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Jackson v. City of Middletown

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 19, 2017

CITY OF MIDDLETOWN, et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Z.J. and Y.J. were high school students in Middletown, Connecticut. One day during lunch at the school cafeteria, Z.J. was accused of stealing a beef patty from the serving line. After a cafeteria worker complained, one of the school's “resource officers” tackled Z.J. and slammed him to the ground. Another resource officer approached and repeatedly tased Z.J. In the meantime, Y.J. was in the cafeteria and saw what happened to his brother.

         Plaintiffs, Tanya Jackson, on behalf of her children, Z.J. and Y.J., brought this civil action against defendants City of Middletown, Middletown Police Department, Middletown Public Schools, and the two school resource officers-Kurt Scrivo, and Alex Rodriguez. Doc. #1. Defendants move for summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs' numerous claims. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. Trial shall proceed solely as to Z.J.'s claims against defendants Rodriguez and Scrivo for excessive force, assault and battery, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. All other claims and defendants are dismissed.


         The following facts are either agreed upon by both parties or presented in the light most favorable to plaintiffs as the non-moving parties. On September 3, 2010, Z.J. and Y.J. were students at Middletown High School. On that day, Z.J. was at the school cafeteria and he took a beef patty without paying. A cashier called Z.J. back and asked him whether he had paid for the patty. Z.J. said no. When the cashier asked Z.J. to give the patty back, Z.J. put the patty into her hand. This provoked an argument between Z.J. and the cashier, and Z.J. eventually called the cashier a “bitch.” The cashier called a security officer over and said that Z.J. needed to go to the security office. But Z.J. protested, asking why he had to go to the security office if he had already returned the beef patty.

         At that point, defendant Scrivo-a school resource officer who is a state-certified police officer employed by a municipal police department-approached the scene. He told Z.J. to go with the security officer, but Z.J. continued to question why he had to go. The security officer then told Z.J. to go with him, and Z.J. said “okay” and began walking with the officer. But just as Z.J. and the security officer were walking away, Scrivo placed his hand on Z.J.'s left shoulder and right side in order to escort him out of the cafeteria. In response, Z.J. stated, “You don't need to touch me. Let me go. I can walk by myself. I'm not a little boy.” Scrivo let go of Z.J., who continued walking. Two seconds later, however, Scrivo suddenly used a bear hug tackle to slam Z.J. to the ground. Z.J. told Scrivo to get off of him, but Scrivo then attempted to arrest Z.J. by grabbing his arms from behind and telling Z.J. to “stop.”

         Defendant Rodriguez-another school resource officer-saw Scrivo and Z.J. on the ground and made his way over from about three to five car lengths away. He believed that Z.J. was being noncompliant with Scrivo, so he pulled his taser out as he approached. It can be reasonably inferred from Scrivo's police report that Scrivo saw Rodriguez approach, and saw Rodriguez remove his taser and prepare the taser for drive stun mode. Doc. #101-2 at 2. Rodriguez then deployed his taser on Z.J.'s chest area without warning, eventually tasing Z.J. at least six times all over his body, while saying, “who's the bitch now?” The length of time from when Z.J. and Scrivo were on the floor and when Rodriguez deployed his taser was only a few seconds. While he was being tased, Z.J. blacked out, made involuntary movements caused from the shock, and was foaming out of his mouth.

         The officers handcuffed Z.J. on the floor, and they walked him out of the cafeteria. Rodriguez patted Z.J. down near the police cruiser, and asked Z.J. to take off his shoes. Z.J. asked why, but Rodriguez again ordered Z.J. to take his shoes off, and Z.J. said, “No, I don't need to take them off. You can just put me in the car.” Rodriguez then grabbed Z.J., slammed him to the ground, and took off Z.J.'s shoes.

         Z.J. was eventually charged with larceny in the sixth degree, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-125b, breach of the peace, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-181, and interfering with police, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-167a. After he pled no contest to interfering with the police, the other charges were nolled. According to Z.J., he sustained bruises on his back, stomach, and chest from the encounter, but those injuries resolved after about a week. He did not seek help from a mental health professional about the incident.

         Z.J.'s younger brother, Y.J., witnessed the altercation in the cafeteria from about 15 feet away. When he saw Rodriguez deploy his taser, he yelled out “Get off my brother! . . . Why are you tasing my brother?” Y.J. was pulled away from the area by security officers, but he did not sustain injuries or have any physical interactions with Rodriguez or Scrivo. Y.J. was eventually arrested and brought to the police station.

         After his mother-plaintiff Tanya Jackson-picked him up and as they were walking away from the police station, Y.J. kicked a sign that was in front of the police station that was advertising a blood drive. Jackson began to yell at him and pushed him. Both Y.J. and Jackson were then arrested and charged with breach of the peace, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-181. Y.J. was also charged with interfering with police, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-167a, and possession of four ounces of marijuana. The charges against Y.J. and Jackson were nolled after they completed community service.

         Jackson, on behalf of her children Z.J. and Y.J., brought suit against various defendants for constitutional violations, assault and battery, false arrest, and infliction of emotional distress. See Doc. #1. Many of these claims have been abandoned, and defendants move for summary judgment on any claims not abandoned by plaintiff.[1] The remaining non-abandoned claims include Z.J.'s claims against Scrivo and Rodriguez for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, as well as Z.J.'s state law claims for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Both Z.J. and Y.J. also claim false arrest.


         The principles governing a motion for summary judgment are well established. Summary judgment may be granted only if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam). “A genuine dispute of material fact ‘exists for summary judgment purposes where the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, is such that a reasonable jury could decide in that party's favor.'” Zann Kwan v. Andalex Grp. LLC, 737 F.3d 834, 843 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Guilbert v. Gardner, 480 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2007)). The evidence adduced at the summary judgment stage must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and with all ambiguities and reasonable inferences drawn against the moving party. See, e.g., Tolan, 134 S.Ct. at 1866; Caronia v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 715 F.3d 417, 427 (2d Cir. 2013). All in all, “a ‘judge's function' at summary judgment is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Tolan, 134 S.Ct. at 1866 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)).

         Excessive ...

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