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Taylor v. Moore

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 6, 2019

CARLI A. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff Carli A. Taylor asserts that Patrol Officer Ryan Moore violated her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act during a traffic stop in Falmouth, Massachusetts. She alleges that Moore used excessive force when, after stopping her for suspected drunk driving, he grabbed her arm, pulled her out of the car, put her on the ground, placed his knee on her back, and tased her. She also asserts a claim against the Town of Falmouth for its failure to discipline, train, or supervise its officers. Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing that Moore is protected by qualified immunity and that Taylor presents no evidence to support an allegation that the Town was deliberately indifferent to the rights of its citizens. After hearing, the Court ALLOWS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 56).


         The parties heavily dispute the facts concerning the night in question, but at this stage of the litigation, the Court reviews the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000).

         I. Drunk Driving

         On the night of Tuesday, September 9, 2014, Carli A. Taylor met a friend for dinner at Bobby Byrne's Restaurant and Pub in Mashpee on Cape Cod. She had a beer and ordered dinner. Afterwards, Taylor drove to two other bars. Taylor does not remember the name of the second bar, or how long she stayed there. She does remember driving to the third location, the Añejo Mexican Bistro & Tequila Bar in Falmouth, Massachusetts. At Añejo, Taylor had a margarita. When Taylor left Añejo to drive home, bar employees took down her license plate number and called the police to report suspected drunk driving. Falmouth patrol officers were subsequently dispatched to find her.

         Taylor was driving herself home along Route 28 in Falmouth when she observed two bicyclists on her right and had to “swerve” to go around them. Almost immediately afterwards, Taylor saw blue police lights go on behind her. Docket No. 58-1 at 53:12-18. She pulled over, turned her car off, and produced her license and registration when the officer approached her driver-side window. Patrol Officer Ryan Moore of the Falmouth Police Department asked Taylor if she knew why he had pulled her over, and she said she did not. She lied and said that she was coming from work. After further conversation, Taylor eventually admitted that she had been at Añejo. Taylor knew she was in trouble at the time because she had consumed too much alcohol to drive.

         Moore asked Taylor to “step out of the car, ” at which point Taylor said that she “would like to wait for backup.” Id. at 56:4-13. Moore then went back to his cruiser. When Moore returned to Taylor's car, he again requested that she step out of the vehicle and asked Taylor to perform a field sobriety test. At this point Moore's demeanor was “forceful” but he was not “yelling.” Id. at 57:3-6. Taylor stated again that she “would wait for backup” before getting out of the car. Id. at 56:4-13; Docket No. 64-1 at 68:22. Moore continued to tell Taylor that she needed to take a field sobriety test, or she would be arrested based on his observations. Taylor continued to refuse to get out of the car without back-up present. Moore went back to the rear of the vehicle and called dispatch to send another police unit. Moore returned to Taylor's driver-side window and again asked her to get out of the car. And again, Taylor refused. She does not know exactly how many times Moore told her to get out the car during their conversation.

         II. Use of Force

          Without warning, Moore proceeded to reach in through Taylor's open driver-side window, open the car door, grab Taylor's arm, and pull her out of the car. Once Taylor was out of the car, Moore dragged Taylor to the rear of the vehicle, away from the road. Taylor was not resisting at this point and her feet barely hit the ground. Moore then put Taylor on the ground, face first. Taylor describes being “slammed” into the ground causing her eye to hit a rock. Docket No. 34 ¶ 19[1].

         With Taylor prone on the ground, Moore pressed his knee into her back, a position he characterizes as a “full body mount.” Docket No. 34 ¶ 19; Docket No. 64 ¶ 101. Moore attempted to get control of Taylor's hands in order to handcuff her. Taylor was screaming for help at this point. Moore ordered her to stop resisting and put her hands behind her back for cuffing. Whenever she attempted to lift her head off the ground, Moore pushed it back down. Taylor pleaded for Moore to release her, stating that she would do whatever he wanted her to do.

         With his knee still on top of Taylor's back, Moore unholstered his taser and threatened to deploy it. Taylor asserts that the “full body mount” position made it impossible for her to comply with Moore's orders. The only thing she could move was her head and hear hands were beside her. Moore told Taylor that if she “didn't shut up he was going to taze [her].” Docket No. 58-1 at 75:22-24; Docket No. 64-1 at 81:8-11. Taylor tried to look back at Moore, but he proceeded to lift her shirt and place the taser's electrodes directly on her back. Moore then deployed his taser in “drive-stun” mode. The parties dispute how many times Moore tased Taylor, with Taylor asserting that she was tased at least two times. Taylor screamed out in pain and then went motionless.

         Moore stayed with his knee on Taylor's back, using his body weight to control her until a second officer arrived. At the time of the incident, Taylor was five feet, five inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. Officer Walker arrived at the scene, and the two officers placed Taylor in handcuffs. The officers lifted Taylor off the ground and placed her in the back of a police cruiser, with one officer having to fold her legs into the car in order to close the door because she was unable to do so at that point due to the taser.

         The officers transported Taylor back to the police station where she was booked and charged with several offenses. Sergeant Cummings made notes regarding Taylor's injuries. Photographs of her injuries were also taken, which show cuts, scratches, and abrasions on Taylor's arms, shoulders, and right hand. Photos also appear to show four marks on Taylor's back. Taylor refused to take a breathalyzer test and was ultimately released to her mother and sister at 2:00 AM on September 10, 2014.

         III. Aftermath

         Later on September 10, Taylor appeared in court and then went to Falmouth Hospital for emergency medical care. Taylor was diagnosed with facial trauma, with additional diagnoses of concussion and headache. Since the incident, Taylor has experienced frequent migraines, headaches, nausea, sound and light sensitivity. In November of 2016, Dr. Deborah Tepper diagnosed Taylor with chronic post-traumatic headaches, which started immediately after her concussion. In March of 2018, Taylor sought evaluation for what she described as near daily headaches and was diagnosed by Dr. John Pettinato with chronic migraines. With respect to the charges against her, Taylor eventually admitted to facts sufficient to make out the charge of driving under the influence, which was continued without a finding.

         IV. Experts

         A. Plaintiff's Medical Expert

         Dr. Gary Stanton conducted a physical examination of Taylor on December 13, 2018 and reviewed her prior medical records, including notes from Drs. Tepper and Pettinato. After his physical examination of the Plaintiff, Dr. Stanton diagnosed her with postconcussion syndrome, migraines, cough/sneeze-induced headaches, and Chiari I malformation. As to the causal relationship for Taylor's headaches, Dr. Station opined: “In my opinion, the incident of 9/09/2014 was causally related to Ms. Taylor's ongoing complaints of posttraumatic headaches, which in her case is a symptom of a postconcussion syndrome.” Docket No. 75-5 at 7. He went on to state that Taylor's “postconcussion syndrome [was] unlikely to ...

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