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Bland v. Rahar

October 31, 2007

MARVIN G. BLAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHARD RAHAR, ADAM LADAGE, AND CITY OF PANA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 36). For the reasons stated below, the Defendants' Motion is allowed in part, and in part the Court reserves judgment.

APPLICABLE LAW

A motion for summary judgment must be 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.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Herman v. Nat'l Broad. Co., 744 F.2d 604, 607 (7th Cir. 1984). Once the moving party has produced evidence showing that it is entitled to summary judgment, the non-moving party must present evidence to show that issues of fact remain. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). "Summary judgment is appropriately entered 'against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" McKenzie v. Ill. Dept. of Transp., 92 F.3d 473, 479 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

To successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must do more than raise a "metaphysical doubt" as to the material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586. Instead, he must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (emphasis in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. In determining whether a genuine issue exists, courts should construe "all facts and reasonable inferences from the record in the light most favorable to . . . the non-moving party." Moser v. Ind. Dept. of Corr., 406 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 2005). Courts, however, are "not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record. [They] need draw only reasonable ones." Tyler v. Runyon, 70 F.3d 458, 467 (7th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks omitted).

FACTS

Plaintiff Marvin Bland (Bland) was injured in an altercation with Defendants Pana Police Officers Richard Rahar (Rahar) and Adam Ladage (Ladage) on April 27, 2004. The events of that morning are at issue in this lawsuit. The parties agree that at 1:41 a.m., Ladage and Rahar responded to the report of a possible burglary at 813 East First Street, Pana, Illinois. Ladage arrived first, dressed in his police uniform. He parked a police car four or five houses from the reported burglary location and approached it on foot, hoping to catch the burglar. The parties disagree on what happened next.

Defendants claim that as Ladage walked down the sidewalk, Bland appeared in the driveway of the house reportedly burglarized. Bland was the only individual in the area, and Ladage thought he might be leaving the scene of the burglary. Ladage asked Bland what was going on, and Bland failed to respond to his question. Defendants assert that Bland quickly began crisscrossing away from Ladage toward what appeared to be Bland's car on the other side of the street. Defendants claim that Ladage ran between Bland and the car and repeatedly told Bland to stop and get on the ground. Bland reportedly refused to cooperate, so Ladage pepper-sprayed him to prevent him from getting into the car.

According to Defendants, Ladage then tried to grab Bland's wrist to handcuff him, but Bland pulled away and walked to the front porch of the house at 812 East First Street. Bland began to yell for the owner, knocking on the locked door and trying to open it. He shouted, "Tell them, Sally, I have been here since 8:30 p.m. and I have been in your garage." Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 36), at 5 ¶ 27. Ladage then grabbed Bland's left wrist to force it behind his back, but Bland resisted by twisting and pulling.

At some point, Rahar arrived and observed the struggle on the porch. Defendants assert that Rahar thought Bland was pulling away from Ladage as Ladage was trying to control Bland's hands. Either Ladage or Rahar, or both of the officers, then took Bland to the ground and handcuffed him.

They took him off the porch, searched him, and tried to put him in a squad car. Bland refused, and before they could get him into the car, his son Marvin Bland Jr. (Marvin Jr.) arrived.

Defendants claim that Marvin Jr. then began struggling with Ladage, and Rahar placed Bland off to the side of the road so he could help Ladage. While the officers were struggling with Marvin Jr., Bland got to his feet and charged at them aggressively. Bland threatened to kick Rahar in the head. Ladage struck Bland in the chest with the heel of his hand, knocking Bland to the ground. Several times Bland got up and Ladage knocked him back to the ground. Eventually, they had to "hog tie" him by tying a rope from his feet to his handcuffs to keep him from getting up.

According to Bland, the sequence of events differed dramatically. Bland claims that he arrived on the scene when his car died. He left the car and walked up to the house at 812 East First Street. He had climbed a few of the porch steps when Ladage shined a flashlight in his face. He continued up the steps to knock on the door, and Ladage jumped on his back. Ladage began choking him with a flashlight or a nightstick, and hit him on the back of the head. Bland fell to the floor, and Ladage sprayed him with pepper spray. Assuming it was a police officer who sprayed him, Bland said over and over, "I am not resisting." Response to Second Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 37), at 8, ¶ 15. Bland was handcuffed, with his hands behind his back.

Bland asserts that either Ladage or Rahar then pulled him by the feet or pants from the porch into the yard. Bland's head hit at least a couple of the porch steps on the way down. In the yard, one or both of the officers hog-tied Bland. A rope passed from his ankles, which were tied together, up to the handcuffs. Bland yelled "What's going on?" and Ladage kicked him several times. Rahar also might have kicked him. Bland yelled that his ribs were broken and he could not breathe. Ladage squeezed Bland's testicles so hard that he screamed. Ladage pulled on the rope running between Bland's ankles and handcuffs and said, "He wasn't hurt." Id. at 10, ΒΆ 30. ...


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