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Steinway v. Village of Pontoon Beach

July 9, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R Herndon Chief Judge United States District Court


HERNDON, Chief Judge


Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Law in Support (Doc. 48), to which Plaintiffs have filed their opposing Response (Doc. 59). After careful review of the parties' submissions, the matter is now ripe for determination.

Plaintiffs Michael Steinway, Peggy Steinway and David Crowell have brought suit against the Village of Pontoon Beach, Illinois (the "Village"), as well as Pontoon Beach Police Chief Charles Leuhmann, Patrolman John Simmons and Lieutenant Dan Able, both in their official and individual capacities. Both Michael and Peggy Steinway bring § 1983 claims for violations of their civil rights against Defendants (Counts 1 & 4) - in particular, unlawful arrest, excessive force and false imprisonment, in violation of the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. All three Plaintiffs each bring an Illinois common law claim for assault and battery against Defendants (Counts 2, 5 & 7), as well as an Illinois common law claim for false imprisonment and unlawful restraint/false arrest against Defendants (Counts 3, 6 & 8).*fn1 For the reasons discussed herein, Defendants' Motion (Doc. 48) is granted in part and denied in part, the Court finding that a hearing is necessary on the issue of probable cause.


Plaintiffs' claims arise from events occurring on December 28, 2005, at 5136 Whitsell Way in Pontoon Beach, Illinois (hereinafter the "Steinway residence"), where plaintiff Michael Steinway ("Steinway"), his wife Peggy Steinway and his stepson David Crowell ("Crowell"), reside (Doc. 2, p. 11, ¶ 17). Crowell placed an emergency 911 call early that morning, stating that he and Steinway had gotten into an argument which led to a brief physical altercation and he needed somebody to come by and control it (Id. at ¶ 18; see also Doc. 49, Attachment. 2 - Crowell Dep., 15:2-9). Crowell, who had returned to the Steinway residence in the early morning hours after a night of drinking, was awakened by Steinway (Doc. 59, Ex. 4 - Steinway Dep., 33:18-21; 36:1-21; 43:1-5; see also Doc. 59, Ex. 5 - Peggy Steinway Dep., 10:17-11:13). Steinway confronted Crowell for nailing wooden boards on his bedroom door and also for blocking access to the main fuse box, located in his bedroom, when he had previously been told not to do so*fn2 (Steinway Dep., 33:18-21; 36:1-21; 43:1-5; Peggy Steinway Dep., 9:4-23; 16:22-17:14). The two started yelling and pushing one another; Steinway attempting to keep Crowell in the bedroom to finish the discussion and Crowell trying to push his way past Steinway to leave (Peggy Steinway Dep., 9:24-10:16). Peggy Steinway attempted to break up the altercation between Crowell and Steinway. Eventually, they broke it up and Crowell headed to the upstairs bathroom to make the 911 call*fn3 (Id. at 17:21-19:5).

After calling 911, Crowell stepped outside to smoke a cigarette (Id. at 19:6-20:19). As he was standing there, Patrolman Simmons pulled up in his squad car, got out, walked up to Crowell and asked him his name (Id. at 17:10-17). Once Crowell identified himself, Patrolman Simmons told him to put the cigarette down (Doc. 59, Ex. 6 - Simmons Dep., 29:21-24; Crowell Dep., 17:13-18). Crowell says he questioned why he needed to put his cigarette down, explaining he was the one that made the 911 call (Simmons Dep., 30:1-7; Crowell Dep., 17:18-21). After Crowell put down his cigarette, Simmons asked him to place his hands behind his back, handcuffed him and put him in the back seat of the squad car (Simmons Dep. 34:3-19; Crowell Dep., 18:6-10).

After placing Crowell in the squad car, Simmons proceeded to walk back up to the Steinway residence to speak with Michael and Peggy Steinway to find out their version of events (Simmons Dep., 34:20-21; Crowell Dep., 29:2-7). The three also discussed giving Crowell a "cooling off period." Simmons asked the Steinways if Crowell had a place where he could stay for a few days. The Steinways said Crowell could stay with relatives or his friends (Steinway Dep., 41:7-10; 43:18-44:1; Peggy Steinway Dep., 30:1-16).

Next, Lieutenant Able arrived on the scene in his squad car (Crowell Dep., 29:2-19; Steinway Dep., 46:5-16). Simmons and Abel had a brief conversation at the end of the driveway and then both headed up to the front door of the Steinway residence (Crowell Dep., 29:17-19). Able told Steinway to come outside, stating that he was under arrest (Steinway Dep., 48:1-5). When Steinway asked why he was being arrested, Able told him to get outside and not worry about why (Id. at 48:5-8). When Steinway protested that he was being arrested for no reason, he claims that Able grabbed him, placed the Taser on the right side of Steinway's back and pulled the trigger*fn4 (Steinway Dep., 48:9-16; Doc. 59, Ex. 1 - Lieutenant Able Dep., 6:10-16).

Simmons assisted with Steinway's arrest. Peggy Steinway, who had been standing next to her husband before he was pulled out the front door by Able, was also placed under arrest (Steinway Dep., 71:6-24). She claims Simmons placed his taser in her face and threatened to use it (Doc. 2, ¶ 28). She was handcuffed and put in the backseat of Simmons' squad car, next to Crowell (Steinway Dep., 71:14-18; Crowell Dep., 49:16-24). All three Plaintiffs were transported to the Pontoon Beach police station. Crowell was told he would not be charged if he made statement regarding the incident. Once he gave his statement, Crowell was taken home by Simmons (Crowell Dep., 51: 3-24; 54:1-11).

Steinway was later charged with the Class A misdemeanors of domestic battery, resisting a peace officer and interference with emergency communications (Doc. 2, pp. 17-18, ¶ 42). After proceeding to trial in state court, the charge of interference with emergency communications was dismissed on Steinway's directed verdict motion. The jury subsequently found Steinway "not guilty" of domestic battery, but found him "guilty" as to the charge of resisting a peace officer. Steinway was then convicted and sentenced (Id.; see also Doc. 48, Ex. 1 - state court docket). Class A misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer and resisting a peace officer were filed against Peggy Steinway (Doc. 2, p. 18, ¶ 43). She is still awaiting jury trial on these charges (Id. at p. 20, ¶ 48).


Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings and 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); Oats v. Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1165 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of fact issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Santaella v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). In reviewing a summary judgment motion, this Court does not determine the truth of asserted matters, but rather decides whether there is a genuine factual issue for trial. Celex Group, Inc. v. Executive Gallery, Inc., 877 F. Supp. 1114, 1124 (N.D. Ill. 1995). This Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant. Regensburger v. China Adoption Consultants, Ltd., 138 F.3d 1201, 1205 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).

In response to a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant may not simply rest on the allegations in his pleadings; rather, he must show through specific evidence that an issue of fact remains on matters for which he bears the burden of proof at trial. Walker v. Shansky, 28 F.3d 666, 670-71 (7th Cir. 1994), aff'd, 51 F.3d 276 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). No issue remains for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not sufficiently probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at ...

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