United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
July 14, 2004.
KERUNA KYLES, Plaintiff,
CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER M. THIEL, STAR NO. 19781, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
After a long evening of carousing with friends on the North
side of Chicago, during which Plaintiff Keruna Kyles
(hereinafter, "Kyles") ingested substantial amounts of heroin,
marijuana, and alcohol, she decided to replenish her finances by
propositioning area motorists. As luck would have it, her first
"customer" was a man driving a stolen taxi cab. The customer
violated several traffic laws while driving through the North
Side which caused the police to give chase. After some near-miss
accidents, the customer exited the cab while it was still moving,
leaving Kyles, who was in the passenger seat, to control the
vehicle. She was attempting to steer the vehicle when it smashed
into a parked car which caused it to stop.
Chicago police officer Martha Thiel (hereinafter, "Thiel") and
a male partner arrived at the scene soon after the accident had occurred, and immediately assisted Kyles in exiting the cab,
which was rapidly leaking fluid. Kyles was placed on the ground
lying on her stomach while her wrists were handcuffed behind her.
She was then lifted to her feet by the two officers. The method
by which she was lifted is disputed. Kyles contends that she was
jerked to her feet by the handcuffs, during which she felt two
"pops." The officers and an eye witness, Edward Rivera, however
testified that the officers raised her by each lifting her by an
Kyles was placed in an ambulance, which had been called to the
scene by the officers, and was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical
Center, where she was diagnosed as suffering from fractures of
four ribs, a pulmonary contusion called a pneumothorax, and an
intra-capsular hematoma, all injuries to internal structures of
the body. Dr. R. Lawrence Reed, an expert witness retained by
Officer Thiel, examined the medical records and testified that
these injuries were obviously caused by a severe blunt chest and
abdominal trauma consistent with the car crash described by the
parties, and could not possibly have been caused by rough
handling during the arrest as described by Kyles. According to
Dr. Reed, the two "pops" Kyles described were probably caused by
unstable fractured rib bones moving against each other, which
although possibly pain producing would not have caused any
additional harm to Kyles. Kyles produced no evidence by way of
medical testimony at all to counter the testimony of Dr. Reed, who is board certified in surgery with
further certification in critical care.
To prevent summary judgment, a non-moving party must show more
than a metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. There must be
sufficient evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the
non-moving party, Kyles in this case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Here Kyles charges that Thiel
caused her to sustain fractured ribs through excessive force.
Thiel and the independent witness testified that, in the process
of arresting an alleged taxi thief and traffic law violator who
appeared to be attempting to elude arrest, Kyles was helped from
the cab by Thiel, placed on the ground to be handcuffed, and
raised back to her feet by her arms, in order to be transported
to the hospital by ambulance. Kyles alone testified to being
jerked up by her handcuffs. However, her testimony is suspect in
the eyes of the law because she was admittedly under the
influence of illegal drugs and alcohol at the time, and was a
convicted felon. Even if the court were to credit Kyles' version,
she still fails to make out an excessive force claim against
Officer Thiel, because the officer's conduct was objectively
reasonable under the circumstances. See Smith v. City of Chicago,
242 F.3d 737 (7th Cir. 2001). Because, even if Kyles was jerked
to her feet by the handcuffs rather than being lifted by her
arms, she produced no evidence that this was done with an intent to harm her, and, more
importantly, this action did cause her any physical harm. Kyles
gave a history of the auto accident at the hospital emergency
room and pointedly did not give any history of police brutality.
The type of injury, blunt trauma to the chest, is obviously the
type of injury that one would expect to result from a crash
between a rapidly moving automobile and a parked vehicle, and not
from a jerk on handcuffs. The only testimony linking the two was
provided by Kyles herself and she is not a medical expert. As
such she is not qualified to provide testimony involving a causal
relation between a specific trauma and an injury except to the
most obvious, basic kind, such as would be the case if she was
trying to establish that her injuries were caused by the crash of
the taxi into the parked car.
Kyles, having failed to establish her case, must therefore
For the reasons stated herein, the Defendant Martha Thiel's
Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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