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Dunn v. Pierce County

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

March 22, 2017

JAMES W. DUNN, Plaintiff,
v.
PIERCE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff James Dunn's (“Dunn”) motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. 23) and Defendants Pierce County, Angela Steben, and Ara Steben's (“Defendants”) motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 27). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder of the file and hereby rules as follows:

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On February 2, 2016, Dunn filed a complaint against Defendants in Pierce County Superior Court for the State of Washington. Dkt. 1-2. Dunn asserted violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as his rights under the Washington constitution and tort laws. Id.

         On February 24, 2016, Defendants removed the matter to this Court. Dkt. 1.

         On March 2, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. Dkt. 7. On April 15, 2016, the Court granted the motion as to Dunn's claim for outrage, denied the remainder of the motion, and granted Dunn leave to amend his outrage claim. Dkt. 13.

         On April 22, 2016, Dunn filed an amended complaint asserting causes of action “for false arrest, false imprisonment, and violation of civil rights against Defendants Steben only (state law, Article 1 § 3 and Article 1 § 7 of the Washington State Constitution, and the Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution).” Dkt. 14, ¶ 3.1. Dunn did not allege outrage in the amended complaint. On May 5, 2016, Defendants answered and asserted a counterclaim for malicious prosecution. Dkt. 15.

         On January 18, 2017, Dunn filed a motion for partial summary judgment. Dkt. 27. On February 13, 2017, Defendants responded. Dkt. 33. On February 17, 2017, Dunn replied. Dkt. 37.

         On January 18, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 27. On February 6, 2017, Dunn responded. Dkt. 29. On February 10, 2017, Dunn replied. Dkt. 30. On February13, 2017, Dunn filed a surreply requesting that the Court strike certain material as hearsay. Dkt. 32[1].

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In the days before February 13, 2014, a strong wind storm “wreaked havoc” on the area surrounding Dunn's residence. Dkt. 25, Declaration of James Dunn (“Dunn Dec.”), ¶ 1. On February 13, 2014, Dunn was raking and cleaning wind-downed branches and leaves around his residence. Id., ¶ 2. Dunn claims that the branches and debris were also strewn across a “30-foot-wide private gravel easement road that crosses [his] property for the benefit of [himself] and [his] neighbors.” Id., ¶ 4. After cleaning up the debris, Dunn took a break and went inside his garage, “closing the door behind [him].” Id., ¶ 7.

         That same day, Pierce County Deputy Ara Steben received notification that police officers were needed out at the Dunn property. Dkt. 28-1, Deposition of Ara Steben (“Steben Dep.”) at 36. Deputy Steben was aware of and had personally responded to numerous complaints between Dunn and his neighbors, some involving violence. Id. at 26-29. Based on these previous interactions, Deputy Steben was aware of the gravel easement. Id. at 39. Upon arriving at the scene, Deputy Steben first went to Dunn's neighbors, the Bowers, because the Bowers had placed the call for help. Id. at 40. Deputy Steben remembers the Bowers informing him that Dunn had been throwing debris into the roadway on the easement and, when Mrs. Bowers drove down the easement earlier that day, she thought Dunn had struck her car with a rake. Id. at 43. Deputy Steben inspected the car and observed scratches on the wheel. Id. at 45.

         After speaking with the Bowers, Deputy Steben approached the Dunn residence. Id. at 47. Dunn and Deputy Steben provide differing accounts of ...


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