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Adeszko v. Degnan

November 29, 2006

CHERYL ADESZKO, PLAINTIFF
v.
SGT. DEGNAN, OFFICER LARSEN #08, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before this Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Sergeant Jeffrey Degnan ("Degnan") and Officer Amanda Larsen ("Larsen") (collectively "Defendants")*fn1 against Cheryl Adeszko ("Plaintiff") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

FACTS

Plaintiff was married on August 9, 2003, and held her reception that night at the Holiday Inn in Carol Stream, Illinois. Facts ¶¶ 5, 6. An argument involving Plaintiff's husband broke out in the hotel bar and moved outside to the front of the building. Facts ¶¶ 13, 15. Hotel staff contacted the Carol Street Police Department. Facts ¶ 16. Police arrived, and Plaintiff walked outside to find them speaking with her husband, telling him to calm down and suggesting that he go inside the hotel. Facts ¶ 20. Plaintiff pulled her husband away from the altercation, but after taking four steps toward the building he "disappeared." Facts ¶¶ 21-24. Plaintiff turned around to find her husband face down on the ground with two officers on top of him. Facts ¶ 25. Though unknown to Plaintiff at the time, Larsen and Chacon were the two officers who arrested her husband. Larsen Aff. ¶¶ 5,7,8; Larsen Dep. at 55-61. Plaintiff crouched down next to her husband and the officers, yelling that her husband was innocent and that the police should get off of him. Facts ¶ 28.

At this point,*fn2 Degnan grabbed Plaintiff from behind by her upper left arm and turned her toward him. Facts ¶ 29. Plaintiff maintains that as a result of this motion her left hand "made contact" with the lower side of the officer's face. Facts ¶ 30. The contact seems to have been forceful enough to split Degnan's lower lip. Facts ¶ 32. According to Plaintiff, Degnan then threw her against a wall and she fell to the ground. Facts ¶ 34; Adeszko Dep. at 89. Degnan proceeded to secure Plaintiff by placing a knee or other body part on her back, then began putting handcuffs on her wrists. Facts ¶¶ 35, 37. At this stage Larsen assisted Degnan with Plaintiff's arrest, though it is unclear whether she was actually involved in placing the handcuffs. Def.'s Resp. to Add'l Facts ¶ 13. According to Larsen, she held one of the Plaintiff's arms while Degnan handcuffed her. Larsen Dep. at 62. Plaintiff was charged with two counts of battery, both of which were later dropped by the prosecutor. Facts ¶¶ 43, 46.

Plaintiff's § 1983 complaint was first filed with this court on August 10, 2005, then amended on February 22, 2006. In it, Plaintiff seeks remedies based on allegations that she was falsely arrested, and that her arrest was executed using unreasonable force in violation of her constitutional rights.

STANDARDS

A party seeking summary judgment has the burden of showing, through "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," that there are no genuine issues of material fact that would prevent judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. Plaintiff. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, courts "must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable and justifiable inferences in favor of that party." Allen v. Cedar Real Estate Group, LLP, 236 F.3d 374, 380 (7th Cir. 2001).

Even so, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; rather, he must go beyond the pleadings and support his contentions with proper documentary evidence. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). To successfully oppose the motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must do more than raise a "metaphysical doubt" as to the material facts, see Wolf v. Northwest Ind. Symphony Soc'y, 250 F.3d 1136, 1141 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation and quotation omitted), and instead must present definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion, see Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 932 (7th Cir. 2001); Fed. R. Civ. Plaintiff. 56(c).

Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment against a party "who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and in which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. A non-moving party who bears the burden of proof on a specific issue must demonstrate by specific factual allegations that there is a genuine issue of material fact in dispute. McMillian v. Svetanoff, 878 F.2d 186, 188 (7th Cir. 1989). This evidence provided by the non-movant must be sufficient to enable a reasonable jury to find in his or her favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The Court must decide, based on admissible evidence, whether any material dispute of fact exists that requires a trial. Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).

ANALYSIS

Defendants have asserted an affirmative defense of qualified immunity that is relevant to both counts against both remaining parties. Def.'s Affirm. Defense. In that pleading, Defendants claim that because of their status as law enforcement personnel of the Carol Stream Police Department, they are shielded from all § 1983 liability in this matter.

Count I: Excessive Force

Plaintiff claims that Degnan "grabbed and physically accosted" her during the arrest in a manner that was unprovoked, "excessive and unreasonable," and that the other Defendants "stood by and allowed this use of force." Am. Compl. at 2. Defendant Degnan responds by saying that qualified immunity protects him from this claim, in that a reasonable police officer could have believed the degree of physical coercion used was constitutional. Summ. J. Mem. at 11. Defendant Larsen claims that she did not ...


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