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Guyzik v. Moore

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

November 17, 2017

JEFFREY A. MOORE, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Manuel Ramon Guyzik filed this action after he was mistakenly implicated in a drug distribution conspiracy and subsequently arrested by some of the individual Defendants. (Dkt. #30.) Following an amended complaint (Dkt. #30) and stipulated dismissals of certain Defendants and claims (see Dkt. ##36, 66, 70) the only remaining claims are against some of the individual Defendants who Plaintiff claims were involved in his wrongful arrest. Currently pending before the court are Defendant David Powell's and Defendant Chad Teets's motions for summary judgment (Dkt. ##58, 63).[1] The motion is fully briefed and the court has determined that a hearing is unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). Because the legal issues in these motions largely overlap, the court will address both motions in this order. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. This case arises out of the Drug Enforcement Agency's (“DEA”) misidentification of Plaintiff as a member of a drug trafficking conspiracy. There is no dispute now that Plaintiff was not a member of the conspiracy.

         Defendants Teets, Powell, Justin Holton, Steve West, and Ryan Behrik (the “arresting Defendants”) executed the arrest warrant for Plaintiff at his home. (Holton Dep. Dkt. #58-7 Pg. ID 850.) They arrived around 7:40 am. (West Dep. Dkt. #58-3 Pg. ID 720.) Plaintiff had already left for work, but his wife was home getting ready to take their two daughters to school. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 642; Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 772.)

         There is some dispute-albeit irrelevant to this analysis-about the manner in which the arresting Defendants approached the home. The arresting Defendants maintain that Defendant Powell knocked on the door and introduced himself to Plaintiff's wife-Deanna Saldana-when she answered; he then explained who he was and asked if the agents could speak with her inside. (Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 748- 49.) Plaintiff contends that that the arresting Defendants approached the front door with their guns drawn and Defendant Powell demanded “open the fucking door.” (Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 771.) Plaintiff also maintains that after the arresting Defendants entered his house, they kept their guns pointed at his wife and daughters before eventually holstering their weapons. (Id. at Pg. ID 772.).[2]

         Around five minutes after the arresting Defendants approached Plaintiff's home, Plaintiff's neighbor called Plaintiff to tell him about the law enforcement presence there. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 641-42.) Plaintiff immediately got in his truck and drove for home. (Id. at Pg. ID 642.) He tried to call his wife several times but received no answer. (Id.) His neighbor called again during the drive to let him know that he was taking Plaintiff's daughters to school; Plaintiff spoke to his daughters, who were crying hysterically. (Id.) Plaintiff also received a call from his wife's cell phone-one of the arresting Defendants was using her phone. (Id. at Pg. ID 643.) Though Plaintiff does not recall who he spoke to, the record indicates that it was Defendant Powell. (Id.; Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 751.) Plaintiff informed Defendant Powell that he was on his way home. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 643.) He got to the house approximately 10 to 20 minutes later. (Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 778.)

         Plaintiff is a former Marine (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 637). He is 5'8” and weighed about 195 pounds on the day of his arrest. (Id. at Pg. ID 644.) Defendant Holton described Plaintiff as “very stout. He was very strong.” (Holton Dep. Dkt. #58-7 Pg. ID 858.)

         When Plaintiff pulled up to his house, he was upset. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 643.) According to Plaintiff, he was upset because his daughters were upset. (Id.) Realizing that vehicles were already blocking his driveway and the street parking in front of his home, Plaintiff drove his truck onto his front lawn. (Id.) Plaintiff jumped out of his truck, shut the door, and walked quickly to the front of his house. (Id.)

         When he walked in, Plaintiff noticed Defendants Holton, Teets, and Powell in the living room, with Defendant West in the kitchen with his wife. (Id. at Pg. ID 644-45.) He immediately told the arresting Defendants: “Get the fuck out of my house.” (Id. at Pg. ID 646.) According to Plaintiff, one of the arresting Defendants responded “shut the fuck up.” (Id.) The same arresting Defendant also told Plaintiff that he was under arrest. (Dkt. #30 Pg. ID 307.)[3] There is a dispute as to whether Plaintiff was told to put his hands behind his back or not. (See Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 646; Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 754.)

         Plaintiff was “taken to the ground immediately after that.” (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 646.) He could not tell who grabbed him where, but knows that Defendants Teets, Powell, and Holton are the ones who took him to the ground. (Id.) He landed with his chest to the ground and his hands just below his chin near his neck. (Id.) According to Ms. Saldana:

They were, like, on his back, like, I don't know exactly who was where, but, like, somebody had, like, a knee on his neck or something and some of them were on top of his back, like, holding - like, had him on the ground. They were on top of him.

(Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 795.) Ms. Saldana, however, did not see Defendant Powell exert any particular force against Plaintiff. (Id. at Pg. ID 795.) According to Plaintiff, he was trying to pull his arms out from underneath him “so maybe they would stop” and because he “couldn't breathe.” (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 674.) He could not get his arms out from underneath him, however, because of the weight on his body. (Id.) Plaintiff maintains that he was in no way resisting the arresting Defendants. (Id. at Pg. ID 648.) He did, however, hear voices telling him to stop resisting. (Id. at Pg. ID 647.)

         According to Plaintiff, he was immediately “beat[en].” (Id.) Defendant Teets pulled his knee back and struck Plaintiff in the left shoulder more than twice. (Id. at Pg. ID 647-48.) Defendant Holton kneed him in the left ribs more than twice. (Id. at Pg. ID 648.) Defendant Behrik-who Plaintiff noticed for the first time while he was being beaten-struck Plaintiff with a closed fist four to five times on the right side of his head. (Id.) Plaintiff was also struck on the left side of his head, his right shoulder, the center of his back, and the back of his neck, but he does not know who caused those injuries nor how he was struck. (Id. at Pg. ID 647, 649.) He went in and out of consciousness during this period. (Id. at Pg. ID 649.)

         Eventually Plaintiff's arms were pulled behind his back and Defendant Powell handcuffed him. (Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 756.) While Plaintiff was still on the floor, about five seconds after he was handcuffed, Defendant Behrik struck him with a closed fist three to four more times on the right side of his head. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 650, 667.) These blows happened “quickly.” (Id. at Pg. ID 669.) According to Ms. Saldana, Defendants Powell and Holton were holding Plaintiff still, and Defendant Teets was about a foot away. (Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 803.) Plaintiff then turned his head to the left, and Defendant Holton kneed him twice more in his left side and punched him on the left side of his face. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 650.) Two of the arresting Defendants then pulled Plaintiff up by his biceps. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 651.) He was then taken outside and placed in the back of a Lincoln Park squad car. (Id. at Pg. ID 651.)

         Plaintiff was taken to the DEA office in Detroit and booked. (Id. at Pg. ID 656.) Defendant Jeffrey Moore interviewed Plaintiff and determined that Plaintiff had been wrongly identified. (Moore Dep. Dkt. #59-1 Pg. ID 884.) Plaintiff appeared in duty court and was released that afternoon. (Id.)

         According to Plaintiff, he sustained the following injuries: bruising and swelling on the right side of his head and face; bruising and swelling on the left side of his head and face; discoloration near the top of his head; bruising and swelling on his right ear; a gash on his nose; bruising on his back; bruising on his right shoulder; and swelling to his left elbow. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 678-79.) He rated the pain in his ribs and head following the attack as a ten out of ten, and he thought his ribs were broken and that he had a head injury. (Id. at Pg. ID 652.) He did not return to work for two weeks and he has continuing anxiety from the incident. (Id. at Pg. ID 654.)

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Sagan v. United States, 342 F.3d 493, 497 (6th Cir. 2003).

         The movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmovant, who must put forth enough evidence to show that there exists “a genuine issue for trial.” Horton v. Potter, 369 F.3d 906, 909 (6th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).


         A. Sufficiency of the Allegations Against Defendants

         Defendants Powell and Teets first argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff has not included any specific allegations of excessive force against them. “[D]amage 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). Pleadings and discovery that attribute the unconstitutional acts to a group as a whole or only describe an offending defendant in general terms are insufficient. Ondo v. City of Cleveland, 795 F.3d 597, 611 (6th Cir. 2015). Nonspecific allegations will not withstand a motion for summary judgment. Id.

         1. Defendant Powell

         Defendant Powell argues that Plaintiff has “fail[ed] to plead with any specificity regarding the alleged force or its resultant injuries.” (Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 615.) He notes that while Plaintiff made more specific allegations at his deposition, none of the allegations at deposition relate to Defendant Powell in particular. Indeed, according to Plaintiff, after he was taken to the ground, he did not see Defendant Powell again until he was escorted out of his home. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 665-66.)

         Plaintiff responds that Ms. Saldana's testimony is enough to create a genuine issue of material fact as it relates to Defendant Powell. He argues that “Plaintiff and [Ms. Saldana] identified Powell as one of the [D]efendants that tackled [Plaintiff] to the ground.” (Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1333.) He also argues that Plaintiff “testified that the weight on his back was so significant that he could neither move nor breathe, ” and thus a reasonable inference could be drawn that Defendant Powell, in addition to two other arresting Defendants, was exerting his weight on Plaintiff's back and neck. (Id. at Pg. ID 1333-34.)

         The court agrees with Defendant Powell that there are insufficiently specific allegations against him concerning the force used against Plaintiff after Plaintiff was brought to the ground. Plaintiff testified that he could no longer see Defendant Powell once he was taken down (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 650), and he therefore did not identify any specific blows that Defendant Powell may have delivered. While Ms. Saldana testified that the arresting Defendants on top of Plaintiff were “kind of like a big ball, arms, legs, everything, ” (Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 779), she also testified that she could not discern what, if anything, Defendant Powell particularly did (id. at Pg. ID 795).[4]

         The court will also not infer, as Plaintiff proposes, that the amount of weight on Plaintiff suggests that Defendant Powell was exerting his body weight on Plaintiff's head and neck. Plaintiff invites the court to draw this inference based only on Plaintiff's testimony that he could not breathe or move with one or more of the arresting Defendants on top of him. Without more, this “inference” is not one the court will reasonably make on this motion for summary judgment because the alleged weight on Plaintiff's back amounts to no more than a scintilla of evidence that Defendant Powell was one of the arresting Defendants on top of Plaintiff. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243 (1986).

         Defendant Powell, therefore, is entitled to summary judgment as to any alleged excessive force following Plaintiff being tackled. These allegations are insufficiently specific, under Lanman and Ondo, to survive a motion for summary judgment. If a claim for excessive force is to be sustained against Defendant Powell, therefore, it must necessarily be based on Defendant Powell's actions in helping take Plaintiff to the ground before he was handcuffed.

         2. ...

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