plaintiff refused to put her arms behind her back and screamed at the officers. (D.I. 37, A-290). She was told to stop repeatedly but did not and was eventually tackled to the ground. (D.I. 37, A-290-296). Corporal Blakeman entered the residence through the back door and saw Plaintiff on the ground being handcuffed. (D.I. 37, A-240).

         Trooper Lowe obtained an arrest warrant (D.I. 37, A-307) and Ms. Daum was indicted on four charges. (D.I. 37, A-122-26). On July 16, 2013, a jury trial was held in the Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiff was found guilty of Resisting Arrest and Malicious Interference with Emergency Communications and was acquitted of Disorderly Conduct. (D.I. 37, A-574).

         C. Miscellaneous

         In addition to the events laid out above, Plaintiff complains of generalized conduct listed in her Complaint without corroborating dates or names. The conduct includes filing charges which were later dropped, giving out of personal information, failing to file police reports when requested, and lack of oversight or remediation for abusive behavior. (D.I. 1). Plaintiff also discusses non-parties' conduct at length, such as her issues with Mr. Marchone and a 2012 offensive touching case. (Id.).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 586 n. 10 (1986). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (emphasis in original). The Court will "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., J«c., 530U.S. ...


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