The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Ramon Magayanes ("Magayanes") has sued the City of Chicago (the
"City") and four of its police officers, claiming defendants
violated his rights under the Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Section 1983") and 1985 in connection with the officers'
November 13, 1979 arrest of Magayanes. Magayanes has moved for
summary judgment on Complaint Count III, based on injuries
suffered by him during his post-arrest transportation to the
police station in a squadrol. Magayanes' motion must be denied.
After arresting Magayanes the police officers placed him in the
rear of the squadrol with his hands cuffed behind his back. No
one rode with him on the way to the station (presumably in
accordance with police rules). There is disagreement whether the
officers driving the squadrol could observe Magayanes through a
glass partition (the City says "yes," Magayanes "no").
It is however undisputed that the squadrol's rear section was
spartan in the extreme. There were plain benches to sit on, but
the interior was entirely metal. There were no cushions or seat
belts attached to the benches.
Upon arrival at the police station Magayanes was found on the
metal floor, hands still cuffed behind him, bleeding from his
mouth and nose. This opinion assumes turbulence during the ride
had pitched Magayanes forward involuntarily, causing his face to
smash against the metal floor of the squadrol.
Propriety of Summary Judgment
Indeed, summary judgment is precluded by the single affidavit
of Robert Schwind, an instructor at the Chicago Police Training
Academy. Schwind adduces several reasons why many of the
squadrol's features are "reasonable" under the circumstances.*fn1
For example, the use of an all-metal interior is necessitated by
sanitary considerations, for transporting injured, sick and
(occasionally) dead persons puts a premium on being able to clean
the squadrol's interior with a hose and scrub brush. Moreover,
considerations of safety to police officers are implicated.
Cushions or wood storage lockers could be set on fire or turned
into ersatz weapons by resisting arrestees. Seatbelts too can be
converted into weapons. Safety of passengers is also involved,
because interior materials could be used for self-imposed
injuries. Finally, a reasonable inference could be drawn that
like considerations affect the discretionary decision for
officers to be separated physically from persons being
In sum, the all-metal interior and the lack of seat belts and
cushions are the primary causes (in a "but for" sense) asserted
for Magayanes' injuries. But the City has produced evidence from
which a jury could find the City's lack of such amenities was
reasonable in the circumstances.
One more point cuts decisively against a finding of "gross
negligence" as a matter of law at this stage of the litigation.
Magayanes makes no showing that anyone else has suffered like
injury. Moreover, without disparaging the injuries Magayanes
sustained in the squadrol, they were at least not grievous. This
Court may then appropriately balance the competing
considerations: the apparent low probability of the accident's
occurrence, coupled with the relatively small gravity of the
harm, as against the cost to the City of taking precautions to
prevent the kind of injury that befell Magayanes. See the
analyses in Sutton v. City of Milwaukee, 672 F.2d 644, 645-646
(7th Cir. 1982) and United States v. Carroll Towing Co.,
159 F.2d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1947).
Because this action is still at the pretrial stage, the City
has advanced no proof of the probable direct costs of taking the
argued-for precautions. But even at this point the City
demonstrated other possible "costs": increased threats of harm to
police officers; increased numbers of injuries; increased
maintenance and cleaning costs; perhaps increased costs for
construction of "well-equipped" squadrols. Balancing such costs
against the apparent low probabilities of actual harm of the kind
Magayanes sustained, multiplied by the low level of gravity of
the injury, bars summary judgment against the City. Certainly
that conclusion follows where Magayanes must prove gross
negligence by the City.
Magayanes' motion for summary judgment as to Count ...