United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
KATHLEEN M. WHALEN, Plaintiff,
JOHN G. MCMULLEN, individually and not in his official capacity with the Washington State Patrol, PATRICIA LASHWAY, ACTING SECRETARY, WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL & HEALTH SERVICES, in her official capacity, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL
Barbara Jacobs Rothstein U.S. District Court Judge
Kathleen Whalen brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that Defendant John McMullen, an officer of
the Washington State Patrol, violated the Fourth Amendment
when he entered Plaintiff's home as part of a
disability-fraud investigation. Plaintiff also brings suit
against Patricia Lashway,  in her official capacity as acting
secretary of the Washington Department of Social & Health
Services (DSHS). Plaintiff asserts that DSHS, the agency that
initiated the fraud investigation conducted by McMullen, is
liable for McMullen's allegedly unlawful conduct.
Plaintiff also brings pendent state-law claims against
McMullen, alleging that he violated Article I, section 7 of
the Washington state constitution and that he is liable for
trespass onto her property. Plaintiff moves for summary
judgment on all claims. Defendants have also moved for
reviewed the parties' briefing, the record of the case,
as well as the relevant legal authority, the Court will deny
Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Dkt.
#52]. The Court will grant Defendants' motions for
summary judgment [Dkt. #44, 50].
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
McMullen is a detective in the Criminal Investigative
Division of the Washington State Patrol. More specifically,
McMullen is assigned to the Cooperative Disability
Investigations Unit (“CDIU”), which investigates
potential fraud by recipients of Social Security Disability
(“SSD”) benefits. DSHS's Disability
Determination Services (“DDS”) division refers
cases to the CDIU “to investigate allegations of fraud
in SSA's disability programs for purposes of criminal
prosecution and/or civil/administrative action.” Dkt.
53-1, Ex. 1 at 2. The CDIU is overseen by the Office of the
Inspector General (“OIG”) of the United States
Social Security Administration (“SSA”).
Id. at 2-3.
case involving Plaintiff Kathleen Whalen was referred to the
CDIU and assigned to Detective McMullen on October 11, 2012.
That same day, McMullen went to Plaintiff's home to
observe her physical function and mobility as part of his
investigation into whether Plaintiff was committing
disability fraud. When McMullen arrived, he knocked on
Plaintiff's door. McMullen identified himself as an
officer of the Washington State Patrol, but did not disclose
to Plaintiff that he was there as part of a disability-fraud
investigation. Rather, McMullen told Plaintiff that he was
investigating a fictitious identity theft. McMullen was
wearing a badge around his neck. He also had a hidden camera.
and Plaintiff walked outside the home to McMullen's
vehicle, where they spoke at length. Plaintiff informed
McMullen that she had been the victim of an identity theft,
about which she had pertinent information on her cell phone
inside her home. The parties dispute what happened next.
McMullen asserts that Plaintiff “invited” him
into her home, while Plaintiff alleges that she walked into
her home and McMullen “followed” her. Dkt. 47,
McMullen Decl. ¶ 16; Dkt. 52 at 5; Dkt. 53, Ex. 3,
McMullen Dep. at 46: 11-25. The pair continued their
conversation inside the home. McMullen then left the
filed the instant suit against McMullen and DSHS under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that McMullen's entry into
her home and surreptitious videotaping inside violated the
Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches.
Plaintiff also alleges that McMullen's actions violated
the Washington state constitution's prohibition on
“home invasions.” Finally, Plaintiff brings a
trespass claim against McMullen.
Summary judgment standard
judgment is proper “if the movant shows 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). The moving party bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the absence of any material fact. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “[T]he
substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute
about a material fact is “genuine . . . if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id.
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims
1983 is not a source of substantive rights; rather it
provides “a method for vindicating federal rights
elsewhere conferred.” Baker v. McCollan, 443
U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979). Here, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free
from unreasonable searches by subjecting her to a warrantless
search under false pretenses. Plaintiff moves for summary
judgment on this Fourth Amendment claim, arguing that
McMullen's conduct-namely, entering her home without a
search warrant after misrepresenting the nature of his
investigation-was per se unreasonable. Plaintiff also moves
for summary judgment on her claims for equitable relief
against DSHS, arguing that the agency is liable for
McMullen's conduct because it initiated the fraud