United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(DOC. NO. 55)
M. Spector United States Magistrate Judge
September 8, 2017, the plaintiff, incarcerated and pro se,
commenced this Section 1983, excessive force action against
the City of Waterbury, and Waterbury Police Officers James
McMahon and Scott Stafford, in their official and individual
capacities. (Doc. No. 1). The plaintiff contends that he was
driving with his fiancée when he was hit from behind
by a police cruiser at a high rate of speed, which caused him
to lose control of his vehicle and crash into a utility pole.
(Doc. No. 1 at 3). He alleges that while he was tending to
his fiancée, who did not survive the crash, he was
“struck from behind by the defendants” with a
hard object and kicked in his mouth and face. (Doc. No. 1 at
October 25, 2017, the Court (Meyer, J.) dismissed the City of
Waterbury as a defendant and dismissed the plaintiff's
claims against the defendant officers in their official
capacities. (Doc. No. 8). Additionally, the Court (Meyer, J.)
dismissed the plaintiff's “remaining federal law
claims against Officers McMahon and Stafford and against the
City of Waterbury . . . without prejudice to [the]
plaintiff's filing of an amended complaint within 30 days
if he believes that there are additional facts that could be
alleged in good faith to sustain any of the claims that the
Court has dismissed.” (Id.). The plaintiff did
not file an amended complaint. As a result, the only claim
that remains in this case is his Fourth Amendment claim of
excessive force against the two individual defendants. (Doc.
March 15, 2018, the Court (Meyer, J.) granted the
defendants' motion for enlargement of time for discovery
and to file dispositive motions, setting the dispositive
motion deadline as August 21, 2018. (Doc. No. 20). Discovery
continued, and on August 24, 2018, the Court (Meyer, J.)
scheduled a pretrial scheduling conference for September 4,
2018, which was continued several times (see Doc. Nos. 30-36,
38-39), until it was held on January 2, 2019. During the
call, the Court (Meyer, J.) denied defendants'
“motion for leave to file a motion for summary judgment
out of time[, ]” noting that “[i]f [the]
defendants believe that [the] plaintiff's claim is barred
by Heck v. Humphrey, [512 U.S. 477 (1994), ] then [the]
defendants may raise this defense at trial on the basis of a
full evidentiary record.” (Id.). On the same
day, the Court (Meyer, J.) granted the plaintiff's Motion
to Appoint Counsel (Doc. No. 43),  and counsel appeared for the
plaintiff two weeks later. (Doc. No. 45).
February 5, 2019, the Court (Meyer, J.) held a telephonic
conference with counsel, during which discovery was
discussed, and jury selection was set for October 3, 2019.
(Doc. No. 48). Six months later, the parties filed their
Joint Notice of Consent and Reference of a Civil Action to a
Magistrate Judge (Doc. No. 49), and the case was transferred
to the undersigned. (Doc. No. 50, 52).
Court held a telephonic status conference on September 3,
2019, during which defense counsel sought permission to file
a motion for summary judgment solely on the ground that the
plaintiff's remaining excessive force claim was barred
under Heck v. Humphrey. The plaintiff's counsel sought
additional time to conduct discovery and objected to the
filing of the summary judgment motion based on Heck at this
stage of the case, given that the Court (Meyer, J.) had
previously denied such permission. (Doc. No. 54 at 1). The
Court granted the defendants leave to file a motion for
summary judgment based on Heck, but also provided the
plaintiff an opportunity to object both to the untimeliness
of the filing and to the underlying relief requested. The
Court extended the discovery deadline to October 9, 2019,
and, on September 23, 2019, the defendants filed the pending
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 55) in which they
seek summary judgment on five grounds. Specifically, the
defendants argue that there are no material facts in dispute
to support a claim by the plaintiff that Officer Stafford and
Officer McMahon used excessive force when the plaintiff's
vehicle was allegedly struck from behind by the police
cruiser operated by Officer McMahon, and that claim is barred
under the Heck doctrine. Additionally, “[f]or purposes
of completeness, ” the defendants seek summary judgment
on the plaintiff's claim against Officer Stafford for
failure to intervene in response to Officer McMahon's
alleged act of excessive force in hitting the plaintiff's
vehicle. The defendants argue that neither Officer McMahon
nor Officer Stafford violated the plaintiff's
constitutional rights, and thus, qualified immunity applies.
The defendants argue that no cause of action exists under the
plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim that the defendants
subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment since that
claim attached only after conviction. Finally, the defendants
seek summary judgment on the plaintiff's deliberate
indifference claim as there are no facts which would show
deliberate indifference on the part of either officer, and
the plaintiff cannot demonstrate that treatment for his
injuries was denied or delayed.
October 10, 2019, the plaintiff moved for, and the Court
granted, an extension of time to file his response. (Doc. No.
57). At the same time, the Court postponed the trial to
address the motion. Following a second motion for extension
of time, the plaintiff filed his objection to the filing of a
dispositive motion, as well as his substantive brief in
opposition to the defendants' motion (Doc. Nos. 60-61;
see Doc. No. 59),  in which he argues that the defendants
wrongly seek summary judgment on multiple grounds when leave
was granted only to address the applicability of Heck.
reasons set forth below, the defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 55) is DENIED.
standard for summary judgment is well established. The moving
party is entitled to summary judgment if it demonstrates that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);
see also Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866,
188 L.Ed.2d 895 (2014). "The substantive law governing
the case will identify those facts that are material, and
'[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome
of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude
entry of summary judgment.'" Bouboulis v. Transp.
Workers Union of Am., 442 F.3d 55, 59 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
If the moving party carries its burden, “the opposing
party must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating
the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.”
Brown v. Eli Lily & Co., 654 F.3d 347, 358 (2d Cir. 2011)
(citation omitted). This showing may be made by depositions,
affidavits, interrogatory answers, admissions, or other
exhibits in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “A
plaintiff, however, may not rest of the allegations of this
complaint as to matters that are controverted by a
defendant's properly supported motion for summary
judgment.” Knight v. Cerejo, 2015 WL 893421, at *3 (D.
Conn. Mar. 2, 2015) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).
Stated another way, the party opposing summary judgment
‘“cannot defeat the motion by relying on the
allegations in his pleading, or on conclusory statements, or
on mere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion are
not credible.'” Welch-Rubin v. Sandals Corp., No.
3:03 CV 481, 2004 WL 2472280, at *1 (D. Conn. Oct. 20, 2004)
(quoting Gottlieb v. Cty of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir.
1996)). At the summary judgment stage of the proceeding,
[p]laintiffs are required to present admissible evidence in
support of their allegations; allegations alone, without
evidence to back them up, are not sufficient.”
Id. Thus, “before the evidence is left to the
jury, there is a preliminary question for the judge, not
whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is
any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a
verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of
proof is imposed.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251 (citations
and internal quotations omitted omitted) (emphasis in
following facts are accepted as true for purposes of the
motion for summary judgment.
plaintiff is currently incarcerated, serving a ten-year
sentence following a written nolo plea to one count of
Engaging the Police in Pursuit which results in Death, in
violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-223(b), and Driving
Under the Influence, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §
defendants, James McMahon and Scott Stafford, were officers
in the Waterbury Police Department on June 13, 2015.
13, 2015, Officer McMahon along with Officer Stafford, were
dispatched in a marked Waterbury Police patrol vehicle to a
parking lot at 910 Wolcott Street in Waterbury. A large crowd
was gathered, and when the defendant officers arrived, they
joined other officers already on the scene. Officers McMahon
and Stafford observed a blue Honda leaving the parking lot
and proceeding south on Wolcott Street. The plaintiff was
driving the Honda, and Jasmina Ortiz was a passenger. While
the plaintiff was driving south on Wolcott Street, a police
vehicle was tailgating his vehicle at a high rate of speed.
When the plaintiff noticed the car behind him, which was
about fifteen to twenty seconds before the crash, he did not
realize it was a police vehicle. According to the plaintiff,
the vehicle behind him “tapped one time” the rear
of his own vehicle. In addition, he testified that ...