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Hafley v. City of Spring Valley

August 26, 2009

LORI HAFLEY, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT MCFADIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF SPRING VALLEY; OFFICER THOMAS QUARTUCCI, INDIVIDUALLY; AND POLICE CHIEF DOUG BERNABEI, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Before the Court is an Amended Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's Federal Claims, filed by Defendants City of Spring Valley and Thomas Quartucci on February 27, 2009 (Doc. 21). Plaintiff Lori Hafley responded in opposition to the motion on March 23, 2009, and Defendants replied on April 2, 2009. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' amended summary judgment motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

This federal civil rights action stems from the suicide of Robert McFadin. McFadin used a police officer's handgun to take his own life while detained at a police station in Spring Valley, Illinois on April 23, 2005. Lori Hafley, the plaintiff, is McFadin's mother and is suing in her capacity as Special Administrator of his estate. Hafley has brought suit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, against the City of Spring Valley and individual law enforcement officials to recover civil damages for McFadin's death. Hafley's § 1983 claims are grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment's protection against the "deliberate indifference" of law enforcement officials to the substantial risk of serious harm to a pretrial detainee. In addition to her § 1983 claims, Hafley has brought supplemental state-law claims pursuant to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/1 et seq., and the Illinois Survival Act, 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/27-6.

Factual Background*fn1

On the morning of April 23, 2005, Officer Thomas Quartucci (a police officer employed by the City of Spring Valley Police Department since 1985) telephoned Robert McFadin and asked him to come to the Spring Valley police station to be interviewed in connection with a complaint that McFadin had violated an order of protection which his estranged wife held against him. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ A1, A10-12). McFadin voluntarily arrived at the police station that morning to be interviewed. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A13). Upon his arrival, McFadin accompanied Officer Quartucci to the police station's intake room. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A14). Officer Quartucci proceeded to interview McFadin without placing him under arrest. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A15). During the interview, McFadin appeared calm and collected; he exhibited no obvious signs of agitation. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ A16-17). After speaking with McFadin about the disturbance that necessitated the interview -- which apparently involved a dispute between McFadin and his wife over an automobile -- Officer Quartucci was unsure whether McFadin's conduct during the incident constituted a violation of the protection order. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A19). To get clarification, Quartucci phoned Assistant State's Attorney Tony Sciuto. McFadin was present for the phone call. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A21). During the conversation, Sciuto advised Quartucci to arrest McFadin on charges of violating the protection order. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A20). When McFadin learned that he would be arrested, he told Officer Quartucci that he did not believe he had violated the order; but McFadin did not become angry or raise his voice. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A22). Officer Quartucci asked McFadin if he was going to be uncooperative, and McFadin answered that he would not cause a problem --although he expressed to Quartucci that he did not understand why he was being arrested. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A26). At some point around the time this dialogue took place, Quartucci placed McFadin under arrest.*fn2 McFadin remained docile and gave no indication that he would become violent. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A27).

At about noon, Officer Quartucci secured McFadin in a holding cell at the police station and began to arrange for McFadin's transport to the county jail. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A29). While McFadin was housed in the holding cell, Quartucci checked on him every fifteen minutes (at 12:15 p.m. and 12:30 p.m.) and recorded the check-ups in a jail cell log. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ A30-31). At approximately 12:35 p.m., while Officer Quartucci was in the station's radio room along with dispatcher Patricia Sment, Quartucci heard a knocking on the door of McFadin's holding cell. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A32). At this time Quartucci and Sment were the only two police personnel in the station, and the door separating the radio room from the cell hallway was open. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A33; Defs.' Reply ¶ A11). In response to the noise, Quartucci walked up to the door of McFadin's cell. When Quartucci looked through the window in the cell door, he saw McFadin holding his hands out. He saw that McFadin's left wrist was bleeding. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A35). Quartucci asked McFadin how his wrist became injured, and McFadin told Quartucci that he was scratching his wrists to make them bleed. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A36). It is unclear and disputed whether McFadin told Quartucci that he was trying to commit suicide. (Defs.' Reply ¶¶ A12, E37). In any event, Quartucci obviously understood that McFadin was trying to injure himself. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A37).

Officer Quartucci decided to take immediate action by entering the cell in order to handcuff McFadin and thereby prevent him from injuring himself any further. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ A39-40). Accordingly, Quartucci entered the cell and ordered McFadin to stand up. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A41). Suddenly, the heavy cell door hit against its frame behind Quartucci. The noise startled Quartucci, causing him to turn and look back at the door for a moment. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A43). Immediately, McFadin landed a forceful punch to Quartucci's right temple. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A44). Phased by the punch, Quartucci put his hands up in defense. He yelled to McFadin, "[N]o, don't do this, you don't want to do this." (Defs.' UMF ¶ A45). McFadin ignored Quartucci's statement and continued to punch him, striking him in the right eye and knocking him out of the cell and into the hallway. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A46). Quartucci hit against the hallway wall and was knocked to his knees. McFadin then positioned himself on top of Quartucci and continued to punch him in the face. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ A47-48, B13). Quartucci yelled to dispatcher Patricia Sment for help. Sment ran from the radio room into the hallway and attempted to pry McFadin off Quartucci. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ B14-15). As she tried to pull McFadin away, Sment saw McFadin's hand go up Officer Quartucci's side toward his handgun. (Defs.' UMF ¶ B16). Believing that McFadin would gain control of the gun, Sment ran back into the radio room to call for help. (Defs.' UMF ¶ B17). Covered in blood and unable to strike back at McFadin, Quartucci lost consciousness. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ A48-50).

At some point, Officer Quartucci regained consciousness. Realizing that his jacket had been pulled over his head, Quartucci immediately felt for his handgun and found that it was missing from its holster. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A51). Quartucci was able to get to his feet and walk to the radio room, where Sment was calling for help.

(Defs.' UMF ¶ B18). As he fled toward the radio room, Quartucci was able to see McFadin facing him and backing down the cell hallway. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A55). Upon reaching the radio room, Quartucci told Sment that McFadin had possession of his gun. (Defs.' UMF ¶¶ A52, B18). With Officer Quartucci inside the radio room, Sment slammed shut the door separating the radio room from the hallway. (Defs.' UMF ¶ B19). Quartucci and Sment then both fled the police station. (Defs.' UMF ¶ B20). On the way out, Sment heard a "pop" that sounded like a gunshot. (Defs.' UMF ¶ B20). McFadin had taken his own life with Officer Quartucci's gun. Quartucci spent the next three days in a hospital intensive care unit; he ultimately recovered but did not return to work as a police officer. (Defs.' UMF ¶ A59; Ex. A to Defs.' Am. SJ Mot., Quartucci Dep., at p. 19).

Nearly a year after the events of April 23, 2005, Lori Hafley filed a civil suit in Illinois circuit court against the City of Spring Valley, Officer Quartucci, and Spring Valley Police Chief Doug Bernabei in connection with McFadin's suicide.*fn3

During the course of discovery in the state-court suit, Officer Quartucci gave deposition testimony. At his deposition, Quartucci admitted that he had never received any training with respect to identifying potentially suicidal detainees. He also testified that he was not aware whether the Spring Valley Police Department had a program requiring officers to undergo this type of training. (Quartucci Dep. at pp. 33-34). It was also revealed at Quartucci's deposition that a few years before the incident involving McFadin, Quartucci had been involved in a somewhat similar incident in which a suspect was able to remove Quartucci's gun from its holster and squeeze off three shots before being contained. (Quartucci Dep. at pp. 27-32). Quartucci and his supervisors had discussed this prior incident and had determined that the suspect was able to remove the gun because Quartucci's outdated holster had no preventative snap. Accordingly, Quartucci was issued a new weapon and an updated safety holster with a preventative snap. In addition, he underwent additional weapons retention training classes. (Quartucci Dep. at pp. 31-32, 86-87, 91). During his struggle with McFadin on April 23, 2005, Officer Quartucci was wearing the updated holster. The holster's safety mechanism required a forward push and a simultaneous upward pull to release the gun. (Quartucci Dep. at p. 87).

During his deposition, Quartucci also gave his account of the events leading up to McFadin's suicide. Quartucci testified that once he understood McFadin was attempting to harm himself, he decided to immediately enter the cell and handcuff McFadin before calling medical personnel. Quartucci further testified that although he believed McFadin intended to injure himself, it never crossed his mind that McFadin was trying to kill himself. (Quartucci Dep. at pp. 59-60). When asked whether he remembered telling an investigator that McFadin was attempting suicide by scratching at his wrists, Quartucci said that he could not. (Quartucci Dep. at p. 59). According to Quartucci's testimony, prior to the violent outburst inside the cell, there was no indication that McFadin would become violent toward anyone at the police station. (Quartucci Dep. at pp. 44-46, 58-60, 89-93). Quartucci testified that, as a simple safety precaution, he asked police dispatcher Patricia Sment to leave the radio room while he and McFadin passed through the room on their way from the intake area to the cell hallway. Quartucci testified that, normally, detainees at the Spring Valley Police Department are not brought through the dispatch room. McFadin was brought through the dispatch room only because he was in the station at the time of his arrest and because Quartucci had been told by his supervisor that it was unnecessary to book or process McFadin under the circumstances. (Quartucci Dep. at pp. 47-48).

Patricia Sment also gave deposition testimony. She testified that on April 23, 2005, Quartucci asked her to leave the radio room so that he could transport McFadin through the room. Sment answered in the affirmative when asked whether Quartucci's request for her to leave was a procedural safety precaution. (Ex. B to Defs.' Am. SJ Mot., Sment Dep., at pp. 7-8). However, Sment also stated that it was not general protocol for her to leave the radio room when an officer transported an arrestee from the intake room (although, as she explained, it was not necessary to pass through the dispatch room when traveling between the intake area and the cell hallway). (Sment Dep. at pp. 11-14). During her deposition Sment seemed to admit that when McFadin was present in the station's cell hallway area on April 23, 2005, the door separating the radio room from the hallway was unlocked despite a departmental rule requiring the door to be locked when an arrestee is in the hallway. (Sment Dep. at pp. 6-7, 26-27). Sment also testified that McFadin's wife arrived at the station at some point on April 23, 2005 and was speaking to someone near the dispatch room. (Sment Dep. at pp. 15-17).

Police Chief Doug Bernabei was also deposed in the course of Hafley's state-court action. Bernabei testified that he did not know whether Quartucci had ever received instruction on identifying potentially suicidal arrestees. When asked whether the Spring Valley Police Department ran programs to educate officers on identifying suicidal arrestees, Bernabei stated, "Well, there's -- there's policies regarding that, treating people with mental illness. There's periodic training classes that might be available." (Ex. C to Defs.' Am. SJ Mot., Bernabei Dep., at pp. 34-35). When asked specifically whether there was "a procedure in Spring Valley where officers at least once a year receive training with regard[ ] to learning about ...


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