United States District Court, D. Connecticut
AUDLEY MUSCHETTE and JUDITH MUSCHETTE, on behalf of A.M., Plaintiffs,
TOWN OF WEST HARTFORD, AMERICAN SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF, PAUL W. GIONFRIDDO, CHRISTOPHER LYTH, CHRIS HAMMOND, and ELWIN ESPINOSA, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR
W. EGINTON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action, plaintiffs allege on behalf of their then 12-year-old
son (1) excessive force against Officer Paul W. Gionfriddo,
(2) municipal liability against the Town of West Hartford for
failure to adequately train its police officers, (3)
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the
Rehabilitation Act against the Town, (4) municipal liability
against the Town for failure to adequately supervise its
officers, (5) negligence against the American School for the
Deaf, (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress against
the School, (7) battery against Officer Paul W. Gionfriddo,
Officer Christopher Lyth, Chris Hammond, Elwin Espinoza, the
Town, and the School, (8) assault against Officer Paul W.
Gionfriddo, Officer Christopher Lyth, Chris Hammond, Elwin
Espinoza, the Town, and the School, (9) intentional
infliction of emotional distress against Officer Paul W.
Gionfriddo, Officer Chris Hammond, Elwin Espinoza, the Town,
and the School, (10) violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act against the
School, (11) negligence against Officer Paul W. Gionfriddo,
and (12) negligence against the Town.
have moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs'
claims. For the following reasons, defendants' motions
will be granted in part and denied in part.
following background was gleaned from the parties'
statements of fact, affidavits, deposition transcripts, and
April 30, 2013, plaintiff A.M. was a 12-year-old student at
the American School for the Deaf, located in West Hartford,
Connecticut. On that date, Paul Gionfriddo and Christopher
Lyth were employed as police officers by the Town of West
American School for the Deaf serves deaf and hearing impaired
persons. At all relevant times, Christopher Hammond was
employed by the School as a residential counselor. Hammond is
a deaf individual who communicates with other deaf persons by
means of American Sign Language.
a dispute between A.M. and staff at his school regarding an
attempt to place a takeout meal order, A.M. made a videophone
call to his parents. Hammond unplugged the videophone from
the wall to end A.M.'s call causing A.M. to become angry.
A.M. threw the videophone remote against the wall and
proceeded to wrap the videophone wires around his neck with
enough tension to cause his face to turn red. Hammond was
able to succeed in loosening and removing the wires from
A.M.'s neck, but A.M. subsequently ran out of the dorm
building into a nearby, fenced-off, construction area.
parties dispute the degree to which A.M. became violent
toward Hammond and other staff members as well as the extent
to which A.M.'s actions were taken in self-defense, but
A.M. admits to hitting Hammond with a stick and throwing
rocks that struck Hammond in several places.
picked up a larger rock, which caused staff members to back
away. Dean Ron Davis called 911. When the police arrived,
Officer Gionfriddo spoke with School staff members and Dean
Gionfriddo and Lyth moved into the construction area with
Davis and Hammond. The officers relied on Davis and Hammond
to act as interpreters between A.M. and the officers.
Gionfriddo gave instructions to Davis, who relayed them to
Hammond, who in turn signed the instructions to A.M.
Defendants maintain that there was no doubt that A.M. was
aware of the presence of the police, but A.M. denies that he
was aware of their presence and denies receiving such
to defendants, Officer Gionfriddo told Davis to tell Hammond
(in sign language) to tell A.M. (in sign language) to put
down the rock. Defendants also contend but plaintiffs deny
that A.M. was warned that he would be shot with an electric
gun if he refused to relinquish the rock that he was holding.
A.M maintains that he was never alerted to the possibility
that he would be shot with a Taser gun. Although Gionfriddo
testified that he believed that Hammond was accurately
interpreting the commands being relayed by Davis, a jury is
not required to credit such testimony when A.M.'s
testimony directly contradicts it.
Gionfriddo shot A.M. in the back with his Taser gun, and
electroshock was administered for a period of 5 seconds.
However, the two officers were unable to handcuff A.M. at
that time, so Gionfriddo administered a second round of
electroshock. After the second Taser deployment, the officers
were able to handcuff A.M.
personnel on the scene removed the Taser prongs and
transported A.M. in an ambulance to a hospital. A physical
evaluation at the hospital revealed a Taser mark on
A.M.'s back, an abrasion to his chest, and a scratch to
his right hand.
deposition, Officer Gionfriddo admitted that A.M. did not
make any quick, adverse moves before Gionfriddo fired the
projectile prongs into A.M.'s back. Nor did A.M. threaten
to throw any rocks in Gionfriddo's presence. Moreover,
Gionfriddo testified that if A.M. were to have made any quick
moves, Goinfriddo was comfortable that he could disarm him by
deploying the Taser at that time.
was on the scene for under three minutes before resorting to
maintain that A.M.'s “passive resistance” did
not warrant the deployment of an electric gun. The West
Hartford Police Department's own guidance order on the
use of Taser guns provides that the guns “may be used
by trained West Hartford Police Officers to temporarily
incapacitate an actively resisting, combative or
violent individual.” (emphasis added).
motion for summary judgment will be granted where there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and it is clear that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
"Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the
import of the evidence is summary judgment ...