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Mraz v. Drogseth

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 15, 2015

Patricia Mraz, Plaintiff,
v.
Officers Justin Drogseth, David Engel, Alan Spillers, Barry Rogers, and JoEllen Gordon, and Community Service Officer Andrew Leko, in their individual and official capacities as police officers of the Apple Valley Police, Defendants.

Andrew M. Irlbeck, Esq., Paul Applebaum, Esq., counsel for plaintiff.

Joseph E. Flynn, Esq., Vicki A. Hruby, Esq., Jamie L. Guderian, Esq. and Jardine, Logan & O'Brien, PLLP, counsel for defendants.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary judgment by defendants Justin Drogseth, David Engel, Alan Spillers, Barry Rogers, and JoEllen Gordon, all officers of the Apple Valley Police Department, Community Service Officer Andrew Leko, the Apple Valley Police Department, and the City of Apple Valley. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion.

BACKGROUND

This excessive-force dispute arises out of an incident at the Galaxie car wash in Apple Valley, Minnesota on January 6, 2013. Plaintiff Patricia Mraz and another customer, Amy Hamer, disagreed over whether Hamer was trying to unfairly move ahead of others in line. The details of the dispute are contested but irrelevant for purposes of this motion. Hamer ultimately called 911 and reported that a woman driving a silver Impala - later identified as Mraz - was beating on her window and taking pictures of her and her license plates. Hruby Aff. Ex. 10, at 2. Drogseth was nearby in a squad car and responded to the call. Drogseth Dep. at 8:22-9:16. Based on the information provided by dispatch, Drogseth understood that a woman in a silver Impala was threatening another driver at the carwash. Id. at 9:11-23, 16:11-21. While Drogseth was en route, Leko, a community service officer[1] who happened to be at the car wash, resolved the dispute, and Hamer left the carwash. Leko Dep. at 11:2-14, 12:16-13:10, 14:18-15:11. When Drogseth arrived, Mraz was in her car, a silver Impala, waiting in line.

Drogseth approached Mraz's vehicle and gestured for her to open the door.[2] Drogseth Dep. at 15:12-18. He told Mraz to "hop out of the car." Id. at 20:8-12. Mraz asked him why she should do so and he responded that he wanted to talk to her. Mraz Dep. at 217:7-11; Drogseth Dep. at 20:12-13; Hruby Aff. Ex. 12, at 13:20:58-21:01. Drogseth explained that he was responding to the 911 call and that he needed to determine what happened. Hruby Aff. Ex. 12, at 13:21:15-21:35. Mraz verbally challenged Drogseth and told him that he "needed to get off this." Id. at 13:21:32-33. Mraz admits that she did not get out of the car. Mraz Dep. at 217:11-13. Mraz also admits that she refused Drogseth's subsequent commands to exit the car. Id. at 222:12-20; see Hruby Aff. Ex. 12, at 13:21:34-21:42.

Drogseth ultimately took Mraz by the left wrist and, according to Mraz, "yank[ed]" her out of the car. Mraz Dep. at 222:9-10, 223:22-224:2.[3] Drogseth instructed her to turn around and face the other way, but Mraz admits she refused. Id. at 33:15-18; Mraz Dep. at 224:9-12. Drogseth then grabbed Mraz's arms and attempted to turn her so he could handcuff her. Drogseth Dep. at 34:5-11.

At this point, Mraz and Drogseth come into frame in the video. See Hruby Aff. Ex. 12, at 13:21:43. The video shows Mraz falling backward to the ground with Drogseth facing her and holding onto her left elbow. See id. at 13:21:44. Mraz claims that Drogseth "shoved" or "tackled" her to the ground. Mraz Dep. at 225:18-19; Am. Compl. ΒΆ 28. According to Drogseth, Mraz began flailing when he tried to turn her around, which caused her to backpedal and fall. Drogseth Dep. at 34:12-20. Drogseth claims he tried to slow Mraz's fall and gain control of her by holding on to her left arm. Id. at 36:3-11. The video, which captures Mraz mid-fall, supports Drogseth's version of events. Once in frame, Drogseth's movements are consistent with an attempt to restrain Mraz, rather than an attempt to harm her. See Hruby Aff. Ex. 12, at 13:21:43-47.

After struggling on the ground for several seconds, the video shows Drogseth pulling Mraz up and pushing her against the trunk of her car while holding both of her hands behind her back. See Hruby Aff. Ex. 12, at 13:21:44-58. Officers Engel and Spiller - both of whom were previously out of frame - then assist Drogseth in handcuffing Mraz. See id. at 13:22:09-47. The video shows Mraz physically and verbally resisting the officers during and after the handcuffing. See id. at 13:22:47-24:42. The officers finally place Mraz in a sitting position on the ground where she eventually regains her composure. See id. at 13:24:39-25:17.

Mraz was not arrested but was issued a citation for disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process. Hruby Aff. Ex. 14, at 2. The charges were dismissed. See id. at 1. Mraz alleges that she suffered a torn ligament in her elbow, a deep-tissue bruise on her sternum, and several cuts and bruises on her hands and knees as a result of the incident. Mraz Dep. at 236:24-237:2, 269:8-15. She claims that she has experienced ongoing physical and emotional pain.

On September 5, 2013, Mraz filed a complaint in state court, and Defendants timely removed. On June 24, 2014, Mraz filed an amended complaint alleging excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure, and battery against Drogseth, failure to intervene against Engel, Spillers, Rogers, Gordon, and Leko, and false imprisonment against all defendants. Defendants move for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of ...


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