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Beard v. City of Southfield

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

January 19, 2017

TONY DEWAYNE BEARD, JR., a legally incapacitated person, by and through JOHNETTE FORD, his legal guardian, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SOUTHFIELD, et. al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER ACCEPTING AND ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [165] AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [118]

          Nancy G. Edmunds United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Tony Beard filed this action claiming that Defendant City of Southfield and ten of its police officers violated several of his constitutional rights. Defendants now move for summary judgment on most of Plaintiff's claims (Dkt. 118), and Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford has provided this Court a Report and Recommendation (R&R) regarding Defendants' motion. (Dkt. 165.) The Magistrate Judge recommends that the motion for partial summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (Id.) Both parties have filed objections to the R&R. (Dkt. 168; Dkt. 171.) For the following reasons, the Court OVERRULES both parties' objections, ACCEPTS AND ADOPTS the R&R, and GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.

         I. Background

         The R&R provides an extensive factual background, and the Court, having reviewed the record de novo, adopts that background here. (See Dkt. 165, at 2-10.) To summarize, Plaintiff suffered injuries after he led Southfield police on a high-speed car chase that ended in Plaintiff's arrest. Plaintiff then filed suit in this Court alleging that the City of Southfield and ten of its officers violated his constitutional rights during and leading up to his arrest. As to the officers specifically, Plaintiff asserts Fourth Amendment claims of unlawful seizure and excessive force; Eight Amendment claims of cruel and unusual punishment; and Fourteenth Amendment claims for the denial of equal protection, violations of substantive due process, and deliberate indifference to his medical needs. (Dkt. 18 at ¶¶ 41, 47.) As to the City of Southfield, Plaintiff asserts claims of failure to train and failure to supervise. (Id. at ¶¶ 32-33.)

         Before the Court now is the Magistrate Judge's R&R on Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. Defendants seek summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims except the excessive force claims related to Plaintiff's arrest against Katie Schneider, Matthew Taylor, Eric Jachym, and Timothy Gougeon. (Dkt. 118, at 20.) In the time since Defendants filed their motion, the Court already struck Plaintiff's Eight Amendment claim as a sanction for Plaintiff's discovery abuses. (Dkt. 155.)

         The R&R recommends that Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. More specifically, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court grant summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims but the following: (1) the excessive force claims arising out of Plaintiff's arrest against Ryan Losh and Kory Karpinsky; (2) the equal protection claim against Taylor related to the use of a racial epithet; and (3) the claims which Defendants have not challenged--excessive force claims arising out of Plaintiff's arrest against K. Schneider, Taylor, Jachym, and Gougeon. (Dkt. 165, at 30.) Plaintiff and Defendants have both filed objections to the R&R.

         II. Standard of Review

         When a party objects to portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on a dispositive motion, the Court reviews such portions de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). However, only specific objections that pinpoint a source of error are entitled to de novo review. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). General objections, or those that merely challenge the magistrate judge's ultimate determinations, have "the same effects as would a failure to object." Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). That is, such objections are invalid, and the Court must treat them as if they were waived. See Bellmore-Byrne v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2016 WL 5219541, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 22, 2016) (citing id.).

         III. Analysis

         A. Plaintiff's Objection

         Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the Amended Complaint did not provide Jason Schneider fair notice of an excessive force claim against him. (Dkt. 168, at 4.) In support, Plaintiff directs the Court's attention to particular allegations in the Amended Complaint, which, according to Plaintiff, compel a different conclusion.[1] Given that this objection merely challenges the Magistrate Judge's ultimate determination, the Court may and does treat it as waived. Howard, 932 F.2d at 509. However, even if the Court evaluated Plaintiff's objection on the merits, it would still fail.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." According to the Supreme Court, this requires giving "fair notice" of the claim and "the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Complaints do not provide fair notice if they offer only "nebulous assertions of wrongdoing." Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 623 (6th Cir. 2014). As to constitutional claims specifically, "[The Sixth Circuit] has consistently held that damage claims against government officials arising from alleged violations of constitutional rights must allege, with particularity, facts that demonstrate what each defendant did to violate the asserted constitutional right." Lanman v. Hinson, 529 F.3d 673, 684 (6th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original).

         Having reviewed the Amended Complaint, the Court believes that the R&R correctly concludes that Plaintiff did not provide J. Schneider fair notice of an excessive force claim against him. While the Amended Complaint includes general claims that all ten named officers violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights, it never ascribes particular conduct to J. Schneider demonstrating that he violated Plaintiff's right to be free from excessive force. Instead, the Amended Complaint's allegations regarding J. Schneider's involvement in the alleged use of excessive force are nebulous, generic, and opaque. (Dkt. 18 at ¶¶ 10-12; 24; 27-28; 38-40.)

         For example, one allegation cited by Plaintiff does not mention J. Schneider at all, even though it names eight other officers. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Another cited portion is impermissibly vague: "[T]he actions of the Co-Defendant Officers ... lead [sic] to OFFICERS- J. JAGILESKI [sic] and J. SCHNEIDER, following and harassing him, and ultimately: a wrongful high speed chase and vehicular pursuit; assault and physical conduct, including tasing[.]" (Id. at ¶ 27.) It continues with no more particularity: "[T]he actions described above ... constituted clear violations of his constitutional rights to ... not become subject to the excessive use of force and/or of deadly force under the Eighth Amendment." (Id. at ΒΆ 28.) Given the generality of these allegations, the deficiency of the Amended Complaint is manifest on the face of Plaintiff's pleading. Therefore, if the Court were to decide this objection on the merits, it would agree with the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff failed to provide J. Schneider fair notice of an excessive force claim against ...


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