United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ZELLAIRE LEE, et. al, Plaintiffs,
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, et. al., Defendants.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
LAWRENCE KING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDOE.
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Miami-Dade
County's Motion for Summary Judgment and Incorporated
Memorandum of Law (DE 77) filed on March 6, 2017. The Court
is fully advised on the matter. Upon review of the record and
careful consideration, the Court finds that Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment should be denied.
a civil rights case on behalf of Plaintiffs Zellaire Lee
("Zellaire"), Jeremiah Johnson
("Jeremiah"), and Joshua Johnson
("Joshua"). The Plaintiffs' bring a
sixteen-count Complaint against Defendants Miami-Dade County
(the "County"), Officer Brad Carter
("Carter"), Officer Alicia Lester
("Lester"), Officer Ernesto Rodriguez
("Rodriguez"), and Officer Delia Oros
("Oros"), alleging claims for violation of civil
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and common law tort
claims for battery and false arrest.
Lee ("Calvin"), Grace Lee,  Zellaire Lee, Calvinesha,
Joshua Johnson, and Jeremiah Johnson were at home on October
28, 2011. Grace Lee was being disrespectful towards her
mother, Zellaire Lee and her father, Calvin Lee called the
police to have her removed from their house. Officer Brad
Carter and Officer Alexis Marrero were dispatched to their
home to investigate the alleged domestic dispute. After
arriving at the home, Officers Carter and Marrero heard a
commotion inside the home and proceeded to enter the home.
Inside the home, an argument was ongoing between Grace Lee
and Zellaire. Shortly after entering the house, the officers
witnessed Calvinesha Lee attack her sister, Grace Lee.
Officer Carter grabbed Calvinesha, pinned her to the ground,
and proceeded to handcuff Calvinesha, put her in the back
seat of a police car, and place her under arrest.
Ernesto Rodriguez arrived at the scene while Calvinesha was
being placed into the police car. Outside the home, Officers
Carter and Marrero became engaged in a loud verbal dispute
with Jeremiah and Joshua. Officers Carter and Rodriguez
proceeded to wrestle with Jeremiah while he was on the
ground, handcuff him, place him under arrest, and put him
into a patrol car.
Officers Carter and Rodriquez were arresting Jeremiah,
Officers Alicia Lester and Delia Oros arrived on the scene.
Officer Lester immediately ran toward Joshua and Zellaire and
began shouting instructions at them in an effort to subdue
Joshua. Officer Lester ultimately handcuffed Zellaire and
placed her under arrest, and then Officers Lester and Oros
together handcuffed Joshua and placed him under arrest.
County moves for Summary Judgement on Plaintiffs' state
law battery and false arrest claims (Counts IX, XI-XIII, XV,
and XVI) arguing that the officers acted well beyond the
scope of their employment, maliciously, willfully, and in bad
judgment is appropriate where the pleadings and supporting
materials establish that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is
"material" if it may determine the outcome under
the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Allen v.
Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997).
If the record as a whole could not lead a rational
fact-finder to find for the nonmoving party, there is no
genuine issue of fact for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587(1986).
motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence
and resolve all inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255;
Williamson Oil Co., Inc. v. Philip Morris USA, 346
F.3d 1287, 1298 (11th Cir. 2003). A mere scintilla of
evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position is
insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; Kesinger v.
Herrington, 381 F.3d 1243, 1247 (11th Cir. 2004).
However, the Court may not undertake the jury's function
of weighing the evidence properly offered by the parties in
reviewing the record evidence. Latimer v. Roaring Toyz,
Inc., 601 F.3d 1224, 1237 (11th Cir. 2010)
("Neither we nor the district court are to undertake
credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.").
County moves for summary judgment on the basis of sovereign
immunity. The County argues that the Plaintiffs'
respective testimony describing unlawful and malicious
arrests, tasings, and beatings entitle the County to summary
judgment on the Plaintiffs' state law battery and false
immunity provides immunity from suit-not just from
liability-and it therefore "is a threshold issue that
[the Court] must decide before requiring a [county] and its
officers to answer a complaint against them."
Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida Dept. of
Revenue,750 F.3d 1238, 1242 (11th Cir. 2014). Pursuant
to Florida Statute section 768.28(9)(a), "the state or
its subdivisions shall not be liable in tort for the acts or
omissions of an officer, employee, or agent. . . committed in
bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting
wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or
property." Fla. Stat. § 768.28(9)(a). Accordingly,
Florida courts have routinely held that a governmental entity
is immune from suit where its employee's actions were
alleged to be malicious, in bad faith, or showed reckless and
wanton disregard for human rights, safety, or property.
City of Fort Lauderdale v. Todaro,632 So.2d 655,
656-58 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994). Moreover, "The
question of whether an act was committed with malicious
purpose, bad faith, or with wanton and willful disregard is
not a question that must be submitted to a jury, but rather,
can be decided by the Court depending on the ...