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Gonzalez v. Waterbury Police Dept.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 11, 2016

GABRIEL GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
WATERBURY POLICE DEPT., et al., Defendants.

ORDER

Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

This case arises out of a police "sting" operation that resulted in a high-speed chase and ultimately the arrest of Gabriel Gonzalez. Gonzalez alleges that the defendant police officers used excessive force both in the officers' unsuccessful attempt to seize him during the highspeed pursuit and their subsequent successful attempt to place him under arrest. Such conduct, Gonzalez claims, was in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Connecticut state law, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-283a. In addition to claims filed against the individual officers, Gonzalez alleges a section 1983 violation against the City of Waterbury based on the Waterbury Police Department's (the "Department") alleged failure to train, supervise, and discipline the defendant police officers.

On May 5, 2015, 1 conducted oral argument on the defendants' partial motion for summary judgment (doc. # 67). See Doc. # 99. I granted summary judgment on Counts III, IV, and VIII in their entirety. With respect to Count I, I granted summary judgment on all allegations except the Fourth Amendment claims against Richard Hamel, Jason Lanoie, Max Torres, and Tim Jackson. The Fourth Amendment claims against those defendants will proceed to trial.

With respect to Count II, I granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Waterbury with respect to Gonzalez's claim of failure to train, and I took under advisement his claim of failure to supervise and discipline its officers. I ordered the City to produce information regarding all claims of excessive force from 2005 to 2010, along with information regarding the investigations of those claims, the results of those investigations, and any imposed discipline.

With respect to Counts V-VII, I granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants with the exception of the claims against Ham el, Lanoie, Torres, and Jackson. The claims against those defendants will proceed to trial. As a result of my ruling, I dismissed defendants Robert Liquindoli, James Dickey, and Eduardo Rivera from the lawsuit.

On July 7, 2015, 1 held a telephone conference with the parties regarding the defendants' purported inability to produce documents of past excessive force complaints and investigations, which related to the portion of Count II that I took under advisement ("the Monell claim").[1]I ordered the parties to determine whether and to what extent the Waterbury Police Department destroyed documents related to excessive force complaints from 2005 to 2010, and who in the department ordered the destruction of such documents.

On August 10, 2015, 1 held another telephone conference with the parties after Gonzalez noticed three depositions and issued corresponding subpoenas duces tecum. During the call, I held that the subpoenas were proper to the extent that they sought information that I had previously determined to be relevant to the Monell claim. I reminded counsel for Gonzalez that the scope of the depositions was limited to information regarding excessive force claims from 2005 to 2010 and the circumstances of the Department's destruction of relevant documents.

Thereafter, Gonzalez was able to take the depositions of Waterbury Police Department Sgt. Mark Russo, Sgt. Anthony Alvelo, and William Covel. On January 24, 2016, Gonzalez filed a supplemental memorandum objecting to defendants' motion for summary judgment on the Monell claim (Count II). See Doc. # 129. In his motion, Gonzalez argues that he has raised a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the Department's knowledge about its officers' past unconstitutional practice of using excessive force, and, if the jury were to resolve that issue in his favor, the jury could find the Department knew or should have known that its inadequate supervision was so likely to result in an unconstitutional use of excessive force that it constitutes deliberate indifference.

The defendants respond by asserting that Gonzalez's arguments in his supplemental memorandum should be disregarded because they were never raised in his initial opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Specifically, defendants argue that Gonzalez attempts to raise an issue of fact using Dr. R. Paul McCauley's opinions, which were not disclosed as part of Gonzalez's original Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement.

Even if it were proper to consider the opinions of Dr. McCauley at this stage of the litigation, defendants contend that Gonzalez has failed to establish any evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the issue about which I permitted additional discovery. Defendants point out that, in order to resolve the outstanding motion for summary judgment on the Monell claim, I gave Gonzalez an opportunity to discover and present evidence of prior excessive force claims and the investigations of those claims. Defendants argue that Gonzalez's supplemental objection to the motion for summary judgment does not present such evidence.

I. Discussion

I need not rule on the admissibility of Dr. McCauley's expert opinion because I conclude that neither his opinion, nor any evidence disclosed as a result of the extended discovery, has created a genuine issue of material fact pertinent to the availability of summary judgment on the Monell claim. For the following reasons, I grant summary judgment on the Monell claim (Count II) in favor of the City of Waterbury.

For suits filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a municipality is not vicariously liable for the torts of its employees or agents. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; see also, e.g., Board of County Commissioners of Bryan County, Oklahoma v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 405 (1997). As a precondition to liability under section 1983, "the governmental body itself [must] 'subject[]' a person to a deprivation of rights or 'cause[]' a person 'to be subjected' to such deprivation." Connickv. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011). Therefore, in order for municipal or official capacity liability to be imposed, there must be "a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom, and the alleged constitutional deprivation." City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989); see also Nicholson v. Scoppetta, 344 F.3d 154, 165 (2d Cir. 2003) (explaining that plaintiff must show that municipality is actually responsible for her injury).

One way of establishing that a municipality directly caused the alleged constitutional deprivation is by demonstrating that the municipality failed to adequately supervise and/or discipline its employees. See Reynolds v. Giuliani, 506 F.3d 183, 193 (2d Cir. 2007). A claim of failure to adequately supervise or discipline rests on the ability of a plaintiff to prove that: (1) the defendants "should have known their inadequate supervision was so likely to result in the alleged deprivations so as [to] constitute deliberate indifference"; (2) there were "obvious and severe deficiencies in the . . . defendants' supervision that reflect a ...


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