United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ROLAND G. HILL & MARY R. HILL
EDWARD WALSH ET AL.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Roland and Mary Hill (Roland and Mary) bring this civil
rights action against the City of Taunton, its police chief,
and several of its police officers, alleging that a search of
their home in the course of executing a warrant of
apprehension for their son, Matthew Hill, violated their
rights under the Fourth Amendment. In due course, defendants
moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the
court will grant the motion.
and Mary have lived at 3 Eldridge Street in Taunton for over
twenty years. Matthew grew up in the family home, but by the
time of the events in suit, he had reached adulthood and was
living on his own in an apartment on Weir Street in Taunton.
had struggled with drug addiction since his teenage years. In
March of 2015, his drug use escalated and concerned family
members felt the need for an urgent intervention. On March 3,
2015, Matthew's sister, Amanda Hill, called the Taunton
police and 911 warning that Matthew was on the verge of an
overdose. Taunton police officers responded to Matthew's
Weir Street address and assisted his transport by ambulance
to Morton Hospital in Taunton.
following day, Amanda filed a petition in the Taunton
District Court seeking to have Matthew committed as a
substance abuser pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, §
35. Amanda listed her parents' Eldridge Street home as
Matthew's address, but also noted Morton Hospital as his
current location. In response to the petition, a District
Court Judge issued a warrant of apprehension for Matthew,
which the statute authorizes “if there are reasonable
grounds to believe that such person will not appear [for a
commitment hearing] and that any further delay in the
proceedings would present an immediate danger to the physical
well-being of the respondent.” Id. The warrant
of apprehension issued at 2:20 p.m. and identified its
subject as “Matthew Hill, 3 Eldridge Street, Taunton,
MA 02780.” Dkt #30- 14. In capital letter typeface
below Matthew's name and address, the warrant stated
“CURRENTLY AT MORTON HOSPITAL.” Id. The
standard-form warrant also stated in bold type that it could
“not be executed unless the respondent can be brought
before a judge prior to 4:30 P.M. on the same day that it is
warrant was faxed to the Taunton police department at
approximately 2:58 p.m., where it was received by the shift
commander, defendant Joseph Marques. Marques examined the
warrant, entered information from it into the
department's dispatching system, and then gave the
warrant to defendant Deborah Lavoie, a dispatcher. Lavoie
passed the warrant on to defendant William Henault, who was
the duty patrol supervisor. All three officers testified at
their depositions that they did not see the reference to
Morton Hospital on the face of the warrant.
left the station to serve the warrant no later than 3:17 p.m.
He arrived at the Eldridge Street address a few minutes
later. Because Henault knew from past experience that several
large dogs lived at the house, he shook the chain link fence
surrounding the property to draw the attention of any dogs
that might be loose in the yard. As he did so, Henault was
joined by defendant officer Troy-Allen Enos, who had
responded to a radio call from Lavoie requesting officer
assistance in serving the warrant. Henault and Enos went to
the front door of the home and knocked, which caused the dogs
inside to approach the door and begin barking. Receiving no
human response to their knocks, the officers peered through
sidelights next to the front door. Henault testified that he
briefly saw what he believed to be a fleeting silhouette
inside the home. Enos testified that he saw a curtain moving
and what he thought to be a person inside the home.
officers walked around the perimeter of the home, calling
Matthew's name. As they did so, they discovered that a
side door of the home was unlocked. The officers testified
that they believed someone was inside the home, but that they
were reluctant to enter because of the hostile dogs. Before
they could act further, defendant Police Chief Edward Walsh
explained the situation to Walsh: that they were attempting
to serve a warrant of apprehension for Matthew; that he and
Enos had been unable to definitively determine whether
Matthew was inside the home; that there were aggressive dogs
in the house deterring them from entering; and that he
believed that he had seen the shadow of a person inside.
Henault also told Walsh that the home belonged to
Matthew's parents, and that Matthew had his own apartment
on Weir Street. After receiving the briefing, Walsh
instructed Henault to ask the dispatchers whether they had
received any additional information about Matthew or the
warrant. Henault spoke with both Lavoie and Marques, who
reported nothing further had been provided. After further
discussion, the officers decided that Matthew was probably
inside the home and potentially at grave risk of an overdose.
then instructed Enos to retrieve the fire extinguisher from
his cruiser. Armed with the fire extinguisher, Walsh,
Henault, and Enos entered the home through the unlocked side
door. Walsh sprayed the fire extinguisher three times to
drive the dogs back, enabling the officers to conduct a sweep
of the premises. They found no one at home. Roland and Mary
were forced to vacate the home for several days while
cleaners removed the fire retardant residue.
at the damage done to their home, Roland and Mary filed this
lawsuit, asserting violations of the Civil Rights Act, 42
U.S.C. § 1983, by the officers and the City of Taunton,
as well as common-law claims for intentional infliction of
emotional distress and trespass against Walsh, Henault, and
Enos. Following the completion of discovery, defendants moved
for summary judgment, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56,
invoking the doctrine of qualified immunity. The court heard
argument on the motion on May 31, 2017.
evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the court views the
facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving parties
and draws all reasonable inferences in their favor.
Iverson v. City of Boston, 452 F.3d 94, 98 (1st Cir.
2006). Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). The moving party must demonstrate the absence of any
real disputes of material fact in the summary judgment
record. Flovac, Inc. v. Airvac, Inc., 817 F.3d 849,
853 (1st Cir. 2016). Where the nonmovants bear the burden of
proof on an issue, they must respond by “adduc[ing]
specific facts showing that a trier of fact reasonably could
find in [their] favor.” Murray v. Warren Pumps,
LLC, 821 F.3d 77, 83 (1st Cir. 2016). ...