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Montel v. City of Springfield

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 24, 2019



          WILLIAM G. YOUNG, D.J.


         Nicholas Montel ("Montel") brought the instant suit against the City of Springfield ("Springfield") and three Springfield police officers, William Catellier, Luke Cournoyer, and Juan Rodriguez (the "Officers"), alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and various torts. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. These claims arise out of an incident in which the Officers, responding to 911 calls from Montel's home, shot and arrested Montel upon finding him intoxicated and holding a hatchet. See id. Montel's sister, Erica Cartagena, had called 911 because "she feared [Montel] was going to kill himself." Pl.'s Statement Material Facts Supp. Opp'n Defs. Mot. Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Facts Supp. Opp'n") ¶ 21, ECF No. 54. Montel sustained multiple serious injuries as a result of the shooting. Id. ¶¶ 53-57.

         Springfield first moved for summary judgment on counts II, VI, and VII; the Officers moved for summary judgment on counts III, IV-V, VIII, and IX; and the parties fully briefed the issues. Def. City Springfield Mot. Summ. J. ("Springfield Mot.") ECF No. 44; Def. City Springfield Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. ("Springfield Mem."), ECF No. 45; Defs. William Catellier, Luke Cournoyer, and Juan Rodriguez Mot. Summ. J. ("Officers' Mot."), ECF No. 47; Defs. William Catellier, Luke Cournoyer & Juan Rodriguez Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. ("Officers' Mem."), ECF No. 48; Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. Defs. Officers William Catellier, Luke Cournoyer & Juan Rodriguez ("Montel Mem. Opp'n Officers"), ECF No. 52; Pl.'s Mem. Law Supp. Opp'n Def. City Springfield Mot. Summ. J. ("Montel Mem. Opp'n Springfield"), ECF No. 53.

         This Court heard argument on these motions on November 29 and December 13, 2018. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF Nos. 68, 69. On January 9, 2019, after carefully reviewing the materials the parties presented and drawing all reasonable inferences in Montel's favor, this Court granted Springfield and the Officers' motions for summary judgment on counts II through IX. Order, ECF No. 77.

         On January 16, 2019, Springfield moved for summary judgment on count I. Def. City Springfield Suppl. Mot. Summ. J. Count I PI. Nicholas Montel Compl. ("Springfield Suppl. Mot.''), ECF No. 84; Def. City Springfield Mem. Law Supp. Suppl. Mot. Summ. J. ("Springfield Mem. Suppl. Mot."), ECF No. 85.

         This Court hereby GRANTS Springfield's motion for summary judgment on count I and explains the reasoning for its rulings on all of the claims in the memorandum that follows.

         A. Factual Background[1]

         During the day of July 29, 2013, Montel consumed alcohol with his sister, Erica Cartagena ("Erica"), at their home. Defs.' Facts ¶¶ 5-9. Montel drank "much more than usual": Erica relates that he drank two 1.75-liter bottles of vodka, in addition to consuming marijuana. Id. By around 9:30 p.m., when Jesus Cartagena ("Jesus"), Erica and Montel's brother, arrived at the house, Montel was very intoxicated and acting in a strange and belligerent manner. Id. ¶¶ 2, 10-16. For example, Montel "was punching everything in the kitchen, including the fridge, the cabinets, the sink, the microwave, and the stove," id. ¶ 16, and he "hit himself in the leg and head," Pl.'s Facts Supp. Opp'n ¶ 25.

         Montel's agitation concerned Erica, who called 911 and reported to the dispatcher that she feared that her brother was suicidal. Pl.'s Facts Supp. Opp'n ¶ 27; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 24; see also Defs.' Facts ¶¶ 18-19.

         Officers Luke Cournoyer ("Cournoyer") and William Catellier ("Catellier") were together in a patrol car near 74 Irvington Street, Montel's home, when they received a dispatch from the Massachusetts State Police informing them of "unknown trouble" at that address. Montel Mem. Opp'n Officers, Ex. 9, Dep. Tr. Cournoyer 41:13-21, ECF No. 52-9; see also Montel Mem. Opp'n Officers, Ex. 7, Dep. Tr. Catellier 15:15-16:22, ECF No. 52-7. The dispatcher updated them about a minute later - just as they were arriving at the address - that there was a "[s]ubject inside attempting to commit suicide." Dep. Tr. Cournoyer 42:2-15.[2]

         Officer Juan Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") also received a call from the dispatcher informing him of "trouble" at 74 Irvington Street. Defs.' Facts ¶ 24. Officer Rodriguez arrived at the house just moments after Catellier and Cournoyer. Id. ¶ 25.

         The entryway to the house was dark. Id. ¶ 26. Catellier approached the house first; Rodriguez and Cournoyer followed close behind. Id. ¶ 27.

         Jesus stepped backward out of the house to find the Officers on the porch. Pl.'s Facts Supp. Opp'n ¶ 31. The Officers noticed blood on Jesus's shirt. Defs.' Facts ¶ 31.[3]Jesus requested that the Officers give him some space to "deal with his brother." Pl.'s Facts Supp. Opp'n ¶ 32. Montel claims that one of the Officers asked Jesus "what the fuck [he] was talking about," id. (alteration in original), and the Officers insisted on remaining, Defs.' Facts ¶ 31.

         While Jesus and the Officers spoke, Montel opened the door. Pl.'s Facts Supp. Opp'n ¶ 34. Montel held a hatchet in his hand. Id. Immediately the Officers "ripped Jesus from the steps and grabbed Montel." Id. ¶ 35. Montel struggled while the Officers attempted to subdue him for three to five minutes. Id. ¶¶ 35-36. During this struggle, Catellier "fell off the porch," id. ¶ 37, [4] and Rodriguez stepped off of the porch, Defs.' Facts ¶¶ 39, 41.

         Montel denies that the Officers ever instructed him to drop the hatchet. Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 40. But see Defs.' Facts ¶ 40.

         Montel (with the hatchet still in hand) approached Catellier, who lay on his back at the bottom of the steps. Defs.' Facts ¶ 41. Montel maintains that he "was not using" the hatchet and did not "have a chance to swing at the police officers." Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶¶ 36-37.

         The distance between Catellier and Montel was - at most - that of a small porch and three stairs[5] when Catellier and Cournoyer discharged their firearms, striking Montel three times, once in each of his legs and once in his stomach, causing Montel to fall to the ground. Pl.'s Facts Supp. Opp'n ¶¶ 39, 53.

         Montel later "pled guilty to assault by means of a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon." Id. ¶ 50.[6]

         To treat the injuries that he sustained in the shooting, Montel underwent multiple surgeries on his femur and liver, had two small bowel resections, and had his gallbladder removed. Id. ¶¶ 54-57. Montel's current "physical disabilities include but are not limited to chronic leg pain; wires, screws, and a metal rod in his left leg; right knee pain; back pain; and digestive issues including chronic stomach pain, constipation, and persistent diarrhea." Id. ¶ 59.

         Following the incident, Montel "was diagnosed with severe recurrent major depressive disorder, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, with recurrent experiences of hallucinations, sleeplessness, and nightmares." Id. ¶ 52.

         B. Procedural History

         On July 28, 2016, Montel sued the Officers in their personal capacity and the City of Springfield. Compl. ¶ 1.

         Montel alleged that the Officers violated and conspired to violate his civil rights under section 1983 and Massachusetts General Laws chapter 12, sections 11H and I (counts III, IV, and V). Compl. ¶¶ 97-105. Montel further alleged that the Officers intentionally inflicted emotional distress on him (count VIII). Id. ¶¶ 112-15. In addition, Montel alleged that the Officers committed assault and battery against him (count IX). Id. ¶¶ 116-19.

         Montel claimed that Springfield violated his civil rights pursuant to section 1983 of title 42 of the United States Code ("section 1983") because it fostered a "custom and practice of . . . deliberate[] indifferen[ce] towards the rights of individual citizens" and grossly negligently hired, trained, and supervised its Officers (counts I and II) . Id. ¶¶ 91-96. Montel further alleged that Springfield breached its duty “to exercise reasonable care" in general and by negligently hiring, training, and supervising the Officers (counts VI and VII). Id. ¶¶ 106-11.[7]

         The Officers and the City of Springfield sought summary judgment on all counts. Springfield Mot.; Springfield Mem.; Officers' Mot.; Officers' Mem.; Springfield Suppl. Mot.; Springfield Mem. Suppl. Mot.

         II. ...

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