United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
THOMAS E. SAVARE, Plaintiff,
CITY OF FEDERAL WAY, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Dkt. #14. Defendants seek summary dismissal of Plaintiff's federal and state law unlawful seizure, false arrest, and false imprisonment claims, as well as his state law claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Id. With exception of the dismissal of his claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing that disputed material facts preclude judgment as a matter of law. Dkt. #21. Having reviewed the record before it, and having determined that oral argument is not necessary, the Court disagrees with Plaintiff and GRANTS Defendants' motion.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate where "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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). In ruling on summary judgment, a court does not weigh evidence to determine the truth of the matter, but "only determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Crane v. Conoco, Inc., 41 F.3d 547, 549 (9th Cir. 1994) ( citing Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992)). Material facts are those which might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
The Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d at 747, rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 79 (1994). However, the nonmoving party must make a "sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof" to survive summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Further, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.
The instant matter arises out of the arrest of Plaintiff for driving with a suspended driver's license in August of 2012. As a result of that arrest, Plaintiff has made several allegations in this lawsuit, including that his civil rights were violated when the Defendant Officers allegedly used excessive force during the arrest, causing physical injury to Plaintiff. See Dkt. #3. The claim for use of excessive force is not at issue in this motion; however, the Court mentions it here to provide context for the nature of this suit.
Defendants had a history with Plaintiff prior to his arrest. On the morning of July 9, 2012, Federal Way Police Officer Kelly Smith was involved with impounding a Chevrolet Suburban that was parked on the side of the road with expired tabs. Dkt. #16 at ¶ 3 and Ex. A. Plaintiff Thomas Savare was the registered owner of that vehicle. Id. Plaintiff admits that he was angry and upset when his car was being impounded, but asserts that he did not yell at or threaten Officer Smith. Dkt #23 at ¶ 1. Officer Smith apparently learned during this encounter that Plaintiff's driver's license was suspended. Id. Officer Smith recalls that he either learned this information from running Plaintiff's name through the Department of Licensing records system (which is his normal custom and practice when impounding a vehicle), from his conversation with Plaintiff, or both. Id. Plaintiff states that he did not know his license was suspended at the time, so he could not have informed Officer Smith that it was. Dkt. #23 at ¶ 2.
A week or two later, Officer Smith saw Plaintiff driving a Chevrolet Trailblazer in Federal Way. Dkt. #16 at ¶ 4. The Trailblazer was not owned by or registered to Plaintiff. Rather, it was owned by and registered to his significant other, Melinda Sue Annis. Dkt. #23 at ¶ 3. Plaintiff claims he was not driving the vehicle that day. Dkt. #23 at ¶ 3. However, Officer Smith asserts that when he saw Plaintiff drive by, he again confirmed that Plaintiff's driver's license was suspended. Dkt. #16 at ¶ 4. However, he did not pull the vehicle over to investigate at that time. Id.
On August 4, 2012, at approximately 1:15 p.m., Officer Smith was monitoring traffic on South 228th Street while parked in his patrol vehicle in a parking lot. Dkt. #16, Ex. B. He observed a white Chevrolet Trailblazer with distinctive "wire spoke" wheels pull out of the 7-11 parking lot. Id. Officer Smith recognized the vehicle as the one he saw Plaintiff drive a few weeks earlier. Id. As the Trailblazer passed in front of Officer Smith, he saw that Plaintiff was again driving the vehicle. Id. At that time, Officer Smith believed that Plaintiff's driver's license was likely still suspended. Id. Officer Smith also noticed that Plaintiff was driving faster than the other cars around him and was likely exceeding the posted speed limit. Dkt. #16 at ¶ 5 and Ex. B. Plaintiff denies that he was driving faster than other cars around him. Dkt. #23 at ¶ 4. Plaintiff also denies knowing that his license was suspended at the time. Id. at ¶ 3. However, he does not deny that it was actually suspended.
Officer Smith stopped Plaintiff's vehicle in order to verify his driving status. Dkt. #16, Ex. B. Officer Smith approached the vehicle on the passenger's side and asked Plaintiff for his driver's license. Id. Plaintiff handed his driver's license to Officer Smith, and Officer Smith asked dispatch to run Plaintiff's name through the Department of Licensing (DOL) records system. Id. Dispatch ran the check and informed Officer Smith that Plaintiff's driver's license was suspended. Dkt. #16, Ex. B. Plaintiff asserts that he asked Officer Smith several times why he was pulled over, but Officer Smith refused to tell him. Dkt. #23 at ¶ ¶ 5-6.
From his previous encounter with Plaintiff, Officer Smith knew that Plaintiff was a very large man. Dkt. 16 at ¶ 6. Plaintiff admits he is "overweight." Dkt. #21 at 1. Officer Smith also recalled that Plaintiff had become verbally hostile during the July 9, 2012, vehicle impound. Id. As a result, he radioed for an additional officer to respond and assist him. Id. at ¶ 6 and Ex. B.
Officer Smith stood next to Plaintiff's passenger window while waiting for backup. Id. Federal Way Police Officer Aaron Lubrant responded to the scene and approached Plaintiff's driver's side window, which was rolled down. Dkt. #16, Ex. B. Officer Smith then advised Plaintiff he was under arrest for driving with a suspended license. Id. The manner in which the officers effected the arrest is not at issue in this motion. However, Officer Smith, Officer Lubrant, and Lieutenant Stieben (who arrived after Officer Lubrant) eventually arrested Plaintiff for driving with a suspended license in violation of RCW 46.20.342.1C, and for resisting arrest in violation of RCW 9A.76.040. Dkt. #16, Ex. C. Officer Smith then transported plaintiff to the South Correctional Entity Regional Jail ...