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Maxwell v. City of New York

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
Aug 12, 2004
380 F.3d 106 (2d Cir. 2004)

Summary

holding "a jury should assess" whether "use of force . . . sufficient to send pain into [plaintiff's] arm and lower back and leave her with a post-concussive syndrome" was excessive force

Summary of this case from Theodat v. City of N.Y.

Opinion

No. 03-0245.

Argued: April 12, 2004.

Decided: August 12, 2004. Errata Filed: September 17, 2004.

Appeal from the August 19, 2003, judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Victor Marrero, District Judge), dismissing, on motion for summary judgment, complaint alleging, among other things, excessive force in making an arrest.

Vacated and remanded as to claim of excessive force.

Richard J. Cardinale, Brooklyn, NY, (Cardinale Hueston Marinelli, Brooklyn, NY, on the brief), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Sharyn Rootenberg, New York City, (Michael A. Cardozo, New York City Corporation Counsel, Larry A. Sonnenshein, John H. Graziadei, New York City, on the brief), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: NEWMAN, KEARSE, and SOTOMAYOR, Circuit Judges.


This appeal primarily concerns a claim of excessive force in the course of an arrest. Plaintiff-Appellant Leah Maxwell appeals from a judgment of the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Victor Marrero, District Judge) granting summary judgment to Defendants-Appellees City of New York ("City"), former City Police Commissioner Howard Safir in his individual and official capacities, police officer Sebastian Mannuzza in his individual and official capacities, and several unidentified police officers in their individual and official capacities ("Defendants-Appellees"). Maxwell brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, for violation of her civil rights and for negligence under New York law. This opinion considers her claim of excessive force during the arrest, a claim that we conclude merits a trial. Issues concerning her other claims have been rejected in a summary order filed today. We therefore affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand

Background

The following facts, alleged by the Plaintiff in her complaint and at her deposition, concern her claim of excessive force. On June 26, 2000, between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m., Maxwell and her friend, co-plaintiff Q'Niah Nasi, arrived at the Fat Black Pussycat bar in Greenwich Village. Maxwell, a college student, who stands 5'1" tall and weighs 115 pounds, became embroiled in a verbal dispute with the club's bouncer when he refused to admit Nasi.

The dispute escalated into a physical altercation, during which Maxwell allegedly hit the bouncer over the head with her backpack, lacerating the bouncer's head. Officer Mannuzza and his partner arrived on the scene at approximately 3:23 a.m. and arrested Maxwell for assault. Maxwell alleges that Mannuzza violently and unnecessarily swung and jerked her around by the handcuffs while she was cuffed from behind. Especially pertinent to this appeal, Maxwell also alleges that Mannuzza shoved her head first into his police car, causing her head to strike the metal partition between the front and back seats.

Maxwell alleged that she suffered immediate pain as a result of hitting her head on the partition. She was taken to a hospital after 4 a.m. where she was treated for pain in her lower back and left arm and for headache.

Maxwell was eventually arraigned and then released on her own recognizance. Her case ended in an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal under New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.55. During the following weeks, Maxwell suffered from headaches, dizziness, nausea, and lethargy. She obtained further medical treatment and was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome.

Maxwell and Nasi filed their joint complaint in July 2001. Two years later, the District Court entered summary judgment in favor of the Defendants-Appellees.

Discussion

Police officers' application of force is excessive, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, if it is objectively unreasonable "in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). Although "`[n]ot every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers,' . . . violates the Fourth Amendment" id. at 396 (quoting Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir. 1973)), we have permitted a plaintiff's claim to survive summary judgment on allegations that, during the course of an arrest, a police officer twisted her arm, "yanked" her, and threw her up against a car, causing only bruising, Robison v. Via, 821 F.2d 913, 924-25 (2d Cir. 1987).

The District Court rejected Maxwell's claim on summary judgment in part because the Court understood the following answer in her deposition to refute the claim that she was propelled head-first into the metal partition of the police car:

Q: So when he shoved you into the car, was it head first or did he turn you around and seat you?

A: I was shoved. I don't know. It was just like, "get in."

In the Court's view, this response "unambiguously indicat[ed]" that Maxwell "did not remember how she was `shoved' in the car." Maxwell v. City of New York, 272 F. Supp. 2d 285, 306 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (denying reconsideration). Therefore, the Court found, the statement undermined Maxwell's later allegations in her sworn declaration in opposition to the summary judgment motion:

Mannuzza violently shoved me head first into the police car. Mannuzza's shove caused my head to strike the solid partition inside of the police car.

We appreciate the Court's concern that a party's affidavit may not create an issue of fact by "contradict[ing] the affiant's previous deposition testimony," Hayes v. New York City Dep't of Corrections, 84 F.3d 614, 619 (2d Cir. 1996), but we think the Court read Maxwell's deposition responses too narrowly, especially in light of Maxwell's answer to the question that immediately preceded her earlier response:

Q: Do you remember, though, whether you — were you shoved in head first so that you fell forward onto the seat, is what I'm asking?

A: No. I scraped my forehead against the thing that divides the perps from the police officers.

Taken together, Maxwell's deposition answers that she "scraped my forehead against the thing that divides the perps from the police officers" and that she was "shoved" are entirely consistent with her later allegation that the officer propelled her into the car's partition. Her "I don't know response" to the first question, when taken in context with the other statements, does not unambiguously establish that she did not remember how she injured her forehead. And her "No" answer to the second question can reasonably be understood to deny only the part of the question that asked whether she was "shoved in head first so that you fell forward onto the seat." Her claim was that the head-first shove caused her to strike her head against the partition, not to fall forward onto the seat. At worst, the deposition answers left an ambiguity that the later declaration clarified. See Langman Fabrics v. Graff Californiawear, Inc., 160 F.3d 106, 112 (2d Cir. 1998) ("If there is a plausible explanation for discrepancies in a party's testimony, the court considering a summary judgment motion should not disregard the later testimony because of an earlier account that was ambiguous, confusing, or simply incomplete."). Furthermore, Nasi submitted a declaration stating that "Mannuzza violently shoved Maxwell head first into the police car. Maxwell's head struck a hard surface of the car as a result of Mannuzza's violent conduct. I heard Maxwell cry out in pain." Nasi Decl. ¶ 15.

The Court also expressed the view that Maxwell's injury was insufficiently serious: "That Maxwell allegedly scraped her head when being shoved into the car is not sufficient for any reasonable jury to find an excessive force claim in this case — minor scrapes, bumps or bruises potentially could occur, often unintended, during any arrest, and an arresting officer can not be held unremittingly liable for every such incident." Maxwell, 272 F. Supp. 2d at 298. However, her complaint alleges that Mannuzza's use of force in making the arrest was sufficient to send pain into her arm and lower back and leave her with a post-concussive syndrome. In light of Robison, we think a jury should assess Maxwell's account of what occurred during her arrest, along with any conflicting evidence the Defendants-Appellants present.

Conclusion

The summary judgment is vacated only to the extent that it rejected the claim of excessive force, which we remand for further proceedings.


Summaries of

Maxwell v. City of New York

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
Aug 12, 2004
380 F.3d 106 (2d Cir. 2004)

holding "a jury should assess" whether "use of force . . . sufficient to send pain into [plaintiff's] arm and lower back and leave her with a post-concussive syndrome" was excessive force

Summary of this case from Theodat v. City of N.Y.

holding that summary judgment was inappropriate when plaintiff alleged that the officer's "use of force in making the arrest was sufficient to send pain into arm and lower back and leave her with a post-concussive syndrome"

Summary of this case from Fisher v. Jenks

finding that "[n]ot every push or shove" is unconstitutionally excessive

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finding that the plaintiff had sufficiently made out an excessive force claim that survived summary judgment where the only record of injury were plaintiff's complaints of pain in her arm and lower back and shell shock

Summary of this case from Graham v. City of N.Y.

affirming district court's decision which "permitted a plaintiff's claim to survive summary judgment on allegations that, during the course of an arrest, a police officer twisted her arm, 'yanked' her, and threw her up against a car, causing only bruising"

Summary of this case from Beaudry v. McKnight

vacating a district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to a claim of excessive force when the plaintiff alleged that she hit her head on a police car's partition and cried out in pain when she was "violently shoved" by an officer into the car

Summary of this case from Pateman v. City of White Plains

vacating a district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to a claim of excessive force when the plaintiff alleged that she hit her head on a police car's partition and cried out in pain when she was "violently shoved" by an officer into the car

Summary of this case from Pateman v. City of White Plains

vacating summary judgment in officer's favor where plaintiff alleged use of force during her arrest "was sufficient to send pain into her arm and lower back and leave her with a post-concussive syndrome[]" and discrepancies in plaintiff's statements regarding whether the officer caused her to hit her head "left an ambiguity" that "a jury should assess"

Summary of this case from Elnicki v. City of Rutland

vacating summary judgment for excessive force claim, even though the defendant had identified variations between the plaintiff's deposition testimony and statements in her affidavit regarding force used against her by a police officer, because a jury, not the court, should assess the plaintiff's account along with any conflicting evidence

Summary of this case from Zadrowski v. Town of Plainville

reversing grant of summary judgment in favor of police officer on excessive force claim where plaintiff was shoved into a police car and suffered pain, bumps, bruises, and post-concussive syndrome

Summary of this case from Beaudry v. McKnight

reversing summary judgment dismissal of an excessive force claim when an officer shoved plaintiff into the back of a police car and plaintiff's head struck a hard surface of the car, causing pain in her arm and lower back

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reversing grant of summary judgment in officer's favor where plaintiff alleged officer's use of force “was sufficient to send pains into her arm and lower back and leave her with post-concussive syndrome.”

Summary of this case from Burwell v. Peyton

reversing the district court's entry of summary judgment against a plaintiff who had suffered only “minor scrapes, bumps or bruises potentially could occur, often unintended, during any arrest,” pain, and post-concussive syndrome, as a result of police officer allegedly shoving her, causing her to hit her head

Summary of this case from Lozada v. Weilminster

reversing district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on excessive force claim where police officer shoved plaintiff head first into the partition of a patrol car, resulting in pain and post-concussive syndrome

Summary of this case from Piper v. City of Elmira

reversing the district court's entry of summary judgment against a plaintiff who had suffered only “minor scrapes, bumps or bruises potentially could occur, often unintended, during any arrest,” pain, and post-concussive syndrome, i.e. shell shock

Summary of this case from Graham v. City of N.Y.

reversing summary judgment for defendants where plaintiff testified that head-first shove into police car caused a scrape, pain in her arm and lower back, and post-concussive syndrome

Summary of this case from McClendon v. Cnty. of Nassau

reversing grant of summary judgment on excessive force claim where plaintiff was shoved into a police car and suffered pain, bumps, scrapes, bruises, and post-concussive syndrome

Summary of this case from Matthews v. City of N.Y.

reversing district court's entry of summary of judgment where plaintiff had suffered pain, post-concussive syndrome, and “minor scrapes, bumps or bruises potentially could occur, often unintended, during any arrest”

Summary of this case from Hayes v. Cnty. of Sullivan

reversing the district court's entry of summary of judgment against a plaintiff who had suffered only "minor scrapes, bumps or bruises potentially could occur, often unintended, during any arrest," pain, and post-concussive syndrome

Summary of this case from Wang v. Vahldieck

reversing district court's dismissal of excessive force claim alleging that defendant shoved her head into the police car, where plaintiff alleged shoulder pain, a scrape to her forehead, and was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome

Summary of this case from Sash v. U.S.

reversing district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on excessive force claim where police officer shoved plaintiff head first into the partition of a patrol car, resulting in pain and post-concussive syndrome

Summary of this case from Jennejahn v. Village of Avon

rejecting the district court's conclusion that "minor scrapes, bumps or bruises potentially could occur . . . during any arrest, and an arresting officer can not be held unremittingly liable for every such incident," and holding that the issue was sufficiently jury-worthy

Summary of this case from Lennox v. Clarke

recognizing the Second Circuit has "permitted a plaintiff's claim to survive summary judgment on allegations that, during the course of an arrest, a police officer twisted her arm, 'yanked' her, and threw her up against a car, causing only bruising"

Summary of this case from Elnicki v. City of Rutland

refusing to grant summary judgment in favor of a police officer who allegedly shoved a handcuffed arrestee headfirst into a police car, causing her to strike her head on a part of the car

Summary of this case from Lennox v. Miller

agreeing with district court's assumption that "medical attention can be considered a constitutionally protected statement"

Summary of this case from Crispin v. Corr. Officer Haber
Case details for

Maxwell v. City of New York

Case Details

Full title:LEAH MAXWELL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF NEW YORK; JOHN DOES, 1 TO 6…

Court:United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

Date published: Aug 12, 2004

Citations

380 F.3d 106 (2d Cir. 2004)

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