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Angelo v. Campus Crest at Orono, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 21, 2017

JUSTIN ANGELO, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMPUS CREST AT ORONO, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge.

         Plaintiff Justin Angelo, an Officer of the Old Town Police Department, brings this negligence action against Campus Crest at Orono, LLC (“Campus Crest”), for injuries he sustained responding to a call for assistance at an apartment complex owned by Campus Crest. The case is properly in federal court on diversity jurisdiction after being removed from Maine Superior Court by the Defendant. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441. Before me is Campus Crest's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (ECF No. 69 (“Def.'s Mot.”).). The issues are 1) whether, on this record, Campus Crest owed Officer Angelo a duty; 2) whether Campus Crest caused Officer Angelo's injuries; and 3) whether the Professional Rescuer's Rule (or related public policy concerns) bars the Plaintiff's suit. For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The facts are mostly undisputed; this account is drawn primarily from them.[1]Additional facts are taken from the record as necessary. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). Disputed facts that are properly supported are taken in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Where a fact has been fairly qualified and the qualification is supported by a record citation, I use the fact as qualified. To the extent that an objection has been made to a fact that I rely on, I have overruled that objection.

         A. Parties at The Grove

         Campus Crest rents apartments to tenants including college students at a complex known as The Grove. Answer ¶ 7 (ECF No. 28). Campus Crest has advertised that there are no rules for its tenants at The Grove. SMF ¶ 22. When The Grove first opened, the Defendant advertised that there were “no hot dog police patrols.” SMF ¶ 23. New tenants at The Grove are given red Solo cups, which are commonly used in drinking games. SMF ¶ 25. After The Grove opened in 2012, there were large gatherings there that required a police response to disperse. SMF ¶ 26.

         The Grove is fenced and gated, but the entrance gate has rarely functioned to keep non-tenants out of the property, facilitating the entry of large crowds SMF ¶¶ 27-28. The Orono Police Department repeatedly spoke with The Grove's management[2] about repairing the gate in order to deal with the crowds. SMF ¶ 29. In 2012, the Orono Police Department warned The Grove that because it was creating an environment in which these large gatherings were taking place, the police would begin billing The Grove for instances in which multiple police agencies had to respond to a gathering. SMF ¶ 30.

         In 2013, prior to the start of the 2013-2014 academic year at the University of Maine, the Orono Police Department suggested to The Grove that police be detailed to the premises to enforce alcohol-related laws and to act as a visible presence, in order to deter future large gatherings. SMF ¶ 31. The Grove agreed, and police details were put in place for the first few weekends of the school year. SMF ¶¶ 32-33. That fall, there were no problems at The Grove requiring a large police response. SMF ¶ 35. During the summer of 2014, Chief Ewing of the Orono Police Department emailed The Grove about arranging police details for the first few weekends of the 2014-2015 academic year, but he did not receive a response. SMF ¶ 36. Chief Ewing was told by The Grove that because fall 2013 had gone smoothly, The Grove did not think it was necessary to have police details in the fall of 2014. SMF ¶ 37. Chief Ewing argued that there were no problems in 2013 because of the police details, but The Grove said it did not see the need to continue the details. SMF ¶ 38.

         B. The Night of September 6th and 7th, 2014

         Campus Crest did not arrange for a police detail at The Grove for the night of Saturday, September 6. SMF ¶ 39. The Orono Police Department nevertheless assigned two officers to foot patrol duty at The Grove starting around 8:00 p.m. that night. SMF ¶¶ 3, 40. The decision to assign two officers to The Grove was on the initiative of the Police Department, independent of any arrangement with Campus Crest. SMF ¶ 41. The officers were there to write summonses for alcohol violations and to be a “visible uniformed presence.” SMF ¶ 42. While the officers were present, no arrests were made and Chief Ewing was not made aware of any other issues. SMF ¶ 43.

         At some point, the two officers returned to the police station for 20 to 30 minutes, which they would not have done if they had been assigned to a detail. SMF ¶ 45. When the officers returned, they found that a crowd had formed between buildings 8 and 9 at The Grove. SMF ¶ 46. The Grove's gates were open that night, allowing unfettered access to the property. SMF ¶ 44. The officers watched the crowd continue to grow for about 30 minutes. SMF ¶¶ 2, 47.

         Around midnight, The Grove's onsite manager approached the officers and asked them to disperse the crowd for being too loud during “quiet time.” SMF ¶¶ 48-49. At that point, there were between 100 and 200 people in the area between buildings 8 and 9. SMF ¶ 50. Some of the people in the crowd were drinking excessively and behaving in an “out of control” manner. SMF ¶ 51.

         The Orono officers, then the only law enforcement present, called for assistance from additional officers. SMF ¶¶ 52-53. Officers from at least six police agencies responded, including the Plaintiff, Officer Justin Angelo of the Old Town Police Department. SMF ¶¶ 54-55. The Plaintiff is and was a full time officer with the Old Town Police Department on September 6, 2014. SMF ¶ 1.

         After Officer Angelo arrived at The Grove, an officer from the Orono Police Department told him that the crowd needed to be dispersed. SMF ¶ 56. Officer Angelo estimated the crowd size as between 200 to 300 people and described it as “youthful.” SMF ¶ 57-58. The crowd was disorderly; it threw things at the police. SMF ¶¶ 59, 61. In the crowd was Eric Stuckey, an engineering student at University of Maine at Orono and a resident of building 8 at The Grove. SMF ¶¶ 7, 59, 61. Prior to his arrest, Mr. Stuckey was not at any point observed to be behaving in a disorderly manner.[3]SMF ¶¶ 15-16.

         After the assisting police departments arrived, law enforcement announced over a megaphone that the crowd had three minutes to disperse. SMF ¶ 63. Mr. Stuckey heard the police making an announcement, but he could not understand what they were saying. SMF ¶ 64. The crowd did not disperse in response to the announcement. SMF ¶ 65. After the announcement, some people dumped beer from apartments overlooking the common area onto the crowd, and some in the crowd were yelling “show us your tits.” SMF ¶¶ 66-67.

         After three minutes, officers began to disperse the crowd, which spread out in response. SMF ¶¶ 68-69. The Plaintiff encountered Mr. Stuckey three times in the crowd, each time telling him and others in the area to disperse. SMF ¶¶ 9-10. The third time Officer Angelo came into contact with Mr. Stuckey and told him to disperse, Mr. Stuckey questioned why he had to move. SMF ¶ 71; Ex. D to Def.'s Statement of Fact at 6 (ECF No. 70-4). Having given Mr. Stuckey multiple warnings, Officer Angelo explained to him that he was under arrest. SMF ¶ 72. Mr. Stuckey did nothing to endanger himself or anyone else. SMF ¶ 12, 16. Mr. Stuckey resisted being arrested and handcuffed.[4] Ex. A. to Def's Statement of Fact 9, 26 (ECF No. 70-1). During Mr. Stuckey's arrest, Officer Angelo fell to the ground and broke his ankle. SMF ¶ 73.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material where it could influence the outcome of the litigation. Oahn Nguyen Chung v. StudentCity.com, Inc., 854 F.3d 97, 101 (1st Cir. 2017). A dispute is genuine where a reasonable jury could resolve the point in favor of the non-moving party. Id. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe the evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party” and draw “all reasonable inferences” in the non-movant's favor. Ahmed v. Johnson, 752 F.3d 490, 495 (1st Cir. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         Campus Crest moves for summary judgment on the Plaintiff's single claim of negligence. Campus Crest argues that the Plaintiff cannot prove duty or causation, [5]and that in any event the so-called Professional Rescuer's Rule (or related public policy considerations) should bar recovery.

         A. ...


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