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Kunz v. Defelice

August 14, 2008


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 01 C 1753-James B. Zagel, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, Circuit Judge.


Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, andFLAUM and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

On March 22, 1999, Jeremy Kunz spent the afternoon and evening in a bar watching March Madness and consuming a few Guinnesses. As the night wore on, he asked a fellow he knew from the bar, Erik, if he could borrow Erik's SUV for a short time. Erik handed over the keys to his vehicle, and Kunz left on his errand. The events relating to the rest of the evening gave rise to a low-speed car chase, a brutal interrogation, and a lawsuit against the City of Chicago and certain police officers. Kunz prevailed in that litigation, winning jury verdicts against Officer DeFelice for $10,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 (later reduced to $90,000) in punitive damages, as well as a verdict against the City for another $15,000 in compensatory damages. The City and DeFelice appeal from those judgments, and Kunz cross-appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in the defendants' favor on several other counts.

In the end, we find that the evidentiary arguments on which DeFelice relies fail to show any abuse of discretion by the district court, much less the prejudice that would be necessary to upset the jury's verdict. With respect to the cross-appeal, we conclude that Kunz's additional theories were properly dismissed. We therefore affirm the district court's judgment in its entirety.


After Kunz left on his errand-which turned out to be the delivery of some drugs-he grazed a parked car and kept driving. His actions prompted a 911 call from a witness; Officer DeFelice and his partner responded. Despite the flashing lights on the police car, Kunz kept driving, with the police in pursuit. DeFelice discovered, after running the SUV's plates, that it had been reported stolen. When Kunz finally stopped the car, he got out and tried to flee on foot. Throughout this time, he was trying to toss the packets of drugs away from himself. The chase ended after Kunz tried scaling a chain-link fence. Cornered at the top, he was ordered back to the ground and cuffed.

As he was being handcuffed, multiple police officers kicked Kunz, eventually causing a sharp pain later diagnosed as a broken rib. The police then dragged the injured and restrained Kunz to their squad car and took him back to the station, where they placed him in a room on a stool, still cuffed and facing DeFelice. DeFelice repeatedly punched Kunz in the face hard enough to make him pass out several times. Finally, Kunz falsely confessed that he knew that the car he was driving was stolen. Another officer, who had watched the entire exchange, typed out the confession. Kunz was then photographed and taken to the lock-up. He complained of injuries but was not taken until the next afternoon to a hospital, where he was given a non-prescription pain-killer. A visit to an emergency room the day after that resulted in a prescription for Motrin.

As a result of this incident, Kunz was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle, aggravated flight, and leaving the scene of an accident. Four days after his arrest, he was returned to custody for violating a bail bond on an older retail theft charge; he chose to exonerate his bond and remain in custody so that the money could be returned to his mother. While he was in jail awaiting trial on the stolen vehicle charge, he and a high-school age co-defendant were charged with possession of a controlled substance based on an unrelated incident.

Distressed by the aftermath of Kunz's arrest, Kunz's mother filed a complaint on his behalf with Chicago's Office of Professional Standards (OPS) on April 13, 1999, and OPS began to look into the matter. Even though OPS inquiries ordinarily take 30 days to complete, this one dragged on. Kunz requested the file in October 1999 in order to defend against the stolen motor vehicle charge and was told in November that the investigation was still active. OPS never did turn over the whole file, despite numerous requests and subpoenas.

On June 19, 2000, as the state court's patience with the slow discovery was wearing thin, the state's attorney elected to forgo the charge of possession of a stolen motor vehicle in favor of the charge for possession of a controlled substance. The reason given for the change in strategy was the need to expedite trial for the younger co-defendant, but at the hearing the prosecutor mentioned that the "[OPS] investigation" was "reaching [a] dead end . . . ." Kunz was convicted on the controlled substances charge and was sentenced on November 15, 2000. At the sentencing, Kunz's past convictions were introduced as aggravating factors, as was the possession of a stolen motor vehicle charge (describing the facts from the police report plus Kunz's confession). Kunz was sentenced to time served, and the State dismissed the stolen motor vehicle charge nolle prosequi.

Kunz was freed on November 20, 2000. Some time later, he filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for, among other things, excessive use of force and failure to give medical treatment, as well as a claim for malicious prosecution under Illinois law. During the pretrial stage of the proceeding, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Michael Goldston and it dismissed Kunz's malicious prosecution claim. On August 5, 2005, just before trial was to begin, Kunz dismissed without prejudice all remaining defendants except the City and DeFelice. (It is now much too late to revive those claims, and so these dismissals are now, as a practical matter, with prejudice.) At that time, Kunz also mentioned that he was seeking damages to compensate for the time he spent in detention. With respect to the latter point, the court ruled that Kunz could not introduce this evidence unless and until the jury ruled in his favor on liability.

After a four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict on August 11 finding that one or more City police officers and DeFelice used excessive force against Kunz and that City officers failed to provide him with medical attention. As we have already mentioned, it found that DeFelice was liable for $10,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages, and the City was liable for $15,000 (since it had stipulated that it would pay any damages on behalf of the unnamed defendants in the suit). At that point, the record becomes murky. It is apparent, however, that Kunz never asked the district court to permit him to introduce evidence on the additional damages claim he had raised just before trial. Instead, on August 22, he moved for entry of judgment against DeFelice and the City. On August 22, the court responded with a minute order saying only "MOTION by Plaintiff Jeremy Kunz for entry of judgment . . . is granted. No notice"; the docket indicates that this order was entered on August 29, 2005. Eventually, on September 16, 2005, the court entered a formal "Judgment in a Civil Case"; interestingly, that judgment says that it "is entered in favor of plaintiff Jeremy Kunz and against defendant City of Chicago and Richard Defelice [sic] in the amount of $25,000 for compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages against defendant Richard Defelice." (It is unclear why the court added together the two compensatory damages verdicts, but as this has no effect on the appeal, we do not comment further on it.) As we explain below, even this order left parts of the case hanging, but all claims of all parties were eventually wrapped up before the notices of appeal were filed.

In the meantime, on September 1, 2005, DeFelice moved under FED. R. CIV. P. 59 to reduce the punitive damages award. This motion was filed just three business days after the court's minute order granting Kunz's motion for entry of judgment was entered, even though it came before the Rule 58 judgment. Before the court ruled on DeFelice's motion, Kunz filed a motion on November 4, 2005, seeking to revive his claim for damages arising from his detention; he argued in the motion that the Fourth Amendment supported such damages, and he added an argument based on the Fifth Amendment in his reply brief. The district court rejected Kunz's motion in an order of June 22, 2006. It ruled on DeFelice's remittitur request on August 30, 2006, and reduced the punitive damages award to $90,000. It did not, however, enter a new Rule 58 judgment. Both DeFelice and Kunz filed their notices of appeal and cross-appeal on October 19, 2006.


We begin with Officer DeFelice's appeal. Before turning to the merits, we must decide whether his notice of appeal was filed by the required date. In general, parties other than the United States have 30 days from the date when the judgment or order is entered to file an appeal. FED. R. APP. P. 4(a)(1)(A). A motion under FED. R. CIV. P. 59 to alter or amend a judgment has the effect of postponing this deadline until the entry of an order disposing of that motion. FED. R. APP. P. 4(a)(4)(A)(iv). In this case, the court disposed of DeFelice's Rule 59 motion on August 30, and DeFelice did not file his notice of appeal until October 19, substantially beyond the 30-day period allowed. We must therefore see whether any rule effectively extended the time for his appeal.

The answer depends on whether the district court's order granting his Rule 59 motion in part is one that is subject to the "separate document" requirement of Rule 58(a). That rule says "[e]very judgment and amended judgment must be set out in a separate document, but a separate document is not required for an order disposing of a motion . . . (4) . . . to alter or amend the judgment, under Rule 59 . . . ." If the separate-document requirement applies, then both Rule 58(c)(2) and FED. R. APP. P. 4(a)(7)(A)(ii) provide that the time of entry is considered to be the earlier of the date when the judgment is set out in the separate document or 150 days from the entry of the order or judgment in the civil docket. If the separate-document rule does not apply, then the time of entry is simply whenever the judgment is entered in the civil docket. For DeFelice, if the time is measured from the latter date, then his notice of appeal is too late. If, however, the separate-document rule applies, he is entitled to take advantage of the 150-day period provided by Rule 58(c)(2)(B) and FED. R. APP. P. 4(a)(7)(A)(ii)(second bullet point).

The language of Rule 58 and its appellate counterpart does not contain any exceptions or qualifications for orders disposing of motions under Rule 59. Logically, therefore, one might think that the Rule exempts from the separate-document requirement all such motions, not just a subset of them. That is not, however, the way that this court read the rule in Employers Insurance of Wausau v. Titan International, Inc., 400 F.3d 486 (7th Cir. 2005). We were concerned that the great majority of amended judgments would come about as a result of motions made under the various rules identified in Rule 58(a). Appellate Rule 4(a)(4)(B)(ii) reinforces that assumption, insofar as it seems to contemplate an amended final judgment from which an appeal may be taken, after the district court rules on any of the motions listed in Rule 4(a)(4)(A).

If orders disposing of this set of post-judgment motions, including motions under Rule 59, were not subject to the separate-document rule, there is a risk that we would effectively have read the separate-document requirement out of the rule for almost all amended judgments. Moreover, Rule 58(a) had good reason to require a separate document for at least some amended judgments: the document clarifies what the ultimate result is, benefiting both the parties (for purposes of enforcement and clarity of legal obligation) and the judicial system (for providing ...

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