United States District Court, D. Oregon
AYISHA ELLIOTT (BROWN), and QUINTON RICHARDSON-BROWN Plaintiffs,
CITY OF EUGENE, OFFICER TREVOR HART, SERGEANT WILLIAM SOLESBEE, OFFICER MATHEW STROPKO, and OFFICER CLIFFORD SITES, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL MCSHANE UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.
Ayisha Elliott and Quinton Richardson-Brown bring this 42
U.S.C. § 1983 action against the City of Eugene and
various officers of the Eugene Police Department. Their
claims include excessive force, false arrest, illegal search
and seizure, battery, negligence, and race discrimination.
Additionally, Plaintiffs bring Monell and negligence
claims against the city. Defendants move for summary judgment
on multiple claims, but concede that that there are factual
issues in dispute as to the claims of excessive force,
battery, and negligence. Defendant's motion for partial
summary judgment is GRANTED in part.
approximately 2:43 a.m on the morning of July 16, 2015,
Ayisha Elliot called 911 because she was concerned about her
son's behavior. Miller Decl. Ex. 1 at 2, ECF No. 33.
During this phone call Ms. Elliott expressed that her son was
having a psychotic break and that he was behaving
aggressively. Miller Decl. Ex. 1 at 3. Her son, Quinton
Richardson-Brown, was not able to understand who he was
talking to or where he was. Elliott Dep. 88, ECF No. 33-6.
Even though Ms. Elliott stated on the phone that she did not
think she was in danger, Mr. Richardson-Brown could be heard
angrily cursing at Ms. Elliott throughout the phone call.
Miller Decl. Ex. 1 at 3-8. At 3:36 A.M., 911 received a
second call from Ms. Elliot's ex-husband. He indicated
that Ms. Elliot was in danger. Specifically, he reported:
And um, it sounded like he was trying to choke her out.
That's why I'm calling you guys. He was-she kept-she
was screaming and yelling and saying, "Let go of me. Let
go of me." And he's like, "No, you're not
my mother. You're not my mother." And then they hung
up the phone and she was screaming. She was like, "I
can't breathe. I can't breathe."
(Unintelligible) and then the phone hung up and I've been
trying to call back and I can't get through. So I
don't know. This-it sounds like it might have got
Miller Decl. Ex. 2 at 4, ECF No. 33.
Eugene Police Department dispatched Officers Mathew Stropko
and Clifford Sites. The officers arrived at the home within
approximately ten minutes and knocked on the door. Ms.
Elliott answered the door and stepped onto the porch,
explaining to the officers her son's history and current
psychotic difficulties. At this point, the conversation
remained calm and explanatory.
Richardson-Brown then came to the doorway. Officer Sites
remained closest to Mr. Richardson-Brown during this
encounter, while Officer Stropko provided backup from a few
feet away. Elliott Dep. 103. The situation deteriorated
rapidly when one of the officers requested that the porch
light be turned off. This occurred approximately 7 minutes
into the encounter. Miller Decl. Ex. 4 at 4. After this
request, Mr. Richardson-Brown became quite agitated and began
cursing at the officers and at his mother. See Miller Decl.
Ex. 4 at 4-19. As the situation became more heated, Officer
Sites told Mr. Richardson-Brown he was "trying to help
him." Miller Decl. Ex. 4 at 6. Mr. Richardson-Brown
responded with "you're lyin' to my fuckin'
face." Miller Decl. Ex. 4 at 6. From here, Mr.
Richardson-Brown became more agitated, repeatedly cursed at
the officers, and asserted his belief that the officers were
not in fact police officers. Miller Decl. Ex. 4 at 6-8.
the encounter now quite heated, Officer Stropko repeatedly
ordered Mr. Richardson-Brown to get back. He warned Mr.
Richardson-Brown that he had a taser. Miller Decl. Ex. 4 at
4; Elliott Dep. 104. During this time, Ms. Elliott began
shielding her son from the officers, ignoring Officer
Stropko's order to get away from Mr. Richardson-Brown.
Elliott Dep. 108. Mr. Richardson-Brown's uncle then
arrived on the scene.
the situation deteriorated, Ms. Elliott ordered the officers
to remove themselves from her property. Miller Decl. Ex. 4 at
16. Elliott Dep. 107-108. 120-122. Officer Hart and Sergeant
Solesbee then arrived on the scene. Miller Decl. Ex. 4 at 22;
Elliott Dep. 123-124.
point-the record is not entirely clear-Officer Sites
handcuffed, or began to handcuff, Mr. Richardson-Brown. It is
undisputed that Officer Stropko deployed his taser, and that
it either missed Mr. Richardson-Brown or was ineffective.
Officer Stropko then punched Mr. Richardson-Brown in the
face. The parties disagree on whether Mr. Richardson-Brown
was handcuffed when Officer Stropko punched him. The parties
also disagree on whether Mr. Richardson-Brown charged Officer
Stropko immediately before Officer Stropko deployed his
record is also unclear as to where Ms. Elliot was during the
deployment of force against her son. At some point she was
forcibly removed from the porch by Officer Hart and Sergeant
Solesbee and detained. Officer Stropko and Officer Sites
detained Mr. Richardson-Brown. Elliott Dep. 127-129; Miller
Decl. Ex. 4 at 22-23.
court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine
issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is
"genuine" if a reasonable jury could return a
verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Rivera v.
Phillip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1146 (9th Cir.
2005) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A fact is "material" if it
could affect the outcome of the case. Id. The court
reviews evidence and draws inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Miller v. Glenn Miller
Prods., Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 988 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999)). When
the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party
must present "specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (quoting
essentially allege two theories of liability under Monell
v. New York City Dep't. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658
(1978).First, plaintiffs claim that the City has
express customs or policies that allow for the use of
excessive force. Second, that the City has passively
encouraged the use of excessive force by failing to train,
supervise, or discipline officers. I address each theory in
the City having express customs or policies allowing for the
use of excessive force, this theory of liability fails.
Monell established that a municipality can be held
liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for injuries sustained as
a result of a municipal custom or policy. Id. at
694. A municipal custom or policy does not have to
"receive formal approval through a
[municipality's] official decision-making channels."
Id. at 691. However, a municipality cannot be held
liable solely for the actions of its employees or agents.
Id. at 694. Rather, "it is when execution of a
government's policy or custom, whether made by its
lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said
to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the