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McClammy v. Halloran

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

September 25, 2019

DIANA McCLAMMY, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER THOMAS HALLORAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          BRIAN MORRIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Defendant City of Great Falls (“City”) and Defendants Great Falls Police Officers Tovson and Halloran (collectively “Officers”) filed separate motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 41 & 45.) Plaintiff Diana McClammy (“McClammy”) opposed the motions. (Docs. 78 & 80.) The Court conducted a hearing on the motions on September 12, 2019. (Doc. 100.)

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         McClammy called 911 at approximately 7:32 p.m. on May 22, 2015. (Doc. 3 at 3.) She reported that her boyfriend, Louis Dymon, had physically abused her. (Id.) The Officers responded to McClammy’s apartment building. (Id.) McClammy told the Officers that Dymon had been drinking, was violent, head-butted her, hit her in the back of the neck with a plastic bottle, and scratched her face at her jawline. (Id.)

         The Officers spoke separately with McClammy and Dymon. (Id. at 3-4.) McClammy alleges that the Officers acted dismissively toward her complaints. (Id. at 3.) The Officers reported that McClammy was intoxicated. (Id.) Subsequent testing measured McClammy’s blood alcohol content (BAC) as 0. (Id.) The Officers reported that Dymon was calm, but appeared intoxicated. (Id. at 4.) Subsequent testing measured Dymon’s BAC as 0.297. (Id.) The Officers cleared the call based on their conversations with McClammy and Dymon. (Id.) McClammy reports that the Officers’ investigation lasted less than 15 minutes. (Id.) The Officers left the apartment building after they had concluded their investigation. (Id.)

         The apartment building manager called 911 a little over an hour later. (Id.) The building manager reported that McClammy told him that she had just stabbed Dymon and to call for help. (Id.) The Officers responded to the scene. (Id.) McClammy asserts that she told the Officers that she had acted in self-defense and that she had not meant to kill Dymon. (Id.) The Officers arrested McClammy. (Id.) Medical personnel pronounced Dymon dead later that night. (Id. at 5.)

         The State of Montana charged McClammy with deliberate homicide for Dymon’s death. (Id.) The state district court appointed public defender Matthew McKittrick to defend McClammy. (Id. at 6.) McClammy pleaded not guilty to the charge of deliberate homicide. (Id.) The court held an omnibus hearing on October 14, 2015. (Id.) McClammy informed the court that she intended to rely on a justifiable use of force and/or mental disease or defect defense. (Id.) The court scheduled trial for November 16, 2015. (Id.)

         McKittrick moved to vacate and continue various deadlines, including McClammy’s trial date. (Id.) Ultimately, the court reset McClammy’s trial for February 13, 2017. (Id.) The State filed a motion to dismiss the charge with prejudice on February 7, 2017. (Id.) The State represented that it lacked sufficient evidence to overcome McClammy’s self-defense claim. (Id.) The state district court dismissed the charges on February 7, 2017. (Id. at 7.) McClammy had been incarcerated for the 21 months between her arrest and the dismissal. (Doc. 78 at 11-12.)

         McClammy filed her Complaint in Montana State Court on March 7, 2018. (Doc. 3 at 15.) McClammy initially asserted seven causes of action against various defendants. (Id. at 7-16.) The Officers removed the case to federal court on April 25, 2018. (Doc. 1.) McClammy has since moved to dismiss several causes of action and two defendants. (Docs. 80 at 2, 98 at 1, & 100.) The following causes of action remain: (1) negligence against the Officers and the City; and (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Fourteenth Amendment violation against the Officers. (Doc. 3 at 7, 13.)

         McClammy clarifies that she bases her claims against the Officers on their alleged “deliberate indifference” in investigating the assault that McClammy first reported and in failing to arrest Dymon based on their investigation. (Doc. 78 at 4.) McClammy bases her claims against the City on its vicarious liability for the Officers’ tortious conduct. (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motions for Summary Judgment

         The Court will address separately the motions for summary judgment.

         A. Summary Judgment Legal Standard

         A party may move for summary judgment on all or part of a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment proves proper when no genuine dispute of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court will grant summary judgment where the documentary evidence produced by the parties permits only one conclusion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

         A moving party, who does not carry the burden of proof at trial, carries the “initial burden of production” on a summary judgment motion. Nissan Fire & Marine Insurance Company, LTD v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (2000). The movant may fulfill her initial burden of production in one of two ways. Id., at 1106. The movant may produce “affirmative evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party’s claim.” Id. at 1103. The movant alternatively may show that the “nonmoving party did not have enough evidence to carry” her burden of proof at trial. Id.

         If the movant meets her burden of production, the nonmovant must produce evidence to support her claim. Id. Rule 56 mandates summary judgment where the nonmovant’s production of evidence fails to create a genuine issue of material fact. Id. If the movant fails to meet her initial burden of production, then the nonmovant may defeat the motion for summary judgment without having produced any evidence. Id.

         B. The Officers’ Motion for Summary Judgment

         State-Created Danger

         The Fourteenth Amendment generally does not require an officer to protect an individual from third-party violence. Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748, 768 (2005). An officer may owe a Fourteenth Amendment due process duty to protect against third-party violence, however, if the officer affirmatively placed the plaintiff in a position of known danger by acting with deliberate indifference. Kennedy v. City of Ridgefield, 439 F.3d 1055, 1062-63 (9th Cir. 2006). The exception requires the officer to engage in affirmative conduct that placed the plaintiff in a position that was more dangerous than the one in which the officer found the plaintiff. Id. at 1061.

         McClammy alleges that the Officers’ actions resulted in a state-created danger in violation of her Fourteenth Amendment Due Process right. (Docs. 3 at 13 & 78 at 12.) McClammy asserts that the Officers created a danger through the following omissions: (1) failing to investigate properly her claims when they responded to her ...


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