Court of Appeals Reverses Summary Judgment for Defendants in False Arrest Case

On May 10, 2012, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Bradshaw v. District of Columbia, No. 07-CV-274, slip op. (D.C. May 10, 2012) in which it reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants — the District of Columbia and an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department. This case arose from an incident in which the defendant-officer arrested the plaintiff at a club. The defendant-officer alleged, inter alia, that before he made the arrest a bouncer at the club told him that the plaintiff had tried to fight with another patron (i.e., that the plaintiff committed the crime of attempted assault). The plaintiff brought common law and constitutional false arrest claims against the defendants (as well as one or more other claims that were not considered on appeal). The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants. On appeal, the defendants argued that the trial court’s grant of summary judgment should be affirmed because, based on the information allegedly provided to the defendant-officer by the bouncer, the arrest was justified. In reviewing the evidence, the Court of Appeals stated that if the defendant-officer’s testimony about what the bouncer allegedly said to him had definitively and consistently indicated that the bouncer did in fact tell him that the plaintiff had tried to fight with another patron that summary judgment for the defendants would have been proper because there was no evidence in the record to contradict such testimony and an arrest under such circumstances would have been legally justified because the defendant-officer would have had probable cause to arrest or, at the least, a reasonable and good faith basis for believing that he was acting lawfully in making the arrest. However, the Court of Appeals ruled that the defendant-officer’s testimony was not definitive or consistent about what the bouncer said and thus could not support a finding that there was no genuine dispute as to whether the bouncer actually told him that the plaintiff tried to fight with another patron. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings.