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Fazica v. Jordan

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

March 21, 2018

Renee Fazica, Plaintiff,
Zachary Jordan et al., Defendants.


          Sean F. Cox United States District Judge.

         This § 1983 case stems from alleged excessive force used against Plaintiff by several jail officials during her arrival and booking at the Oakland County Jail. Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to show that any individual defendant personally engaged in misconduct in violation of her rights.

         For the reasons below, the Court shall grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in part and deny it in part. The Court shall deny the motion as to the four defendants (Jordan, Tucker, Cordova, and Fletcher) who were members of the team that brought Plaintiff into the jail because a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether each defendant was present and personally involved in any violation of Plaintiff's rights. But the Court shall grant the motion as to Defendant Nicotri because there is no evidence that he was present or personally involved in any alleged violation of Plaintiff's rights.


         In October 2014, after drinking a pint of vodka, Plaintiff Renee Fazica got behind the wheel with her teenage son in the car. Pl. Dep., p. 21-22. Eventually she was pulled over by Bloomfield Township police officers. Id. at 23; Def. Stmt. of Undisputed Facts, ¶ 1. The officers arrested her and took her to the police station. Pl. Dep., p. 26.

         Because Plaintiff was being loud at the station, the Bloomfield Township officers decided to take her to the Oakland County Jail. Id. at 30-31. They contacted officials at the jail and informed them that Plaintiff was intoxicated and had been acting disorderly. Def. Ex. C, H. For this reason, a Cell Extraction Team was deployed to secure Plaintiff upon arrival and bring her into the jail. Def. Ex. H. Members of the team are trained to deal with prisoners who are unruly, combative, and non-compliant. Jordan Dep., p. 13. The extraction team consisted of five Oakland County Sheriff's deputies: Defendants Deputy Zachary Jordan, Mark Fletcher, Josh Tucker, and Carlos Cordova as well as non-party Dwayne Rodriguez. Defendant Sergeant Paul Nictori, who was working as an on-duty supervisor, was also notified of Plaintiff's impending arrival. Nictori Dep., p. 8; Def. Ex. C. He was not, however, a member of the extraction team. Nictori Dep., p. 9.

         When Plaintiff arrived at the jail, she observed four men waiting for her. Pl. Dep., p. 32. Tucker, with assistance from Cordova and Rodriguez, removed Plaintiff from the patrol car, bringing her to the ground with her arm stretched back. Id. at 32-33; Def. Ex. C. While Plaintiff was on the ground, a spit hood was placed over her face. Pl. Dep., p. 33. The spit hood had a plastic lower half designed to prevent the wearer from spitting and netting on the upper half to allow the wearer to see and breathe. Cordova Dep., p. 11-12. It covered Plaintiff's face from the top of the bridge of her nose to the bottom of her chin. Pl. Dep., p. 33. Plaintiff testified that she could only see a “tiny bit” out of the top of the mask. Id.

         Next, the team members picked Plaintiff up off the ground, stood her up, and walked her to a different location in the jail. Id. at 40-41. They made Plaintiff walk in a bent-over position facing the floor. Id. at 41-42. While Plaintiff was walking, an unidentified officer said, “follow my voice or I'll tase you.” Id. at 42. During the walk, one of the team members had his hands on Plaintiff's neck, pushing hard enough that she complained that he was hurting her and that she could not breathe. Id. at 43-44. According to Plaintiff, every time she complained he gripped her neck harder. Id. at 44. Plaintiff does not know exactly who had his hands on her neck. Id. at 43.

         The team brought Plaintiff to a room within the jail and began to strip search her. Id. at 45. She was placed face down on the floor and had her pants physically ripped off. Id. at 45-46. During the search, Plaintiff felt someone spread her buttocks apart. Id. at 46. She also felt someone put his hands up the front of her bra while another team member touched her genitals. Id. at 46-47. Plaintiff also testified that someone “slap punched” her while she was being strip-searched. Id. at 52. Although Plaintiff could not identify precisely who searched her, she recalled seeing in the room all four men she had previously observed when she arrived at the jail. Id. at 48.

         After the search, the team walked Plaintiff, who was only wearing a bra, to a cell. Id. at 49. Someone threw a pair of scrubs in the corner of the cell and closed the door. Id. Plaintiff was booked the next morning and released. Id. at 50. None of the extraction team members remember this incident. See Cordova Dep., p. 9; Fletcher Dep., p. 10; Jordan Dep., p. 8; Tucker Dep., p. 7.

         In 2015, Plaintiff sued Defendants along with Bloomfield Township, three of its police officers, and Oakland County (Case No. 15-13858, Doc. # 1). This Court granted the Oakland County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss without prejudice (Case No. 15-13858, Doc. # 25). In doing so, the Court noted that Plaintiff had failed to sufficiently allege any claims against the individual Defendants, as her complaint was entirely conclusory and lacked supporting factual allegations. But the Court dismissed the case without prejudice, allowing Plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

         Eight months later, in lieu of filing an amended complaint, Plaintiff filed this action solely against Defendants Jordan, Fletcher, Tucker, Nicotri, and Cordova (Doc. # 1). She then filed an amended complaint, which contains factual allegations that are far more specific than those in the prior action (Doc. # 7). Her amended complaint raises three claims for relief: (1) a § 1983 excessive force claim, (2) a claim that Defendants' conduct amounted to “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, assault, battery, and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress on Plaintiff”, and (3) a § 1983 claim for deprivation of liberty without due process of law.

         Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (Doc. # 16) and Plaintiff has responded (Doc. # 22). This Court held a hearing on Defendants' motion on March 15, 2018.

         STANDARD ...

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