United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
ROBERT S. LASNIK, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on "Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment." Dkt. # 20. Defendants seek judgment as a matter of law on all of plaintiff's constitutional and tort claims arising out of an entry and arrest at plaintiff's mother's apartment on September 24, 2011. Having reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits submitted by the parties and taking the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion as follows:
Plaintiff served in the military from 2001 to 2007, during which time she was raped and suffered foot injuries. Medvedeva Decl. (Dkt. #27) ¶¶ 5-8. She developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD") and problems with her left foot requiring multiple surgeries. Id. ¶ 8. On September 24, 2011, plaintiff was recovering from a third surgery on her left foot and staying with her mother at 9821 NE 122nd Street, # 317, in Kirkland (Unit 317). Sakk Decl. (Dkt. #28) ¶¶ 2, 6. That afternoon, plaintiff's mother was at work and plaintiff was alone in the apartment. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. At around 2:30 p.m., the tenant living in Unit 217 knocked on the door of Unit 317 to inform plaintiff or plaintiff's mother that water was coming through the ceiling of Unit 217. Medvedeva Decl. (Dkt. #27) ¶ 11. The tenant of Unit 217 thought that Unit 317 was the source of the water and wanted to check Unit 317. Plaintiff did not allow her to enter. Id. Plaintiff then went to the bathroom and saw that water was overflowing from the bathroom sink and onto the floor. Id. ¶ 12. The water had been running "maybe a half an hour" before plaintiff's interaction with the tenant from Unit 217. Parker Decl. (Dkt. #26) Ex. B, at 11:5. Plaintiff "threw a couple blankets on the floor and soaked up the water." Id. at 11:7-8.
In the meantime, the tenant from Unit 217 called 911 to report the water flowing through her ceiling. Firefighters and police officers employed by the City of Kirkland responded to the call. Firefighters inspected Unit 217 and saw that there was "water on the floor surrounding the toilet, the area rug was soaked and there was water dripping from several locations on the ceiling, overhead light, and exhaust fan. These conditions existed even after the resident [in Unit 217] had mopped and used towels to clean up." Hani Decl. (Dkt. #22) ¶ 7.
Defendants arrived and knocked on the door to Unit 317 and asked to come inside to investigate the flooding. Id. ¶ 8; Medvedeva Decl. (Dkt. #27) ¶ 13. Plaintiff did not let them in, informing them that she did not feel comfortable with them entering the apartment due to her PTSD. Medvedeva Decl. (Dkt. #27) ¶ 13. She told them to wait for her mother to return home, which would be in about fifteen or twenty minutes. Id. Defendants continued to ask plaintiff to let them in, but she refused. Id. ¶ 14. After being on the scene for approximately forty-five minutes, one of the firefighters became "concerned that water was continuing to migrate into a common wall that was known to contain electrical junctions and circuitry." Hani Decl. (Dkt. #22) ¶¶ 7, 9. He informed defendants that the situation posed a serious risk to the tenants in the building because of potential fire or ceiling collapse. Id. Due to these fears, the firefighters and police officers used a master key to gain entry into the apartment. Id. ¶¶ 9-10.
Once defendants and firefighters were inside the apartment, plaintiff ran to the bathroom, the source of the flooding water. Medvedeva Decl. (Dkt. #27) ¶ 14. Officer Wood opened the bathroom door and then grabbed and twisted plaintiff's arm, causing her pain. Id. ¶ 16. Next, he pushed plaintiff, causing her to fall into the bathtub. Id. Plaintiff was subsequently "dragged out of the bathroom" and placed face-down on a bed. At that point, one of the officers "had his knee or torso on [her] mid and lower back." Id. ¶ 19.
Once plaintiff's mother arrived, she attempted to talk with defendants about plaintiff's mental and physical conditions. Corporal McGuire told plaintiff's mother that "Galina has to learn a lesson in how to behave." Sakk Decl. (Dkt. #28) ¶ 12. Plaintiff states that "[o]ne of the officers commented that they needed to teach me a lesson." Medvedeva Decl. (Dkt. #27) ¶ 21. The officers subsequently decided to arrest plaintiff for obstruction. Parker Decl. (Dkt. #26) Ex. F. The officers removed plaintiff from the apartment by taking her down three flights of stairs, with plaintiff's injured left foot "hitting each step" on the way down. Medvedeva Decl. (Dkt. #27) ¶ 22. Plaintiff was placed in a patrol car and brought to Kirkland City Jail. Id. ¶ 24. From there, she was taken to Snohomish County Jail. Id. ¶ 25.
The firefighters inspected the bathroom in Unit 317 and saw "slight water on the floor and water splashed all around the sink on the countertop." Hani Decl. (Dkt. #22) ¶ 11. They then inspected Unit 217 and found that the water had stopped coming through the ceiling. Id.
III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
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 nonmoving 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).
A. Fourth Amendment Claims Under Section 1983
Plaintiff asserts that the officers unlawfully entered her mother's apartment without a warrant, unlawfully seized and arrested her, and used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because the officers had a lawful reason for their entry, and carried out their entry in a reasonable manner, the Court grants summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's unlawful entry and unlawful seizure and arrest claims. However, because there are genuine issues of material fact, this Court denies summary judgment on plaintiff's excessive force claim.
1. Unlawful Entry
"Searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable, but that presumption is not irrebuttable, and a warrantless search or seizure is permitted to render emergency aid or address exigent circumstances." Sheehan v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco , 743 F.3d 1211, 1221 (9th Cir. 2014), cert. granted, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 702 (2014). "The emergency aid exception applies when: (1) considering the totality of the circumstances, law enforcement had an objectively reasonable basis for concluding that there was an immediate need to protect others or themselves from serious harm; and (2) the search's scope and manner were reasonable to meet the need.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Snipe , 515 F.3d 947, 952 (9th Cir. 2008)).
First, defendants had an "objectively reasonable basis for concluding that there was an immediate need to protect" all of the occupants of the apartment building, including plaintiff, from the very serious threat to safety that results from water leaks or flooding in apartment buildings. The firefighters had seen a significant amount of water flowing through the ceiling of Unit 217. Hani Decl. (Dkt. #22) ¶ 7. One of the firefighters expressed a concern that water was going through a wall "that was known to contain electrical junctions and circuitry." Id. ¶ 9. He was concerned that the water might start a fire, create an electrocution hazard, or cause portions of the structure to collapse. Id. ¶¶ 3, 7. Once the firefighters saw the amount of water in Unit 217, they needed to stop the problem at its source in Unit 317. Id. ¶ 7. As time passed, during which plaintiff refused to let defendants and firefighters enter the unit, the need to examine the problem increased. Due to the firefighters' observations in Unit 217 and fears that this flooding could cause fire and ceiling collapse, defendants' basis for entering the apartment was reasonable.
Second, the officers carried out the search in a reasonable manner based on the circumstances. They knocked on the door and identified themselves. They informed plaintiff that they were there only to address the water problem. Id. ¶ 8. They used the master key to enter the apartment only after it was clear that plaintiff would not let them in and the situation was becoming increasingly dangerous. After entering, the officers and firefighters "quickly observed that the kitchen area was dry and not the source of the flooding." Id. ¶ 10. The only other source of the flooding could have been the bathroom, which made sense because the flooding was in the bathroom of Unit 217 and the two units likely had the same floor plan. Id. ¶ 8. Defendants thus entered the bathroom in their search for the flooding, where they encountered plaintiff. Their entry into the apartment ...