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Winfield v. Perocchi

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 27, 2017




         Plaintiff Marie Winfield brings this civil rights action against Defendants Neil Perocchi, a detective with the Lawrence Police Department (“Det. Perocchi”), Lawrence General Hospital (“Hospital”), and Michael Fornesi, a security guard employed by the Hospital, for alleged damages arising from her June 2012 arrest at the hospital. Specifically, she alleges that, at Fornesi's direction, Det. Perocchi arrested her to prevent her from filing a complaint against Fornesi and two other security guards, and that the Hospital is vicariously liable for Fornesi's actions. Presently before the court are Fornesi and the Hospital's Motion for Summary Judgment [#67] and Perocchi's Motion for Summary Judgment [#71]. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions are ALLOWED.

         I. Factual Background[1]

         On the evening of June 30, 2012, Plaintiff visited her husband, who was staying at the hospital as an inpatient. Def. Fornesi & Lawrence Gen. Hosp.'s Mot. Summ. J [“Fornesi Mot. Summ. J.”] Ex. D [“Winfield Dep.”] 19:3-21; 30:13-16 [#68-4] (Transcript of Deposition of Marie Winfield); id. at 30:13-16. During her visit, Plaintiff and the treating physician argued about her husband's care. Id. at 27:2-23. Hospital staff called security as Plaintiff boarded the elevator to leave. Id. at 28:4-5. When the elevator arrived at the lobby level, she encountered three security guards, including Fornesi. Id. at 22:14-16; 28:21:23. The guards told her that visiting hours had ended and asked her to leave the hospital. Id. at 31:9. Plaintiff informed them that she had a meeting scheduled with a nurse supervisor, and the guards escorted her to the fourth floor for her meeting. Id. at 31:11-13; 32:3-8.

         Plaintiff found the security guards “very threatening, really very aggressive” while in the elevator. Id. 32:16-20. After meeting with the nurse supervisor, Plaintiff returned to the first floor to report the guards' behavior to their superiors. Id. at 34:5-17. However, she was told there was no one in charge of security on site and was referred to a nurse manager in the Emergency Department. Id. at 34:9-35:3. While waiting to speak with the nurse manager, Plaintiff was told that the security guards were waiting for her outside. Id. at 36:19-23. She exited the building to speak with them. Id. 37:1; 38:15-20.

         Fornesi, who was one of the security guards outside, avers that he again asked Plaintiff to leave the premises. Fornesi Mot. Summ. J. Ex. F [“Fornesi Aff.”] ¶ 11 [#68-6] (Affidavit of Michael Fornesi). Recalling the exchange at her deposition, Plaintiff testified, “I really don't remember what [the guards] said. It seemed they were all talking at the same time. I don't remember anything they said.” Winfield Dep. 38:6-9. Plaintiff remained on the premises and continued to talk to the security guards. Winfield Dep. 39:14-22.

         Fornesi reentered the hospital and informed Det. Perocchi, who was working paid detail on site that night, that “there was a problem at the emergency entrance of the hospital with a visitor that would not leave the property.” Fornesi Mot. Summ. J Ex. B [“Perocchi Aff.”] ¶¶ 5-7 [#68-2] (Affidavit of Neil Perocchi). Det. Perocchi located Plaintiff outside and directed her to leave. Id. at 1:2-7. According to Plaintiff, she told Det. Perocchi that she did not have transportation and would have to call her daughter to be picked up. Winfield Dep. 40:9-23. Det. Perocchi then “grabbed [her] hand” and placed her in handcuffs. Id. at 42:4-5. He summoned a police cruiser with his radio and, upon its arrival, he and Fornesi “put” Plaintiff in the car. Id. at 42:14-16; 45:10-17. She was transferred to the police station for booking. Fornesi Aff. ¶ 11.

         II. Discussion

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         A movant is entitled to summary judgment if “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 genuine dispute of fact exists if an issue can be resolved in favor of either party. Calero-Cerezo v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 355 F.3d 6, 19 (1st Cir. 2004). Facts are material if they have the potential to affect the outcome of the case. Id.

         To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must identify facts- either uncontested or disputed-that demonstrate the existence of a trialworthy issue. Id. The court views the entire record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and makes inferences in the non-moving party's favor. O'Connor v. Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993). However, the non-moving party may not rely “merely upon conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation.” Pina v. Children's Place, 740 F.3d 785, 796 (1st Cir. 2014) (citation omitted); see also Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115 (1st Cir. 1990) (deeming “conclusory responses unsupported by evidence” to be insufficient to ward off summary judgment).

         B. Claims Against Det. Perocchi

         Plaintiff raises the following causes of action against Det. Perocchi, all of which are rooted in the decision to arrest her: false and malicious arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count I); wrongful imprisonment and confinement in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments (Count II); violation of her First Amendment rights (Count III); and conspiracy to violate her First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights (Count IV). These constitutional claims arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), which provides a vehicle for redressing constitutional violations caused by municipal or state actors.

         Relief is barred under Section 1983 if an officer had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff. Correia v. Feeney, 620 F.3d 9, 12 (1st Cir. 2010); cf. Robinson v. Cook, 706 F.3d 25, 33 (1st Cir. 2013) (“A warrantless arrest is permissible under the Fourth Amendment where there is probable cause.”). Probable cause exists if “the facts and circumstances within [the officer's] knowledge and of which [he] had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent [person] in believing that the [arrestee] had committed or was committing an offense.” Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964). Probable cause “depends upon the reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the facts known to the arresting officer at the time of the arrest.” Devenpeck v. ...

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