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HANNO v. SHEAHAN

November 23, 2004.

JOHN HANNO & CHRISTINA REITZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHAEL F. SHEAHAN, SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, JOHN DOES 1-20, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REBECCA PALLMEYER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs John Hanno and Christina Reitz brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that Cook County Sheriff's deputies violated their rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments, in the course of effectuating an eviction order. Plaintiffs allege that the officers barged into their home, searched their bodies and their home for weapons, refused to allow Reitz to sit down or call an ambulance when she suffered a heart attack, and stole $1000 cash and various items of jewelry from their home.*fn1 Sheriff Sheahan now moves for summary judgment, arguing that the evidence does not establish any constitutional violations and that, even if the deputies violated Plaintiffs' rights, there is no basis for a judgment against the Sheriff under the Monell doctrine. For the reasons set forth here, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  On April 27, 2000, an Illinois state court issued an order for possession of the premises at 6 North Trail, Lemont, Illinois (the "residence") in favor of TCF Bank in a mortgage foreclosure action. (Defendant's Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement, hereinafter, "Def.'s 56.1(a)" ¶ 1.) The order named both John Hanno, who owned the house, and Christina Reitz, who lived with him. (Id. ¶ 4; Ex. C to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, hereinafter, "Def.'s Mem.," at 5.)

  Plaintiffs were present at their residence on June 21, 2000 when Deputies Matthew Manion and Brian Davenport of the Cook County Sheriff's Department arrived with a crew of three private movers to evict Plaintiffs. (Plaintiffs' Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement, hereinafter, "Pls.' 56.1(a)," ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs awoke that morning to the sound of the police pounding on the back door. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 31.) When Plaintiffs opened the door to investigate, the two deputies along with two others*fn2 "barged in" without announcing themselves or their purpose. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 33, 35.)*fn3 The police wore bulletproof vests and carried guns as they entered the residence. (Id. ¶ 33.) Yelling at Plaintiffs in a "rough, angry voice," they ordered Plaintiffs to stand up against a wall with their hands raised. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 36.) According to Hanno, "it felt like a drug raid." (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiffs were never handcuffed, however, were not given Miranda warnings, and were never told they were under arrest. (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶¶ 9, 10, 11.) Plaintiff Hanno saw the officers' weapons, but they were never drawn. (Id. ¶ 12; Plaintiffs' Response to Def.'s 56.1(a), hereinafter, "Pls.' Res.," ¶ 12.) At no point did the deputies physically touch the Plaintiffs. (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 6.)

  Plaintiffs note that the eviction order in the deputies' possession named only two people as residents, and that Plaintiffs confirmed, in response to the deputies' questions, that they were the only two persons there. (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 39.) They note, further, that the search of the residence occurred after Plaintiffs had assured the police that no weapons were on the premises and that the police had no reason to believe this was untrue. (Id. ¶ 40.) The officers nevertheless conducted a full search of the house pursuant, according to the deputies' deposition testimony, to Department policy. (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶¶ 38, 40, 41.) As the officers conducted the search, Plaintiffs heard things falling and boxes being opened. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 43, 44.) According to Plaintiffs, "the Sheriffs systematically opened and searched" each of the boxes Plaintiffs had packed for their move. (Hanno Dep., at 40-41; Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 43.) Defendant denies that the officers opened sealed boxes during their search, but they admit that it is Department policy to search closed compartments during the course of executing an eviction. (Def.'s Res. ¶ 43, 44; Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 45.) After searching the house, one of the officers searched a car belonging to Reitz.*fn4 (Pls.' 56.1 ¶ 46.)

  At some point during the encounter, Reitz became extremely upset and began to cry. (Id. ¶ 52.) Concerned about the effect of the stressful situation on Reitz's health, and aware that she suffers from hypertension, Hanno attempted to inform the officers of Reitz's medical condition and request that they allow her to leave, but the deputies interrupted, telling him to "shut up." (Id. ¶¶ 53, 55.) Only after the search of the residence did the police allow the Reitz and Hanno to step away from the wall and move out to the front porch. (Def.'s Res. ¶ 54.)

  Shortly after moving out to the front porch, Reitz suffered from a burst blood vessel and lung hemorrhaging and collapsed. (Pls. 56.1(a) ¶ 58; Reitz Dep., at 43-44.) According to Hanno, Reitz "was having a severe attack. She couldn't stand up. She couldn't sit down. She couldn't lay down. She was somebody that was — she was screaming in agony is what she was doing." (Id. ¶ 64.) Plaintiffs assert that the officers refused to allow Reitz to obtain blood pressure medicine from her purse. (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 59.) Plaintiffs also claim that the police initially refused to summon medical help, and only relented "after Mr. Hanno repeatedly begged the officers to call an ambulance." At some point, one of the officers did summon an ambulance, (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 62; Hanno Dep., at 50-51), but Plaintiffs contend that due to the deputies' initial refusal to call for medical assistance, "Ms. Reitz suffered from her heart attack*fn5 for 15 minutes before an ambulance arrived, despite the fact that the nearest hospital was just down the road." (Id. ¶ 62; Reitz Dep., at 43-44.) The ambulance crew refused to permit Hanno to ride along with them to the hospital and the deputies, who had seized Plaintiffs' car keys, also refused to allow Hanno to leave and accompany Reitz to the hospital. (Id. ¶ 65.)

  Plaintiffs testified that in the course of their search, the police "ransacked" their home. (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 42.) In his deposition, Hanno states, "Every one of our boxes — every one of our drawers, every possession, every basket, every laundry basket was opened up, every single thing." (Hanno Dep., at 83.) Reitz echoes these claims, testifying that "My purse had been gone through and every single thing was taken out and spread across the counter top with all the other papers, and my business cards were taken out." (Reitz Dep., at 50.) Reitz also alleged that she lost other, less valuable items: "I had like crystals that were on my windows in my bedroom, not worth a lot in money, but to me they were. I had a key chain that I had hanging on the crank to the window in my bedroom, not really valuable except to me that I never got back, things that were little things that might be touching to your heart." (Id. at 52.)

  Plaintiffs assert that in addition to the items identified above, the officers "did locate several of the Plaintiffs' valuables, including Ms. Reitz's antique family jewelry, and Mr. Hanno's 15th Anniversary ring, which the Plaintiffs never recovered." (Id. ¶ 67; Hanno Dep., at 59, 75-75; Reitz Dep., at 48-50.) Plaintiffs did not personally witness the deputies steal their property, but Hanno testified in his deposition as to the basis for his inference that they are guilty of theft: "I saw them [the deputies] searching all our belongings and then the stuff was missing, so I assume they stole. . . . They were in the house. We had the stuff before they came in the house. They came in, searched our belongs, and left. And when we went back into the house, the stuff was missing." (Hanno Dep., at 50.) According to Plaintiffs, the movers who accompanied the deputies to the scene "helped rescue some of the valuable property from the clutches of the sheriffs." (Id. ¶ 71.) Hanno testified that at some point while he was standing out on the front porch, a mover brought a milk carton full of coins out of the house and gave it to Hanno to protect from the police. (Id. ¶ 72.) Plaintiffs also note that the movers used care in removing the furniture, which they contrast with the behavior of the police who were, according to Hanno, "trying to steal our valuables and terrorize us." (Id. ¶¶ 73, 74.)

  The officers admit that even after conducting a thorough search of the residence, they failed to locate any weapons or other contraband, (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 66), but Defendant disputes Plaintiffs' allegations of theft. Both deputies denied taking any cash or valuables from the residence. (Id. ¶ 69; Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 18.) Defendant also stresses that "neither plaintiff saw anyone physically take their property, never saw anyone take and keep any property." (Def.'s Res. ¶ 67.) Rather, Plaintiffs only assume that the officers stole their belongings; they have no direct evidence to support this assumption. (Id. ¶¶ 68, 69.) The eviction resulted in Plaintiffs' property being put outside of the home, leading Deputy Davenport, one of the two Sheriff's deputies who searched the residence, to surmise that the items might have been stolen after the police had completed the eviction and left the residence: "Everything [in the house] is put out in front of the premises. After we leave I don't know what happens to it, whether the defendants take it, or it is stolen." (Davenport Dep., at 54.) Finally, Defendant claims that the movers were not motivated by police misconduct when they gave Plaintiffs certain valuable property; as Defendant notes, Hanno testified that the movers told him, "You better put this away so nobody takes it," not that "You better put this away so the police don't take it." (Id. ¶ 71.)

  In making their section 1983 claim, Plaintiffs allege that the officers were acting pursuant to and in accordance with the policies and practices of the Cook County Sheriff's Department. Hanno testified that the deputies "were trying to steal our valuables and terrorize us," stating that they appeared to be operating as part of a "regular routine" or "mode of operation." (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶¶ 74, 75.) He described the police behavior as "perfectly planned": "The only thing I can say is the way that they operated, it was a regular — it was perfectly planned. It was like swat team came in there, and they did what they did, stole our belongings, cleared out without — they didn't even worry about moving our stuff out of the house." (Id. ¶ 76; Hanno Dep., at 68.) Plaintiffs also note that Officer Davenport testified that he had performed thousands of evictions, described this one as "like any other eviction," (Id. ¶ 77; Davenport Dep., at 63), and was not disciplined for his conduct in this incident. (Id. ¶ 87, 88.)

  Officer Matthew Manion, the other deputy involved in the search, similarly testified that it is the policy of the Cook County Sheriff's Department to search for weapons during the course of an eviction without a search warrant. (Id. ¶ 81.) The existence of such a policy is further corroborated by the Eviction Unit Worksheet used by the Department, which requires the officer to note any "Weapons/Contraband Seized." (Id. ¶ 85.) According to Defendant, this policy of searching the premises for weapons and contraband during an eviction is motivated by concerns "for officer safety and for public safety." (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 29.) Officer Manion also testified that it is his practice to monitor private movers who are present at the eviction. (Pls.' 56.1(a) ¶ 86.) He admitted, however, that the Department does not inventory property removed from the house in the course of evictions. (Id. ¶ 82.)

  DISCUSSION

  I. Plaintiff's Allegations

  On June 20, 2001, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the Cook County Sheriff's Department violated their constitutional rights during the eviction. In an amended complaint, filed on April 8, 2002, Plaintiffs alleged more specifically that the deputies acted pursuant to Cook County Sheriff's Department policy when they violated Plaintiffs' Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment rights during the course of evicting them from their home. Five of the seventeen counts, Counts IV, VIII, XI, XV, and XIX, are brought against ...


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