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Toney v. City of Medford

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 9, 2019

LAFAYETTE TONEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MEDFORD, CORY SCHWAB, and JAMES WILLIAMS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Jolie A. Russo, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Lafayette Toney filed this action against defendants City of Medford, Detective Cory Schwab, and Detective James Williams alleging excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. All parties have consented to allow a Magistrate Judge enter final orders and judgment in this case in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On the evening of May 19, 2017, the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team was executing a prostitution sting, during which plaintiff was observed at the Courtyard Marriott (“the hotel”) in Medford, Oregon, around 9:15 p.m. by Schwab. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 16 (doc. 30-1). Specifically, plaintiff was observed entering the hotel with another individual, where he stayed for a short period of time and then returned to his car and left. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. 3 (doc. 29). Schwab and another officer followed plaintiff and made a traffic stop. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 16 (doc. 30-1).

         During the traffic stop, plaintiff was taken into custody for promoting prostitution. Id. at 26. Instead of being transported to the Medford Police Department, plaintiff was returned to the hotel for questioning. Id. All interviews of individuals connected to the sting were conducted at the hotel to “minimize the number of police vehicles coming and going.” Id. Plaintiff was placed in Room 111, a standard two bed hotel room, and seated on a bed with his hands cuffed behind him. Id. at 31, 34. At that time, detectives attempted to obtain consent to search a cell phone that was seized from the car plaintiff was driving. Mitton Decl. Ex. 6, at 38 (doc. 30-6); Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 27 (doc. 30-2). Plaintiff did not provide consent, so another detective switched the phone into “airplane” mode and Williams placed it on a nearby nightstand. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 27 (doc. 30-2).

         At some point, plaintiff stood up and reached for the cell phone on the nightstand.[1] Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 34 (doc. 30-1); Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 31-32 (doc. 30-2). After lunging for the cell phone, Schwab tackled plaintiff onto the bed, which he described as “just a push back on the bed with my arms on him.” Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 44 (doc. 30-1). Williams likewise stated Schwab had plaintiff in a headlock and was restraining him on the bed. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 35 (doc. 30-2). Once sufficiently restrained, Williams removed the phone from plaintiff's hands. Id. at 37-38.

         Plaintiff alleges the incident was sparked not from reaching for the cell phone, but from calling defendants derogatory names. Mitton Decl. Ex. 6, at 42-43 (doc. 30-6). Plaintiff testified Schwab wrapped his arm around his neck, brought him down to the bed, and punched him repeatedly in the “face, jaw, neck, face, ear.” Id. at 41. Next, Williams jumped on plaintiff from behind where he kicked, punched, and yanked his wrist. Id. at 42. According to plaintiff, he possibly lost consciousness. Id. at 41-42.

         After the cell phone was removed from plaintiff's possession, plaintiff was again seated on the bed; Schwab called his supervisors and reported that plaintiff did not complain of injuries, was not out of breath, and was responsive. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 48 (doc. 30-1). Officer William Dode arrived at the hotel shortly thereafter to transport plaintiff to Jackson County Jail (“the jail”). Mitton Decl. Ex. 4, at 10 (doc. 30-4). Plaintiff was brought out to Dode's car and began to complain of wrist pain, so Dode instead transported plaintiff to a local hospital for evaluation. Id. at 10-11.

         Plaintiff arrived in the emergency room at 11:49 p.m. with a chief complaint of neck and hand pain. Mitton Decl. Ex. 7, at 1, 3 (doc. 30-7). Plaintiff told the nurse “that his right hand went numb and [was] broken.” Id. at 3. Plaintiff received a physical exam during which the doctor noted “no evidence of fracture of his right hand [and] no evidence of neck injury.” Id. at 5. The doctor gave plaintiff medical clearance for incarceration. Id. at 3. After being discharged, plaintiff was taken to the jail. Mitton Decl. Ex. 4, at 15 (doc. 30-4).

         On July 19, 2018, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court. See generally Compl. (doc. 2). On October 1, 2018, an amended complaint was filed, alleging a single claim for excessive force. See generally Am. Compl. (doc. 14). On October 14, 2019, defendants filed the present motion.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgement is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, affidavits, and admissions on file, if any, show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Substantive law on an issue determines the materiality of a fact. T. W. Elec. Servs., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). Whether the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party determines the authenticity of the dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify facts which show a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

         Special rules of construction apply when evaluating a summary judgment motion: (1) all reasonable doubts as to the existence of genuine issues of material fact should be resolved against the moving party; and (2) all inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in ...


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