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Martinez v. Hubbard

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 18, 2016

MARCOS A. MARTINEZ, Administrator of the Estate of JEFFREY MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM HUBBARD, BERNARD HICKS, ROBERT P. COLBURN, DONALD CAISEY, and SCOTT ROBY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Marcos Martinez, as administrator of the estate of Jeffrey Martinez, filed this action against Boston Police Officers William Hubbard, Bernard Hicks, Robert Colburn, Donald Caisey, and Scott Roby, for assault and battery and constitutional violations within the scope of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. The Defendants moved for summary judgment [Dkt. No. 93], asserting that (1) there is no evidence in the record specific to any named defendant establishing that he struck the vehicle in which Martinez was a passenger, and (2) even if there were, the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.

In opposing the summary judgment motion, Martinez sought to open a second front by filing a motion [Dkt. No. 105] to strike the defendant’s statement of material facts and for sanctions. That collateral initiative by plaintiff’s counsel backfired when, at the summary judgment motion hearing, I raised the question whether Martinez’s counsel should themselves be sanctioned for failing to comply with Local Rule 7.1 with respect to their Motion to Strike and for Sanctions. I instructed Martinez’s counsel to show cause by May 3, 2012 why they should not be sanctioned. I directed Defendants’ counsel to pursue the matter if they chose by filing a motion seeking sanctions and the costs incurred defending against Martinez’s motion. This the Defendants did through Docket No. 114. Martinez’s counsel did not respond to the Order to Show Cause, but did respond to the Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions.

At the summary judgment hearing, I also requested supplemental briefing on Count III of Martinez’s First Amended Complaint. My directions during the hearing and subsequent electronic order specified that Defendants’ supplemental brief was due by May 10, 2012, and Martinez’s response was due by May 17, 2012. Defendants filed their brief, together with their motion for sanctions [Dkt. No. 114], but Martinez’s attorneys - although filing their opposition to sanctions on May 17, 2012 - did not bother to file a supplemental brief on behalf of Martinez until June 1, 2012, two weeks after my deadline. Defendants moved [Dkt. No. 118] to strike that brief as untimely.

By electronic order dated September 30, 2012, I disposed of the various pending motions promising a memorandum of opinion providing an extended explanation for those orders. This is that memorandum.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

At approximately 1:45 a.m. on October 1, 2006, Hubbard was on patrol in his police cruiser on Magnolia Street in Dorchester, where a large number of people were leaving the area following a party. Officer Hubbard pulled behind an Acura which had four people inside: Daniel Rodriguez, Andrew Vongsavay, Rodriguez’s girlfriend Melissa Sian, and Martinez. Rodriguez was driving, Vongsavay was in the passenger seat, and Martinez and Sian were in the rear, on the driver’s side and passenger’s side, respectively.

Hubbard claimed to see a crack in the windshield on the driver’s side of the Acura which he thought would render the car unsafe to drive.[2] He then checked the license plates of the Acura on his police-vehicle laptop, and discovered that they were reported as stolen.[3]

Hubbard attempted to pull the Acura over by turning on his police cruiser’s lights. He exited his cruiser and approached the vehicle. As Hubbard approached the Acura, however, Rodriguez drove off.

Hubbard returned to his cruiser and followed in pursuit with his lights on. Rodriguez drove away at high-speeds---an estimated 60-70 miles per hour---through Dorchester. Rodriguez drove through at least one[4] red light as he drove from the party onto Columbia Road, past the intersection at Blue Hill Avenue, onto Jewish War Veteran’s Memorial Drive, and past the Franklin Park Zoo. At this point, on Jewish War Venteran’s Memorial Drive, Officer Colburn joined the pursuit in his police cruiser.

Rodriguez proceeded through the rotary at the end of Jewish War Veteran’s Memorial Drive, onto a ramp. At the bottom of the ramp, a number of cars were stopped at a red light. As Rodriguez and police officers approached, the vehicles pulled out of the way, and Rodriguez took a left through the red light onto Hyde Park Avenue. Officer Hicks, who had been approaching from South Street, observed the Acura and then Hubbard and Colburn go through the intersection. Hicks followed in pursuit.

Hubbard got a flat tire after going through the intersection, and pulled to the side of the road shortly thereafter.[5] Officers Roby and Caisey, who were in an unmarked vehicle, joined in the pursuit just before Hubbard got a flat tire, but pulled over by Hubbard to check if he was ok. Officers Colburn and Hicks continued in pursuit of the Acura after also checking to make sure Hubbard was ok.

In her deposition, Rodriguez’s girlfriend said that as they were driving down Hyde Park Avenue, she turned around and looked out the back window of the car, where she saw a police cruiser so close that she “couldn’t even see their headlight[sic].” As she turned back around in her seat, she felt a bump on the right side of the Acura. Rodriguez then lost control of the car, which drove onto the sidewalk, where it ultimately hit a pole.

Colburn drove past the scene of the accident before turning around and driving back to it. Hicks arrived moments after the crash. Roby and Caisey heard a dispatch that the Acura had crashed, and drove down Hyde Park Avenue to the scene.

The occupants of the vehicle were taken to Children’s Hospital. Rodriguez’s girlfriend sustained numerous fractures, and Martinez, who had been seated next to her, died of his injuries shortly after arriving at Children’s Hospital.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A movant is entitled to summary judgment when “the movant shows that 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 dispute is genuine if the evidence about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the point in the favor of the non-moving party, ” and “[a] fact is material if it has the potential of determining the outcome of the litigation.” Farmers Ins. Exch. v. RNK, Inc., 632 F.3d 777, 782 (1st Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). However, “conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation” are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact to survive summary judgment. Sullivan v. City of Springfield, 561 F.3d 7, 14 (1st Cir. 2009) (quotation and citation omitted).

As I must, I “view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Rivera–Colón v. Mills, 635 F.3d 9, 10 (1st Cir. 2011).

III. MOTIONS TO STRIKE AND FOR SANCTIONS

At the outset, I address the motions to strike or motions for sanctions that bear upon the summary judgment motion before turning to the merits of the summary judgment motion itself. Martinez filed a motion styled as a Motion to Strike and For Sanctions, while the Defendants filed a Motion to Strike Martinez’s untimely supplemental brief, and a Motion for Sanctions for violation of Local Rule 7.1. I address each motion in turn.

A. Martinez’s Motion to Strike and For Sanctions

Although styled as a Motion to Strike and For Sanctions, Martinez’s motion [Dkt. No. 105] does not request that I strike anything---indeed, the word “strike” does not appear at all except in the title.[6] Instead, Martinez’s motion seeks Rule 11 sanctions and attorneys’ fees expended responding to defendants’ statement of undisputed facts. Since Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c) requires that any motion for sanctions “be ...


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