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Martinez v. Brown

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 21, 2017

GARY J. MARTINEZ Plaintiff,
v.
JASON C. BROWN, individually and in his official capacity with the Albuquerque Police Department; CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE, a municipal entity organized under the laws of the STATE OF NEW MEXICO, and its Subsidiary, the ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          M. CHRISTINA ARMIJO Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Requesting Dismissal of Plaintiff's Claims Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (Counts IV, V, and VI) Against Defendant City of Albuquerque, filed June 10, 2016. [Doc. 19] This Court, has considered the Motions, the briefs, the relevant law, and is otherwise fully informed. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.

         Standard of Review

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows summary judgment when the evidence submitted by the parties establishes that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. An issue is “genuine” when the evidence before the Court is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmovant as to that issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-52 (1986). A fact is “material” if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Id. at 248. Judgment is appropriate as a matter of law if the nonmovant has failed to make an adequate showing on an essential element of its case, as to which it has the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670-71 (10th Cir. 1998).

         It is not the Court's role to weigh the evidence, assess the credibility of witnesses, or make factual findings in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Daniels v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 701 F.3d 620, 627 (10th Cir. 2012). Rather, the Court assumes the admissible evidence of the nonmovant to be true, resolves all doubts against the movant, construes all admissible evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmovant. Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 551-52 (1999).

         Background

         On May 15, 2015, Plaintiff crashed his vehicle into the center median at an intersection in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [Doc. 19 p. 2; Doc. 29 p. 1] Albuquerque Police (APD) Officer Jason Brown, one of the Defendants in this matter, responded to the scene of the crash and arrested Defendant for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, a fourth offense; careless driving; and driving with a suspended license. [Doc. 19 ¶ 1; Doc. 19-1 p. 2-3] After he was arrested, Plaintiff was given a breath alcohol test which showed a negative result for alcohol. [Doc. 29 ¶ 4; Doc. 19-1 p. 3] Officer Matt Trahan then conducted a “drug recognition investigation” to determine whether Plaintiff was under the influence of drugs. [Doc. 19-1 p. 3, 13] Officer Trahan concluded that Plaintiff was under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant that rendered him unable to safely operate a vehicle. [Doc. 19-1 p. 3] A blood technician drew a sample of Plaintiff's blood and sent it to the Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD) for testing. [Doc. 19-1 p. 3, 13]

         When Plaintiff was arrested, he had four or more prior convictions for DWI, he was on probation, and his driver's license was revoked. [Doc. 19-1 p. 3] The probation department issued a “no bond hold” as a result of which, Plaintiff remained in jail at the Metropolitan Detention Center. [Doc. 19-1 p. 3; Doc. 29 ¶ 5]

         When SLD tested Plaintiff's blood sample, no drugs were detected. [Doc. 19-1 p. 13');">1 p. 13] Plaintiff was released from jail on July 14, 2015. [Doc. 29 ¶ 5; 29-1 ¶ 8; Doc. 31 p. 5] And, on July 23, 2015, the district attorney nolle prosequied the charges against Plaintiff on the ground that his blood test results revealed that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of his arrest. [Doc. 29-3]

         On September 21, 2015, Plaintiff sent a tort claims notice to the Risk Management Division of the City of Albuquerque. [Doc. 19 ¶ 2; Doc. 19-2] The notice advised the City that Plaintiff intended to pursue a lawsuit arising from his May 15, 2015, “false arrest.” [Doc. 19-2] In March, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit. [Doc. 1-1 p. 1] Plaintiff's Complaint included the following relevant claims: Count IV: Negligence by the City of Albuquerque Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act; Count V: Claim for Deprivation of Rights, Privileges and Immunities Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act; and VI: Denial of Due Process Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. [Doc. 1-1 p. 5-7] Each of these claims was premised on Officer Brown's conduct in arresting Plaintiff. [Doc. 1-1 p. 5-8]

         Discussion

         In the present Motion, Defendants seek dismissal of Counts IV, V, and VI, on the ground that Plaintiff failed to give the City written notice of his tort claims as required by Section 41-4-16 of New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA). Defendants Motion rests upon the following three undisputed facts:

1. On May 15, 2015 Plaintiff was arrested by Defendant Jason Brown . . . for Driving under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor or Drugs, Fourth Offense; Careless Driving; and Driving While License Suspended.
2. On September 21, 2015, Plaintiff sent a tort claims notice to the City of Albuquerque . . . Risk Management Department ...

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