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Sirois v. L'Heureux

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

December 21, 2016

DAVID SIROIS, Plaintiff,
JOANNA L'HEUREUX, et al. Defendants.


          WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief Judge.

         Before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 11.) Plaintiff has filed a Response (ECF No. 17) and Defendants have filed a Reply (ECF No. 18). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). This includes situations where a party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In determining whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact, this Court must review the facts “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Zambrana-Marrero v. Suarez-Cruz, 172 F.3d 122, 125 (1st Cir. 1999). However, neither party may rely solely on allegations made in the complaint or their briefs, and must instead supply specific facts “citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

         II. Background

         On October 24, 2011, a young girl was riding her bike to school through the public parking lot adjacent to the Hank Soures Complex. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 1, ECF No. 12.[1]) The girl reported that, while riding through the parking lot, a man “drove up to her in his van, got out and asked her to come over to him.” (Id. ¶ 2.) Specifically, the man said “hey, come here.” (Detective Rosciti Statement, ECF No. 11-3.) Frightened by the encounter, the girl went home and told her mother what had happened. (Id.) The mother called the police, and several officers, including Detective Donti Rosciti (“Detective Rosciti”), responded to the parking lot.

         After arriving in the parking lot, the officers found David Sirois (“Sirois”). (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 3, ECF No. 12.) Both the girl and her mother came to the parking lot, where the girl identified Sirois as the individual who had approached her. (Id. ¶ 4.) The officers then took Sirois to the police station for questioning and later charged him with child enticement. (Id. ¶¶ 6-11; Police Record, ECF No. 17-2.) While the charges against Sirois were eventually dropped (Police Record, ECF No. 17-2), the fact of Sirois' arrest was made public by The Times newspaper. (ECF No. 17-7.)

         Sirois has brought suit against the City of Pawtucket and various Pawtucket Police officers for unlawful arrest (Claim (I), false imprisonment (Claim II), malicious prosecution (Claim III), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Claim IV), negligent infliction of emotional distress (Claim V), defamation (Claim VI), and a violation of the Fourth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Claim VII). (Complaint, ECF No. 1-2.) Defendants have brought a motion for summary judgment for all of Sirois' claims. Each claim is addressed below.

         III. Discussion

         A. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Claim IV) and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (Claim V)

         Sirois' intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) and negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) claims require Sirois to “prove physical symptomatology resulting from the alleged improper conduct.” Vallinoto v. DiSandro, 688 A.2d 830, 838 (R.I. 1997) (discussing an IIED claim); Clift v. Narragansett Television L.P., 688 A.2d 805, 813 (R.I. 1996) (“[I]n Rhode Island no difference exists between negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims in respect to the need for physical symptomatology.”). This requires “evidence of the requisite physical manifestations of [his] alleged emotional distress.” DiBattista v. State, 808 A.2d 1081, 1089 (R.I. 2002). In addition, Sirois must provide some evidence that establishes causation. Vallinoto, 688 A.2d at 838.

         To prove causation under Rhode Island law, expert testimony is required. In the past, the First Circuit has held that the expert testimony requirement was an open question in Rhode Island:

Rhode Island case law is silent on the question of the necessity of expert testimony to prove the causation element of IIED. Section 46 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, on which Rhode Island's IIED claim is patterned, also fails to provide any clues; nowhere in § 46 is the introduction of expert medical testimony required or even mentioned. Despite this silence, however, we find that under the particular facts of this case expert medical testimony was indispensable to the proof of causation.

Andrade v. Jamestown Hous. Auth., 82 F.3d 1179, 1187 (1st Cir. 1996).

         However, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has subsequently made clear that claims of “intentional infliction of emotional distress . . . require . . . competent expert medical opinion regarding origin, existence, and causation.” Vallinoto, 688 A.2d at 839. In the Vallinoto case, the Rhode Island Supreme Court held that a directed verdict was appropriate where plaintiff failed “to produce at trial any admissible competent medical evidence showing objective physical manifestation of her alleged psychic injuries that ...

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