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Jones v. Lacey

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 5, 2015

DAVID LACEY, in his official and individual capacities, and CITY OF DEARBORN, a Michigan municipality, Defendants.


LAURIE J. MICHELSON, District Judge.

This lawsuit arose from a traffic stop in Dearborn, Michigan. Defendant Dearborn Police Officer David Lacey stopped a car for a broken taillight. The encounter was recorded by the Officer's dash cam video. Plaintiff Shalandra Jones was a passenger in the car and her now-husband Mark Scott was driving. On approach, Lacey smelled marijuana. Jones took responsibility for the marijuana and presented an expired Michigan medical marijuana license. For a few minutes, it seemed that Lacey would allow the two to leave without any penalty. But as Lacey searched Jones' purse, she revealed that she was HIV-positive. This upset Lacey and he made several statements admonishing Jones for not telling him earlier. He issued a citation to Jones for the marijuana and Scott for the taillight while stating, "Honestly, if it wasn't for [Jones' failure to inform him of her HIV status], I don't think I would have wrote anybody for anything...." A reporter, with Jones' permission, obtained the dashcam video of the incident, and the video, which includes Lacey's statement, was eventually posted on YouTube.

Based on this incident and the Dearborn Police Department's alleged failure to train its officers in interacting with individuals with HIV/AIDS, Jones filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Michigan privacy law. She alleges that Lacey violated her constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, her rights under the ADA, and her Michigan statutory right to privacy in her HIV status. Against the City of Dearborn, she asserts a Monell failure-to-train claim. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims on January 16, 2015. The Motion is fully briefed, the Court heard oral argument on May 7, and the matter is now ready for disposition.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 26.)


Because this is Defendants' motion, the Court views the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to Jones. There is a dascam video of the incident in question, but only the video transcript is part of the record. Neither side disputes the accuracy of the transcript.

A. Jones' Background

Jones was diagnosed with HIV in 2001. (Dkt. 26-10, Jones Dep. at 28.) She testified that people in her neighborhood discovered her status through a friend of her mother's and started treating her differently. (Id. at 33-34.) Her children were being teased in school. (Id. at 35.) She found out that some people were making untrue statements about her lifestyle and the manner in which she contracted HIV. (Id. at 34.) Upset, Jones "made a flyer with [her] picture on it.... [and] a small bio" and "plastered it on every gas station, liquor store, and [she] invit[ed] people to come out to hear how [she] contracted the virus." (Id. at 34.) Ultimately, "200 people came out to hear [Jones'] story." (Id. at 35.) Jones commented in her deposition that "[i]t's hard listening to what people say. Everybody's not a drug addict. Everybody's not a prostitute. People don't contract HIV always by having sex. So I took a stand for myself. And so that - that is how the community found out where I live. That I was HIV positive." (Id. at 35-36.)

After her community talk, Jones was offered a position at Voices of Detroit Initiative, where she continues to work. (Id. at 35.) Voices of Detroit is a nonprofit healthcare-related organization supported by the Southeastern Michigan Health Association. (Id. at 16.) Jones' HIV status is now "undetectable, " meaning that the virus is "sort of like in remission." (Id. at 36.) Jones continues to see a physician every six months. (Id. at 36.) Her treatment regime consists of Atripla once a day and a medical marijuana prescription. (Id. at 28, 32.)

B. The Traffic Stop

The incident at issue in this case occurred on August 3, 2012. (Dkt. 26-13, Police Report.) Jones and her boyfriend (now husband) Mark Scott were driving in Dearborn in a 1999 GMC Jimmy. (Id. ) Lacey was patrolling the area and noticed that the vehicle's left brake light was out and so he decided to stop the car. (Dkt. 26-12, Video Tr. at 7.)

On approaching the vehicle, Lacey noticed a "strong" smell of marijuana. (Video Tr. at 8.) Lacey questioned Scott and Jones about the marijuana, and Scott replied that there "might be something in here" but that the two had not been smoking. (Id. at 3.) Scott admitted that he did not have a driver's license on him and that there was "possibly" a warrant for his arrest for an outstanding traffic ticket. (Id. at 2.) Lacey stated: "To tell you the truth, I'm not worried about a little bag of weed or something like that.... A dime bag I'm not really worried about." (Id. at 3.) Jones responded that there was a bag of marijuana in the car but no other contraband (Jones confirmed that there was marijuana in the car at her deposition (Jones Dep. at 36)). (Video Tr. at 3.) Jones retrieved the bag of marijuana from the car door and Lacey continued to question the two regarding the contents of the vehicle. (Id. at 5.)

Lacey asked Scott, who was behind the wheel, to step out of the car. (Video Tr. at 6.) Lacey asked Jones if she had a driver's license, she responded that she did. (Id. at 5.) As Lacey continued to question the two, he commented "I'll try to make this quick.... just as long as everything else is straight and there's nothing else in the car.... she can drive and you can go on your merry way." (Id. at 5-6.)

Lacey then asked Scott to sit in his police car while Lacey returned to the Jimmy to "check everything out." (Id. at 6.) In the car, Lacey asked Scott about his warrants and criminal history. (Id. at 8-9.) Lacey made several comments to Scott regarding the marijuana while Scott was sitting in the car: "[T]hat's some strong shit right there" and "Wherever you got that from is a good spot." (Id. at 8.) Before returning to the Jimmy, Lacey said to Scott "As soon as - as long as everything's straight, we'll get you out of here in just a second." (Id. at 11.)

Upon his return to the vehicle, Lacey said to Jones: "Ma'am, why don't you step on out here for a second. Make sure everything is straight in here, like I said. When everything is good, we'll have you drive and get everybody out of here. Okay?" (Video Tr. at 11-12.) Lacey asked Jones if she had "anything that's going to poke me or stab me on [her] person" but it is unclear whether Jones responded. (Id. at 12.) At this point, Jones admitted that the marijuana was hers. (Id. at 12.)

As Lacey was searching Jones' effects (it appears from a later portion of the transcript that he was looking in her purse), he came across some medications and asked Jones what they were. (Video Tr. at 12, 14.) Jones responded: "I'm HIV positive." (Id. at 12.) Lacey replied: "Okay. That's probably something to tell me when you get out of the car. Okay? If you ever get pulled out for any reason, you want to tell us. Okay?... Because I want to make sure I put gloves on and all that stuff." (Id. at 12.)

Apparently speaking to both Jones and Scott at once (it is unclear from the transcript whether Scott was still in the police car at this point), Lacey asked, "Whose weed is that?" (Video Tr. at 13.) Scott responded that there was a "marijuana card" and Jones said that it was hers. (Id. at 13.) But Jones said that the medical marijuana card was expired. (Id. at 13.) She confirmed this at her deposition. (Jones Dep. at 37.)

Apparently turning to Jones, Lacey stated "Okay. I'm now a little edgy about the HIV thing. Here I am digging through your purse. Are your - are your piercings and stuff like that in there?" (Video Tr. at 14.) Jones responded, "Nothing is in there that you can get HIV from." (Id. at 14.)

Lacey also asked Scott "Does she [Jones] have anything I should know about?" (Id. at 14.) Scott responded, "Yeah. She's been - she's been diagnosed HIV positive." (Id. at 15.) Scott and Lacey then engaged in the following exchange:

OFFICER LACEY: That might be something you want to tell a cop if they ever pull you out of a car. I'm here going through her purse, and she's got earrings and shit I'm touching, and I don't want to catch anything.
MR. SCOTT: It's not like that, sir.
MR. SCOTT: It's not like that.
OFFICER LACEY: I know this is the west end of Dearborn, but I work a lot of the east end of Dearborn. So, I deal with plenty of crackheads and heroin addicts. Usually -
MR. SCOTT: Well, that's -
OFFICER LACEY: - they all tell you if they got a needle on them. If you ask them, You got anything on you I should know about?' Yeah, I got a needle and I'm hep C. I'm this. I'm that' And they'll tell you right away what they got, so that way we don't get pissed. Because, otherwise, we get pissed, bad things happen.
MR. SCOTT: Yes, sir. I -
OFFICER LACEY: I found a needle on a guy once, and he didn't tell me, [well] let's just say he doesn't do that anymore. He didn't - he's not going to forget anymore."
OFFICER LACEY: I don't want to catch nothing, you know. I don't want that shit.

(Id. at 15-16.)

Lacey then stated that Jones would "need[] to get [her medical marijuana card] up-to-date.... And even though I'm still pissed about the HIV thing, I'm still cutting you guys a break. I'm not taking anybody to jail." (Id. at 17.) Instead, Lacey said he would write Scott a "fix-it ticket.... Go get [Scott's outstanding ticket] taken care of, get your license straightened out.... ditto on the defective equipment, the reason I stopped the car in the first place." (Id. at 19-20.) And regarding Jones, "I gave her a deal, too, and I'll explain it to her. Since she's got a valid license, she's going to drive the car instead of me towing it." (Id. at 22.)

Lacey then addressed Jones: "Stuff like [your HIV status], as soon as I'm getting you out of the car, Sir, I'd like to tell you I'm HIV positive.' Whatever it is, tell me right away.... I understand that what you have isn't something that (inaudible), but it makes me nervous. I don't want to take home nothing like that, you know what I mean." (Id. at 22-23.) And then, "Honestly, if it wasn't for that, I don't think I would have wrote anybody for anything, but that kind of really aggravated me, you know what I mean.... You notice I walked back and got my gloves out and put them on, because I don't, you know, [want] to come into contact with anything at all." (Id. at 23.) He told Jones that he had written her up for the marijuana, but that she should "get [her] marijuana card, and ...

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