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Lancaster v. Lakey

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

May 16, 2018

NELSON LAKEY, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Scott Lancaster was arrested by Burton police officers and transported to the Genesee County jail. He alleges that through his arrest, transport, and detention, he endured violations of his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights, and he brings claims against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the court are Defendants' two motions for summary judgment, one each by officers from Burton County (Dkt. #58) and officers from Genesee County (Dkt. #59). The motions are fully briefed, and the court held a hearing on April 25, 2018. Because the factual disputes and legal issues in these motions overlap, the court will address both motions in this order. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         It should be no surprise that individuals involved in the same event often remember it differently. See Greco v. Livingston Cty., 774 F.3d 1061, 1062 (6th Cir. 2014); see also Perry v. New Hampshire, 565 U.S. 228, 262-63 (2012) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting); New Jersey v. Henderson, 27 A.3d 872, 894-96 (N.J. 2011). Social scientists-and courts-sometimes refer to it as the “Rashomon effect, ” named after the Japanese film in which four witnesses to a crime describe the event in contrasting (and contradictory) ways. See Christopher Slobogin, Experts, Mental States, and Acts, 38 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1009, 1012 (2008); Greco, 774 F.3d at 1062 (noting that “Rashomon and [summary judgment] rarely take the stage together”); Messina v. Bonner, 813 F.Supp. 346, 351 (E.D. Pa. 1993); Zalutsky, Pinski, & DiGiacomo, Ltd. v. Kleinman, 747 F.Supp. 457, 458 n.1 (N.D. Ill. 1990). This case is not one that turns on minor differences in remembered facts-no discrepancies in the color of the car, the distance between two objects, a person's exact spoken words. Rather, this case involves wildly disparate accounts of Plaintiff's arrest and detention. And unlike most cases where the parties' stories diverge, the versions of this event are most divided not near the end, but at the beginning.

         From Defendant Chad Collier's point of view, this narrative begins seated in his marked police vehicle, parked in a Rite Aid parking lot. (Collier Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 319; Arrest Report, Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 356.) An officer of the Burton Police Department, Defendant Collier was on patrol. While sitting in his vehicle, he “happened to look up” and see a black GMC Yukon XL run through a blinking red light without stopping, almost colliding with another vehicle. (Collier Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 323; Arrest Report, Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 356.) He also noticed that the Yukon's license plate light was not functioning. (Collier Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 323-24; Arrest Report, Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 356.) Defendant Collier immediately decided to follow the vehicle and pull it over. (Collier Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 324.)

         The Yukon pulled into the parking lot of a nearby Men's Club. (Id.) Defendant Collier followed, parked, got out of his patrol car, and approached the vehicle; the driver's window was already rolled down. The car had one occupant: Plaintiff Scott Lancaster. (Id. at Pg. ID 325.) Defendant Collier asked for Plaintiff's license, registration, and proof of insurance. (Id.) Plaintiff handed over his driver's license. (Id.)

         It was at this time that Defendant Collier noticed a pill bottle in the Yukon's center console. (Id.) Defendant Collier was able to read part of the name on the bottle: “Betty.” (Id. at Pg. ID 326.) When Defendant Collier asked Plaintiff about the pill bottle, Plaintiff replied that it was his grandmother's-he had run out of his own prescription, and he was using hers. (Id. at Pg. ID 327.)

         His suspicions raised, Defendant Collier asked for Plaintiff's consent to search his person and the rest of the vehicle, which Plaintiff provided. (Id. at Pg. ID 327-28.) Around this time, Defendant Nelson Lakey-another Burton Police Officer-arrived on scene and monitored the search. Plaintiff had nothing of note on his person; the search of the vehicle, however, revealed three more pill bottles-two with Plaintiff's name properly printed, and one without a label but with Plaintiff's name and “600 milligram Neurontin” handwritten on it. (Id. at Pg. ID 330-31.) Defendant Collier informed Plaintiff that he was under arrest for possession of the pills. (Id. at Pg. ID 332; Arrest Report, Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 356.)

         To get to this point from Plaintiff's perspective requires winding back the clock. Because, Plaintiff says, he never drove his Yukon in front of Defendant Collier. He was never pulled over. Indeed, he was never seated in the car while in Defendant Collier's presence.

         From Plaintiff's perspective, this narrative begins inside the Men's Club. Plaintiff had driven there with a female companion; while he was inside drinking a beer, his companion told him that she had left her bag the car. (Lancaster Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 338.) He went out to retrieve it for her. (Id.)

         Plaintiff got to his Yukon, opened the driver's side door, and was laying across the driver's seat searching for the bag when he noticed police lights come on behind his car. (Id. at Pg. ID 339.) Though he could see the bag, he left it where it was-he stood up, closed the door, and locked the car. (Id.) Two uniformed officers approached and asked him whether he had been drinking. (Id.)

         The officers asked Plaintiff to put his hands on his car, and they searched his person. (Id. at Pg. ID 340.) After the pat down, Plaintiff was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and he was placed in the patrol car. (Id. at Pg. ID 341.) Because of a preexisting back injury, Plaintiff asked that he be handcuffed with his hands in front, but the officers refused. (Id.) When Plaintiff asked why they were arresting him, the officers responded “Well, what do you got in your car?” (Id.) They took Plaintiff's keys and started searching his vehicle. (Id.)

         According to Plaintiff, the officers opened his glove box and found his prescriptions. The prescriptions were all his-none of the bottles belonged to his grandmother Betty. Plaintiff denies ever discussing his grandmother with either of the officers. (Id. at Pg. ID 341-42.) He also says that all of his prescriptions were in the glove box-none were in the console. (Id.)

         The officers did, however, show Plaintiff the bottle of his Xanax prescription and told him, “You know, you can go to jail for this.” (Id. at Pg. ID 342.) While Plaintiff repeatedly asked to talk to his lawyer, the officers taunted Plaintiff, calling him a “hardass” and a “Daddy's boy” until he was crying. (Id.) At no point did the officers inform Plaintiff that he was under arrest. (Id. at Pg. ID 341.)

         The parties' versions of events converge at this point in their basic outline, if not in the specifics. Defendant Collier transported Plaintiff to the Burton Police Department. He says that Defendant Lakey followed in a separate patrol car; Plaintiff says that Defendant Lakey joined them in the same car. (See Collier Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 334; Lancaster Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 343.) Defendant Collier says that he did not speak to Plaintiff, but that Plaintiff was nevertheless verbally abusive, cursing and calling him a number of names. (Collier Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 334-35; Arrest Report, Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 356.) Plaintiff denies being verbally abusive, and he maintains that the officers were taunting him about how he was going to spend 72 hours in jail. (Lancaster Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 343; see also Dkt. #64 Pg. ID 758.)

         At the Burton Police Department, Plaintiff was allegedly photographed and fingerprinted (Plaintiff maintains that he requested documentation of this in discovery, but Defendants refused to provide it (see Dkt. #64 Pg. ID 759)) and the pills from his vehicle were logged into evidence (Arrest Report, Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 356). Plaintiff says that the logged pills were not his, that the Defendant officers did not log his prescriptions, and that the Defendant officers claim to have lost his pills (see Dkt. #64 Pg. ID 759)-but he provides no supporting citation to the record.

         Defendant Lakey then transported Plaintiff to the Genesee County jail. (Lakey Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 363.)[1] On arrival, Defendant Lakey escorted Plaintiff out of the car, into the building, and onto an elevator that goes up to the receiving area. (Kirby Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 370.) Defendant Nathon Kirby, a Genesee County Sheriff Deputy, was sitting in central dispatch and watching the monitors there as Defendant Lakey accompanied Plaintiff up to the receiving area. Defendant Kirby watched as Defendant Lakey kept a grip on Plaintiff's arm, just below the elbow. (Id. at Pg. ID 371.) Defendant Pamela Sanchez, then a Genesee County Sheriff Sergeant, was also watching the monitor. According to Defendant Sanchez, Plaintiff appeared to be “pulling away” from Defendant Lakey and “getting mouthy” with him. (Sanchez Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 380.) Plaintiff denies this, again without citation to the record. (Dkt. #64 Pg. ID 759.)

         Surveillance video presented in this case (submitted to the court by mail, see Dkt. #59-12) shows Plaintiff and Defendant Lakey exiting the elevator into the receiving area: Defendant Lakey entered in front of Plaintiff, held the door open for him, and turned his back on Plaintiff before taking a seat at a nearby table. Though the video lacks sound, the testimony establishes that he also instructed Plaintiff to have a seat on the nearby bench. (Kirby Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 372.) Defendant Lakey, having sat down at the table in the receiving area, worked on Plaintiff's booking card. (Id.) Plaintiff cannot recall ever seeing Defendant Lakey again. (Lancaster Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 344.)

         Defendants maintain that in the receiving area, Plaintiff was creating a verbal disturbance, cursing and questioning why he was there. (Kirby Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 373.) The surveillance video shows the officers at first apparently ignoring Plaintiff and chatting with one another. Most appear to have casual body language, and at some points, none of the officers is facing Plaintiff.

         (Image Omitted)

         Defendant D. Bouchard, a Genesee County Sheriff Deputy, approached Plaintiff and told him to stand facing the wall. (Kirby Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 373.) Defendant Bouchard conducted a pat down on Plaintiff before removing Plaintiff's handcuffs and performing a more thorough search of his person. (Id. at Pg. ID 374.) Defendant Bouchard found no weapons or contraband.

         Defendant Bouchard then instructed Plaintiff to remove his shoes. (Id. at Pg. ID 375.) Plaintiff removed his shoes with his feet. He has two explanations for why: first, that he was handcuffed and unable to take the shoes off with his hands (see Lancaster Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 344), and second, that he had a back condition that prevented him from taking his shoes off with his hands, a fact he communicated to the officers (see id.). The surveillance video belies the first contention-Plaintiff was no longer handcuffed when he took his shoes off. Because the video is without audio, however, his second explanation remains a possibility. Defendants maintain that Plaintiff “kicked” his shoes off at them (see, e.g., Kirby Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 375), a characterization Plaintiff denies. At any rate, Plaintiff's shoes landed on the floor near Defendants Bouchard and Kirby.

         (Image Omitted)

         According to Defendants, Defendant Bouchard asked Plaintiff to pick up his shoes, but Plaintiff refused. (Kirby Dep., Dkt. #57 Pg. ID 375.) Defendant Sanchez advised that they should finish their search of Plaintiff in a safe cell. (Id.) She says she made this decision “[b]ecause of the totality of the circumstances, the way [Plaintiff] came through the elevator, his agitation, ” the verbal disturbance Plaintiff was making, and Plaintiff's refusal to follow Defendant Bouchard's commands. (Sanchez Dep., Dkt. #59-4, Pg. ID 520.)

         Defendant Bouchard pulled Plaintiff's arm behind his back and escorted him down the hallway; Defendant Kirby and Defendant Sanchez followed. (Id. at Pg. ID 376.) In the video, Defendant Kirby can be seen reaching down to his duty belt. Defendant Lakey did not follow the others, or at least not immediately-the surveillance video shows him looking down the hall before the video feed ends.

         Defendants Kirby, Bouchard, and Sanchez escorted Plaintiff down the hall. According to Defendants, Plaintiff continued to be “verbal, ” complaining about being detained and telling Defendants to leave him alone. (Sanchez Dep., Dkt. #59-4 Pg. ID 524; Kirby Dep., Dkt. #59-3 Pg. ID 499.) Though there was apparently video surveillance capability for the hallway, there is no video showing Plaintiff being escorted down the hall-for reasons unknown, there are gaps in the video provided to Plaintiff, and this time span is one such gap. (Gould Dep., Dkt. #67 Pg. ID 929-30.)

         When they got to the holding cell, Plaintiff got up on the metal bench inside, sitting up on his knees and facing the wall. (Kirby Dep., Dkt. # 59-3 Pg. ID 500.) Defendants Kirby and Bouchard were inside the cell with Plaintiff; Defendant Sanchez stood outside. (Id.) Surveillance video from inside the cell shows that Defendant Bouchard directed Plaintiff to put his hands on the wall. Defendant Bouchard promptly searched Plaintiff, patting down Plaintiff's pants and then removing his socks. Defendant Kirby held Plaintiff's right arm against the wall during the entire process. According to Defendant Kirby, Plaintiff was making a verbal disturbance, yelling and calling Defendant Sanchez a “c***.” (Id. at Pg. ID 501.) At some point, Defendant Bouchard instructed Plaintiff to remove his shirt. (Id.) Defendant Kirby maintains that Plaintiff refused, necessitating multiple commands from Defendant Bouchard and one from Defendant Sanchez. (Id.) Indeed, Defendant Kirby says that as soon as Defendant Sanchez told Plaintiff to remove his shirt, Plaintiff “became very loud, verbal[ly] assaultive towards Sergeant Sanchez, yelling at her, calling her the C word, and causing more of a disturbance.” (Id.)

         The video-though still without audio-tells a different story: Defendant Kirby kept a hold on Plaintiff from the moment Plaintiff put his hands on the wall, and Plaintiff removed his shirt as soon as Defendant Kirby let go of his arm. Plaintiff handed over his shirt, and Defendant Kirby immediately pepper sprayed[2] Plaintiff in the face. The following stills capture a 4 second interval in the surveillance video:

         (Image Omitted)

         Defendant Kirby says that he felt the need to pepper spray Plaintiff because the officers had to take Plaintiff to general population, and “at that point [Plaintiff] got pepper sprayed for causing more of a disturbance and becoming loud.” (Id.) He further explained: “There's only so much we can do as far as we've gotta get the situation under control because it's causing a disturbance to other inmates, other deputies, and could cause further actions as far as we don't know.” (Id.) Both Defendant Kirby and Defendant Bouchard testified that the use of pepper spray was consistent with their department's use of force policy, which permits the use of pepper spray in situations where the officer or others are threatened or where necessary to quell a disturbance. (Kirby Dep., Dkt. #59-3 Pg. ID 503; Bouchard Dep., Dkt. #59-5 Pg. ID 543.)

         The video time stamps show that Plaintiff-through the search, removal of his socks, and removal of his shirt-was in the cell for 37 seconds before he was pepper sprayed in the face. After Plaintiff was pepper sprayed, Defendants Kirby and Bouchard physically forced him down onto the metal bench and stripped him of the remainder of his clothing. They left him naked in the cell. As they exited, Defendant Sanchez told Defendants Kirby and Bouchard to get Plaintiff some clothes, and she told Plaintiff that he could decontaminate his eyes using the nearby sink. (Sanchez Dep., Dkt. # 59-4 Pg. ID 528.) Subsequent video shows Plaintiff using the sink several times to rinse his eyes. Eventually he was provided with a jumpsuit and sandals.

         Plaintiff recounts a very different version of events, and one that is at times internally contradictory. Plaintiff maintains that five officers were in the hall with him, including “the officer that brought [him] in.” (Lancaster Dep., Dkt. #59-2 Pg. ID 467.) Contrary to the Genesee Defendants' assertion that he was being “verbal, ” Plaintiff maintains that he did not say anything. (Id. at Pg. ID 470.) He says that at some point, one of the officers used a taser on him, probably in the hallway. (Id. at Pg. ID 469.) He was not resisting any of the officers when he was tased, and he believes he lost consciousness. (Id. at Pg. ID 470.) He also remembers being “thrown around and beaten up” in the hallway, and his head hitting the wall. (Id. at Pg. ID 471.) Plaintiff was pepper sprayed for the first time while he was in the cell, he says, but his testimony is unclear as to whether he was pepper sprayed for the first time while wearing his street clothes or his jail jumpsuit (the surveillance video suggests the former).[3] He says that the Genesee Defendants kept calling him a “hardass” and a “Daddy's boy, ” and he insists that he was not being verbally abusive-instead, he says, he kept asking why the officers were treating him this way. (Id. at Pg. ID 467.)

         According to Plaintiff, sometime after he put on his prison jumpsuit-the record does not reveal how long-some unidentified Defendants came into his cell and made him take it off. (Lancaster Dep., Dkt. #59-2 Pg. ID 468.) Defendant Sanchez was among the Defendants in the cell, and Plaintiff was upset about undressing in front of a female. He called Defendant Sanchez a “c***.” (Id.) At that point, he was maced in the eyes a second time, then maced in the genitals-all by the same Defendant that maced him the first time-while that Defendant said “This is for her.” (Id.) After the officers left, Plaintiff, covered in mace, took off his jumpsuit and laid naked on the floor. (Id.)

         Defendants maintain that-besides Defendant Kirby pepper spraying Plaintiff in the face, as captured by the video-none of these events happened. Indeed, Defendants say that Taser Use Logs from the jail show that none of the Genesee Defendants checked out a taser on the shift in question. (See Dkt. #59 Pg. ID 428.) Plaintiff responds that there is evidence to suggest that Defendant Bouchard had a taser that night, even if one was not checked out to him. (See Hovey Dep., Dkt. #67 Pg. ID 933 (“Q. And Bouchard also was carrying a Taser on the date of the incident? A. Yes.”) And while the parties have submitted some surveillance video from Plaintiff's cell on the night in question, there are gaps in the timeline. There is, for example, no ...

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