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Paul v. State

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

July 15, 2019

MELISSA PAUL, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF WASHINGTON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTERCLAIM; MOTION TO STRIKE AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES

          THOMAS O. RICE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiff Melissa Paul's Motion to Dismiss Defendants' Counterclaim (ECF No. 3) and Motion to Strike Defendants' Affirmative Defenses (ECF No. 4). The Motions were submitted for consideration without a request for oral argument. The Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Motions (ECF Nos. 3; 4) are denied.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         The instant case arises out of a tragic accident. On January 1, 2017, at approximately 4:05 a.m., Plaintiff Melissa Paul struck and killed a bicyclist on the side of the road. ECF No. 1-3 at 4-5, ¶ 16-17. Washington State Patrol Trooper Leibrecht arrived on the scene at approximately 4:40 a.m. and contacted Plaintiff. ECF No. 1-3 at 5, ¶ 20. Apparently, Plaintiff fled the scene of the accident, but her car become inoperable thereafter and the police found her at that location. See ECF No. 6 at 7. After locating and speaking with Plaintiff, “Trooper Leibrecht thought that he might have smelled alcohol in the vehicle but [was] not sure where it was coming from”; Plaintiff's passenger advised the trooper that he had been drinking and that Plaintiff was his designated driver. ECF No. 1-3 at 5, ¶ 20.

         Between approximately 4:54 a.m. and 5:01 a.m., Trooper Leibrecht performed the standardized field sobriety tests (FST) on Plaintiff; according to Plaintiff, Trooper Liebrecht reported “that [n]o obvious signs of impairment were observed[.]”. ECF No. 1-3 at 5, ¶¶ 21-22. According to Plaintiff, “[a]t approximately 5:03 a.m., . . . [t]he troopers decided that based on the lack of impairment, that a Portable Breath Test (PBT) would not be administered.” ECF No. 1-3 at 5-6, ¶ 23.

         “At approximately 6 a.m., Sgt Davis arrived at Plaintiff's location and instructed Trooper Spencer to perform FST's [sic] on Plaintiff again.” ECF No. 1-3 at 6, ¶ 25. According to Plaintiff, “[a]fter Plaintiff successfully and satisfactorily completed the FST's [sic] for the second time, Trooper Spencer approached [Plaintiff] with a Portable Breath Test (PBT) and instructed her to blow. The PBT was .067, which is below the legal limit of alcohol influence in Washington.” ECF No. 1-3 at 7, ¶ 27.

         Apparently, Plaintiff was not given any explanation that the PBT was voluntary or what the test was for, as required under Washington Administrative Code 448-15-030. ECF No. 1-3 at 7, ¶ 28. “Following the PBT, Sgt. Davis instructed Trooper Spencer to apply for a blood warrant to take Plaintiff's blood. Trooper Spencer submitted an affidavit for a blood warrant which was signed by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese based on Trooper Spencer's sworn affidavit.” ECF No. 1-3 at 7, ¶ 31. “Plaintiff was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and booked into the Spokane County Jail[.]” ECF No. 1-3 at 10, ¶ 37.

         On or about December 19, 2017, the State of Washington stipulated to certain findings of fact, including:

(1) The PBT is inadmissible for purposes of obtaining a search warrant for blood because the required protocols under WAC 448-15-030 were not followed when administering the test to Ms. Paul.
(2) The facts provided in the probable cause affidavit are not supported by the conversations between the officers on the scene, as contained and readily observable in the dash camera videos.
(3) Absent the PBT result, the facts supporting probable cause do not rise to the level of impairment.
(4) Because impairment cannot be established by the probable cause affidavit, the warrant for blood is therefore invalid.

ECF No. 1-3 at 10, ¶ 38. The criminal charges were then dismissed with prejudice. ECF No. 1-3 at 11, ¶ 39.

         Plaintiff brought suit against Defendants in Spokane County Superior Court on February 28, 2019 asserting claims for (1) unlawful seizure / false arrest under the Fourth Amendment and state law; (2) false imprisonment under the Fourth Amendment and state law; (3) Malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment and state law; (4) excessive force under the Fourth Amendment; (5) supervisor liability against Sgt. Davis; (6) civil conspiracy against Sgt. Davis and Troopers Leibrecht and Spencer; (7) infliction of emotional distress; (8) ...


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