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Brucato v. Dahl

March 10, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich


Plaintiff Ann Brucato (a/k/a Ann Brucato Krugman) ("Brucato") filed a three-count complaint based on the alleged misconduct of Police Officer Stephen Dahl ("Dahl") when he arrested her. Brucato asserts that Dahl violated her Fourth Amendment rights through the use of excessive force during the arrest. Based on the same facts, Brucato also brings two state claims, one for intentional infliction of emotional distress and the other for battery.

Dahl moves for summary judgment on all of Brucato's claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion for summary judgment as to the excessive force and battery claims and grants summary judgment as to the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

I. Background

All the facts outlined below are undisputed unless otherwise noted.*fn1 On May 7, 2002, Brucato and her husband were indicted by a grand jury for the offense of insurance fraud. On the morning of May 14, 2002, officer Dahl and his partner went to Brucato's residence to execute an arrest warrant as part of their regular duties in the Fugitive Apprehension Bureau of the DuPage County Sheriff's Office. There was no response to the officers' knock on the door so they waited down the street in an unmarked police car. Later that morning, Brucato and her son exited the house and entered a car parked in the driveway. At that point, the officers went up to the car to execute the warrant. Officer Dahl tapped on the window and informed Brucato that he had a warrant for her arrest. Brucato opened the car door and began to exit the car.

What happened next is disputed by the parties. Dahl put forth evidence that Brucato exited the car on her own and was handcuffed according to regular procedures. Dahl further states that Brucato used profanity throughout her arrest. According to Brucato's deposition testimony, on the other hand, as she was exiting the car, Dahl grabbed her by the upper arm and yanked her out, forcefully spinning her so that her torso hit the hood of the car. Brucato further testified that Dahl ripped her car keys out of her hand and slapped handcuffs on her in a painful manner. She informed him that the handcuffs were hurting her wrists. Brucato admits that she was upset and that it is possible that she was swearing throughout the arrest. It is undisputed that Dahl used profane language during the arrest.*fn2

After Dahl handcuffed Brucato, he walked her to the front door of her home in order to gain access to and arrest her husband. While waiting at the door, Brucato turned around to check on her son who remained in the car. Dahl responded by pulling back on the middle of Brucato's handcuffs with great force, causing Brucato pain in her wrists and nearly knocking her off balance. He then twisted her handcuffs several times and told Brucato that the police would take her child to the Department of Child and Family Services if she did not let them into her home. Dahl continued to twist Brucato's handcuffs causing her greater pain in her wrists. At some point thereafter, Brucato felt a blow to her back that felt like a fist, knee, elbow or hard instrument.

Shortly after Brucato felt the blow, two officers from the Wheaton Police Department arrived. Brucato never told any of the officers about her pain or what happened. Brucato also failed to inform the nurse of any injuries during a routine examination at the jail. It is disputed as to whether she told her husband what happened during their transportation to the DuPage County Jail. After being released from custody, Brucato met with her attorney, Harry Smith, who observed that her wrists were red and swollen and that her back was red and inflamed. Throughout the day of the arrest and the next day, Brucato experienced back pain. Brucato went to the emergency room where an x-ray revealed no broken bones. Nonetheless, Brucato's pain persisted. On June 2, 2002, Brucato had an MRI, which revealed several herniated disks in her back. She has attempted physical therapy, epidural injections and surgery to help improve the condition of her back.

Since her arrest and release, Brucato was found not guilty of the charge of insurance fraud.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When making such a determination, the Court must construe the evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate, however, when the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); see also Courtney v. Biosound, 42 F.3d 414, 418 (7th Cir. 1994).

III. Discussion

A. Excessive Force

In Count I, Brucato claims that Dahl's conduct constitutes excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. Amend. IV; Graham v. ...

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