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WEBB v. AMATO

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division


May 16, 2003

JACK WEBB, PLAINTIFF, VS. CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS STEVEN AMATO, STAR NO. 9788, AND JACK DEDORE, STAR NO. 6889, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Moran, Senior Judge, United States District Court

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jack Webb brought this action against Chicago police officers Steven Amato and Jack Dedore alleging wrongful imprisonment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants filed a motion seeking partial summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that on August 25, 1997, without probable cause, defendants entered his home and arrested him for drug possession and distribution. He further claims that the officers subsequently offered false testimony against him at his trial. While he was ultimately acquitted of the charges against him, he spent a total of nine months incarcerated, allegedly because of defendants' actions.

Plaintiff has a serious heart condition and alleges that when he was arrested defendants removed his heart medication from his apartment and delivered it to lock-up personnel. Plaintiff claims he was unable to take his medication until the following morning and the delay aggravated his condition. Plaintiff was subsequently treated by medical staff at the jall, where he alleges that without properly reviewing his medical record, a doctor prescribed a blood thinner. He claims that this improper medication resulted in serious physical harm, including speech impairment, memory loss and brain damage.

Defendants previously filed a motion in limine seeking to bar evidence and a motion for a protective order, arguing that evidence relating to plaintiff's medical injuries was not relevant because defendants could not have caused the harm. We denied that motion on July 15, 2002, holding that a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff's physical injuries were a reasonably foreseeable result of a wrongful arrest. Webb v. Amato, 210 F. Supp.2d 1015 (N.D. Ill. 2002). Defendants now seek partial summary judgment, claiming that the undisputed facts show that they could not have been the cause of plaintiff's injuries.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Bennett v. Roberts, 295 F.3d 687, 694 (7th Cir. 2002). Our function is merely to determine if there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

A tortfeasor may be liable for the aggravation of an injury he inflicted, even if that aggravation was caused by negligent treatment of the original injury. Chicago City Ry. Co. v. Saxby, 213 Ill. 274, 277, 72 N.E. 755 (1904); Stoleson v. U.S., 708 F.2d 1217, 1221 (7th Cir. 1983). Defendants' actions are a proximate cause of plaintiff's injury if the injury was of the type that was reasonably foreseeable as a result of defendants' conduct. First Springfield Bank & Trust v. Galman, 188 Ill.2d 252, 256, 242 Ill Dec. 113, 720 N.E.2d 1068 (1999). Mere passage of time is not enough to break the chain of causation. Bak v. Burlington Northern, Inc, 93 Ill. App.3d 269, 48 Ill. Dec. 746, 417 N.E.2d 148 (2d Dist. 1981). On the other hand, a party's own negligence, a random act of violence, or a third party's intentional tort, which causes the further injury, may break the chain of foreseeable consequences. Palay v. U.S., 125 F. Supp.2d 855, 863 (N.D. Ill. 2001).

Defendants do not claim that any of the above events occurred. As such, there is no dear legal break in the chain of causation. As we stated in the July 15, 2002, opinion, we need not decide whether medical treatment leading to physical harm was a foreseeable result of a wrongful arrest. To survive a motion for summary judgment it is enough that a reasonable jury could find that to be the case.

Defendants claim that since the earlier opinion the facts have proven that they were not aware of plaintiff's heart condition and are therefore entitled to summary judgment. Plaintiff still disputes defendants' testimony that they did not know about his condition. Moreover, while this will likely be a factor considered by the jury in determining whether the harm was reasonably foreseeable, it is not enough to entitle defendants to summary judgment A reasonable jury could find that even without prior knowledge of plaintiff's health conditions, faulty medical treatment while in jail was a reasonably foreseeable result of a wrongful arrest and imprisonment.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion for partial summary judgment is denied.

20030516

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