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Manchester v. Cumberland County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, D. Maine

May 10, 2017

TARA LEE MANCHESTER and BYRON MANCHESTER, Plaintiffs
v.
CUMBERLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT and BRIAN ACKERMAN, Defendants

          DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          D. Brock Hornby United States District Judge

         This case involves law enforcement actions that occurred during the arrest of Byron Manchester at his Casco home on November 19, 2013. Manchester and his former wife, Tara-Lee Campbell, [1] have alleged that detective Brian Ackerman and his fellow Cumberland County Sheriff deputies applied excessive force to both of them in violation of the Maine and United States Constitutions, the Maine Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state tort law, or failed to intervene to prevent the use of such force, and that the County has liability for failing to train its officers.[2] The defendants have moved for summary judgment. Construing the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, I conclude that the defendants nevertheless are entitled to summary judgment on both plaintiffs' state tort law claims, both plaintiffs' claims that Cumberland County unconstitutionally failed to train its deputies, and Byron Manchester's (but not Tara-Lee Campbell's) claim of excessive force. However, there are genuine issues of material fact on the excessive force claims of Tara-Lee Campbell and the failure to intervene claims of Byron Manchester. I therefore Grant the defendants' motion in part, and Deny it in part.

         Facts

         On November 19, 2013, the defendant Brian Ackerman, a detective for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, along with other law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on the property of Byron Manchester and Tara-Lee Campbell. See Defs.' Statement of Material Fact ¶ 1 (ECF No. 39) (Defs.' SMF); Pls.' Response to Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ¶ 1 (ECF No. 44) (Pls.' RSMF). The parties have presented considerably different accounts of the events that night. According to the plaintiffs, Ackerman was standing right next to Manchester as a group of law enforcement officers, including Assistant Team Leader Scott Jordan, Deputy Lucas Hallett, and John Fournier, dragged Manchester from his home and held him down on the ground. Pls.' RSMF ¶¶ 3- 4. Also according to the plaintiffs, Ackerman dragged Campbell from her doorway over rocks and gravel, through her yard, and into the driveway. Pls.' RSMF ¶¶ 1-2.

         According to the defendants, Ackerman did not use any physical force on either Manchester or Campbell during the execution of the search warrant on November 19, Ackerman did not observe any other officers use physical force on the plaintiffs, Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 1-3, and neither Manchester nor Campbell can identify Ackerman as the one who dragged them across the ground or otherwise restrained them or stood by as they were allegedly being subjected to excessive force, Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 4-6.

         Procedural History

          The amended complaint asserted the following causes of action: (1) excessive force by Ackerman and failure to train by Cumberland County in violation of the Maine Civil Rights Act, 5 M.R.S. § 4682; (2) state law assault and battery by Ackerman under the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA), 14 M.R.S. § 8101; (3) Ackerman's failure to intervene to prevent excessive force; and (4) excessive force by Ackerman and failure to train by Cumberland County in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pls.' First Am. Compl. (ECF No. 22). The plaintiffs sought leave to file a second amended complaint naming additional law enforcement officer defendants and enlarging their legal theories of relief (ECF No. 35), but I denied that motion in a written order (ECF No. 37).[3]

         Following a Local Rule 56(h) Pre-Filing Conference (ECF No. 33), the defendants moved for summary judgment (ECF No. 38).

         Analysis

          1. Assault and Battery Claims Against Ackerman (Count Two)

         The MTCA provides that “[w]ithin 180 days after any claim or cause of action permitted by this chapter accrues, or at a later time . . . when a claimant shows good cause why notice could not have reasonably been filed within the 180-day limit, a claimant . . . shall file a written notice” with the relevant governmental entity. 14 M.R.S. § 8107(1). A plaintiff cannot commence an action “against a governmental entity or employee . . . unless the foregoing notice provisions are substantially complied with.” 14 M.R.S. § 8107(4); Deschenes v. City of Sanford, 2016 ME 56, ¶ 12, 137 A.3d 198 (“[F]ailure to comply with the notice provision bars the claim . . .'” (quoting Cushman v. Tilton, 652 A.2d 650, 651 (Me.1995)).

         The plaintiffs do not dispute that neither Ackerman nor Cumberland County was ever served with notice pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 8107. Defs.' SMF ¶ 11; Pls.' SMF ¶ 11. Moreover, the plaintiffs do not argue that they have shown “good cause why notice could not have reasonably been filed within the 180-day limit.” 14 M.R.S. § 8107(1); Peters v. City of Westbrook, 2001 ME 179, ¶¶ 5-10, 787 A.2d 141. Because the plaintiffs have not presented any arguments in opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the state law assault and battery claims or attempted to “tie [their] allegations to a tangible theory of recovery, ” they have waived any such arguments. Snyder v. Collura, 812 F.3d 46, 51 (1st Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 2517 (2016).

         As a result, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Count Two.

         2. Failure to Train Claims Against Cumberland County (Count One, Maine Civil Rights Act; Count Four, 42 U.S.C. § 1983)

         The Supreme Court has ruled that “the inadequacy of police training may serve as the basis for § 1983 liability only where the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the police come into contact.” City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989). To succeed on a failure to train claim against Cumberland County, the plaintiffs must show that (1) the “failure to train reflects a ‘deliberate' or ‘conscious' choice by a municipality-a ‘policy, '” Canton, 489 U.S. at 389, and (2) “the deficiency in training actually caused” the excessive force violation, id. at 391. The Supreme Court has emphasized that “the focus must be on adequacy of the training program in relation to the tasks the particular officers must perform.” Id. at 390. In the typical case, “the existence of a pattern of tortious conduct by inadequately trained employees may tend to show that the lack of proper training . . . is the ‘moving force' behind the plaintiff's injury.” Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty., Oklahoma v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 407-08 (1997) (quoting Canton, 489 U.S. at 389-91). In this case, the plaintiffs have advanced no evidence of a “pattern of tortious conduct” by Cumberland County deputies. But the Supreme Court has not “foreclose[d] the possibility, however rare, that the unconstitutional consequences of failing to train could be so patently obvious that a city could be liable under § 1983 without proof of a pre-existing pattern of violations.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 64 (2011). In Canton, for example, ...


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