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Collins v. Ferguson

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

October 3, 2017

ERIK COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN FERGUSON and JEFFREY RUCINSKI, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 9)

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 excessive force suit, Plaintiff Erik Collins alleges Defendant Michigan state troopers, John Ferguson and Jeffrey Rucinski, struck him with their police cruiser, tased him, and forced him to stand and walk on his injured left leg after he dislocated his hip and fractured his left acetabulum requiring emergency surgery and traction. In lieu of an Answer and prior to any discovery, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they are entitled to qualified immunity based on their police cruiser's dash-cam video of the pursuit and incident in question, which they claim shows Collins colliding with the police cruiser two seconds after their vehicle came to a stop. Defendants' theory of the case is that Collins ran into their parked vehicle and is responsible for his own injuries. In addition to his § 1983 excessive force claim, Collins alleges a state law claim of gross negligence against the officers. Defendants argue Collins' gross negligence claim should be dismissed as the factual allegations pled support an intentional tort claim only. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment shall be denied as to the § 1983 claim for excessive force, but shall be granted as to the gross negligence claim which shall be dismissed.

         I. Factual Background

         The court construes the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, here, Collins. On April 1, 2016, Collins, who was 28 years old, was riding his minibike, a motorized bike which is considerably smaller than a motorcycle, the wrong way on the one-way street of Norwood in Detroit. There were no moving cars in his vicinity. Officers Rucinski and Ferguson, followed Collins in their police cruiser, driven by Officer Rucinski, shouting for him to pull over. Collins ignored the police requests that he stop and continued down the street on his minibike. The police gave pursuit following Collins closely and driving across sidewalks and the lawns of neighboring homes. After a short while, Collins ditched his bike and proceeded on foot. Officer Ferguson exited the police vehicle and pursued Collins on foot. What happened next is in dispute. Officer Rucinski continued to pursue Collins with his patrol car, eventually stopping on either the driveway or lawn of one of the neighboring residences, and then rolling backwards towards the street.

         Collins claims the police car struck him while moving forward, causing excruciating pain to his leg and hip, and causing him to fall to the ground. Collins claims the vehicle then ran over his left hip when the vehicle reversed. Defendants, on the other hand, claim that Collins himself ran into the police vehicle, and that he alone is responsible for the impact. Defendants claim the patrol car's dash-cam video supports this theory, claiming that the video shows their vehicle coming to a stop two seconds before a loud sound is heard, allegedly the sound of Collins running into their car. The dash-cam video does not show Collins at the point of impact, but does partially depict him lying on the ground to the front left of the police cruiser. The court has carefully reviewed the dash-cam video. At the time of the impact, the police sirens are blaring, and it was quite difficult for the court to discern the alleged sound of impact. The dash-cam video is far from the indisputable proof the Defendants assert it to be.

         After Collins fell to the ground, Officer Rucinski yelled at him to get on the ground. Collins can be heard on the dash-cam video moaning and yelling in pain. Officer Ferguson then tased Collins. Defendants claim the taser was necessary because Collins would not give up his hands for cuffing, and that the taser was ineffective because Collins wore heavy clothing and a back brace.

         In his affidavit, Collins asserts that both Defendants then pinned him to the ground, put their full weight on him, and handcuffed him. These events are not depicted in the dash-cam video. Collins was arrested for fleeing and eluding and resisting and obstructing a police officer. Defendants then ordered Collins to stand and demanded to know if he had a weapon on him. Collins claims he was unable to stand because of the excruciating pain in his leg and begged for an ambulance which Defendants denied. While on the ground, Collins can be heard on the dash-cam video crying out, “Why'd you run me over with the car? Oh God help!” (Doc. 9, Ex. 2 at 3:12-15). Collins claims that Officers Ferguson and Rucinski forced him to stand, shoved him into their police vehicle, and drove him to Detroit Receiving Hospital where they insisted he walk on his injured leg despite his protests of severe pain. Once Collins reached the door of the Emergency Room, Defendants requested a wheel chair for him.

         Once at the hospital, Collins was placed in an examination room, and Defendants remained in the room with him. While in the room, Defendants questioned Collins. Officer Rucinski left the room for a while, during which time Collins was treated with strong medicine to relax him and dull the pain, including ketamine which can cause sedation and confusion, to prepare him for the procedure of returning his dislocated hip to its socket and to put him in traction. When Officer Rucinski returned to the room, Collins was in traction and under the influence of strong medication. Officer Rucinski asked Collins to sign and initial a piece of paper which Collins claims he represented was related to his medical bill and treatment. Collins signed the document without reading it. The statement was signed at 8:40 p.m. and contained the following statements which Collins initialed:

Q: ARE YOU UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ANY DRUGS OR ALCOHOL?
A: NO
Q: HOW DID YOU INJURY YOUR HIP?
A: I WAS RUNNING, SLID ON MUD, AND STRUCK THE FRONT DRIVER TIRE OF THE PATROL CAR WITH MY LEFT HIP.
Q: DID ANTHING [sic] HAPPEN TO INJURE YOUR HIP FURTHER?
A: NO, YOU GUYS HANDLED ME PRETTY WELL.
Q: DID YOU FEEL LIKE I WAS TRYING TO INJURE YOU?
A: NO, YOU HAD LOVE, DID NOT EVEN PULL A GUN ON ME, YOU ...

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