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Estate of Jackson v. Billingslea

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

July 29, 2019

The Estate of Michaelangelo A. Jackson, deceased, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Richard Billingslea, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF No. 27]

          Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge.

         Lorenzo DeJuan Harris (“Harris”) led police officers on a car chase before he crashed into a residential neighborhood killing and injuring children playing outside. Plaintiffs represent these children. They bring claims against the officers, City of Detroit, and unnamed supervisors.

         Plaintiffs allege state created danger, excessive force, failure to intervene, municipal liability, and supervisory liability. But-because they fail to create genuine issues of fact to establish essential elements for each claim-the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 25, 2015, Detroit Police Department's (“DPD”) officers Richard Billingslea (“Billingslea”), Hakeem Patterson (“Patterson”), and Steven Fultz (“Fultz”) patrolled in a marked scout car. Billingslea drove; Fultz was the front passenger; Patterson sat in the rear. The scout car was not equipped with a camera or working radio.

         Harris drove a red Chevrolet Camaro westbound on Munich and Chatworth. Fultz saw Harris holding a black semi-automatic handgun while driving. Fultz alerted Billingslea and Patterson and then called dispatch. Billingslea activated lights and sirens and drove towards Harris; Harris fled and rapidly drove the Camaro northbound on Nottingham and E. Warren.

         After losing sight of the Camaro, the officers discontinued the search. However, when they saw a dust/smoke cloud on Nottingham and E. Warren they drove towards it.

         By then the Camaro had crashed in a residential neighborhood on Nottingham, killing three-year-old Makiah Jackson and six-year-old Michaelangelo Jackson. The crash also injured Plaintiffs Lakendra Gardner, Z.G., I.W., and D.A.

         The parties agree that: (1) the officers discontinued the car chase after they lost sight of the Camaro, and (2) no gun was found. However, the parties disagree about whether the scout car hit the Camaro causing it to crash. Defendants say the scout car never contacted the Camaro; Plaintiffs say it did.

         Now, Plaintiffs bring this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution for state created danger, excessive force, failure to intervene, municipal liability, and supervisory liability. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Plaintiffs also have a case pending in Wayne County Circuit Court alleging these same facts against the officers for negligence, and claims against the City of Detroit, for negligence, owner liability, and vicarious liability.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden to “demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). There is an issue of material fact “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         Summary judgment should not be granted if the nonmoving party presents evidence to show a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The nonmoving party's evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to it. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         All of Plaintiffs' claims arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That statute allows individuals to bring federal claims against state actors who deprive them “. . . of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws . . . . ” 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West 1996).

         A. Plaintiffs Do Not Allege A “Specific Danger” To Sustain A State Created Danger Claim

         Plaintiffs bring a § 1983 state created danger claim. They say the officers exposed them to an unreasonable risk of harm when they conducted a high-speed car chase in a residential neighborhood. Plaintiffs allege that the children killed and injured were a discrete group of individuals who were far more vulnerable to harm, and consequently were deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

         Defendants say if anything, the car chase created danger to the public at large; it did not ...


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