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Golden v. City of Chicago

September 28, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


On November 2, 2007, Plaintiff Kalisa Golden, a Chicago resident, was detained by Defendants, Chicago Police Officers James Brill and Silvana Giannini, following a traffic stop. Plaintiff alleged (1) that Brill unlawfully seized and arrested her in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights; (2) that Giannini failed to intervene to prevent the unlawful seizure, (3) that Brill used excessive force in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights; and (4) that Giannini failed to intervene to prevent Brill's use of excessive force. Following a four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on her unlawful arrest claim against Officer Brill, but awarded no damages on that claim and ruled in favor of Defendants on all other claims. (Doc. 110.) Defendant Brill has moved to alter the verdict on the unlawful arrest and seizure claim, and Plaintiff seeks a new trial on damages. For the reasons stated here, both motions are denied.


The facts, drawn from the trial record and stipulations and recounted in a light favorable to the jury's verdict, are as follows. On November 2, 2007, Plaintiff Kalisa Golden was driving southbound on Wabash Avenue in her Nissan Sentra. At the time of the incident, southbound traffic on Wabash Avenue crossing 21st Street was not subject to any traffic control device such as a stop sign or traffic light. In contrast, traffic heading eastbound on 21st Street at the juncture of Wabash Avenue was controlled by a stop sign. As Plaintiff's car approached the intersection, Officer Brill was driving an unmarked maroon police car eastbound on 21st Street with Officer Giannini, his partner, in the passenger seat. Plaintiff testified that she was not speeding and was complying with all traffic rules, but the maroon sedan ran through a stop sign, forcing her to slam on her brakes to avoid a collision. According to Plaintiff, both she and Officer Brill were required to take evasive measures to avoid an accident, and she used her horn, shouted, and gestured at Brill, not realizing that he was a police officer.

There was no collision, but Brill activated flashing police lights and pulled Golden over. He approached the driver's window and asked for Golden's license and registration. Golden testified that she responded by asking why she had been pulled over and then told the officer that she was "driving on a ticket," meaning she did not have a license, but instead was carrying a traffic citation, indicating that she was legally allowed to drive. Golden claims Officer Brill did not ask to see the ticket, but instead immediately asked her to step out of the vehicle. Brill testified, however, that Golden never mentioned the ticket and instead refused his repeated requests for her name. It was only after several minutes, he attested, that he directed her to step out of her car.

Both parties agree that, once Plaintiff exited the car, Officer Brill handcuffed her, placed her in the rear of the police car, and drove her to the Chicago police station located near the intersection of 18th Street and Michigan Avenue, while Officer Giannini followed behind driving Golden's Nissan. At the police station, Giannini handcuffed Golden to a bench in the processing area and Brill asked for information which he used to verify Golden's identity. Upon establishing her identity, Brill released Golden from custody. No ticket or traffic citation was issued, nor was Plaintiff charged with any crime in connection with the events relevant to this trial. The entire episode lasted approximately forty-five minutes to one hour.

The jury heard conflicting testimony about the nature of the interaction between Golden and Brill. Golden testified that Brill was visibly upset when he approached her car, immediately demanding that she exit the vehicle, and that he used excessive force by twisting her arm behind her back, forcing her to bend over against the trunk of her car, and fastening handcuffs tightly on her wrists, causing significant pain. Corey Miller, a valet for Quattro Restaurant, located on 21st and Wabash, witnessed the incident and testified that Brill ran the stop sign on 21st and that both Brill and Golden had to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision. Miller further testified that he saw Brill "handling the female pretty roughly," and using "overpowering" force, and that Golden made no attempt to resist.

Officer Brill gave somewhat conflicting testimony about his reasons for pulling Golden over, but insisted that he did not run the stop sign, did not exit his car in a rage, and did not use any unnecessary force on Golden. Brill testified that he came to a complete stop at the intersection of 21st and Wabash and then inched his car out so that he could see oncoming traffic. From that vantage point, Brill claimed to have observed Plaintiff's car traveling southbound on Wabash for approximately 100-150 feet at an estimated 40-45 miles per hour. Brill acknowledged that his patrol car was not equipped with a radar detector and that he had not paced Golden's car to gauge her speed. He nevertheless pulled Golden over because, he explained, "she was coming southbound to Wabash and she was laying on her horn. She stopped in front of us and began yelling something at us. We had our windows up. We had no idea what she was yelling about. So we flipped on our lights, and she pulled over to the side of the road." (Tr. 175.) In fact, however, the officers' contact card for the incident indicated that Golden was pulled over for speeding; the card makes no mention of Golden's having honked, yelled, or otherwise signaled at the officers.*fn1

Brill testified that Golden was immediately uncooperative-that she refused to answer his repeated requests for her to provide her name, license, and registration-and that he asked her to step out of the vehicle and eventually detained her because of her failure to provide information.

He testified that she was apologetic and cooperative once they reached the police station and that as soon as her identity was verified, Golden was released.

Upon being released, Golden went to a friend's home for the remainder of the evening; she did not seek treatment until the next day, November 3, 2007, when she went to the Mercy Hospital emergency room and complained of soreness and swelling on her wrist. Plaintiff acknowledged that she did not have marks or scratches from the handcuffs and also acknowledged a pre-existing wrist condition. Specifically, in August 2007, Golden had been diagnosed as suffering from tendinitis. She was encouraged at that time to treat her wrist with ice, Ibuprofen, and an Ace bandage for support. Golden acknowledged that the symptoms she experienced on November 3--soreness and swelling--were the same symptoms, in the same place, as those she had suffered in August. She acknowledged, further, that she had not adhered to the treatment recommendations she received in August and had not completed a recommended follow-up examination.


As noted earlier, the jury found in favor of Plaintiff and against Officer Brill on the false arrest claim, but awarded no damages. On all other claims, the jury's verdict was in favor of Defendants. Both Plaintiff and Defendant Brill seek relief from the judgment on the jury's verdict. Officer Brill asserts that the verdict against him is not supported by the evidence, and Plaintiff argues that ...

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