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Hunter v. City of Federal Way

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

December 15, 2017

JOSIAH HUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF FEDERAL WAY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on “Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.” Dkt. # 18. Summary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact that would preclude the entry of judgment as a matter of law. The party seeking summary dismissal of the case “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)) and “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” that show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact (Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, it is entitled to summary judgment if the non-moving party fails to designate “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. The Court will “view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party . . . and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Krechman v. County of Riverside, 723 F.3d 1104, 1109 (9th Cir. 2013). Although the Court must reserve for the jury genuine issues regarding credibility, the weight of the evidence, and legitimate inferences, the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position will be insufficient” to avoid judgment. City of Pomona v. SQM N. Am. Corp., 750 F.3d 1036, 1049 (9th Cir. 2014); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Factual disputes whose resolution would not affect the outcome of the suit are irrelevant to the consideration of a motion for summary judgment. S. Cal. Darts Ass'n v. Zaffina, 762 F.3d 921, 925 (9th Cir. 2014). In other words, summary judgment should be granted where the nonmoving party fails to offer evidence from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in its favor. FreecycleSunnyvale v. Freecycle Network, 626 F.3d 509, 514 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Having reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits submitted by the parties, and considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the Court finds as follows:

         BACKGROUND

         On the night of September 14, 2014, two trucks collided at South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South in Federal Way, Washington. At the time of the collision, plaintiff Josiah Hunter and his friend Junior Beausilien were in Mr. Hunter's car in the AM/PM store parking lot. Hearing the crash, the two men went to make sure that everyone was okay.

         When Mr. Hunter and Mr. Beausilien approached the first vehicle, the driver Mr. Wells appeared to be intoxicated. Dkt. # 19 at 11 (Dep. of Josiah Hunter). He exited the vehicle and began walking around and talking on his cell phone. Id. A third man named Michael Anderson also approached the accident and identified himself as an off-duty cop. Id. Concerned that the intoxicated driver was attempting to flee the scene, Mr. Anderson instructed the two men to watch the driver. Id. Mr. Hunter and Mr. Beausilien stayed with the driver until the police arrived. Id. at 13.

         Officer Kris Durell was the first police officer to arrive. When Officer Durell approached the driver, Mr. Wells became agitated and began arguing. Id. at 14-15. Shortly thereafter, Officer Durell placed Mr. Wells under arrest. Id. While being handcuffed, Mr. Wells' wallet was on the ground next to him. Id. at 16. Mr. Wells asked Mr. Hunter to pick it up. Id. at 17. Mr. Hunter picked up the wallet, at which time Officer Durell told him, “hey, what are you doing? Drop the wallet and back up.” Id. at 16. Mr. Hunter dropped the wallet and stepped back. Id.

         As more officers arrived to investigate, they instructed everyone in the area to step away from the crime scene. Id. at 20. One of the officers, Officer Schmidt, began taking pictures of the accident. Mr. Hunter and Mr. Beausilien were in at least one of the pictures, and Mr. Beausilien proceeded to argue with Officer Schmidt about why his photograph was being taken. Dkt. # 18 at 6; Dkt. # 19 at 34, 36 (Dep. of Junior Beausilien).

         At one point Officer Schmidt entered the AM/PM store to see whether the two men had permission to be on the property. Officer Schmidt returned to the parking lot and told Mr. Hunter to leave or he would be arrested for trespassing and interfering with a crime scene. Dkt. # 19 at 18 (Dep. of Josiah Hunter). Mr. Beausilien also spoke with Mr. Hunter and said that they needed to leave or they would be arrested. Id. Mr. Hunter told the police that he would leave after making a phone call, and he proceeded to walk through the parking lot before making a U-turn back towards his vehicle. Id. at 18-19. The officers began to arrest Mr. Beausilien as Mr. Hunter returned to his car. Id. at 20. As Mr. Hunter was opening his car door to leave, he was placed in a choke hold by Officer Durell and arrested for obstruction, trespass, and resisting arrest. Dkt. # 22 at 13; Dkt. # 19 at 56.

         Later, the charges against Mr. Hunter were dropped. Dkt. # 19 at 56. Mr. Hunter filed suit against the City of Federal Way, the Federal Way Police Department, and Police Chief Andy Hwang (collectively “the City”), and Officer Kris Durell. Mr. Hunter asserts various causes of action related to his arrest and the choke hold that was employed by Officer Durell. Presently, defendants ask this Court to dismiss all but two of Mr. Hunter's claims.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants seek a summary determination that they are not liable for false arrest and imprisonment, negligence, and outrage. The City defendants also seek dismissal of plaintiff's § 1983 claims of excessive force, false arrest, and failure to train. Defendants do not address plaintiff's claims of assault and excessive force against Officer Durell. Each claim is addressed below.

         A. False arrest

         Plaintiff asserts that he was falsely arrested in violation of state law and the Fourth Amendment. Dkt. # 1, ¶ 5.6. To establish a false ...


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