Shafer v. King County Sheriff's Office

2:07-cv-00788 | W.D. Wash. | Jan 18, 2008

Case 2:07-cv-00788-JCC Document 22 Filed 01/18/08 Page 1 of 4

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE JAMES SHAFER, ) ) Plaintiff, ) CASE NO. C07-788-JCC-JPD ) v. ) ) DEPUTY SHERIDAN, ) REPORT & RECOMMENDATION ) Defendant. ) ____________________________________) INTRODUCTION Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis , has filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that during the course of his arrest, he was bitten by a police dog under the control of King County Deputy Peter Sheridan, whom he names as a defendant here. [1] Defendant has filed a

17 motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has not filed a response. Having considered defendant’s 18 motion and the declarations submitted in support thereof, the Court concludes that defendant’s motion 19 for summary judgment should be granted. 20 BACKGROUND 21 The declarations submitted by defendant in support of his motion for summary judgment 22 establish the following facts, which are uncontested by plaintiff: 23 On the evening of January 29, 2007, Deputy Sheridan and his police dog “Jetson,” were on 24 25 [1] The Clerk’s Office has inadvertently listed the King County Sheriff’s Office as a defendant in this action. However, plaintiff makes no allegations against the Office and the Clerk is directed to 26 delete the Office as a defendant. Case 2:07-cv-00788-JCC Document 22 Filed 01/18/08 Page 2 of 4 duty when they heard over the radio that other deputies were pursuing a suspect in a high speed vehicle chase. (Dkt. No. 20 at 3). Deputy Sheridan heard that the suspect’s vehicle had been stopped by “spike strips” set out by deputies. ( Id .) Deputy Sheridan drove to the scene and learned that the suspect, who had a warrant for his arrest, had eluded deputies and had fled by foot into a wooded area. ( Id .)

Deputy Sheridan and Jetson followed the suspect, who was later shown to be the plaintiff, James Shafer, into the woods. Jetson tracked plaintiff’s scent and soon found him, hiding between logs and a creek. ( Id .) As Deputy Sheridan describes it, Jetson “made contact and attempted to pull the suspect from his hiding place as he is trained to do.” ( Id .) Another deputy arrived and placed plaintiff under arrest. During the course of the arrest, Deputy Sheridan slipped and inadvertently “made contact with Jetson’s hind quarters.” ( Id . at 4). Jetson interpreted this as “a command to again contact the suspect, which he did by briefly grabbing the suspect’s jacket.” Deputy Sheridan estimates that this contact lasted for only a few seconds, before he called Jetson off. ( Id .)
Plaintiff was treated by aid personnel at the scene. ( Id .) Later that night, when he was booked into the King County Jail, he was examined by a nurse named Karen Sloane. (Dkt. No. 21 at 1). Nurse Sloane determined that plaintiff had a “superficial dog bite” and treated it by cleaning the wound and dressing it with a Band-Aid. ( Id . at 2).
On May 23, 2007, plaintiff submitted the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. (Dkt. No. 1). The Court granted plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to cure deficiencies. (Dkt. No. 8). On June 26, 2007, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 10). The Court dismissed two defendants and directed the Clerk to serve the complaint on the remaining defendant. (Dkt. No. 11). Defendant filed his answer on August 30, 2007. (Dkt. No. 15).
The Court issued an Order on Septmber 10, 2007, setting deadlines for discovery and dispositive motions. (Dkt. No. 16). In that Order, the Court advised plaintiff as follows: When a party you are suing makes a motion for summary judgment that is properly supported by declarations (or other sworn testimony), you cannot simply rely on what your complaint says . Instead, you must set out specific
Case 2:07-cv-00788-JCC Document 22 Filed 01/18/08 Page 3 of 4 facts in declarations, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or authenticated documents, as provided in Rule 56(e), that contradict the facts shown in the defendant’s declarations and documents and show that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. If you do not submit your own evidence in opposition, summary judgment, if appropriate, may be entered against you. If summary judgment is granted, your case will be dismissed and there will be no trial.
(Dkt. No. 16 at 3, citing Rand v. Rowland , 154 F.3d 952" date_filed="1998-08-27" court="9th Cir." case_name="Lee A. Rand v. James Rowland Nadim Khoury, M.D., William Bunnell Roy Lee Johnson Leo R. Estes">154 F.3d 952, 962-963 (9th Cir. 1998) (emphasis added)). Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on December 13, 2007. (Dkt. No. 18). The motion is supported by declarations from Deputy Sheridan and Nurse Sloane. (Dkt. Nos. 20 & 21). Plaintiff has not filed a response and the matter is now ready for review.


Summary judgment is proper only 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 that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc ., 477 U.S. 242" date_filed="1986-06-25" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.">477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See F.D.I.C. v. O’Melveny & Meyers , 969 F.2d 744" date_filed="1992-06-29" court="9th Cir." case_name="Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation v. O'Melveny & Meyers">969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992), rev’d on other grounds, 512 U.S. 79" date_filed="1994-06-13" court="SCOTUS" case_name="O'Melveny & Myers v. Federal Deposit Insurance">512 U.S. 79 (1994). The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. See Anderson , 477 U.S. 242" date_filed="1986-06-25" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.">477 U.S. at 257. Mere disagreement, or the bald assertion that a genuine issue of material fact exists, no longer precludes the use of summary judgment. See California Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc., v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc ., 818 F.2d 1466" date_filed="1987-07-31" court="9th Cir." case_name="California Architectural Building Products v. Franciscan Ceramics">818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987). In addition, “[w]hen the nonmoving party relies only upon its own affidavits to oppose summary judgment, it cannot rely on conclusory allegations unsupported by factual data to create an issue of material fact.” Hansen v. United States , 7 F.3d 137" date_filed="1993-09-08" court="9th Cir." case_name="Merlin Hansen Dolores Hansen v. United States">7 F.3d 137, 138 (9 th Cir. 1993).

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has articulated the following framework to analyze claims of excessive force during an arrest: We analyze excessive force claims in the arrest context under the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness standard. We balance the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake and ask whether, under the circumstances, including Case 2:07-cv-00788-JCC Document 22 Filed 01/18/08 Page 4 of 4 the severity of the crime at issue, the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, or whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. The reasonableness inquiry is objective, without regard to the officer's good or bad motivations or intentions. We judge reasonableness from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight and allow for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.
Billington v. Smith , 292 F.3d 1177" date_filed="2002-06-21" court="9th Cir." case_name="Patricia Billington v. David Smith">292 F.3d 1177, 1184 (9 th Cir. 2002) (footnotes and quotations omitted). Under the above standard, plaintiff simply has not shown that a triable issue of fact exists that would hold Deputy Sheridan liable for excessive force. He has submitted no evidence that supports his claim that his injury was intentionally inflicted. Defendant, on the other hand, has submitted uncontroverted evidence that Deputy Sheridan’s actions in directing Jetson were a reasonable effort to track down a fleeing suspect. While it is regrettable that Deputy Sheridan slipped and bumped into Jetson, precipitating an unnecessary “contact” with plaintiff, this event appears to be nothing more than an accident or, at most, an act of negligence. As such, it does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825" date_filed="1994-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Farmer v. Brennan">511 U.S. 825, 835-37 (1994).
Accordingly, the Court concludes that plaintiff has not satisfied his burden of showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding his claim that Deputy Sheridan used excessive force during his arrest. Consequently, the Court recommends that defendant’s motion for summary judgment be granted.


For the foregoing reasons, the Court recommends that defendant’s motion for summary judgment be granted and that this action be dismissed with prejudice. A proposed Order accompanies this Report and Recommendation.

DATED this 18th day of January, 2008.



United States Magistrate Judge