United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTIONS
BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.
two-count 42 U.S.C § 1983 action arises from an
unscheduled inspection of Plaintiff Stephanie Cox's
public housing unit by a Housing Authority of New Haven
contractor that resulted in the warrantless arrest of
Plaintiff Matthew Brooks. In Count One, Plaintiff Cox brings
an unlawful search claim against Marilyn Dawson, a manager
for the Housing Authority of New Haven. In Count Two,
Plaintiff Brooks asserts a false arrest claim against Officer
Edward K. Dunford. Defendants Dawson and Dunford now
independently move for summary judgment.
reasons that follow, Defendant Dawson's Motion for
Summary Judgment [Doc. # 27] as to Count One is denied, and
Defendant Dunford's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. #
30] as to Count Two is granted.
Stephanie Cox is a tenant in a public housing unit operated
by the Housing Authority of the City of New Haven
("HANH"). (Dawson and Cox L.R. Stmts. [Docs. ## 29,
34-1] ¶ 3.) During the relevant time period, Ms. Cox
lived in an apartment at 82 South Genesee Street in New
Haven, Connecticut with her daughter A.C., a minor child born
in 2009. (Ex. 1 (Lease) to Dawson L.R. Stmt. [Doc. # 29-1] at
1.) She was employed at an office in North Haven,
Connecticut. (Dunford and Brooks L.R. Stmts. [Docs. ## 31,
33-1] ¶ 10.)
Matthew Brooks is married to Ms. Cox, and he is the
stepfather to A.C. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 5.) During
the relevant time period, Mr. Brooks did not reside at 82
South Genesee Street, because "there [were] certain
issues that he was taking care of as far as his background to
get accepted on the lease." (Ex. 1 (Cox Dep.) to Dunford
L.R. Stmt. [Doc. # 31] at 9.) However, Mr. Brooks was a
frequent guest at 82 South Genesee Street, and he would come
to the apartment to babysit A.C. while Ms. Cox was at work.
(Dunford and Brooks L.R. Stmts. ¶¶ 8-11, 13, 14.)
Marilyn Dawson is a property manager for HANH, a provider of
public housing in the City of New Haven. (Dawson and Cox L.R.
Stmts. ¶ 1.)
Edward K. Dunford is a police officer with New Haven's
Department of Police Service. (Dunford and Brooks L.R. Stmts.
HANH Inspection of Ms. Cox's Apartment
South Genesee HANH development complex, where Ms. Cox
resided, was subject to United States Department of Housing
and Urban Development ("HUD") regulations for
public housing facilities. (Lease at 10.) Every year, the
development was required by HUD to undergo a "Uniform
Physical Conditions Standard" inspection for damage and
hazards. (Ex. 2 (Inspection Notice) to Dawson L.R. Stmt.
[Doc. # 29-3] at 1.) In anticipation of these federally
mandated inspections, HANH maintenance staff and inspectors
conducted mandatory "pre-inspections" to assess the
condition of individual units and perform work where
Cox's lease with HANH makes multiple references to
housing inspections. Section 8(D) explains that "HUD
representatives or local government officials may review HANH
operations and as a part of their monitoring may inspect a
sampling of HANH's units." (Lease at 9.) Section
8(F) provides that "HANH will provide 48-hour notice of
inspection to Tenant(s) for non-emergency inspections."
(Id.) Relatedly, at Section 6(R), the lease
specifies that a tenant must "[p]ermit entry into the
Unit by HANH staff for inspection and maintenance" and
that "[e]xcept in the case of emergencies, for which
HANH has the right of immediate access, HANH will give
reasonable advance notice and entry will be during reasonable
times." (Id. at 6.)
2017, HANH notified tenants of the annual inspections.
(Dawson and Cox L.R. Stmts. ¶¶ 9, 10.) HANH
hand-delivered a flyer to Ms. Cox, which advised that
"all housing authority apartments located in the South
Genes [e]e complex" would undergo their mandatory
pre-inspections over the next two months. (Id.) The
HANH inspection notice stated that "housing authority
employees will be entering the apartment units with
inspectors" to prepare for the annual HUD visit and that
"inspections will take place in July and August of 2017
between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM." (Id.
¶¶ 11, 12.) The notice also stated that
"[o]ver the course of several days, HANH staff will be
inspecting the entire development so arrival times may
vary." (Inspection Notice at 1.)
receiving this inspection notice between July 23 and 27,
2017, (Cox Interrogatory [Doc. # 34-3] at 1), Ms. Cox made a
telephone call on July 31, 2017, to "the housing
authority and tried to specially schedule her
inspection," (Dawson and Cox L.R. Stmts. ¶
14). Ms. Cox recalls that she spoke directly with Ms. Dawson
and "inform[ed] her that without exactly 48 hours notice
that [Ms. Cox] do[es] not give anyone permission to enter
[her] apartment." (Cox L.R. Stmt. § B ¶ 2.)
Ms. Dawson avers that it was a different HANH employee who
spoke with Ms. Cox and instructed her that "the specific
time of each inspection could not be stated in advance
because of the fact that each unit was going to be
inspected." (Ex. 3 (Dawson Aff.) to Dawson and Cox L.R.
Stmts. [Doc. # 29-3] ¶ 4.)
August 11, 2017, a HANH contractor, Stanley Worrell,
entered Ms. Cox's apartment to perform a
"pre-inspection" inspection. (Dawson and Cox L.R.
Stmts. ¶¶ 9, 10.) He did so in the late morning,
while Ms. Cox was at work. (Dunford and Brooks L.R. Stmts.
¶¶ 22, 29.) After entering, Mr. Worrell found Ms.
Cox's eight-year-old daughter A.C. home "alone in
the unit" and "hiding under the covers of the bed
in the main bedroom." (Id. ¶ 25.)
Dawson avers that she was not working the day that Mr.
Worrell inspected 82 South Genesee Street, a fact that Ms.
Cox does not dispute but that appears to be in tension with
other evidence in the record. (Dawson and Cox L.R. Stmts.
The Arrest of Mr. Brooks
Mr. Worrell found A.C. in the apartment, police officers were
dispatched to the address on report of a child being found
alone in the residence. (Dunford and Brooks L.R. Stmts.
¶ 22.) New Haven Patrol Officer Edward Dunford
was sent as the primary officer on the call. (Id.)
his arrival at 82 South Genesee Street at approximately 11:15
a.m., Officer Dunford encountered Mr. Worrell and Ms. Dawson,
who were "standing... outside of the open front door of
th[e] unit." (Id. ¶¶ 22, 23.) Ms.
Dawson informed Officer Dunford that HANH was inspecting its
units, that tenants had received notice of these inspections,
and that a HANH contractor had found a female child alone in
the 82 South Genesee Street unit during one of these
inspections. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 24.) Officer
Dunford also reported that Ms. Dawson told him that "she
sent out notices to all the tenants saying they would be
doing checks of the apartments for the whole month of
August." (Ex. 5 (Reporting Officer Narrative) to Dawson
L.R. Stmt. [Doc. # 29-5] at 4.).
Dawson provided Officer Dunford with Ms. Cox's contact
information and informed him of A.C.'s name and age.
(Id. ¶¶ 26, 27, 29.) Officer Dunford then
called Ms. Cox about her whereabouts. (Id. ¶
29.) Ms. Cox explained that "she was on her way home
from work, that she would be arriving shortly at which time
she would speak with him, and that her daughter had been left
alone for only a couple of hours." (Id.)
Dunford then spoke with A.C., who said that Mr. Brooks, whom
she identified as her "dad," was on the telephone
line. (Id. ¶ 32.) Officer Dunford accepted the
call. During their telephone conversation, Mr. Brooks told
Officer Dunford that "there was a babysitter there, but
that she must have left, and that he was returning to 82
South Genesee Street." (Id. ¶ 33.)
Brooks arrived at the apartment approximately an hour and a
half after the telephone conversation and again spoke with
Officer Dunford. (Id. ¶ 35.) Mr. Brooks stated
that Ms. Cox had "left for work at approximately 6:00
a.m." and that he had remained at the apartment
"until approximately 10:00 a.m. when he had to go to
downtown New Haven to obtain his medication."
(Id. ¶ 36.) Mr. Brooks's trip to obtain the
medication was a routine part of his participation in a drug
treatment program. (Brooks L.R. Stmt. § B ¶ 2.) Mr.
Brooks also told Officer Dunford that "before leaving to
obtain his medication, he had gone to 102 South Genesee
Street to ask the neighbor there ... about keeping an eye on
the minor child." (Id. ¶ 37.)
this conversation, Officer Dunford looked for the neighbor at
102 South Genesee Street, but the individual who opened the
door was not the neighbor in question. (Id. ¶
40.) That individual said the neighbor was not home and that
"no one had mentioned anything about watching any
children on this day," (Id.)
Dunford then "returned to 82 South Genesee Street and
asked Plaintiff Brooks why he had left the minor child
alone." (Id. ¶ 42.) Mr. Brooks again
"responded that he had to go to his meeting to obtain
his medication" and "that this was the only time he
could go and get his medication and that he could not take
child with him because of the meeting." (Id.
¶¶ 42, 43.) Later, Mr. Brooks admitted that
"on the day of this incident, [he] made no attempt to
locate a babysitter to watch the minor daughter of Plaintiff
Cox while he was ... away from the residence, and what he
told Defendant Dunford about trying to locate a babysitter
was not true." (Id. ¶ 41.)
Dunford then "placed a telephone call to [the
Connecticut Department of Children and Families
("DCF")] to make a referral because a minor child
was involved in the incident." (Id. 5 44.)
Officer Dunford states that the DCF representative expressed
the opinion that it was unreasonable to leave an
eight-year-old child home alone. (Id. 5
returned to 82 South Genesee Street sometime after this call.
(Id. ¶ 46.) The parties agree that Ms.
Cox's arrival occurred "[approximately one-half hour
after the arrival of Plaintiff Brooks, and approximately two
(2) hours after she spoke with Defendant Dunford on the
telephone." (Id. ¶ 46.) After Ms.
Cox's arrival, Officer Dunford explained to both
Plaintiffs that "leaving an eight (8) year old child
home alone was irresponsible, that Plaintiff Brooks should
not have left the child home alone, and if there was an