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Scroggins v. City of Kankakee

August 16, 2007

ROBERT SCROGGINS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF KANKAKEE, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; LIEUTENANT DAVID SKELLY; SERGEANT AVERY IVEY; AND PATROLMAN TIMOTHY KREISSLER, IN BOTH THEIR OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief Judge

OPINION

On June 28, 2006, Plaintiff Robert Scroggins, Jr., filed his Complaint (#1) in this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging false arrest and excessive force in effectuating his arrest.*fn1 On June 1, 2007, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#20). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

FACTS*fn2

Robert Scroggins is an employee of Kankakee Auto Mart, a business which sells and finances automobiles. As an employee of Kankakee Auto Mart, Scroggins would repossess vehicles when purchasers defaulted on their payment obligations. Sharitha Stroud, with her mother, purchased a 1994 Chevrolet Suburban from Kankakee Auto Mart. Pursuant to the purchaser agreement entered into between Stroud and Kankakee Auto Mart, if payment was late by even one day, Kankakee Auto Mart could repossess the vehicle On January 27, 2005, Scroggins was told by his father, the owner of Kankakee Auto Mart, to repossess the Suburban purchased by Stroud. Scroggins was given a bill of sale, the purchaser's agreement, the buyer's guide, and a set of keys to the vehicle. Scroggins was not given any documentation indicating that Stroud was behind in her payments. Scroggins then went to the Kankakee County Communications Center (KanCom), the police communications center for the City of Kankakee, and informed the city of his intent to repossess Stroud's vehicle. Scroggins also provided KanCom with a copy of the purchaser's agreement, the bill of sale, a copy of his driver's license, and his business card. Scroggins did not provide KanCom with any information to establish Stroud was behind in her payments, nor did he obtain a writ of replevin prior to repossessing the vehicle.

On February 1, 2005, Scroggins located Stroud's vehicle in a shopping mall parking lot. The vehicle was unoccupied at the time Scroggins found it. Scroggins checked the vehicle identification number on the vehicle and confirmed that it was the vehicle he was told to repossess. Scroggins then used the keys he was given to enter the vehicle and attempted to start it. Scroggins was unable to start the car, so he called Denver Taylor for assistance. Taylor is a mechanic for Kankakee Auto Mart and assists in repossessing vehicles. Taylor arrived at the scene within a few minutes and opened the hood to examine the engine. While Taylor examined the engine, Scroggins remained in the vehicle. Taylor could not determine why the vehicle would not start, and Scroggins therefore called for a tow truck.

Scroggins remained in the driver's seat because he believed he needed to stay in the car or he would give up possession of the vehicle.

Stroud later exited a store in which she had been shopping with Albert Pendleton. Stroud and Pendleton observed that the hood of the vehicle was up and Scroggins was seated in the car. Pendleton recognized Scroggins and Taylor as employees of Kankakee Auto Mart. Stroud walked over to Scroggins and began yelling at him. An argument ensued, and Pendleton tried to calm Stroud down. Stroud indicated she would make her payments the next day. Stroud also tried to pull Scroggins out of the car, and Pendleton tried to push him out from the passenger side. Scroggins resisted her efforts to remove him. Scroggins then called KanCom and requested police assistance. Scroggins testified in his deposition that he called the police to keep the peace. Taylor also called the police and testified at his deposition that the situation was "hostile."

Officer Timothy Kreissler of the Kankakee Police Department was dispatched to the scene. Lieutenant David Skelly and Sergeant Avery Ivey arrived at the scene within a few minutes. Kreissler did not observe any arguments when he arrived, but Skelly testified that there was a "a lot of arguing and yelling" when he arrived. Ivey testified that officers are trained to stand by and keep the peace during a repossession unless the peace is being breached. Ivey testified that when he arrived he saw Taylor standing near the vehicle with a big flashlight in his hand. Ivey also observed people yelling at each other. Ivey did not want Taylor to strike the other officers with the flashlight, so he ordered Taylor to stand in the front of the vehicle and put the flashlight down. Taylor testified that Ivey and Kreissler kept the peace by trying to prevent Stroud and Pendleton from forcibly removing Scroggins from the vehicle. Stroud indicated that she had made arrangements with Kankakee Auto Mart to delay making further payments until some mechanical problems with the vehicle had been fixed. Skelly further testified that Scroggins was "agitated or upset" when Skelly spoke with him. Skelly stated he asked Scoggins to get out of the car, but Scroggins refused because he did not want to give up possession of the vehicle. Skelly also asked Scroggins to show him the paperwork for the repossession. Scroggins produced the sales contract but no court order regarding the repossession nor documents indicating Stroud was behind on payments.

Skelly ordered Scroggins out of the vehicle, and Scroggins responded that he could not get out because he had possession of it. Scroggins called his father while he was speaking with police. Skelly also spoke with Scroggins' father and believes he told him that Scroggins would be arrested if he did not leave the vehicle. Scroggins' father told Scroggins not to leave the vehicle. Stroud entered the vehicle through the passenger side door while officers were speaking to Scroggins in an attempt to remove the face plate from the stereo which she had installed in the vehicle. Scroggins took the face off of the stereo. Skelly ordered Scroggins to release the face plate to Stroud, and Scroggins refused. Scroggins testified that officers told him four times to exit the vehicle and he refused.

The final time, Skelly told Scroggins to exit the vehicle by the count of three or he would be arrested. Skelly counted to three, then Skelly and Kreissler grabbed Scroggins's arm and pulled him from the vehicle. Scroggins is approximately six feet tall and weighs 500 to 520 pounds. Scroggins was then placed against the back of the driver's side of the vehicle. Skelly testified this was necessary to control Scroggins while completing the arrest. Scroggins states that the officers told him to stand against the vehicle, but he could not do so because of his size. Scroggins testified that Skelly then pressed his forearm against Scroggins' neck to place his head against the window of the vehicle and held him like that until he was handcuffed. Ashley Hart, who was present at the scene, testified in her deposition that she saw one of the officers grab Scroggins by the neck and pull him out of the car, then push his head against the glass of the vehicle. Scroggins testified this resulted in a cut on his forehead. Hart also testified that she recalled one of the officers pulling out a baton or flashlight and pressing it against Scroggins' neck. Two sets of handcuffs were used due to Scroggins' size. Scroggins testified that he informed the officers that the handcuffs were too tight, but the officers informed him they could not be loosened and he would not be in them for long. Scroggins also testified that Skelly made reference to a lawsuit Scroggins' father had previously filed against City of Kankakee police officers.

Scroggins was then walked to Kreissler's squad car to be transported to the Kankakee County Jail. Scroggins testified that the Skelly and Kreissler "forcibly put [him] in the vehicle" and he had to lay on his cuffs until he got to the jail. Scroggins testified that he asked Kreissler if he could loosen the cuffs, to cuff him in front, or help him sit in a comfortable position. Kreissler said no and that the cuffs would be off in a minute. It took about four to five minutes to get Scroggins to the jail after he was placed in the car. Scroggins testified that when they arrived at that station, Kreissler "grabbed a hold of [his] arm again and was mainly forcibly trying to get me out of the vehicle." Scroggins indicated it was difficult for him to get out of the car due to his size.

Stroud signed a complaint against Scroggins for criminal trespass to property. At the jail, Scroggins was provided with a notice to appear on the charge of criminal trespass to property and was released. Scroggins went to St. Mary's hospital the following day and an examination indicated he had a muscle spasm in his neck and had redness around both of his wrists. Scroggins testified that when he appeared at his designated court date there was no charge against him.

ANALYSIS

Summary judgment is granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial. Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). In reaching this decision, the court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & ...


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