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Ferrugia v. City of Steamboat Springs

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 16, 2014

JOHN FERRUGIA Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS; RICHARD BROWN; GERARD GEIS; EVAN DRISCOLL; and ROSS BLANK, Defendants.

ORDER

WILEY Y. DANIEL, Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

THIS MATTER is before the Court on both the Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 48), filed March 10, 2014, and Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 56), filed March 14, 2014. Responses to the motions (ECF Nos. 64 and 68) were filed on March 24, 2014 and April 7, 2014 respectively. On April 10, 2014 and April 21, 2014, the parties filed reply briefs in support of their motions (ECF Nos. 70 and 72).

Plaintiff asserts three claims for relief in this matter: (1) False Arrest in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant police officers Brown, Geis, Driscoll, and Blank; (2) Excessive Force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant police officers Brown, Geis, Driscoll, and Blank; and (3) Municipal Liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The instant motions only concern Plaintiff's false arrest claim, the excessive force claim asserted against Defendant Driscoll, and the municipal liability claim.

In their motion for partial summary judgment, the Defendant law enforcement officers raise the defense of qualified immunity. Therefore, to survive summary judgment, Plaintiff must demonstrate that the Defendants violated his clearly established constitutional rights during the incident. After carefully considering the pleadings and relevant record, I find that the motions should be granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

II. BACKGROUND/RELEVANT FACTS

Plaintiff John Ferrugia filed this lawsuit as a result of an incident that occurred on September 17, 2012, around 11:00 p.m., during which he was contacted by Defendant Steamboat Springs police officers. Officer Evan Driscoll, who was on routine patrol, observed Ferrugia inside Peak Fitness, an exercise facility located in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

While Peak Fitness is a 24-hour exercise gym, at 11:00 p.m. on September 17, 2012, no lights were on inside the building, although there was some illumination from a refrigerator unit. Through the windows, Driscoll observed that Ferrugia was wearing street clothes rather than clothes appropriate for exercise. After making eye contact with Ferrugia, Driscoll saw Ferrugia move behind a piece of exercise equipment. Driscoll called into Routt County Communications Dispatch about a possible burglary in progress at Peak Fitness. Defendants Sgt. Brown and Officer Blank arrived at the scene a few minutes later with Defendant Sgt. Geis arriving shortly thereafter.

Driscoll was familiar with Ferrugia's criminal history and had previously arrested him during an incident where Ferrugia was suspected of entering an individual's home and locking the homeowner outside. Ferrugia eventually pleaded guilty to trespass and was also charged with resisting arrest. Sgt. Brown and Sgt. Geis were also aware of this incident. Further, Sgt. Geis had several prior encounters with Ferrugia for traffic offenses, and on one such encounter, Ferrugia injured Sgt. Geis by biting his hand. As a result, Ferrugia was arrested and charged with assault on a police officer.

Once Brown and Blank arrived at Peak Fitness, Driscoll, Brown, and Blank approached the front door of the gym. Ferrugia, who was visibly upset and frustrated that the officers had approached him, came to the front door. At some point, Ferrugia opened the front door, but closed it on the officers while they were questioning him about his presence at Peak Fitness. Ferrugia told the officers that he had permission to be at Peak Fitness and was there to exercise. Ferrugia further stated that if he had contact with the officers, it would be a violation of his probation. Brown asked Ferrugia to exit the building so that officers could continue questioning Ferrugia and enter Peak Fitness to secure the gym and verify whether Ferrugia had permission to be on the premises.

After a physical confrontation with the Defendant officers involving many disputed facts, Ferrugia was handcuffed, and Brown conducted a pat-down search and removed an ID card from Ferrugia's pocket. Once Ferrugia was secure, Officer Bantle, who had just arrived at the scene, contacted dispatch in order to get in touch with the owner of Peak Fitness. Bantle verified Ferrugia's statement that he had permission to be in the gym, and Ferrugia was immediately released. Ferrugia was handcuffed for one to three minutes.[1] Following this incident, Ferrugia went to the hospital to receive treatment for his injuries.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court may grant summary judgment where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the... moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm. v. Horizon/CMS Healthcare Corp., 220 F.3d 1184, 1190 (10th Cir. 2000). "When applying this standard, [the Court must] view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment." Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank of Wichita, 226 F.3d 1138, 1148 (10th ...


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