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Ostrowski v. City of Montrose

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 26, 2015

MICHAEL OSTROWSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTROSE, Defendant.

ORDER

R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on the City of Montrose’s (hereinafter “the City”) motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 41]. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted, and final judgment will enter in favor of the City.

FACTS

Mr. Michael Ostrowski brings this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the City failed to properly train two police officers on the correct procedure for handcuffing individuals whose wrists are larger than average. ECF No. 18 at ¶¶ 15–23. As a result, Mr. Ostrowski alleges that the City violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. Id.

The following facts are undisputed except as otherwise noted. On July 11, 2012, Montrose Police Officers Dennis Beery and Chris Velasquez arrested Mr. Ostrowski pursuant to a bench warrant. ECF No. 41-3 at ¶¶ 4, 6. Mr. Ostrowski did not resist arrest. ECF No. 18 at ¶ 9. Officer Beery handcuffed Mr. Ostrowski using a “single set of ordinary handcuffs.” Id. at ¶ 11; ECF No. 41-3 at ¶ 6. Before his arrest, Mr. Ostrowski did not mention any wrist pain or that he was susceptible to wrist injuries. ECF No. 41-3 at ¶ 6. However, Mr. Ostrowski asserts that he did complain of shoulder pain. ECF No. 45 at ¶ 12. After handcuffing him, the officers walked Mr. Ostrowski to Officer Beery’s patrol vehicle. ECF No. 41-3 at ¶ 7.

Mr. Ostrowski is a “larger than average person, ” and he claims that his wrists are too big for a standard set of handcuffs. ECF No. 18 at ¶¶ 5, 7. He believes he is more susceptible to injury than the average arrestee due to the size of his hands. ECF No. 45 at ¶ 3. He also alleges that he cannot “bring his wrists behind his back without the use of unusual force.” ECF No. 18 at ¶ 6. He attests that the officers had to “force [his] hands unnaturally close together, ” and that they had “to force the cuffs closed over [his] wrists.” Id. at ¶ 11. He states that the officers were “strong-arming” him to get the handcuffs on behind his back. Ostrowski Depo. ECF No 45-6 at 72:8–9. Mr. Ostrowski claims that he told the officers that the “cuffs hurt.” Id. at 67:12. When he complained of the pain, he alleges that the officers “basically told [him to] live with it.” Id. at 72:18.

When asked to enter the patrol vehicle, Mr. Ostrowski protested that his shoulder was bothering him, but he mentioned discomfort from “the handcuffs just once.” ECF No. 41-3 at ¶ 7. Officer Beery drove Mr. Ostrowski directly to the Montrose County Jail. ECF No. 41 at ¶ 15. During the drive Mr. Ostrowski generally complained that he was “hurting, ” and he brought up his shoulder a few times. ECF No. 41-3 at ¶ 9. Mr. Ostrowski requested that the officers remove the handcuffs when they arrived at the jail. ECF No. 41 at ¶ 16. Officer Beery agreed to do so. Id. This drive lasted less than three minutes. ECF No. 41-3 at ¶ 8.

Shortly after arriving at the jail, Mr. Ostrowski was patted down, and his handcuffs were removed. Id. at ¶ 10. The City alleges that Mr. Ostrowski was uncuffed just over three minutes after his request that the handcuffs be removed, and that he was in handcuffs for a total of no more than seven minutes and 13 seconds. ECF No. 41 at ¶¶ 18–19. After Mr. Ostrowski spent the night in jail, the issuing court quashed the warrant; and he was released on July 12, 2012. ECF No. 18 at ¶¶ 12–13.

Over two years later, Dr. Davis Hurley treated Mr. Ostrowski for injuries to his wrists. Hurley Depo. ECF No. 41-4 at 6:1–3. Mr. Ostrowski claims that he suffers from “severe muscle atrophy and numbness” and carpal tunnel syndrome. ECF No. 45 at ¶ 6–7. He alleges “general and special damages” including a “torn rotator cuff, nerve damage resulting in permanent numbness in both hands, cuts, bruises, medical expenses, physical impairment, pain, suffering, and severe emotional distress.” ECF No. 18 at ¶ 14.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

The Court may grant summary judgment if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material “if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal quotations and citations omitted). A material fact is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party has the burden to show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The nonmoving party must “designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324.

II. Municipal Liability Claim Against the City

Mr. Ostrowski does not sue the officers in their individual capacities, but rather brings a municipal liability claim against the City. In general, a municipality cannot be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for the acts of its employees. Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691–94 (1978). Rather, “[t]o establish municipal liability, a plaintiff must show (1) the existence of a municipal custom or policy and (2) a direct causal link between the ...


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