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Simpson v. City of Dearborn

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

December 3, 2019




         Plaintiff Joshua Simpson sues Defendants City of Dearborn and Officer Vincent Belloli for an incident in which Simpson's arm was run over by a police vehicle as Simpson was trying to evade capture. Simpson alleged that Belloli used excessive force in violation of Simpson's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1, PageID.12.) Simpson also included negligence claims under state law, Mich. Comp. Laws § 691.1407(2)(c) and § 691.1405. (Id., PageID.5, 9.)

         Defendants now move for summary judgment. (ECF No. 20.) Simpson filed a response and Defendants have replied. (ECF Nos. 25, 28.) For the following reasons, Defendants' motion as to Simpson's excessive force claim will be granted. The court will decline to exercise further jurisdiction as to Simpson's remaining state claims and they will be dismissed without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On the afternoon of October 26, 2017, Simpson and his girlfriend, Zaria Martin, were involved in a violent disagreement. Fighting between Simpson and Martin began as Martin drove Simpson through a McDonald's restaurant parking lot. (ECF No. 25-2, PageID.521.) Martin turned out of the McDonald's onto Michigan Avenue, a major road in Dearborn, Michigan. (ECF No. 20-4, PageID.176; ECF No. 20-5, PageID.188.) Once on the road, Simpson grabbed the steering wheel and turned it erratically, causing the car to swerve. (ECF No. 20-4, PageID.177-78; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.522-23.) Because the confrontation had escalated, Martin then turned into a gas station. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.168; ECF No. 20-2; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.526.)

         A security camera at the gas station depicted the unfolding events. (ECF No. 20-2). Martin pulled her vehicle into a parking spot. At the same time, another vehicle, driven by Martin's friend, pulled next to it. (Id., 00:00-00:11; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.528.) Simpson exited the passenger seat, went around Martin's vehicle, and approached the driver's side window. (ECF No. 20-2, 00:22-00:28.) He then punched Martin several times through an open window. (Id., 00:28-00:30.) When Martin frantically attempted to escape, diving into her friend's car, Simpson lunged into the car after her. (Id., 00:35-00:46.) Simpson then continued to hit Martin and to pull her hair. (ECF No. 25-2, PageID.529-30.) Simpson eventually got out of the friend's vehicle and went back to Martin's vehicle. Simpson took out items from the vehicle and began throwing them onto the ground. (ECF No. 20-2, 00:56-01:00.)

         With all this turmoil, spectators began to approach. (Id., 01:45-02:00; ECF No. 20-2, PageID.160.) Simpson walked toward one of the spectators and attempted to initiate a fight. (ECF No. 20-2, 01:50-01:57; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.536-37, 539.) In the process, the police were called, reporting a man punching a woman. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.160, 163, 167.) However, Simpson walked away before the police arrived on the scene.

         Police soon identified Simpson walking on the sidewalk along Michigan Avenue, moving away from where the initial events occurred. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.164; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.541.) The officer who identified Simpson activated his vehicle's emergency lights and ordered Simpson to stop, using the vehicle's loud speakers. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.164.) In response, Simpson began to run and flee the police. (Id.; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.541.) He cut across Michigan Avenue, disrupting traffic and risking accidents, and ran to a gas station. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.164; ECF No. 20-5, PageID.188; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.545.) At the gas station, Simpson ran between cars and pumps. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.163; ECF No. 20-5, PageID.189; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.545.) Now being chased by several police officers and vehicles with their lights activated, Simpson shifted his direction several times, running onto Michigan Avenue again and then back into a parking lot. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.164-65, 167; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.545-46.)

         As Simpson ran into the parking lot, Defendant Officer Belloli was maneuvering to cut Simpson off and block his means of escape. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.167; ECF No. 20-5, PageID.182.) Belloli had been following Simpson in a police cruiser and decided to drive ahead of him. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.167; ECF No. 20-5, PageID.182.) Another police officer, Officer Fox, had exited his vehicle and was chasing Simpson on foot. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.163; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.546.) Bodycam footage shows Fox yelling at Simpson and ordering him to stop running and get on the ground. (ECF No. 20-6, XV Fox, 14:21:33-14:21:38.)

         Fox's bodycam then displays the event that gave rise to this lawsuit. The video shows Belloli driving his police vehicle past Simpson, and at the same time Simpson falling to the ground, a portion of Simpson's body falling into the path of Belloli's right front wheel, and the wheel running over Simpson's left arm and part of his left leg. (Id., 14:21:38-14:21:40.) When Simpson fell, he was running in his socks and fell backwards. (Id.; ECF No. 25-2, PageID.555-56.) According to observations of Fox, Simpson slipped when he attempted to change direction and lost traction on the parking lot pavement. (ECF No. 20-2, PageID.163.) As a result, Simpson suffered serious injury to his arm, resulting in surgery. (ECF No. 25-2, PageID.596.)

         Simpson was charged with several crimes for his actions that day. (ECF No. 20-4, PageID.175.) Following his plea admitting guilt, Simpson filed a no-fault insurance application to the City of Dearborn. (ECF No. 20-10.) In it, Simpson asserted that he was “run over by a police vehicle after [he] slipped and fell while running from the police.” (Id., PageID.225.)

         II. STANDARD

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a movant must show “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). First, the moving party bears the initial burden of presenting evidence that “demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). There is no requirement that the moving party “support its motion with [evidence] negating the opponent's claim.” Id. (emphasis removed); see also Emp'rs Ins. of Wausau v. Petrol. Specialties, Inc., 69 F.3d 98, 102 (6th Cir. 1995).

         Second, “the nonmoving party must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (emphasis removed) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). This requires more than a “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” or “‘[t]he mere possibility' of a factual dispute.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Gregg v. Allen-Bradley Co., 801 F.2d 859, 863 (6th Cir. 1986)). For a court to deny summary judgment, “the evidence [must be] such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. All reasonable inferences from the ...

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