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Winfield v. Lawrence General Hospital

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 5, 2018



          Indira Talwani United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Marie Winfield filed this civil rights action for damages arising out of an incident at Lawrence General Hospital. Winfield claims Defendant Officer Timothy Dube used excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.[1] Dube filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [#44], arguing that he did not use any excessive force and asserting the defense of qualified immunity. Winfield filed a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment [#48]. For the following reasons, Dube's motion is ALLOWED and Winfield's motion is DENIED.

         I. Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate 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. A fact is material if it has the potential of determining the outcome of the litigation.” Patco Constr. Co. v. People's United Bank, 684 F.3d 197, 206-07 (1st Cir. 2012) (internal quotations omitted). A court must view all properly supported evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115 (1st Cir. 1990). Nonetheless, a court must “disregard conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation in determining whether a genuine factual dispute exists.” Cherkaoui v. City of Quincy, 877 F.3d 14, 23 (1st Cir. 2017) (internal quotations omitted).

         II. Background

         On May 15, 2016, Marie Winfield was released from Holy Family Hospital after receiving treatment for sciatica. Pl.'s Stmt. of Mat'l Facts (“Pl.'s SOF”) ¶ 1 [#49]. Winfield made her way to Lawrence General Hospital where she hoped to reach her doctor. Id. Winfield had been attempting to contact her doctor to determine whether she could take a new medicine she had been prescribed, but had been unsuccessful at connecting with him. Id. ¶ 2; Def.'s Ex. B (Winfield Dep.) 18:11-16 [#46-2]. The doctor had left multiple voicemail messages on Winfield's phone attempting to contact Winfield, id. at 18:15-18, and indicated that he was calling from the Lawrence General Hospital emergency room, id. at 19:1-2. Winfield did not, however, have an appointment to see him or anyone else at Lawrence General Hospital. Id. at 15:10-12.

         The entry to Lawrence General Hospital contains two sets of automatic glass sliding doors. Visitors first walk through a set of exterior automatic glass sliding doors into a rectangular entryway, and then proceed through a set of interior automatic glass sliding doors into the lobby.

         Winfield entered the lobby of Lawrence General Hospital, advanced to the receptionist's desk, and asked the receptionist for assistance locating her doctor. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 3 [#49]; Def's. Stmt. of Mat'l Facts (“Def.'s SOF”) ¶ 4 [#46]. Winfield wrote her doctor's name on a piece of paper and handed this paper to the receptionist. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 3 [#49]. The receptionist made several calls to various hospital departments in an unsuccessful attempt to locate Winfield's doctor. Id. ¶ 4. Sometime thereafter, the receptionist called hospital security. Id.; Def.'s SOF ¶ 5 [#46].

         Lawrence General Hospital security guard Michael Fornesi responded. Def.'s SOF ¶ 6 [#46]. Fornesi recognized Winfield because she had a lawsuit pending against Fornesi and Lawrence General Hospital. Def.'s Ex. E (Fornesi Dep.) 15:20-21 [#46-5]. After seeing Winfield, he called for backup. Id. Lawrence General Hospital security guards Greg Levesque and Fernando Collazo responded to Fornesi's call. Def.'s SOF ¶ 7 [#46].

         The receptionist handed Fornesi the paper with the name of Winfield's doctor written on it. Def.'s Ex. E (Fornesi Dep.) 20:18-19 [#46-5]; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 6 [#49]. Fornesi told Winfield that her doctor was not at Lawrence General Hospital. Def.'s Ex. B (Winfield Dep.) 24:15-17, 30:4-7 [#46-2]. Winfield did not leave. Id. at 26:23. Fornesi used his radio to contact dispatch to request the assistance of the Lawrence Police Department. Def.'s SOF ¶ 11 [#46]. Fornesi said, “Dispatch, get me Lawrence Police to the main lobby. I have a visitor refusing to leave.” Def.'s Ex. E (Fornesi Dep.) 23:10-11 [#46-5]. Winfield did not see or hear Fornesi make this call, and did not yet know the police had been called. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 8 [#49].

         Winfield approached Levesque and asked whether security was waiting for an answer from their office as to whether Winfield's doctor was available. Id. Levesque told Winfield that the police had been called and were on their way to Lawrence General Hospital. Id. Winfield asked why the police were called, but Levesque did not answer. Id. Winfield then approached Collazo and asked why the police had been called. Id. Collazo also did not answer. Id.

         When Lawrence Police Officers Timothy Dube and Preston Carmichael arrived, Fornesi briefed them outside the hospital. Def.'s Ex. I (Carmichael Aff.) ¶ 10 [#46-9]. Fornesi asked the officers to assist in escorting Winfield out of the hospital. Id. ¶ 6. He told the officers that Winfield was looking for a doctor who was not working and was therefore unavailable, that this information had been relayed to Winfield, that Winfield had been asked to leave, that Winfield was creating a disturbance at the service desk, and that Winfield was not in need of any medical services. Id. ¶¶ 7-9; see also Def.'s Ex. E (Fornesi Dep.) 26:25-27:2 [#46-5]. Fornesi told them Winfield had “refused to leave.” Id. Fornesi said that he had had prior dealings with Winfield, who was suing him. Id. ¶ 7; Def.'s Ex. L (Police Incident Report) 1 [#46-12]. Winfield did not overhear this discussion, and “has no first-hand knowledge of what Fornesi told the police officers outside.” Pl.'s Resps. to Def.'s SOF (hereinafter “Pl.'s SOF Resps.”) ¶ 14 [#50].

         After Fornesi briefed the officers, Fornesi, Dube, and Carmichael entered the hospital lobby. Def.'s SOF ¶ 15; Def.'s Ex. B (Winfield Dep.) 31:5-11 [#46-2]. Dube asked Winfield to leave Lawrence General Hospital. Def.'s Ex. F (Levesque Dep.) 23:22-25, 24:5-9 [#46-6]; Def.'s Ex. H ¶ 14 [#46-8]; Def.'s Ex. I (Carmichael Aff.) ¶ 12 [#46-9]. Dube and Winfield engaged in a conversation for several minutes. Winfield showed Dube the paper containing her doctor's name, and explained that she was at the hospital to see her doctor. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 9 [#49].

         Dube directed Carmichael to pick up Winfield's purse and take it outside. Def.'s SOF ¶ 18 [#46]; Def.'s Ex. F (Levesque Dep.) 24:9-11 [#46-6]. Carmichael picked up Winfield's purse and exited through the interior automatic sliding glass doors into the hospital entryway. Def.'s SOF ¶ 19 [#46]. When in the hospital entryway, Carmichael turned around and remained a few feet from the the exterior side of the interior automatic sliding glass doors. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 10.

         The parties dispute what happened next, but both have submitted what appears to be video footage of the events involving Winfield occurring at Lawrence General Hospital on May 15, 2016. This video footage comes from two different camera angles. The “Entryway Video” appears to show the interior automatic sliding glass doors that form the entrance to the hospital lobby. The “Interior Video” shows a portion of the area inside the hospital, including the internal side of the interior automatic sliding glass doors, and in the distance, the receptionist's desk.[2] Although Winfield contends that there are unexplained gaps in the Interior Video footage, she nonetheless relies on the two videos.[3] The Entryway Video shows the force used by the officers during what Winfield describes as “[t]he beginning of the Defendant's assault on the Plaintiff.” Pl.'s SOF ¶ 13 [#49].[4]

         Winfield walked toward the interior automatic sliding glass doors, causing the doors to open. Entryway Video 5:54:32 PM [#46-11]. Carmichael waved his hand to signal to Winfield to walk faster. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 10 [#49]. Winfield stopped and stood a few feet on the interior side of the interior automatic sliding glass doors, waving the piece of paper with her doctor's name on it. Entryway Video 5:54:47 PM [#46-11]. The doors closed again. Id. Winfield asserts that she stopped because Dube began pushing her before she reached the automatic sliding glass door. Pl.'s Resps. to Def.'s SOF ¶ 20 [#50]. However, the Entryway Video shows that both of Winfield's arms were still free at this time. Entryway Video 5:54:32-5:54:47 PM [#46-11]. A male visitor entered the entryway and walked up to the interior automatic glass sliding doors. Id. at 5:54:41 PM. Upon seeing Winfield standing just inside the interior automatic glass sliding doors, however, that visitor stepped to the side. Id. at 5:54:47 PM. Winfield took two steps ...

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