Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Davidson v. City of Bridgeport

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 6, 2018

BOBBY DAVIDSON
v.
CITY OF BRIDGEPORT ET AL.

          Argued September 19, 2017

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for, inter alia, the defendants' alleged violation of the plaintiff's right to privacy, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, where the matter was removed to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Thompson, J., which granted in part the defendant Mark Rubinstein's motion for summary judgment and remanded the matter to the Superior Court on the remaining state law claims; thereafter, the plaintiff withdrew the matter as to the defendant Mark Rubinstein; subsequently, the matter was tried to the court, Hon. Richard P. Gilardi, judge trial referee; judgment for the defendants, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          John T. Bochanis, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Eroll V. Skyers, assistant city attorney, for the appellee (defendants).

          Lavine, Elgo and Flynn, Js.

          OPINION

          LAVINE, J.

         The plaintiff, Bobby Davidson, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered after a trial to the court, in favor of the defendants, the city of Bridgeport (city), the Bridgeport Police Department (department), and Bryan T. Norwood, former Bridgeport chief of police.[1] On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly found that the defendants did not (1) violate his state right to privacy or (2) negligently or intentionally cause him emotional distress. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The court's memorandum of decision contains the following preface to its findings of fact. ‘‘This claim arises out of the plaintiff being sent to a certain doctor for an [independent medical examination (examination)]. As he was on a disability leave for cervical fusion, he assumed it was a physical exam. When he arrived at the appointment, he found the doctor was a psychiatrist and it was to be a psychiatric exam. Solely as a result of the inadvertent mix-up in scheduling the exam, the plaintiff is claiming invasion of privacy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         ‘‘This incident took place in the middle of several contentious disputes involving the plaintiff and the [department]. All the clashes between the plaintiff and the department are presently subject to grievance procedures, including the actual referral for the psychiatric examination, and are not part of this litigation.[2] The circumstances, however, surrounding his referral for an examination are a necessary part of this litigation.'' (Footnote added.) The court, thereafter, made the following findings of fact.

         The plaintiff was first employed by the city as a special police officer in 1977. He became a patrol officer in 1985 and a sergeant with supervisory responsibilities in 1992. Reynaldo Arriaga was one of the patrol officers whom the plaintiff supervised. In approximately 2004, Arriaga lodged six complaints against the plaintiff, alleging that he had violated department policy. The department internal affairs division investigated and found that five of the six complaints were unsubstantiated. As to the sixth complaint, the internal affairs division found that the plaintiff had violated department policy.[3]Officer Murphy Pierce witnessed the encounter between the plaintiff and Arriaga and corroborated Arriaga's version of the event that gave rise to his harassment complaint.

         During the time the plaintiff was a police officer, he sustained several service-related injuries and was placed on inactive duty from time to time. In February, 2005, he was unable to perform his duties as a patrol officer and was placed on the department sick and injured management list. Captain A.J. Perez was responsible for the department's sick and injured management program and, therefore, kept track of the status and medical records of officers who were either sick or injured. The plaintiff was required to meet regularly with Perez. According to Perez, the plaintiff was consumed with the outcome of the internal affairs investigation. Whenever he met or saw Perez, the plaintiff launched into a litany of complaints about the internal affairs process, claiming that he had endured an injustice and that he suffered anguish as a result of the investigation. The plaintiff also talked about the matter to Captain Chapman, who over time ‘‘disappeared'' whenever he saw the plaintiff coming. Sergeant Joseph Hernandez, the department clerk, was not friendly with the plaintiff, but when the two of them spoke, the plaintiff repeated his complaints about the internal affairs division and accused everyone involved of lying.

         The court found that Norwood was appointed chief of police in April, 2006, and that he scheduled a meeting regarding the plaintiff's disciplinary matter for May 19, 2006. Officer Sean Ronan, president of the police union, attended the meeting to represent the plaintiff. The plaintiff began the meeting with an outburst regarding the unjust treatment he had received from the internal affairs division. He told Norwood that the incident had been on his mind for years and that he had written letters requesting a ‘‘true'' disciplinary hearing. The meeting lasted approximately ten minutes and concluded when Norwood ended the plaintiff's ‘‘diatribe'' and asked him to leave.

         On the basis of his observations of the plaintiff's behavior during the meeting, Norwood asked the department's workers' compensation carrier, Concentra Integrated Services (Concentra), to schedule the plaintiff for an examination with Mark Rubinstein, a psychiatrist.[4] Concentra sent the plaintiff a notice that stated in part that he was to undergo an examination with Rubinstein on June 22, 2006, and that he should take ‘‘any x-rays, CT scans, MRI studies and/or other medical records pertaining to'' his injury to the examination. Given the instructions in the notice, the plaintiff was under the impression that he was to undergo a physical examination. The court found that there had been a mix-up and that no one had advised the plaintiff that he was to undergo a psychiatric examination. When the plaintiff arrived at Rubinstein's office and learned that he was to undergo a psychiatric examination, he ‘‘simply left.''

         The department rescheduled the plaintiff's examination with Rubinstein for July 7, 2006.[5] When the plaintiff strenuously objected to the examination, the department ordered him to attend.[6] The plaintiff inquired of his union whether he had to undergo the examination; Ronan replied and informed the plaintiff that he had to attend the examination because it concerned his well- being.[7] The plaintiff returned to Rubinstein's office and was examined by him.

         With respect to the plaintiff's work related injuries previously mentioned, the court found that the plaintiff fractured his left hip in 1987, injured his back, and in 1999 injured his neck and back. The plaintiff was awarded a permanent partial disability for which he received workers' compensation benefits. In November, 2005, the plaintiff underwent a cervical fusion at several levels of his spine. He did not return to work following the surgery; and according to Roger H. Kaye, aneurosurgeon, he would never be able to return to active duty as a patrol officer.[8] In October, 2006, Norwood requested that the Board of Police Commissioners (commissioners) afford the plaintiff a service related, involuntary retirement.[9] The commissioners granted the plaintiff a service related, involuntary retirement on November 28, 2006.

         The plaintiff commenced the present action in May, 2008, and the defendants removed the case to federal court. The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut granted partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants[10] and, on March 31, 2011, remanded the case to the Superior Court for resolution of the plaintiff's state law claims. The plaintiff appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed the judgment of the District Court.[11] The decisions of the federal courts were attached as exhibits to Rubinstein's motion for summary judgment in the Superior Court.[12]

         Thereafter, the plaintiff revised his complaint and alleged three claims, in multiple counts, against the defendants: wrongful invasion upon his seclusion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff alleged that as a consequence of the defendants' invasion of his privacy he was ‘‘told that he would be forced to retire based on an alleged psychiatric disability.'' The defendants denied that they invaded the plaintiff's privacy, that he was forced to retire on the basis of psychiatric disability, or that the alleged intrusion on his privacy caused him emotional distress.[13]

         Following trial, the court found that the plaintiff had failed to submit credible evidence of the defendants' improper intent to invade his privacy. To the contrary, the court found that Norwood's motive for referring the plaintiff for a psychiatric evaluation was to ensure his welfare and well-being. The court also found that the plaintiff suffered no emotional distress with respect to Concerta's mistake in scheduling the examination with Rubinstein. The court found that the plaintiff's emotional distress began when the internal affairs division sustained the charges of improper conduct against him and continued to the time of trial. The court, therefore, rendered judgment in favor of the defendants. Additional facts will be addressed as necessary.

         I

         The plaintiff claims that the court erred in finding that the defendants did not violate his right to privacy by requiring him to undergo a psychiatric examination. As more specifically stated in his brief, the plaintiff claims that the defendants unreasonably intruded upon his privacy by forcing him to submit to a psychiatric examination and by releasing and disseminating Rubinstein's psychiatric evaluation of him. He further claims that the unreasonable intrusion upon his privacy forced him to retire involuntarily from the department, which resulted in the loss of benefits associated with his employment. The plaintiff's claim is without merit.

         The plaintiff's claim presents a mixed question of law and fact to which we apply the plenary standard of review. Winchester v. McCue, 91 Conn.App. 721, 726, 882 A.2d 143, cert. denied, 276 Conn. 922, 888 A.2d 91 (2005). Our task is to determine whether the court's conclusions are legally and logically correct and find support in the facts that appear in the record. See Tooley v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co., 58 Conn.App. 485, 492 n.8, 755 A.2d 270 (2000).

         To the extent that the plaintiff claims that the defendants released and disseminated Rubinstein's psychiatric evaluation that resulted in his involuntary termination from employment, those assertions are not supported by the court's findings or the record. To begin with, the court found Perez and Hernandez to be credible witnesses, but found that the plaintiff's ‘‘entire testimony'' was ‘‘replete with unfounded factual allegations and contradictions.'' Credibility determinations are not within the province of appellate courts; Wheelabrator Bridgeport, L.P. v. Bridgeport, 320 Conn. 361, 133 A.3d 402 (2016); and we will not disturb the court's credibility findings.

         The court found that Perez and Hernandez were required to maintain the personnel files of members of the department. The two officers testified that they never copied Rubinstein's report or disseminated it to anyone. They also testified that Rubenstein's report was not mentioned at the commissioners' meeting when the plaintiff's retirement was voted on and that they had no knowledge that the commissioners had a copy of Rubinstein's report. The commissioners did have the plaintiff's orthopedic records, including the report that he was disabled. As to the plaintiff's claim that he lost his employment with the department due to the psychiatric examination, the court found that the commissioners granted him a service related, involuntary retirement on the basis of his physical disabilities.[14]There is substantial evidence in the record to support the court's findings regarding the basis of the plaintiff's involuntary retirement.

         Our Supreme Court has observed that ‘‘the law of privacy has not developed as a single tort, but as a complex of four distinct kinds of invasion of four different interests of the plaintiff, which are tied together by the common name, but otherwise have almost nothing in common except that each represents an interference with the right of the plaintiff to be [left] alone.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Foncello v.Amorossi, 284 Conn. 225, 234, 931 A.2d 924 (2007). The four categories of invasion of privacy are: ‘‘([1]) unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another; ([2]) appropriation of the other's name or likeness; ([3]) unreasonable publicity given to the other's private life; or ([4]) publicity that unreasonably places the other in a false light before the public.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., quoting Goodrich v.Waterbury Republican-American, Inc., 188 Conn. 107, 127-28, 448 A.2d 1317 (1982); see also 3 Restatement (Second), Torts, Invasion of Privacy ยง 652A, p. 376 (1977). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.