United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Christopher Demski, alleges multiple federal and state civil
rights claims against Defendants, the Town of Enfield and
various officers of the Enfield Police Department
(“EPD”). Mr. Demski's claims arise out of
actions taken by EPD officials in connection with Mr.
Demski's arrest in October of 2013. The following parties
are named as Defendants in this action: the Town of Enfield
(“Town”); Chief Carl Sferrazza, Sergeant James
Lefebrvre, Officer Christopher Dufresne, Officer Brendan
Devine, Officer Nicholas Raigon, Officer Kevin Cwirka,
Officer Michael Colantuono, and Officers Jane Doe and John
Demski has alleged the following federal claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983: excessive force in violation of Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments (Count One); failure to intervene
in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count
Ten); failure to render adequate medical assistance in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count
Twelve); false arrest and malicious prosecution (Count
Fourteen); and municipal liability for constitutional
violations on the part of the Town and Chief Sferrazza (Count
Demski has also alleged the following state claims: excessive
force under the Connecticut constitution (Count Two); common
law negligence (Count Three); liability under Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 52-557n (Count Four); dog bite liability under
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-357 (Count Five); common law
recklessness (Count Six); intentional infliction of emotional
distress (Count Seven); negligent infliction of emotional
distress (Count Eight); common law assault and battery (Count
Nine); failure to intervene in violation of the Connecticut
Constitution (Count Eleven); failure to render adequate
medical assistance in violation of the Connecticut
Constitution (Count Thirteen); and indemnification under
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-465 (Count Sixteen).
have moved for summary judgment with respect to several of
Mr. Demski's claims. Mot. for Summ. Judgment, ECF No. 61.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Partial
Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
evening of October 10, 2013, Mr. Demski walked outside his
home without wearing a shirt. Am. Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 41.
At around midnight that night, Mr. Demski's neighbors
called 911 to report a shirtless man acting strangely. L.R.
56(a)(1) ¶ 1. Shortly after that call, Mr. Demski broke
into the home of another neighbor, Charles Strider.
Id. at ¶ 2. According to Mr. Demski, Mr.
Strider's house closely resembles the house of Mr.
Demski's mother and stepfather, which was next door, and
Mr. Demski “mistakenly entered” Mr. Strider's
home thinking it was the home next door. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 14-15. Upon discovering that someone had entered
his home, Mr. Strider also called the police. Id. at
¶ 2. The EPD Incident Report notes that Mr. Strider
reported hearing “loud banging, ” seeing a
“male with long hair and no shirt pacing back and forth
in his living room, ” and thinking “there was
someone trying to kill him.” Incident Report, Defs. Ex.
C, ECF No. 61-5.
EPD officers, Sergeant Lefebrve, Officer Dufresne and Officer
Devine, arrived at Mr. Strider's home in response to the
two calls. Am. Compl. ¶ 3. A police dog, Bruin,
accompanied Officer Dufresne. Id., L.R. 56(a)(1)
parties offer divergent accounts of the events immediately
following the police officers' arrival. According to
Defendants, when the police arrived, they saw Mr. Demski run
out of the house, bleeding from his hands and feet.
Id. at ¶ 4. When the police officers ordered
him to get on the ground, he lowered himself to his knees,
screaming incoherently, and when the police officers
attempted to handcuff him, he resisted. Id. at
¶¶ 6-7. The police officers deployed their taser
gun multiple times, and each deployment was allegedly
ineffective. Id. at ¶ 7. The police officers
were ultimately required to use a “drive stun
deployment, ” which allowed Officer Devine to handcuff
Mr. Demski. Id. at ¶ 8.
Demski, on the other hand, insists that he was handcuffed
early on, before the police officers tased him repeatedly.
L.R. 56(a)(2) ¶ 11. Mr. Demski also alleges that the
police canine, following an “attack” command from
Officer Dufresne, latched on to his right foot and ankle,
resulting in injuries to his Achilles tendon. Am. Compl.
¶ 27. The parties dispute whether the police canine
actually bit Mr. Demski. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 9.
Mr. Demski was handcuffed, Officer Dufresne called for a
medic, and the officers kept Mr. Demski in the police cruiser
until the ambulance arrived. Id. at ¶¶
11-12. According to Defendants, Mr. Demski was exhibiting
aggressive behavior while in the police cruiser and while in
the ambulance, including screaming, kicking the windows and
spitting. Id. at ¶¶ 12-14. Mr. Demski does
not have any independent recollection of his behavior during
this time, and he does not remember the majority of the
events described above. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10,
15. He only remembers seeing a dog barking at him and being
shocked with a taser gun. Id.
at the hospital, Mr. Demski initially continued acting
aggressively. See Johnson Memorial Hospital Records,
Defs. Ex. J at 3, ECF No. 61-12 (noting that Mr. Demski was
“fighting with us and being aggressive” and
describing the need to place an oxygen mask on Mr. Demski
“as a spit shield”). Mr. Demski gradually became
more lucid at the hospital, and he was discharged later that
same night. Johnson Memorial Hospital Admission Record, Pl.
Ex. 20, ECF No. 73-34. After he was discharged from the
hospital and returned to police custody, Mr. Demski alleges
that Defendants forced him to walk with a leg injury and kept
him in a holding cell. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 36-37
(alleging that Mr. Demski was “made to limp and hobble,
with a fully torn Achilles tendon… without
his arrest, Mr. Demski was charged with criminal trespass,
criminal mischief, interfering with a police officer, and
breach of peace. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 18. By paying a $50
fine, Mr. Demski was able to reduce these charges to a single
charge of creating a public disturbance. Id. at
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court shall grant summary judgment if there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant
bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a
genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant has
carried that initial burden, “the opposing party must
come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the
existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.”
Brown v. Eli Lilly & Co., 654 F.3d 347, 358 (2d
Cir. 2011). If no reasonable jury could find in favor of the
opposing party because “the evidence to support its
case is so slight, there is no genuine issue of material fact
and a grant of summary judgment is proper.” Gallo
v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22
F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).
dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is material if it
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law . . . .” Id. Disputes concerning
immaterial facts do not prevent summary judgment. See
id.; Howard v. Gleason Corp., 901 F.2d 1154,
1159 (2d Cir. 1990) (“[S]ummary judgment cannot be
avoided by immaterial factual disputes.”). When ruling
on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party
and draw all inferences in its favor. Dalberth v. Xerox
Corp., 766 F.3d 172, 182 (2d Cir. 2014).
argue that Mr. Demski has failed to establish the existence
of a genuine dispute of material fact with respect to the
following claims: Monell municipal liability on the
part of the Town and Chief Sferrazza (Count Fifteen); failure
to provide adequate medical assistance under federal and
state law (Counts Twelve and Thirteen); and false arrest and
malicious prosecution (Count Fourteen). Defendants have
not challenged Mr. Demski's excessive force and failure
to intervene claims under either the Fourth Amendment or the
Connecticut Constitution, nor have they challenged Mr.
Demski's remaining state law claims.
Monell claim (Count Fifteen)
Demski seeks to hold the Town of Enfield and Chief Sferrazza
(“Town Defendants”) liable for their allegedly
inadequate policies and training regarding the use of force
by police officers. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 77-82.
Specifically, Mr. Demski alleges that (1) the Town Defendants
have a policy and practice of inadequate supervision and
discipline of Enfield police officers who have backgrounds of
misconduct in connection with arrests and seizures, and (2)
the Town Defendants have maintained a policy and practice of
inadequate supervision and training regarding the proper
implementation of accepted police practices in various areas.
Id. He claims that these policies proximately caused
the alleged misconduct of the Defendant Enfield police
officers in connection with his arrest. Id. at
Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New
York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), the United States Supreme
Court determined that, in order for an individual plaintiff
to bring a Section 1983 action against a municipality and its
officials for monetary relief, the municipality must have
officially adopted and promulgated policies that caused
unconstitutional actions. Id. “Local governing
bodies, therefore, can be sued directly under § 1983 for
monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where …
the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements
or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or
decision officially adopted and promulgated by that
body's officers.” Id. at 690. “To
hold a city liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional
actions of its employees, a plaintiff is required to plead
and prove three elements: (1) an official policy or custom
that (2) causes the plaintiff to be subjected to (3) a denial
of a constitutional right.” Wray v. City of New
York, 490 F.3d 189, 195 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal marks
and citations omitted). Defendants argue the absence of a
genuine dispute of material fact with respect to the first
element, the existence of an official policy or custom, which
is fatal to Mr. Demski's Monell claim. Def. Mem.
in Supp. 14-15, ECF No 61-1.
have recognized four ways for plaintiffs to demonstrate a
‘policy or custom': (1) ‘a policy statement,
ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and
promulgated by that body's officers'; (2) conduct
ordered by a municipal official with policymaking
authority; (3) actions taken ‘pursuant to
governmental “custom” even though such a custom
has not received formal approval through the body's
official decisionmaking channels'; or (4) a
‘failure to train' municipal employees that
‘amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of
persons with whom the [employees] come into
contact[.]'” Walker v. City of N.Y., No.
12 CIV. 5902 PAC, 2014 WL 1259618, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18,
2014) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-691;
Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483-84
(1986); City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S.
112, 127 (1988); and City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris,
489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989)). Mr. Demski contends that the Town
Defendants violated Mr. Demski's constitutional rights
through two types of policies and/or customs: (1) a custom of
inadequate supervision and discipline of police officers, and
(2) a custom of failing to adequately train police officers
in the use of force during arrests and seizures. For the
reasons set forth below, both of these arguments fail as a
matter of law.
Demski first alleges that the Town Defendants have adopted a
“de facto” policy of inadequate supervision of
their police officers, which resulted in the excessive use of
force and related actions taken by the various EPD officers
involved in his arrest. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 77-82. In
support of this contention, he specifically describes a
series of incidents where EPD officers used force in the
context of an arrest or seizure, those officers filed
use-of-force reports, and the EPD approved the use of force
as reasonable. Pl. Mem. in Opp. 9-17, ECF No. 73; Use of
Force Reports, Pl. Ex. 6, ECF No. 73-8. He alleges that, in
all of the described incidents, the EPD conducted only
“superficial” investigations and failed to
discipline the officers involved, contributing to a policy of
inadequate supervision that caused Defendants to use
excessive force against Mr. Demski in the context of his
order to establish the liability of a municipality in an
action under § 1983 for unconstitutional acts by a
municipal employee below the policymaking level, a plaintiff
must establish that the violation of his constitutional
rights resulted from a municipal custom or policy.”
Vann v. City of N.Y., 72 F.3d 1040, 1049 (2d Cir.
1995). “This does not mean that the plaintiff must show
that the municipality had an explicitly stated rule or
regulation… A § 1983 plaintiff injured by a
police officer may establish the pertinent custom or policy
by showing that the municipality, alerted to the possible use
of excessive force by its police officers, exhibited
deliberate indifference.” Id. In order to meet
this standard, Mr. Demski must show (1) deliberate
indifference on the part of the municipality sufficient to
constitute a “custom or policy” of inadequate
supervision, and (2) a “direct causal link”
between that policy and the alleged constitutional
deprivation. City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489
U.S. 378, 385 (1989). Mr. Demski fails to establish either of