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Robert v. City of Detroit

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

July 2, 2018

Jeff Robert, Plaintiff,
City of Detroit, Defendant.


          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain, United States District Court Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Defendant City of Detroit's Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant suspended Plaintiff Jeff Robert, a former Detroit City Police Officer, for about three months with pay after Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident and left the scene of the accident. Plaintiff filed suit against the City of Detroit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. Plaintiff also filed concurrent state law claims under the Michigan constitution and a state law claim alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion and allow Plaintiff to file a motion to amend his complaint.

         II. Factual Background

         This case stems from a motor vehicle accident that occurred in the early morning hours of April 18, 2015. Dkt. No. 28-1, pg. 8 (Pg. ID 300). Plaintiff Jeff Robert is a former police officer with the City of Detroit; he is currently a detective with the City of Detroit. Id. at pg. 5 (Pg. ID 297). On August 17, 2017, Plaintiff attended a party for police officers graduating from the police academy. Id. at pgs. 8-9 (Pg. ID 300-01). Plaintiff consumed two beers and one shot of alcohol at the party. Id. at pg. 9 (Pg. ID 301). After the party, Plaintiff gave a Student Police Officer, Officer Kimberly Buckner, a ride home on his motorcycle. Id. At approximately 2:05 am[1] while giving Buckner a ride home, Plaintiff encountered a sharp turn and was not able to complete the turn. Id. at pgs. 9-10 (Pg. ID 301-02). Plaintiff's motorcycle struck the curb, and the motorcycle went down and slid a short distance. Id. at pg. 10 (Pg. ID 302). Plaintiff and Officer Buckner got up and brushed dirt off of themselves. Id. Plaintiff asked Officer Buckner if she was okay, and she responded yes. Id. Officer Buckner then called another officer, Officer Reason[2], to pick her up from the accident scene. Id. Officer Reason showed up within four minutes and took Officer Buckner home. Id.

         Sometime before Plaintiff started his motorcycle back up, he called Sergeant Jeremy James, his supervisor. Id. at pg. 11 (Pg. ID 303). Plaintiff reached Sergeant James' voicemail. Id. Plaintiff left a message, informing Sergeant James that he had Officer Buckner on his motorcycle and that he had “dropped the bike.” Id. After Plaintiff left the voice message, he picked up his motorcycle and started to drive home. Id. While driving, Plaintiff noticed he was having an issue shifting. Id. He drove the bike to the parking lot at 7310 Woodward, his old police station base. Id. Plaintiff's wife picked him up from the parking lot and he left the motorcycle in the parking lot. Dkt. No. 1, pg. 3 (Pg. ID 3).

         At approximately 2:15 am on April 18, 2015, Lieutenant Kelly Fitzgerald received a notification from Sergeant Michelle Zberkot that Sergeant Zberkot received a phone call from Officer Buckner. Dkt. No. 28-2, pg. 5 (Pg. ID 313). Officer Buckner's phone call notified Sergeant Zberkot that she and Plaintiff had been involved in an accident. Officer Buckner went to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, on the night of the accident. Dkt. No. 26-3, pg. 2 (Pg. ID 243). At the hospital, she was treated for a small laceration on the left side of her forehead and severe abrasions on her left leg. Id. That same night, Captain Darin Szilagy canvassed the area near where the accident had allegedly occurred and did not observe any signs of an accident; he also did not see Plaintiff at the scene. Id. At 3:00 am on April 18, 2015, Lieutenant Fitzgerald directed Sergeant Bernadette Dunbeck and Sergeant Steven Peil to conduct a preliminary investigation into the accident. Id. At 5:18 am on April 18, 2015, Sergeants Dunbeck and Peil interviewed Officer Buckner. Id. Officer Buckner described her version of the accident to the Sergeants. See id.

         At approximately 9:50 am on April 18, 2015, Sergeant Dunbeck faxed a search warrant request to apprehend and collect a blood sample from Plaintiff to the Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Id. at pg. 4 (Pg. ID 245). At approximately 10:15 am, Sergeant Lora Stanton informed Sergeant Dunbeck that there were no requests or reports for calls for service regarding the accident around the area where the accident allegedly took place. Id. At 10:20 am, Sergeant Peil notified Sergeant Tony Coppola that members of the Detroit Police Department were going to arrest Plaintiff for leaving the scene of an injury accident. Id.

         According to Plaintiff, three officers showed up to his house around noon or 1:00 pm on April 18, 2015 and placed him under arrest. Dkt. No. 28-1, pg. 12 (Pg. ID 304). When Plaintiff asked what he was being arrested for, a lieutenant told him it was for leaving the scene of an injury accident. Id. Plaintiff was examined by the Michigan Department of Corrections Register Nurse for his injuries, which included abrasions to the left side of his face, nose, and chin, and abrasions on both of his hands, arms, and legs. Dkt. No. 26-3, pg. 5 (Pg. ID 246). At approximately 12:34 pm, Sergeants Peil and Dunbeck interviewed Plaintiff under the provisions of Miranda. Id. Plaintiff refused to make a statement. Id. At approximately 1:27pm, Defendant released Plaintiff. Id. At 1:55pm, Sergeant Peil and three other officers travelled to 7310 Woodward and observed Plaintiff's motorcycle parked there, with damage to the left side and the windshield. Id.

         Sergeant Peil recommended that Plaintiff be suspended with pay pending the departmental adjudication of the incident. Id. Sergeant Peil also recommended that Plaintiff be charged with Conduct Unbecoming An Officer. Id. at pg. 6 (Pg. ID 247). On April 18, 2015, Defendant suspended Plaintiff with pay. See Dkt. No. 26-3, pg. 8 (Pg. ID 249).

         On April 20, 2018, Captain Brian Mounsey and Lieutenant Fitzgerald spoke with Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Robert Donaldson of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. Id. at pg. 11 (Pg. ID 252). During the conversation, it was determined that charges against Plaintiff would not be presented and that Defendant would conduct a misconduct investigation. Id. On May 28, 2015, Commander DeShaune Sims found it unlikely that Defendant would prevail in a termination of Plaintiff. Id. Commander Sims recommended that Defendant restore Plaintiff to full duty pending the completion of the investigation. Id. On June 5, 2015, Chief of Police James Craig recommended that Plaintiff be restored to full duty pending the departmental adjudication of the motor vehicle incident. Id. at pg. 15 (Pg. ID 256). Plaintiff returned to work in August of 2015. Dkt. No. 28-1, pg. 12 (Pg. ID 304). On November 12, 2015, Defendant issued a formal memorandum to Plaintiff informing him that the investigation into the motor vehicle incident had been closed. Dkt. No. 26-3, pg. 16 (Pg. ID 257). On December 8, 2015, Defendant charged Plaintiff with Neglect of Duty in violation of the Detroit Police Department Manuel Series 100. Dkt. No. 28-2, pg. 2 (Pg. ID 310). Plaintiff alleges that during his suspension, he was unable to work in secondary employment[3] and earn overtime. Dkt. No. 28-1, pg. 12 (Pg. ID 304).

         On July 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed his complaint against the City of Detroit. Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleged false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at pgs. 4-8 (Pg. ID 4-8).[4] Plaintiff also alleged a state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. at pg. 5 (Pg. ID 5). On July 27, 2017, Defendant filed its first Motion for Summary Judgment-three months after the dispositive motion cutoff date. Dkt. No. 15. The parties thereafter entered into settlement agreements and agreed upon a settlement amount that the Detroit City Council rejected. After settlement negotiations proved unsuccessful, this Court struck Defendant's first Motion without prejudice on March 30, 2018. Dkt. No. 25. On April 26, 2018, Defendant re-filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 26. Plaintiff filed his response opposing the Motion on May 17, 2018. Dkt. No. 28. Plaintiff's response also requested leave to amend his complaint should this Court rule in favor of Defendant. Id. at pg. 14 (Pg. ID 291). Defendant did not file a reply.

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) governs summary judgment. The Rule states, “summary judgment shall be granted if ‘there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Cehrs v. Ne. Ohio Alzheimer's Research Ctr., 155 F.3d 775, 779 (6th Cir. 1998). “All factual inferences ‘must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.'” Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). There is a genuine issue of material fact “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Ultimately, the court evaluates “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         IV. Discussion

         1. Federal Claims

         Count I of Plaintiff's complaint alleges deprivation of constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. No. 1, pg. 4 (Pg. ID 4). Counts III and IV of Plaintiff's complaint allege false arrest and false imprisonment. Id. at pg. 6 (Pg. ID 6). Count V of Plaintiff's complaint alleges malicious prosecution. Id. This Court will consider Plaintiff's federal claims first. To prevail in a ยง 1983 claim against a municipality, one must demonstrate: (1) the deprivation of a constitutional right; and (2) that the ...

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