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Smith v. Augustine

February 25, 2009

DAWN GARNER SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER GARY AUGUSTINE, OFFICER MATTHEW BEJGROWICZ, OFFICER CHRISTOPHER BURNE, UNKNOWN POLICE OFFICERS, AND VILLAGE OF ROMEOVILLE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Dawn Garner Smith (hereinafter, the "Plaintiff"), filed the instant action against the Village of Romeoville (hereinafter, the "Village") and Romeoville police officers Gary Augustine, Matthew Bejgrowicz and Christopher Burne (hereinafter, the "Individual Defendants") in connection with her arrest on January 7, 2006. Plaintiff brings federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force, false arrest and detention, false imprisonment and failure to intervene as well as state law claims for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest and detention, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and failure to intervene. Plaintiff also brings a Monell claim under § 1983 against the Village for allegedly maintaining policies, practices and/or customs permitting the occurrence of constitutional violations. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

The Village and the Individual Defendants filed separate Motions for Summary Judgment on all counts. After briefing on Defendants' Motions concluded, Plaintiff filed a sur-reply which attempted to introduce additional evidence and her own Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of probable cause, neither of which change the Court's ruling on Defendants' pending Motions. For the following reasons, the Summary Judgment Motions of Defendants Augustine, Bejgrowicz and Burne, and Defendant Village of Romeoville, are GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are uncontested. On January 7, 2006, at approximately 6:00 p.m., a car crashed and came to rest upon railroad tracks near the intersection of 135th Street and New Avenue, just beyond the boundaries of Romeoville, Illinois. Several Romeoville police officers, firefighters and paramedics responded to the scene. Sometime after 8:00 p.m. that same evening, an Amtrak train bound for Chicago traveling between 75 and 79 miles per hour crashed into the wrecked car that was still on the railroad tracks. The train dragged the car approximately three quarters of a mile further north on the tracks before stopping with the car wedged underneath the locomotive engine. The Amtrak train consisted of a locomotive, a café car and three passenger cars in the rear with more than 100 passengers onboard. The train was also carrying an engineer, a lead services operator, a conductor and an assistant conductor. Plaintiff was the conductor on the Amtrak train.

After this second accident, several Romeoville police officers, firefighters and paramedics responded, including the Individual Defendants and Firefighter/Paramedic Brandon Street ("Street"). When he arrived at the front of the train, Street observed that the car was lodged under the locomotive and gasoline was leaking from the car. Street then began walking along the length of the train unsuccessfully looking for a point of entry into the train so that he could check on the welfare of its passengers and determine a means of exit for passengers in case of evacuation.

Shortly after returning to the scene, Defendants Augustine and Bejgrowicz informed Defendant Burne that they would go to the rear of the train and attempt to gain access. Defendant Burne then encountered Plaintiff outside the train. The parties dispute what occurred during this encounter but they do not dispute that immediately afterwards Burne radioed to the other Romeoville police officers present, including Defendants Augustine and Bejgrowicz, "We have an uncooperative conductor. They're saying that there are no injuries. They're not allowing us on the train." At the rear of the train, Augustine and Bejgrowicz encountered Firefighter/Paramedic Street. Augustine asked Street whether the paramedics had entered the train and Street replied, "no." Street informed Augustine and Bejgrowicz that the firefighter/paramedics needed to gain entry to the train to check on the welfare of the passengers but that the conductor had denied them entry. Augustine subsequently radioed to Burne that the conductor was locking them out of the train and said, "She's also locking the train doors and even these passengers couldn't get off if they wanted to." Shortly thereafter, Bejgrowicz radioed to Burne, "We need you at the rear of the train immediately." Based on these radio communications, Burne responded, "95 her," meaning arrest Plaintiff.

Officers Augustine and Bejgrowicz arrested Plaintiff in the vestibule area of the last train car. At the time of her arrest, Plaintiff was talking on her personal cell phone with her Amtrak supervisor, Scott Kenner ("Kenner"). Augustine told Plaintiff she was under arrest and asked her to turn around. Augustine and Bejgrowicz then each took one of Plaintiff's arms and placed her in handcuffs. While handcuffing her, the officers leaned Plaintiff forward over a gate at the back of the vestibule. After handcuffing Plaintiff, Augustine took hold of the chain on the handcuffs and brought Plaintiff to a corner of the vestibule where she remained handcuffed for approximately 20-30 minutes. The arresting officers never pushed or shoved Plaintiff. The officers removed Plaintiff's handcuffs after Kenner asked Defendant Burne over the phone to release her so the train could resume its route to Chicago. After the officers removed the handcuffs Plaintiff walked toward the front of the train and resumed her conductor duties. Plaintiff did not request any medical attention or complain of any injuries at the scene.

Romeoville Police Lieutenant Mark Turvey ("Turvey"), who is in charge of the department's patrol, detectives and investigations divisions, received the police reports generated as a result of Plaintiff's arrest. Turvey also conducted an internal investigation of the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff's arrest in response to a complaint by Plaintiff. In the course of that investigation, Turvey interviewed 34 people, including Defendant Augustine and Plaintiff's Amtrak supervisor, Scott Kenner, and prepared a 73-page written report.

During his interview with Turvey, Defendant Augustine stated that when he ordered Plaintiff to open the door to the rear passenger car of the train at the time of the incident, Plaintiff responded that the train was federal property and she would not allow him to board. Plaintiff then exited the passenger car and locked the door behind her. Augustine also told Turvey that at the time of the incident he told Plaintiff that gasoline was leaking from the wrecked car on the tracks and that he ordered Plaintiff to get back on the train.

Scott Kenner told Turvey during his interview on February 27, 2006, that he spoke with Plaintiff on her cell phone just prior to her arrest and that he was upset with her at the time when she told him that she was not allowing police officers on the train. Kenner told Turvey that he repeatedly told Plaintiff during that phone conversation to open to train doors so that the police could complete their investigation. Kenner stated further that Amtrak conductors are instructed to allow local police and other first responders full access to the train.

Lt. Turvey also interviewed Illinois State Police Trooper Jason Shrake ("Shrake") who was present at the scene of the second accident on January 7, 2006. Shrake told Turvey that Plaintiff admitted to him after she was released from handcuffs that the train had been on lockdown, that no one was allowed on or off the train, and that only the State Police were allowed to board the train.

Based on his independent investigation, Lt. Turvey decided to pursue criminal charges against Plaintiff and he directed Romeoville Police Detective Ken Kroll ("Kroll") to contact the Will County State's Attorney to that end. On March 6, 2006, Detective Kroll signed a criminal complaint charging Plaintiff with obstructing a peace officer in violation of 720 ILCS 5/31-1(a). A Will County Circuit Court judge signed and issued a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest the same day. At no time prior to March 6, 2006, did Lt. Turvey speak with Defendants Burne, Augustine or Bejgrowicz about the decision to file a criminal complaint against Plaintiff.

Plaintiff testified at her deposition that she never denied access to the train to the Individual Defendants or any paramedics on the scene. She also testified that she never intended to keep anyone off the train and that the train doors remained open throughout the entire incident. As explained above, Plaintiff's testimony is contradicted by the Individual Defendants, Firefighter/Paramedic Street, her Amtrak supervisor, and Illinois State Police Trooper Shrake.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Intern.-Indiana, Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir., 2000). In ruling on a summary judgment motion, "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, 550 U.S. 372 (2007). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986), or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if a reasonable finder of fact could return a decision for the nonmoving party based upon the record. See Insolia v. Phillip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir., 2000).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Federal Claims Brought Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983

1. False Arrest and False Imprisonment

Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the Individual Defendants for false arrest and false imprisonment turn on whether or not Plaintiff's arrest was supported by probable cause. If probable cause existed, these claims fail as a matter of law. See Mustafa v. City of Chicago, 442 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir., 2006); Potts v. City of Lafayette, Ind., 121 F.3d 1106, ...


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