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Outlaw v. City of Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 12, 2016

TYLON C. OUTLAW, Plaintiff,



This case arises out of an incident on December 17, 2004, in which Plaintiff was injured in the course of an altercation involving members of the Hartford Police Department. In 2007 he filed suit against two of the officers, Detective Troy Gordon and Officer Michael Allen, as well as the City of Hartford. The lawsuit included 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims, claims arising under the Connecticut Constitution, and common law claims for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Prior to trial, the court granted summary judgment on the Monell claims against the City and permitted the claims against the individual officers to go forward.[1] The court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the issue of qualified immunity because of significant factual disputes concerning the conduct of Defendants and Plaintiff. These disputes required fact finding and were reserved for trial.

The court held a jury trial between January 4 and January 8, 2016. Both parties agreed that the factual and legal issues concerning the availability of qualified immunity would be decided by the court after the verdict.

The jury found Officer Allen liable for Plaintiffs injuries on the state and federal constitutional claims. He was found not liable on the common law claims. Detective Gordon was found not liable on all claims against him. The jury awarded damages against Officer Allen for $111, 803 (past and future medical expenses) and $408, 197 (pain and suffering). The parties have stipulated to a reduction of the medical expense award to $46, 000 resulting in a net jury verdict in the amount of $454, 197.

This decision addresses the issue of qualified immunity. It includes factual findings based upon the trial evidence and a ruling on the legal issues presented by Officer Allen's claim of immunity.

I. Burden of Proof

Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815(1982). Therefore, Officer Allen has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence the disputed factual issues relevant to his immunity claim. See Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c)).

II. Findings

The court makes the following factual findings on the basis of the trial testimony and exhibits admitted into evidence.

On the evening of December 17, 2004, Plaintiff visited a restaurant on Union Place in Hartford, Connecticut. Earlier in the day he had decided to meet a friend there to talk over possible plans of opening a sandwich shop. He arrived at the restaurant around 10:00 pm and stayed until between 11:30 and 11:45 pm. He left the restaurant and started to walk back to his car, which was parked about two blocks away. He had consumed a beer. He was not intoxicated.

Just outside the restaurant Plaintiff saw a taxi cab double-parked waiting for a fare. He recognized the driver and the driver's front-seat passenger as people he knew. He stopped to talk with them. He stood by the front passenger window, leaning in towards the window with his back to the travelled portion of the roadway. While he was talking, the fare a man and a woman - emerged from a pizza restaurant on Union Place. By coincidence, they were also acquaintances of Plaintiff, and he remained beside the taxi to speak with them as well.

At about 11:45 pm, Hartford police officers responded to an unrelated complaint of an assault on AUyn Street near its intersection with Union Place. By the time the officers arrived, neither the victim nor the suspected perpetrator were anywhere to be seen. The two officers who are defendants in this case were among those who responded to that call. Detective Gordon was working in plain clothes in an unmarked police car. Officer Allen was in uniform in a marked cruiser. Both left the scene by car. Officer Allen drove directly behind Detective Gordon. Both made a right turn on to Union Place close to where Plaintiff was conversing with the occupants of the taxi cab.

From his unmarked car, Detective Gordon called out to Plaintiff and ordered him out of the road. The accounts differ on whether he delivered a civil and professional request or whether he used profane language, It is undisputed that he did not identify himself as a police officer. With his back turned to the road, Plaintiff made a dismissive "brush off gesture. He ignored Detective Gordon and continued his conversation ...

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