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Hill v. Village of Crete

October 6, 2008

WILLIE L. HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF CRETE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Willie L. Hill filed the present four-count Second Amended Complaint alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment rights against the Village of Crete, Illinois, Officer Michael C. Buzan, and certain unnamed police officers. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In a prior order, the Court dismissed Count IV of the Second Amended Complaint which alleged a defamation per se claim against Shell Oil Company. Accordingly, Shell Oil Company is no longer a Defendant to this lawsuit. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

When determining summary judgment motions, the Court derives the background facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements, which assist the Court by "organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side propose[s] to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000). Specifically, Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue." Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004); see also Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643 (7th Cir. 2008). Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) requires the nonmoving party to admit or deny every factual statement proffered by the moving party and to concisely designate any material facts that establish a genuine dispute for trial. See Schrott v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir. 2005). In addition, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) requires the nonmoving party to present a separate statement of additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 643-44.

The purpose of Rule 56.1 statements is to identify the relevant evidence supporting the material facts, not to make factual or legal arguments. Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006). The requirements for responses under Local Rule 56.1 are "not satisfied by evasive denials that do not fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted." Bordelon, 233 F.3d at 528. A litigant's failure to respond to a Local Rule 56.1 statement results in the Court admitting the uncontroverted statement as true. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006). Moreover, the Court may disregard statements and responses that do not properly cite to the record. Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., L.L.C., 401 F.3d 803, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2005). With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the relevant facts of the case.

II. Relevant Facts

Plaintiff Willie Leo Hill resides at 7150 Cyril Court in Chicago, Illinois. (R. 70-1, Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 3; R. 81-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 3.) Defendant Officer Buzan is a sworn police officer for the Village of Crete with over 19 years of experience in police work. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 5, 6; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 5.) Defendant Village of Crete is an Illinois municipality in Will County, Illinois. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶ 7; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 6.)

On June 4, 2006, Hill and his two sons -- who are not parties to this lawsuit -- were riding in Hill's 1994 Ford pick-up truck when they stopped at a Shell gas station on 1400 East Steger Road in Crete, Illinois. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 8, 11; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 7.) When Hill arrived at the gas station, he pulled up to a gas pump and put $20 of gas into his gas tank after which he and one of his sons entered the gas station. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶ 12; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 9.) Thereafter, Hill and his son exited the gas station and got back into the pick-up truck where Hill's other son remained. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 14; Pl.'s Stmt Facts ¶ 11.)

Also on that date, Officer Buzan received a notice from police dispatch that someone had seen a man with a gun inside of a vehicle parked at the Shell gas station located at 1400 East Steger Road. (Id. ¶ 15.) Apparently, employees at the Shell gas station contacted 911 stating that an individual informed them that he saw a firearm in a vehicle in the Shell parking lot. (Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 10.) Upon hearing this information from dispatch -- along with information that the vehicle at issue was a blue truck with a tarp on the back -- Officer Buzan drove to the gas station and was the first police officer to arrive on the scene. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 16, 17; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 12.) Dispatch also advised Officer Buzan of the license plate number of the vehicle, the name of the registered owner, and the make and model of the suspect vehicle. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 18, 19.) Moreover, dispatch advised Officer Buzan that the truck was backing out of a parking spot and heading towards Steger Road. (Id. ¶ 21.) Thereafter, Officer Buzan observed a vehicle matching the description and license number backing out of the parking lot and also reconfirmed the vehicle's information with dispatch. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 23.) Although Officer Buzan attempted to activate his siren to pull over Hill's vehicle, he failed to do so. (Id. ¶ 27.) Instead, while Officer Buzan was looking down to activate his siren, he did not notice that Hill had started to stop his pick-up truck before turning onto Steger Road. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 27; R. 79-1, Pl.'s Ex. A, Buzan Dep., at 48.) Thereafter, Officer Buzan rear-ended the pick-up truck. (Id. ¶ 34; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 15.)

Officer Buzan then approached the driver's side of Hill's pick-up and asked Hill to exit the vehicle several times after which Hill exited his vehicle. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 32, 38.) Although Officer Buzan had his hand on his gun while approaching the vehicle, Officer Buzan never took his gun out of his holster and never pointed his gun at Hill. (Id. ¶¶ 36, 37; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 21.) Other police officers then arrived and asked Hill's sons to exit the pick-up. (Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 29.) None of these additional police officers had their guns out of their holsters or physically touched Hill. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 41, 42.) Moreover, none of the police officers, including Officer Buzan, told Hill that he was not free to leave the scene or that he was under arrest. (Id. ¶ 44.)*fn1

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper when "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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In determining summary judgment motions, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 ...


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