Karels v. Storz et al
ORDER granting in part 17 Motion for Summary Judgment (Written Opinion) Signed by Senior Judge David S. Doty on 6/8/2017. (DLO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Civil No. 15-3637(DSD/DTS)
Brittany A. Karels,
Gabriel A. Storz and
Samuel J. Norlin, acting
in their individual capacities
as officers of the Big Lake
Kathryn H. Bennett, Esq., Paul C. Dworak, Esq. and Gaskins
Bennett Birrell Schupp, LLP, 333 South Seventh Street, Suite
3000, Minneapolis, MN 55402, counsel for plaintiff.
Patrick S. Collins, Esq., Joseph E. Flynn, Esq. and Jardine,
Logan & O’Brien, PLLP, 8519 Eagle Point Blvd., Suite 100, Lake
Elmo, MN 55042, counsel for defendants.
This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary
judgment by defendants Gabriel A. Storz and Samuel J. Norlin,
acting in their individual capacities as officers of the Big Lake
Based on a review of the file, record, and
proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants
the motion in part.
This civil rights dispute arises out defendants’ arrest of
Minnesota with her five-year old son and rents a room in the
residence of Robert and Jennifer Owens.
Karels Dep. at 7:9-16,
On the evening of March 27, 2015, Karels returned home
from work and Karels drank a six-pack of beer.
Karels Dep. at
At 1:23 a.m., Karels texted Jennifer Owens and asked
her to watch her son while she went out to purchase cigarettes.
Owens refused because Karels had been drinking.
D; id. Ex. B at 3.
Karels persisted in her requested, however, and
Owens ultimately agreed to watch Karels’s son.
Collins Aff. Ex.
Collins Aff. Ex. B
After purchasing cigarettes, Karels went to Chatter Bar in
Monticello instead of returning home.
Karels Dep. at 77:1-78:21,
While at the bar, Karels had two shots of liquor and,
after the bar closed, smoked marijuana in the parking lot.
concerned when Karels did not return and did not respond to text
messages or phone calls. Id. at 146:12-22, 148:11-15; Collins Aff.
Ex. B at 4.
Karels took a taxi home and, when she arrived, notified Owens
that she had returned.
Ex. B at 5.
Karels Dep. at 145:4-146:22; Collins Aff.
Owens and Karels then began loudly arguing outside the
J. Owens Dep. at 37:1-18.
The argument continued into the
kitchen, where Robert Owens tried to get Karels to go to her room.
Id. at 37:1-18, 38:9-25; Karels Dep. at 146:12-22. Karels refused,
and Robert Owens called 9-1-1.
Dworak Aff. Ex. D.
Karels Dep. at 146:12-22; see
Robert Owens later told police that he called
9-1-1 because he feared for his physical safety, but during the
call he only mentioned that Karels was a “drunk that’s being
Dworak Aff. Ex. D.; Collins Aff. Ex. E at 6, 17; R.
Owens Dep. at 34:21-35:2, 84:1-12.
Defendants Norlin and Storz were dispatched to the scene.
When they arrived, Karels and Jennifer Owens were still arguing.
Karels Dep. at 152:11-153:4.
Jennifer and Robert Owens told
defendants that Karels had been drinking, was argumentative, and
they wanted her to go to her room and leave them alone.
Dep. at 33:13-25; J. Owens Dep. at 48:9-13; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 2.
They told the officers that they did not feel threatened by Karels.
Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 2.
Storz asked to speak with Karels privately, and they went
outside so she could smoke a cigarette.
Karels Dep. at 153:21-
156:6; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2. Once outside, Karels began cursing
loudly, and Storz told her to lower her voice so she would not
disturb the neighbors.
Ex. G at 2.
Karels Dep. at 157:1-158:8; Collins Aff.
Karels eventually calmed down enough so that she could
tell Storz her side of the story, after which they went back inside
Karels Dep. at 157:1-158:8; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2.
Karels Dep. at 159:4-23; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2; Dworak Aff. Ex.
E at 2.
Karels testified that she is unsure whether she complied
with Storz’s command the first time, but Jennifer Owens testified,
and defendants’ incident reports indicate, that Karels had to be
asked several times for her identification.
Karels Dep. at 159:4-
23; J. Owens Dep. at 115:22-117:4; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2; Dworak
Aff. Ex. E at 2. Karels eventually provided her ID to Storz.
Karels testified that she calmly gave her ID to Storz. Karels Dep.
Storz testified, however, that Karels approached
him aggressively, thrust her ID towards him, and squared off her
body with his, which he perceived to be a fighting stance.
Dep. at 55:5-14.
Storz also testified that when Karels approached
him, he put out his right hand and pointed his index finger, which
she ran into, and told her either to “back off.”
Storz Dep. at
Karels claims that Storz poked her in the collarbone
three to four times.
Karels Dep. at 165:1-24, 172:18-25.
After being allegedly poked by Storz, Karels demanded to speak
to defendants’ supervising officer, but defendants responded that
there was no supervising officer on duty.
168:10; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2.
Karels Dep. at 167:19-
Karels then went to the garage to
smoke another cigarette, and Norlin followed while Storz stayed in
Karels Dep. at 179:13-20; J. Owens Dep. at 59:16-
60:20; Dworak Aff. Ex. E. at 3.
While in the garage, Karels twice called 9-1-1 to request a
sergeant or Sherburne County Deputy. Karels Dep. at 175:24-178:12.
According to the call transcripts, Karels told the dispatcher that
Big Lake police would not leave her alone and had assaulted her.
Id.; Collins Aff. Ex. H. at 1.
The dispatcher told Karels that she
could file a complaint in the morning.
Collins Aff. Ex. H. at 1.
It is undisputed that Karels was yelling and cursing at the
dispatcher during the two calls.
Karels Dep. at 177:6-178:3.
During the second 9-1-1 call, dispatch radioed defendants,
told them that Karels kept calling and making demands, and asked if
they were going to arrest her. Norlin Dep. at 119:17-120:1; Dworak
Aff. Ex. I.
Storz informed Karels that she was under arrest,
grasped her left wrist, and brought it behind her back.1
At the same time, Karels tried to put out her
lit cigarette, which was located in her right hand. Id. at 184:1420.
Karels testified that Norlin pulled her right arm towards an
empty coffee can, and away from Storz, to put out the cigarette,
but Norlin’s incident report states that he took the lit cigarette
from her hand and threw it on the floor.
15; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 4.
Id. at 184:14-20, 195:13-
In any case, Storz felt Karels pull
away from him, and he commanded her to stop resisting arrest.
Karels Dep. at 191:20-192:22.
After Norlin extinguished the cigarette, he grasped Karels’s
right hand and put it behind her back to be handcuffed.
It is unclear from the record whether Storz used his right
hand, as claimed by defendants, or both of his hands, as claimed by
Karels. It is also disputed whether Karels merely informed
defendants she needed to put her cigarette out, or whether, when
told she was under arrest, she stated that she was not going to do
anything until she finished smoking. See Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 4;
Karels Dep. at 190:22-191:3.
Dep. at 199:22-200:3; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 4.
At the same time,
Storz moved Karels’s hand to the midway point of her back and
placed it in handcuffs.
Karels Dep. at 209:14-24; Dworak Aff. Ex.
E at 4.
The parties dispute what happened next. Defendants argue that
Karels stepped forward while moving her right side up and forward
and succeeded in escaping from Norlin’s grip. Dworak Aff. Ex. E at
Karels then stepped forward again and fell forward towards the
garage steps, landed on her left side, and hit her head on the
Id.; Karels Dep. at 201:3-22.
Storz maintained his grip on
Karels but also lost balance and fell on the ground to the left of
Id. at 205:22-206:1; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 4.
contends, however, that she did not pull away from Norlin2 and that
Storz body slammed her to the ground.
Karels Dep. at 201:6-8,
Karels also states that she was not handcuffed
until after she was slammed to the ground.
Id. at 215:7-15.
Karels hit the ground, she experienced pain in her left arm.
While Karels was on the ground, Storz placed her in
Collins Aff. Ex. G at 4.
Storz and Norlin then
assisted her to her feet and escorted her to the squad car.
Karels testimony on this point appears to be inconsistent.
Later in her testimony, Karels did not deny that she pulled out of
Norlin’s grasp. Karels Dep. at 200:4-9. For the purposes of this
motion, the court will resolve any inconsistency in favor of
Karels. Roberts v. Park Nicollet Health Servs., 528 F.3d 1123,
1126 (8th Cir. 2008).
Karels Dep. at 215:10-216:11.
While being escorted to the car, Karels complained about her
arm numerous times.
Norlin Dep. at 37:11-13, 39:22-40:9; J. Owens
Dep. at 62:13-63:11; R. Owens Dep. at 42:23-43:12; Dworak Aff. Ex.
E at 4.
Storz searched Karels and found a small amount of
marijuana and a marijuana pipe.
Dworak Ex. E. at 4.
Karels Dep. at 229:1-17; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 5.
Karels told the paramedics that her arm was numb and felt
dislocated. Collins Aff. Ex. L at 10-11. The paramedics attempted
to examine her, but she refused to be touched and demanded to be
taken to the hospital.
Id. at 11.
Norlin told Karels that she
would go to jail if she did not let the paramedics treat her.
Karels continued to refuse care from the paramedics so
Norlin took her to the Sherburne County jail.
Id. at 12-13.
At the jail, Karels again complained that her left arm was
Collins Aff. Ex. R.
She said that she was unable to put her
hands on the wall as instructed because of left arm pain.
Karels Dep. at 238:11-20, 246:21-247:6. Karels was then brought to
Sergeant Mike DeMarre, a trained EMT, for booking.
complained about her arm, and although she was initially reluctant
to allow DeMarre to examine her, she eventually let him do so.
Collins Aff. Ex. T; id. Ex. W.
DeMarre felt a grinding in Karels’s
left arm, which is indicative of a broken bone.
Id. Ex. T.
placed her arm into a splint, and Norlin transported her to the
hospital in Monticello.
At the hospital, Norlin cited Karels
for disorderly conduct, obstruction without force, possession of
marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia, all of which are
Norlin Dep. at 24:2-26:5.
An x-ray of her arm revealed that she had a spiral fracture of
the humerus bone.
Dworak Aff. Ex. J at 4.
Karels was subsequently
transported to St. Cloud hospital for emergency surgery.
On July 14, 2015, Karels pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct,
and the remaining charges were dismissed. Collins Aff. Ex. AA. On
September 10, 2015, Karels filed a complaint alleging claims under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for (1) excessive use of force in violation of the
Fourth Amendment and (2) deliberate indifference in denial of
medical care in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.3
Defendants now move for summary judgment.
Standard of Review
“The court shall grant summary judgment if 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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Karels has withdrawn her excessive force claim against
Norlin and her deliberate indifference claim under the Fourth
A fact is material only when its resolution affects the outcome of
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could
cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party.
id. at 252 (“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support of the plaintiff’s position will be insufficient ....”).
On a motion for summary judgment, the court views all evidence
and inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Id. at 255.
The nonmoving party, however, may not rest upon mere
denials or allegations in the pleadings but must set forth specific
facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial.
U.S. at 324.
A party asserting that a genuine dispute exists - or
cannot exist - about a material fact must cite “particular parts of
materials in the record.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A).
plaintiff cannot support each essential element of a claim, the
court must grant summary judgment because a complete failure of
proof regarding an essential element necessarily renders all other
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.
Fourth Amendment Violation
Karels alleges that Storz violated her Fourth Amendment rights
by using excessive force, namely, by slamming her to the ground
during the arrest.
The Fourth Amendment protects against the use
of excessive force in the apprehension or detention of a person.
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). “To establish a
constitutional violation under the Fourth Amendment’s right to be
free from excessive force, the test is whether the amount of force
Brown v. City of Golden Valley, 574 F.3d 491, 496
(8th Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
“[T]he right to make an arrest ... necessarily carries with it the
right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to
Cook v. City of Bella Villa, 582 F.3d 840, 849 (8th
Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Graham, 490
U.S. at 396).
When evaluating the reasonableness of an officer’s use of
force, the court considers “the severity of the crime at issue,
whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the
officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or
attempting to evade arrest by flight.”
Graham, 490 U.S. at 396.
“The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged
from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather
than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20-22 (1968)).
Id. (citing Terry v.
The “calculus of reasonableness
must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often
forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are
tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force
that is necessary in a particular situation.”
Id. at 396-97; see
Brown, 574 F.3d at 496.
Here, viewing all facts in the light most favorable to Karels,
unreasonable. First, defendants responded to, and arrested Karels,
for non-violent misdemeanor offenses.
Second, although Storz
testified that Karels acted aggressively, the Owenses did not feel
physically threatened by Karels.4
Additionally, Storz’s use of
force report states that he used force to “effect an arrest,” not
to protect himself or another.
See Dworak Aff. Ex L.
is a genuine dispute as to whether and, if so, to what degree
Karels resisted arrest.
Even if Karels did resist arrest by
pulling out of Norlin’s grip, Storz’s use of force may still have
resistance was de minimus and that Storz’s use of force was
See Rohrbough v. Hall, 586 F.3d 582, 586 (8th
Cir. 2009) (holding that the reasonableness of the officer’s use of
force, even when the suspect pushed the officer, was a question of
fact for the jury).
violation, he is immune from suit under the doctrine of qualified
Although Robert Owens told police that he feared for his
physical safety after the arrest took place, before the arrest,
neither of the Owenses said that they feared for their safety. See
Dworak Aff. Ex. D.; id. Ex. E at 2; Collins Aff. Ex. E at 6, 17; R.
Owens Dep. at 34:21-35:2, 84:1-12.
“The doctrine of qualified immunity protects [law
enforcement] officers from personal liability under § 1983 insofar
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
Baribeau v. City of Minneapolis, 596 F.3d 465, 473 (8th
qualified immunity in a manner that “gives ample room for mistaken
judgments by protecting all but the plainly incompetent or those
who knowingly violate the law.”
Walker v. City of Pine Bluff, 414
F.3d 989, 992 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 229 (1991)).
To determine whether the officers are entitled to qualified
immunity, the court first considers whether the alleged facts
demonstrate that their conduct violated a constitutional right and,
if so, whether the right claimed was clearly established at the
time of the alleged injury.
Howard v. Kan. City Police Dep't, 570
F.3d 984, 988 (8th Cir. 2009).
“If the answer to either question
is no,” then the officers are entitled to qualified immunity.
v. Flaherty, 623 F.3d 577, 583 (8th Cir. 2010).
cannot be said to have violated a clearly established right unless
the right’s contours were sufficiently definite that any reasonable
official in the defendant’s shows would have understood that he was
violating it.” Tatum v. Robinson, No. 16-1908, 2017 WL 2324709, at
*2 (8th Cir. May 30, 2017) (internal quotations marks omitted)
(quoting Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012, 2023 (2014)).
court “must not define clearly established law at a high level of
generality,” id., but there need not be “a case directly on point.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting White v. Pauly, 137
S. Ct. 548, 551 (2017)).
“There is no requirement that the very
action in question has previously been held unlawful, but rather,
Vaughn v. Ruoff, 253 F.3d 1124, 1129 (8th Cir. 2001)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
“The right to be free from excessive force in the context of
an arrest is clearly established under the Fourth Amendment.”
Small v. McCrystal, 708 F.3d 997, 1005 (8th Cir. 2013).
The use of
a takedown maneuver on a “nonviolent, suspected misdemeanant who
was not threatening anyone, was not actively resisting arrest, and
was not attempting to flee” is a clearly established violation of
the Fourth Amendment.
Montoya v. City of Flandreau, 669 F.3d 867,
873 (8th Cir. 2012); see also Brown, 574 F.3d at 499 (“[I]t is
nonviolent misdemeanants who do not flee or actively resist arrest
and pose little or no threat to the security of the officers or the
Storz argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity because
Karels was resisting arrest and it is not clearly established that
the use of force on a resisting suspect violates the Fourth
Amendment. But, as discussed above, there is a genuine issue as to
whether and to what degree Karels was resisting arrest, and, if
Karels did resist, whether Storz’s use of force was reasonable.
See Rohrbough, 586 F.3d at 586-87 (affirming the district court’s
denial of qualified immunity where a jury could determine that the
officer’s use of force was unreasonable even though the suspect
pushed the officer).
As a result, Storz is not entitled to
qualified immunity, and summary judgment on the excessive force
claim is not warranted.
III. Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs
Amendment right to due process by showing deliberate indifference
to her need for medical care.
A pre-trial detainee’s claim of inadequate medical care arises
under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but
courts apply the deliberate-indifference standard of the Eighth
Krout v. Goemmer, 583 F.3d 557, 567 (8th Cir. 2009).
To establish deliberate indifference, Karels must show that (1) she
“suffered from one or more objectively serious medical needs,” and
(2) defendants “actually knew of, but deliberately disregarded,
[Karels’s] medical needs.”
Under the second prong, Karels
“must show that the officers recognized that a substantial risk of
harm existed and knew that their conduct was inappropriate in light
indifference must be viewed from [defendants’] perspective at the
time in question, not with hindsight’s perfect vision.” Jackson v.
Everett, 140 F.3d 1149, 1152 (8th Cir. 1998). Karels must meet the
“extremely high standard” of showing that defendants’ mental state
was more than grossly negligent. Saylor v. Nebraska, 812 F.3d 637,
644 (8th Cir. 2016).
It is undisputed that Karels’s broken arm constitutes an
objectively serious medical injury.
Defendants argue, however,
that they were not deliberately indifferent to her medical needs.
The court agrees.
defendants, they were unaware of the extent of Karels’s injury.
Defendants knew that Karels had fallen on her left arm and that she
was complaining of pain, but her unwillingness to allow the
paramedics to examine her precluded them from learning more.
Further, Karels cannot show that defendants were more than grossly
Defendants did not ignore Karels’s complaints of pain
and requests for medical attention; rather, Norlin promptly, and
appropriately, called an ambulance as Karels requested. Had Karels
cooperated with the paramedics, she would have received immediate
treatment for her broken arm.
The delay in Karels’s medical
As a result, Karels cannot meet the high standard of
showing defendants were deliberately indifferent to her medical
needs, and summary judgment on this claim is warranted.
Accordingly, based on the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that
defendants’ motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 17] is granted in
part as set forth above.
Dated: June 8, 2017
s/David S. Doty
David S. Doty, Judge
United States District Court
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