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Brown v. Neddermann

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 6, 2020

ALEXIS BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY D. NEDDERMANN and DAVID MOCARSKY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          KARI A. DOOLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arises out of the arrest of plaintiff Alexis Brown (“Brown” or the “Plaintiff”) on August 5, 2016 by defendants Jeffrey D. Neddermann and David Mocarsky (collectively, the “Defendants”), both law enforcement officers with the New Britain Police Department. The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution when they used excessive force when arresting her. Pending before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is DENIED.

         Facts[1]

         On August 5, 2016, Officer Jeffrey Neddermann of the New Britain Police Department was dispatched to 60 Roberts Street, New Britain, Connecticut, after the police department received a complaint from Beronica Fuente (“Fuente”) regarding a landlord-tenant dispute. (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 1.) Fuente rented a third-floor apartment in a multi-family home at that address. (Id. at ¶ 2.) The property is owned by Green Tree Holdings, LLC, and its sole owner, Brown, acts as landlord for the property. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Fuente explained that Brown had turned off the electricity to her apartment because Eversource, the electricity provider, started billing Fuente's electric service to Green Tree Holdings, LLC after Brown failed to remediate a wiring issue in a common area of the house. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.) Fuente could not turn the electricity back on because the breaker was in the basement, which Brown had locked. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Neddermann called Eversource, which confirmed that it was billing Green Tree Holdings, LLC for electric service to Fuente's apartment due to the unremediated wiring concern. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.)

         After speaking with Eversource, Neddermann called Brown and instructed her to return to the property immediately to turn on Fuente's electricity. (Id. at ¶ 12.) During their exchange, Brown told Neddermann that he did not need to be there, that she was coming right back, and that he needed to “get off the property.” (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 16.) At one point, Brown stated she was having lunch. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Brown told Neddermann that she “would finish up and come back, ” and she “yelled at [Officer Neddermann] to get off [the] property” and then “hung up the phone.” (Id. at ¶ 19 (alterations in original).) After Brown ended the call, Neddermann called Sergeant David Mocarsky and informed him of the situation, and Mocarsky responded to the scene to provide assistance. (Id. at ¶ 20.)

         At approximately 5:02 p.m., Brown arrived at 60 Roberts Street and parked her vehicle on the street in front of the house and in front of a police cruiser. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Although Neddermann and Mocarsky recall Brown slurring her words and smelling of alcohol while speaking to them outside the house, Brown denies that she was slurring her words or that she had alcohol on her breadth. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-29.) Brown accompanied the officers into the house. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Although the officers and Fuente recall Brown being unsteady on her feet as she went into the basement, Brown denies being unsteady on her feet. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.)

         Once Brown turned the electricity back on in Fuente's apartment, she returned to her vehicle. (Id. at ¶¶ 39-40.) As Brown walked toward her vehicle, Neddermann asked Brown to provide her identification. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Brown entered her vehicle and locked the doors. (Id. at ¶ 42.) The parties dispute what happened next, but video footage from the dashcam on the police cruiser parked behind Brown's vehicle shows Neddermann and Mocarsky approach the driver's side of Brown's vehicle. (Def.'s Ex. H at 5:53-6:10.) They spoke to her through her window and both repeatedly gestured with their hands for her to exit the vehicle, but she did not comply. (Id. at 6:05-6:47.) Brown denies that the officers told her to get out of the vehicle during this period but acknowledges that Neddermann told her “several times” to “stop playing games.” (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 46.)

         Mocarsky informed Brown through her closed driver's side window that he would break her passenger side window if she did not step out of the vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 49.) When Mocarsky started walking around the back of Brown's vehicle and toward the passenger's side, Brown unlocked her vehicle's door and Neddermann opened it. (Id. at ¶ 50; see also Def.'s Ex. H at 6:47.) Brown handed her identification to Neddermann who took it and then attempted to pull Brown from the vehicle. (Def.'s Ex. H at 6:45-6:55.) Brown resisted. (Id.) Mocarsky walked back to the driver's side of the vehicle and assisted Neddermann in his efforts to extricate Brown. (Id.) Brown claims that Neddermann “somehow bent [her] thumb back” when he grabbed hold of her left wrist, but Neddermann does not recall touching or bending Brown's thumb in any manner. (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 54.)

         Once Brown was removed from the vehicle, Neddermann held her by the left arm while Mocarsky held her right wrist.[2] (Id. at ¶ 63.) Mocarsky attempted to place handcuffs on Brown. (Id.) The video footage shows Mocarsky struggling to place handcuffs on Brown's right wrist, but he was eventually able to handcuff both wrists behind her back. (Def.'s Ex. H at 7:05-7:20.) Mocarsky then took hold of the handcuffs and walked Brown to Neddermann's police cruiser so that Brown could be transported to the police department. (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 66.) While doing do, Mocarsky pulled the connecting chain of the handcuffs upward which, it appears from the video, caused Brown pain. (Def.'s Ex. H at 7:29-7:32.)

         Brown arrived at the police department for booking at approximately 5:26 p.m. (Def.'s Ex. K at 7:00.) Brown was booked on two charges: interfering with an officer, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-167a, and operating under the influence, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-227a.[3] (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 72.) While being processed, Brown refused to submit to a breathalyzer test.[4] (See Def.'s Ex. K at 11:15, 19:08-19:19.)

         After the booking process was complete, Brown, at her request, was transported to the hospital where she reported an injury to her left wrist and left bicep. (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 73; Plf.'s SMF at ¶ 8; Plf.'s Ex. 1 at 9.) Brown further requested that a blood alcohol test be performed. (Plf.'s SMF at ¶ 9; Plf.'s Dep. at 200:4-7.) At 8:39 p.m. the test was administered and revealed that Brown had a blood ethanol level of 00.056 gm%.[5] (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 73.)

         As a result of her handcuffing and arrest, Brown suffered bruising, pain in her wrists, and left upper arm pain. (Plf.'s SMF at ¶ 12; Plf.'s Ex. 1 at 8.) Brown testified at her deposition that any pain and bruising fully resolved within two to three weeks, except that she continues to have a “lingering” pain in her left thumb that is “very, very faint” and “dull.” (Plf.'s Dep. at 186:4-5, 186:7, 199:20-200:3.)

         Standard of Review

         The standard under which the Court reviews motions for summary judgment is well-established. “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” while a dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is ...


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