First Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Sick Driver’s Civil Rights Claim against Police Officers and Town for Alleged Improper Arrest


La Frenier v. Town of Townsend et al.
U.S. Court of Appeals, 1st Cir. 07-1644


The U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, has upheld a summary judgment entered against an individual who sued the Town of Townsend and two of its police officers for civil rights violations based on an arrest, which took place in June, 2001. The Plaintiff was the operator of a motor vehicle who had pulled over to the side of the road, disoriented, confused and physically ill. He was taking medications at the time. The police attempted to remove him from the vehicle at which time he resisted, was restrained and thereafter arrested for assault and battery, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. All charges were all ultimately dismissed or resulted in acquittals.

handcuffsThe driver then filed claims against the arresting officers and the town for violation of state and federal statutes, including civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. s. 1983. He sued the town for negligent supervision, and the police officers for false arrest, excessive force and failing to provide medical assistance.

The lower court granted summary judgment on the basis that the undisputed facts, as presented to the court, showed that the officers had probable cause to make the arrest based on the plaintiffs conduct at the time, and had no motive to mistreat or deny him medical treatment.

The court principally relied on the fact that the Plaintiff had failed to present any affirmative evidence to contradict the statements of the Defendants, and that absent such evidence, judgment for Defendants was the appropriate remedy. The Plaintiff maintained that the police were not credible and that questions of creditability created an issue for the jury and warranted denial of summary judgment.

The Court disagreed, finding that the affidavits, deposition testimony and reports of the police officers, even taken in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff, nonetheless did not create a triable issue. While rejecting Plaintiff’s argument, the Court did nonetheless acknowledge that in certain instances, a court could reject testimony of interested witnesses that it deemed inherently untrustworthy. This was not such a case.

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