KOSRAE STATE COURT
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as Seymour vs. Alokoa Joe, et. al., Kosrae St.(1989)
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ALOKOA JOE, JOHN TULENSRU and,
STATE OF KOSRAE,
CIVIL ACTION N0. 2-84
BEFORE THE HONORABLE HARRY H. SKILLING
TRIAL DATE: NOVEMBER 22, 1988
DECIDED: NOVEMBER 22, 1988
FOR THE PLAINTIFF: Delson Ehmes
Micronesian Legal Serv. Corp.
Kosrae State, FSM 96944
FOR THE DEFENDANT: Richard Kaminski
Assistant Attorney General
Tofol, Kosrae State 96944
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This case was tried on November 22, 1988. Delson Ehmes of Micronesian Legal Services Corporation represented the plaintiff, Alokoa Seymour. Richard Kaminski, Assistant Attorney General, represented the State of Kosrae, Alokoa Joe and John Tulensru (a/k/a John Tolennoa).
FINDINGS OF FACT
During the trial of this case, conflicting evidence was presented to the Court. After hearing the witnesses, weighing the evidences, and after due deliberation, this Court makes the following findings of fact.
(1) The plaintiff was working for a construction company in Tafunsak, Kosrae on September 7, 1983.
(2) At about 5 p.m. on September 7, 1983, Kosrae Police Officers Alokoa Joe and John Tulensru, while on duty, were driving past the plaintiff's place of employment on their way to y; patrol at the airport.
(3) When the officers were driving past,the plaintiff, plaintiff shouted at the officers. The officers stopped their vehicle and officer Joe got out of the vehicle in response to the plaintiff's calls.
(4) Plaintiff then demanded that officer Joe pay for two bags of cement. Officer Joe requested that the plaintiff wait until Officer Joe was off-duty to discuss the matter. At this point the plaintiff loudly accused Officer Joe of being a liar, using the Kosraean word "fulangunsrul".
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(5) At this point, while there is some dispute as to which party was the first to touch the other, the weight of the evidence suggests that plaintiff accosted officer Joe, a scuffle took place and Officer Tulensru assisted Officer Joe in subduing the struggling plaintiff, handcuffing him, placing him under arrest for obstructing justice, putting him in the rear of the Officers' pickup truck, and transporting him to the Kosrae jail.
(6) Officers Joe and Tulensru used only such force as was necessary to safely subdue, arrest and transport the plaintiff to jail.
(7) The Officers actions were lawful, within the scope of their employment and there was probable cause for the plaintiff's arrest.
(8) All damages and injuries occurring to plaintiff were caused either directly or indirectly by plaintiff's own actions.
Plaintiff Seymour has sought recovery from Kosrae State and the two Police officers under ten separate claims for relief to wit:
(1) False Arrest
(3) False Imprisonment
(5) Due Process of Law--Kosrae State Charter
(6) Due Process of Law--FSM Constitution
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(7) 11 FSM Section 701
(8) Respondeat Superior
(9) Negligence of State of Kosrae
(10) Punitive Damages
1. FALSE ARREST
Since the facts show that Officers Joe and Tulensru were on duty and properly performing their duties when they were stopped, accosted and set upon by plaintiff thus interfering with the Officers in the lawful pursuit of their duties, there was probable cause to arrest the plaintiff for obstructing justice. Since there was probable cause for his arrest, all claims by plaintiff based upon a false arrest must fail.
Since the plaintiff accosted Officer Joe and Officer Tulensru used only that force reasonably necessary to subdue the struggling and kicking plaintiff, the touching of the plaintiff in effecting his arrest was permissible and did not constitute battery and all related claims are therefore without merit.
3. FALSE IMPRISONMENT
The above comments of the Court with respect to plaintiff's claims based upon a false arrest theory are equally applicable to his claims for recovery under a false imprisonment. theory. They are without merit.
Negligence has been defined as follows:
"Negligence is the failure to use such care as a
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reasonably prudent and careful person would use under similar circumstances; it is the doing of some act which a person of ordinary prudence would not have done under similar circumstances or failure to do what a person of ordinary prudence would have done under similar circumstances. "Koike v. Pohnpei: Rock Products, Inc., 3 FSM Intrm. 57 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1986).
Here, the Court has found that the Officers actions' were appropriate and reasonable under the circumstances and therefore the plaintiff has failed to establish negligence on the part of any of the defendants. Therefore, this claim must fail.
5 & 6. DUE PROCESS (KOSRAE & FSM)
Since this Court has found that there was reasonable cause to arrest the plaintiff and that the officers' actions in subduing and arresting the plaintiff were reasonable under the circumstances, it does not appear that there was any violation of the plaintiff's due process rights under either the Kosrae State Charter of the FSM Constitution. Therefore, plaintiff is not entitled to prevail on this claim.
7. 11 FSM 701
In plaintiff's complaint, he alleges that the two officers "...deprived, injured, oppressed, and intimidated plaintiff in the free exercise and enjoyment of his right to due process of law ...." Since this Court has found that the actions of the officers were proper under the circumstances and has further found that the plaintiff cannot recover on his claims with respect to alleged violations of due process rights, this Court
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likewise finds that plaintiff's claim for relief based upon 11 FSM 711 is without merit.
8. RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR
While it is true that Officers Joe and Tulensra were employed by the State of Kosrae and were acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the altercation in question, since the individual officers behavior has been found to be proper, there is no improper action to be implied to the employer under the theory of respondeat superior. This claim too must fail.
9. NEGLIGENCY OF STATE OF KOSRAE
Since this Court has found that the Officers properly carried out their duties and acted in a proper manner, there is no negligent act to impute to the State of Kosrae. This claim is without merit.
10. PUNITIVE DAMAGES
Without addressing the issue of whether employees of the State, acting within the scope of their employment, can be liable for punitive damages; generally, to prove a claim for punitive damages, a party must assert that the actions of which it complaints were unlawful, wilfull, or malicious; there must be conduct deliberately aimed at causing harm. 22 Am Jur 2d Damages, §644. Here, given the lawful arrest of the plaintiff and absent evidence that any of plaintiff's alleged injuries were deliberately caused by the officers, plaintiff's claim for punitive damages must fail.
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In conclusion, I find that the defendants in this matter behaved properly toward the plaintiff and the defendants are not liable to the plaintiff in this action.
SO ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED on the 22nd day of November, 1988.
Harry H. Skilling
Entered this 23rd day of March, 1989.
Clerk of Court, Kosrae State