MICHAEL W. ROGERS, Plaintiff-Below, Appellant,
MATTHEW MORGAN et al., Defendants-Below, Appellees.
Submitted: February 6, 2019
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Case No.
appeal from the Superior Court. AFFIRMED.
Stephen P. Norman, Esquire, The Norman Law Firm, Dagsboro,
Delaware for Appellant.
Michael F. McTaggart, Esquire, Carla A.K. Jarosz, Esquire,
Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellees.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and SEITZ, Justices.
Rogers appeals an order of the Superior Court granting
summary judgment in favor of Defendants-Below, Corporal
Matthew Morgan, the State of Delaware, and the Department of
Public Safety Division of State Police, holding that
Michael's invasion of privacy claims against them were
barred by collateral estoppel. This case arises from an August
1, 2013, hit-and-run investigation that escalated into an
officer-involved shooting. Corporal Morgan, a Delaware State
Trooper, responded to a hit-and-run call and ran the license
plate of the offending vehicle, which belonged to Michael.
Corporal Morgan then traveled to Michael's home, where
Michael's elderly mother, Lorraine Rogers, answered the
door. Ms. Rogers, who lives with Michael, invited Corporal
Morgan into the home as she went to wake Michael, who was
heavily inebriated and asleep in his bedroom. When Michael
refused to step outside to investigate damage to his vehicle,
Corporal Morgan gripped Michael's arm to lead him
outside. Michael immediately began fighting Corporal Morgan,
who ended the fight by shooting Michael.
State then charged Michael with resisting arrest and several
counts of assault. At the first criminal trial, Michael filed
a motion to suppress evidence resulting from Corporal
Morgan's entrance into the home, which Michael claimed
was a warrantless search without valid consent in violation
of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and
Article 1, Section 6 of the Delaware Constitution. The court
denied Michael's motion to suppress, finding that Ms.
Rogers had invited Corporal Morgan into the home and that
neither she nor Michael had revoked that consent. The jury
was unable to reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial. The
State re-indicted Michael on counts of Assault Second Degree
and Resisting Arrest. Michael pled nolo contendere
to the Resisting Arrest charge, and the State dropped the
assault charges. Michael's plea resulted in his
conviction for one count of resisting arrest with force or
violence. He was sentenced to a period of incarceration
followed by probation.
29, 2015, Michael filed this civil action in Superior Court
alleging federal and state invasion of privacy claims, among
other counts. Corporal Morgan moved for summary judgment on
the grounds that collateral estoppel bars Michael's
invasion of privacy claims, since the judge in the criminal
trial had found that Corporal Morgan had permission to be in
the home when the altercation ensued. The Superior Court
granted Corporal Morgan's motion, and the jury later
returned a verdict in his favor on the remaining claims.
contends on appeal that collateral estoppel does not apply
for four reasons: (1) the trial court only addressed the
issue of Corporal Morgan's initial consent to be in the
home, which is separate from the issue of whether Michael
later revoked that consent; (2) the findings of fact
regarding consent were not determined by a final judgment in
the criminal trial because the gap between his trials moots
the denial of his motion to suppress evidence in the first
trial; (3) the findings of fact concerning consent are not
essential to the no-contest plea to resisting arrest; and (4)
it is inequitable to apply collateral estoppel here in view
of Corporal Morgan's allegedly inconsistent testimony in
his civil trial deposition.
Morgan argues that the Superior Court's application of
collateral estoppel was correct, but he also argues, in the
alternative, that Michael has failed to establish a viable
claim for invasion of privacy under federal or state law.
Michael contends that Corporal Morgan did not fairly raise
his alternative argument below, and that, in any event, it is
conclude that the Superior Court correctly held that
collateral estoppel bars Michael's invasion of privacy
claims. Therefore, we AFFIRM the Superior Court's
November 9, 2017, decision.
night of August 1, 2013, Corporal Morgan responded to a
hit-and-run at the Riverside Bar & Grill. After speaking
to witnesses on the scene and determining that the other
vehicle in the accident belonged to Michael, Corporal Morgan
traveled to Michael's residence in Georgetown. Around
10:03 p.m., Corporal Morgan knocked on the front door, and
Ms. Rogers answered. Corporal Morgan informed her that he
wanted to speak with Michael. Ms. Rogers replied that Michael
was asleep in his room, but said she would wake him. Corporal
Morgan alleges that Ms. Rogers then invited him into the
house, which Michael and his mother deny. Corporal Morgan did
not have a warrant. Ms. Rogers left the front door open when
she walked to her son's room, and Corporal Morgan stepped
Ms. Rogers woke Michael, he emerged from his room wearing
little clothing, so Corporal Morgan asked him to get dressed.
Michael returned about a minute later fully clothed, smelling
of alcohol, and appearing confused. Because of Michael's
disheveled and confused state, Corporal Morgan asked Ms.
Rogers if he had any mental problems. She said he did not.
When Corporal Morgan told Michael that he was there to
investigate a hit-and-run, Michael stated that he needed to
get his insurance card from his bedroom, and told Corporal
Morgan that the accident was a "private
matter." For his personal safety, Corporal Morgan
followed Michael to his bedroom without Michael's express
they reached the bedroom, Michael began walking in circles
and "talking gibberish." Corporal Morgan asked
Michael two or three times to go outside to finish the
accident report, which Michael ignored or responded to by
saying "no." Corporal Morgan then grabbed Michael
by his left triceps to guide him outside. At that point,
Michael threw Corporal Morgan onto the bed, where the two
began hitting each other. Eventually Corporal Morgan
separated himself from Michael and ran to the bedroom
doorway, where he drew his Taser and ordered Michael to stop.
When Michael charged at him, Corporal Morgan fired his Taser
and missed. Corporal Morgan retreated toward the entrance of
the house, at which point he alleges that Michael picked up a
large coffee table and charged at him. Corporal Morgan shot
Michael until he stopped advancing. Michael, however, alleges
that he did not charge Corporal Morgan with the table, that
Corporal Morgan shot at him when he was posing no threat, and
that he only pulled the table over himself after Corporal
Morgan finished firing.
State charged Michael with three counts of assault and one
count of resisting arrest. In his initial criminal trial,
Michael moved to suppress evidence resulting from Corporal
Morgan's allegedly illegal presence in the home and
bedroom. The trial court denied his motion because it found
that Ms. Rogers had consented to Corporal Morgan's
entering the house and that neither she nor Michael had
revoked that consent. Michael's trial ended in a hung
jury, but the State re-indicted him on charges of Assault
Second Degree and Resisting Arrest. Michael pled nolo
contendere to the resisting arrest charge, and the State
dismissed the assault charge. He did not appeal any issue in
the criminal proceedings.
29, 2015, Michael filed this civil action in Superior Court
for claims of invasion of privacy under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and under Delaware law.
Michael asserts that during his deposition in the civil case,
Corporal Morgan contradicted certain factual findings in the
motion to suppress hearing concerning Corporal Morgan's
permission to be in the home. Michael argues that this
inconsistency renders the collateral estoppel doctrine
April 24, 2017, Corporal Morgan filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment, arguing that collateral estoppel barred
Michael's invasion of privacy claims. On November 9,
2017, the trial court held that collateral estoppel barred
these claims because the parties had litigated "the
exact same issue of consent," and "all the elements
of collateral estoppel are present in this case . . .
." After a five-day trial in July 2018, the
jury found in favor of Corporal Morgan on all remaining
counts. Michael filed his notice of appeal on July 20, 2018.
review a trial court's application of collateral estoppel
doctrine of collateral estoppel "precludes a party from
relitigating a fact issue that has previously been litigated
and decided in a prior action involving that
party."Generally, collateral estoppel applies to
Section 1983 claims previously decided in state court
proceedings. "A claim will be collaterally
estopped only if the same [factual] issue was presented in
both cases, the issue was litigated and decided in the first
suit, and the determination was essential to the prior
judgment." Michael argues that the factual issues
decided in the suppression hearing were different, that there
was no final judgment, and that the findings were not
essential to his no-contest plea. We agree with the Superior
Court that collateral estoppel bars the issues of consent
raised in the motion to suppress hearing.
Were the Consent Issues in the Motion to Suppress Hearing
Identical to the Issues in the Summary Judgment Stage in the
appeal, Michael contends that at the suppression hearing in
the criminal trial, the court determined only the initial
factual question of whether Ms. Rogers consented to Corporal
Morgan's entry into the home-not whether Michael later
revoked that consent. He further argues that the court's
discussion of his revocation of consent was
"nonexistent." The Superior Court rejected
Michael's argument in the civil trial, holding that
Michael "presented the exact same issue of
assertion that the court's discussion of revocation was
"nonexistent" is incorrect. The judge in the
criminal trial was "satisfied that the officer was
legally in the house, that he did not need a warrant, that he
was invited in, and there was a voluntary, intelligent and
knowing consent by [Ms. Rogers] in letting [Corporal Morgan]
in." But the court also addressed
Michael's alleged revocation of consent, stating:
I do not think [Corporal Morgan] has invaded any greater, or
breached any greater right. The door is open. He did not shut
the door on [Corporal Morgan]. There is nothing that says
that at that point in time Mr. Rogers says leave my house, I
don't want to talk to you or anything of that
upon our review of the record, the court adequately
considered the revocation issue in denying the motion to
also contends that, if Corporal Morgan's change in
testimony regarding Michael's behavior had been presented
to the court in the criminal trial, the judge would have
reached the question of revocation and would have been
required to reach a different conclusion. Michael relies on
several portions of Corporal Morgan's civil deposition
testimony. For example, in that deposition, Corporal Morgan
testified as follows concerning the events immediately
preceding the altercation:
A [Corporal Morgan]: I believe I asked him two or three
times, we have to go outside, I need to finish this accident
A: And he just kept ignoring me.
Q: And he - he ignored you or did he say no?
A: I believe, no.
Q: He said, no -
Q: --I'm not going outside ...