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Micciche v. City of Federal Way

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

November 24, 2014

CITY OF FEDERAL WAY, et al., Defendants.


ROBERT S. LASNIK, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on "Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment." Dkt. # 18. Defendants seek judgment as a matter of law on all of plaintiff's constitutional and tort claims arising out of a search and arrest at plaintiff's home on October 13, 2010. Summary judgment is appropriate if, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, "the movant shows that 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); L.A. Printex Indus., Inc. v. Aeropostale, Inc., 676 F.3d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 2012). The moving party "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). It need not "produce evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact" but instead may discharge its burden under Rule 56 by "pointing out... that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, it is entitled to summary judgment if the non-moving party fails to designate "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324. "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is not sufficient:" the opposing party must present probative evidence in support of its claim or defense. Arpin v. Santa Clara Valley Transp. Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 919 (9th Cir. 2001); Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991). "An issue is genuine' only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact finder could find for the nonmoving party." In re Barboza, 545 F.3d 702, 707 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal citations omitted).

Having reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits submitted by the parties and taking the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, [1] the Court finds as follows:


Shortly after 1:00 am on October 13, 2010, Bobbie Reed called 911 to report the sounds of a fight happening in her neighborhood. She heard "a lot of breakage of glass and things being thrown like wood and metal and screaming and yelling and threats." Decl. of Ann E. Trivett (Dkt. # 19), Ex. A at 4. She was concerned that the man who lived alone behind her, who she believed was named John and was disabled, might get hurt. Id. at 4-6. The breakage and screaming continued for approximately twenty minutes, stopped, then started again. At one point, she heard "I am going to kill you" and again called 911. Id. at 8. Officers Tilford and Vanruth were dispatched to the scene at 1:16 am. They drove by the houses behind Ms. Reed's home, but were unable to see or hear anything suspicious in the area. They made contact with Ms. Reed, who described John's house to them. Id. at 11.

Officers Tilford and Vanruth arrived at plaintiff's house at 1:37 am. Decl. of Travis Tilford (Dkt. # 21), Ex. C. All appeared quiet from the outside. Id. at Ex. B. Plaintiff was asleep on the couch in his living room: if the officers knocked or announced their presence, he did not hear them. Plaintiff woke when his front door burst open. Plaintiff is unclear how many people came through the door, but he was tackled, thrown into his entertainment center, dragged from the house, toppled over a wood splitter, and slammed into the side of his van. He was taken to the ground, and the officers asked him who he was. Plaintiff said something to the effect of "You know who I am. You guys all know who I am." He was knocked out, and woke to find himself handcuffed and in the back of the patrol car. Decl. of Ann E. Trivett (Dkt. # 19), Ex. C at 55-60. Plaintiff became aware that his assailants were police officers when he was dragged out of the house and saw the patrol car. Id. at 59.

Ten minutes after arriving at the house, Officer Vanruth called for assistance. Decl. of Travis Tilford (Dkt. # 21), Ex. C. While Officer Tilford stayed with plaintiff, Officers Vanruth, Orta, and Purcella entered and searched plaintiff's house. The glass on the front door was broken and there were signs of a physical altercation. Decl. of Scott Orta (Dkt. # 23), Ex. A. No one else was found in the house, although the officers found a number of guns in a locked room.


A. Fourth Amendment Claims Under ยง 1983

Plaintiff asserts that Officers Tilford and Vanruth unlawfully entered his home without a warrant and used excessive force in effecting his arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

1. Warrantless Entry

The Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV. When officers leave the common thoroughfare and enter areas protected by the Fourth Amendments, their "leave to gather information is sharply circumscribed." Florida v. Jardines, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 1409, 1415 (2013). In the absence of a warrant, entry into and searches of the home and the surrounding curtilage are "presumptively unreasonable." Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586 (1980). In order to justify a warrantless search to which the homeowner has not consented,

officers must have either probable cause and exigent circumstances or an emergency sufficient to justify the entry. These exceptions to the warrant requirement are narrow and their boundaries are rigorously guarded. The police must show that a warrant could not have been obtained in time, and must demonstrate specific and articulable facts to justify the finding of either exigent circumstances or emergency.

Sandoval v. Las Vegas Metro. Police Dep't, 756 F.3d 1154, 1161 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal citations ...

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