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Deavers v. Vasquez

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

November 5, 2014

ALICIA DEAVERS, Plaintiff,
v.
HOMERO VASQUEZ and ROGER L. HARRIS, Defendants

For Alicia Deavers, Plaintiff: Douglass Hayden Fisher, LEAD ATTORNEY, D. Hayden Fisher, Esq., PLC, Richmond, VA.

For Homero Vasquez, Defendant: Lee Brinson Warren, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alexander Francuzenko, Cook Craig & Francuzenko PLLC, Fairfax, VA.

Page 600

MEMORANDUM OPINION

(Defendant Homero Vasquez's Motion for Summary Judgment)

Henry E. Hudson, United States District Judge.

Alicia Deavers (" Deavers" or " Plaintiff" ) brought this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a number of Fourth Amendment violations and related common law claims against the Sheriff of Spotsylvania County, Roger L. Harris (" Sheriff Harris" ), and one of his deputies, Homero Vasquez (" Deputy Vasquez" ). The underlying incident involves Deputy Vasquez's alleged improper arrest of Deavers for public intoxication and his alleged use of excessive force in effectuating that arrest. Deputy Vasquez now moves for summary judgment.[1] The parties have submitted briefs supporting their respective positions. The Court will dispense with oral

Page 601

argument, finding that it will not aid in the decisional process.

After close review, the Court concludes that qualified immunity shields Deputy Vasquez from liability for excessive force. The record evidence is insufficient to prove that Deputy Vasquez violated a clearly established constitutional right--namely, that of being free from unduly tight or forceful handcuffs. Accordingly, for the reasons explained herein, Deputy Vasquez's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted with respect to Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 excessive force claim. Plaintiff's state law claims for malicious prosecution and battery will be remanded back to the Circuit Court for Spotsylvania County, Virginia, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).

I. BACKGROUND

At the outset, the Court notes that once again, Plaintiff has failed to comply with the Local Rules of this Court and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As required by E.D. Va. Loc. R. 56(B) and consistent with Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1), Deputy Vasquez identified the undisputed material facts with citation to particular parts of the record in the memorandum in support of his motion, but Plaintiff neglected to do the same in her response. Plaintiff's brief in opposition to Deputy Vasquez's motion includes a section entitled " Background and Objections to Defendants' Recited Undisputed Facts", and attaches Exhibit B, Plaintiff's own affidavit purportedly setting forth " [a] specific point-by-point rebuttal to Defendants' Statement of Material Facts [Not in Dispute]" . (Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (" Opp'n Mem." ) 1, n.1, ECF No. 36.) But Plaintiff fails to cite with particularity to those portions of the record that would support the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.

Under the Local Rules, the Court may accept those facts not disputed to be admitted. It may also assume that those facts not disputed by reference to record evidence are admitted by Plaintiff. E.D. Va. Loc. R. 56(B). This practice is consistent with the 2011 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which require the parties to support their factual assertions by " citing to particular parts of materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Campbell v. Verizon Virginia, Inc., 812 F.Supp.2d 748, 759 n.5 (E.D. Va. 2011) (discussing 2011 amendments to Rule 56), aff'd 474 F.App'x 167, (4th Cir. June 18, 2012). Because at the summary judgment stage, a court must construe the facts in the light most favorable to Deavers as the non-moving party, this Court has made a reasonable effort to search the record in an attempt to identify those facts that are genuinely not in dispute. Nevertheless, where appropriate, the Court reserves the right to consider Deputy Vasquez's statement of the facts as undisputed, as permitted by the Local Rules and Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Viewing the evidence through such lens, the following narrative represents the established facts for purposes of resolving Deputy Vasquez's motion for summary judgment.

Factual Background

At approximately 12:32 a.m. on May 18, 2013, Deputy Vasquez, a Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Deputy, received a complaint of loud noise from a party in the garage at Plaintiff's residence. (Aff. of Alicia Deavers (" Pl. Aff." ) ¶ 1, 4, ECF No. 36-2; Incident Details Report (" Ex. A" ) HV-17-HV-18, ECF No. 36-1; Master Incident Field Report, (" Ex. 1" ) HV-2, ECF No. 33-1[2] Vasquez Dep. 16:17-19, ECF

Page 602

No. 32-2.) Upon his arrival at 12:58 a.m., Deputy Vasquez observed through the open door of Plaintiff's single-car garage approximately ten or fifteen individuals. (Ex. A HV-18; Aff. of Mike Smith (" Smith Aff." ) ¶ 1, ECF No. 36-3; Vasquez Dep. 17:16-19; Pl. Dep. 59:6-7, ECF No. 32-4.) Deavers identified herself as the renter of the home. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 4.)

Deputy Vasquez asked Plaintiff to go inside the house and to ask the other guests to do the same, but Deavers declined to do so. (Vasquez Dep. 16:20-17:2; Vasquez Resp. to Pl. Interrog. #6, ECF No. 36-4.) Two male partygoers began to argue with Deputy Vasquez, refusing to comply with his request to end the party and go inside. (Pl. Aff. 9; Ex. 1 HV-3; Vasquez Dep. 21:22-25.) Another male, who appeared intoxicated, increased the volume of the music despite Deputy Vasquez's requests to curb the noise. (Vasquez Dep. 18:1-19:5, 20:18-20; Ex. 1 HV-2.) At some point during these exchanges, Deavers went inside to phone a Spotsylvania County detective with whom she was personally acquainted. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 15; Vasquez Dep. 22:18-23; 23:1-15.)

Deputy Vasquez asked the partygoers to have Deavers come back outside to avoid any further escalation of the situation. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 17; Vasquez Dep. 23:5-13; Ex. 1 HV-3.) When the two males that initially argued with Deputy Vasquez began yelling, Deputy Vasquez called for a backup unit. (Vasquez Dep. 23:10-16; Ex. 1 HV-3; Pl. Aff. ¶ 18.) Because they heard yelling in the background of Deputy Vasquez's call, the units responded with lights and sirens. (Vasquez Dep. 23:15-18; Pl. Aff. ¶ 18.)[3]

Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff reappeared--still inside the garage, but visible to Deputy Vasquez. She continued to refuse to cooperate with the deputy's requests to tone the party down. (Vasquez Dep. 23:20-24:24; Ex. 1 HV-3.) And at the encouragement of her guests, Deavers initially refused, but eventually complied with Deputy Vasquez's order to step out of the garage. ( Id.) Deavers was arrested at 1:06 a.m. for public intoxication. (Vasquez Dep. 24:20-25; Pl. Aff. ¶ 18.) In effectuating the arrest, Deputy Vasquez grabbed Plaintiff's right wrist and handcuffed her hands behind her back. (Ex. 1 HV-3.)

Deputy Vasquez's arrest of Deavers was captured on video. One of the partygoers began filming portions of the incident on a cell phone just before Deavers returned outside. (Video Attach. to Pl.'s Opp'n Mem. (" Video" ), ECF No. 37; Smith Aff. ¶ ¶ 2, 5.) The video begins with one male partygoer arguing with Deputy Vasquez and ends once Deavers has been arrested and placed in handcuffs. ( Id.)Just after the arrest, the same male that had become argumentative and tried to dissuade Plaintiff from returning outside to comply with Deputy Vasquez's request, attempted to insert his arm between Deavers and Deputy Vasquez. (Vasquez Dep. 24:6-9; 31:11-16.) Deputy Vasquez ordered the gentleman to step back and ...


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