Cases and Deals

Blank Rome Obtains Summary Judgment on Eve of Trial for City of Texas and EMS Administrator

A Blank Rome team obtained a significant success on behalf of our clients, the City of Texas and EMS Administrator Wendell Wiley, who were sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

On the eve of the trial, scheduled for September 27, 2021, the Blank Rome team obtained a summary judgment in the lawsuit, which was funded by a private ambulance company and part of a multi-suit challenge leveled against the city’s EMS regulation scheme. Judge Jeffrey V. Brown, presiding over the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, issued an opinion final judgment on October 22, 2021. 

In the case, Zane Sweetin and Michael Stefek claimed that they were illegally “seized” and unlawfully detained by the City of Texas and Wiley in violation of their civil rights while they were doing their jobs as Emergency Medical Technicians for Windsor EMS LLC, which also separately has filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the city’s regulation. The court, which earlier had dismissed the plaintiffs’ false imprisonment claim, granted a final summary judgment, holding that Wiley’s actions could not form the basis of liability on the part of the city because the EMS Administrator did not have “final policymaking authority,” a requirement under § 1983 for liability. 

Further, the court found that Wiley had qualifiedly immunity from liability because his conduct was not unconstitutional under a “robust consensus of persuasive authority” that defined the contours of the Fourth Amendment with a high degree of particularity. As the court stated, “The plaintiffs have not shown that it is ‘beyond debate’ that this conduct infringed on their Fourth Amendment rights. The dearth of precedent applying Fourth Amendment protections to incidents like the one at issue here shows that it was not clearly established that [the]  conduct violated the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.” The court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims under the Fourteenth Amendment.  

The Blank Rome team was led by Susan L. Bickley and Emery Richards, with significant support by James Barnett, and Neil Young, as well as Julie Seifert and Jayne Arend.