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Alvarez v. King County

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

June 23, 2017

MOISES E. PONCE ALVAREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
KING COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants King County, Cassandra Bertaina, Adam R. Buchan, Jonathan Hennessy, James Price, and John Does 1-2's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. # 27. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action, Plaintiff Moises E. Ponce Alvarez alleges that Defendants subjected him to excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Around midnight on May 21, 2014, Alvarez was driving his car in the White Center neighborhood of unincorporated King County when he experienced engine trouble and pulled into an alley between 18th and 19th Avenue Southwest. At the time, King County Sheriff's Deputy Adam R. Buchan was in the alley responding to an unrelated 911 call. What happened next is disputed.

         According to Alvarez, he parked to get out and check the engine. Just after unlocking the car door, a large man, who Alvarez later learned was Officer Buchan, yanked him out of the car, hit him, threw him to the ground, and told him to “shut up.” Face down and unable to see his assailant, he heard more people arrive who yelled at him and told him to “shut up.” He recognized one of the voices as belonging to a woman. These people punched and kicked him and he lost consciousness multiple times. He did not know they were officers until he felt himself be handcuffed. The officers transported him to jail. On the way, Alvarez continued to lapse in and out of consciousness. He later sought medical treatment. His doctor diagnosed him with post-traumatic headaches, which she attributes to the incident in the alley. Dkt. # 34-1 (Mendez Decl. Ex. 5).

         According to Buchan, he was in the alley using his flashlight to search for a suspect whom a nearby 911 caller had reported as banging on her front door. He saw a car enter the alley in his direction. The car accelerated toward him and he had to jump out of the way. The car skidded to a stop. With his firearm drawn, he opened the driver's side door and ordered the driver, whom he later learned was Alvarez, to turn off the engine. Alvarez complied, but did not exit the vehicle. Instead, he reached toward the passenger floorboard. Buchan grabbed him and pulled him from the vehicle. Alvarez resisted. As Buchan worked to restrain Alvarez, King County Sheriff's Deputy Cassandra Bertaina arrived to provide backup. Because Alvarez was still violently resisting, Buchan instructed Bertaina not to handcuff Alvarez until they received further assistance. King County Sheriff's Deputies Jonathan Hennessy and James Price arrived. Together, the four officers restrained Alvarez and transported him to jail.

         King County charged Alvarez with reckless driving and obstructing law enforcement. A jury found him not guilty. Dkt. # 34-1 at 134-36 (Mendez Decl. Ex. 21).

         On May 20, 2016, Alvarez filed this action alleging (1) claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the officers for excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) Monell claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against King County for maintaining unconstitutional policies and practices, failure to train, and failure to supervise; (3) a Washington state claim for assault and battery; and (4) a Washington state claim for negligent use of force. Now, Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims except for the excessive force claim against Officer Buchan.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Monell Claims, Assault and Battery Claim, and Negligence Claim

         In response to Defendants' motion, Alvarez withdraws his claims for Monell liability, assault and battery, and negligence. Dkt. # 33 at 21 (“Plaintiff withdraws his claims for Negligent Use of Force, Assault and Battery, and his Monell claim.”). Accordingly, the Court GRANTS in part Defendants' motion and DISMISSES these claims. Having dismissed Alvarez's Monell claims, the Court also DISMISSES Defendant King County as a party, as no claims remaining pending against it.

         B. Section 1983 Claims for Excessive Force Against Officers Bertaina, Hennessy, and Price

         Alvarez opposes Defendants' motion as to his § 1983 claims for excessive force against ...


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