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Taylor-Doyle v. Poehls

February 3, 2010

ANNESTRA TAYLOR-DOYLE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DAVID POEHLS, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant Steven Sizemore's ("Sizemore") Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#91] is GRANTED.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343 (a)(4), as the claims arise under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the related state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1367.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On March 2, 2006, Plaintiff Annestra Taylor-Doyle ("Taylor-Doyle") met with Richwoods High School Dean David Poehls ("Poehls") to discuss the option of alternative probation for S.T., Taylor-Doyle's adopted daughter. This meeting occurred immediately following the completion of S.T.'s five-day suspension for engaging in sexual intercourse on school property. The exact statements made by Taylor-Doyle during the meeting are in dispute and greatly muddled by Plaintiff's inconsistent deposition testimony. However, Taylor-Doyle admits that she used profanity, and both parties agree that she directed the specific phrase "your ass" toward S.T. (Taylor-Doyle Dep. 60: 5-15; Poehls Dep. 71: 22-24.) After Taylor-Doyle left the meeting, Poehls noticed that S.T. appeared "very upset" and had "a very shaken look about her". (Poehls Dep. 78: 12-18.) Poehls asked S.T. if Taylor-Doyle abused her, and S.T. answered affirmatively, specifically stating that Taylor-Doyle hit her on the head with a shoe and dunked her head in water. After hearing S.T. repeat her statements to her counselor, Debbie Kelone ("Kelone"), and believing that marks on S.T.'s forehead and neck added credibility to S.T.'s account, Poehls alerted the campus police officer of S.T.'s allegations of abuse and called the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") suspected abuse hotline.

Sizemore, a Child Protection Investigator with DCFS, partnered with Detective David Nelson ("Nelson") of the Peoria Police Department and jointly interviewed S.T. in Poehls office later that same day. During the interview, Sizemore and Nelson both noticed a mark on S.T.'s forehead and marks on her neck. S.T. repeated her allegation that Taylor-Doyle hit S.T. on the forehead with a shoe and Sizemore believed that the mark on S.T.'s forehead was consistent with the allegation. Sizemore and Nelson continued joint interviews at the police station on the evening of March 2, 2006, speaking with Taylor-Doyle, her husband Gary Doyle ("Doyle") and S.T. During her interview, Taylor-Doyle denied the allegations, and Mr. Doyle stated that S.T. injured her forehead when she bumped into a kitchen cabinet. During the this second interview with S.T., she recanted the statements she made to Poehls earlier that day and stated that she received the mark on her forehead after she hit her head on a cabinet. Before leaving the police station, Taylor-Doyle and Mr. Doyle signed a safety plan under which Taylor-Doyle agreed to stay out of her home and refrain from contact with her children pending further interviews. The safety plan was in effect from March 2, 2006 to March 6, 2006. On March 6, a new safety plan was enacted, allowing Taylor-Doyle to be in the home with the children as long as all contact between Taylor-Doyle and the children was supervised by either her husband, her daughter Arianne Taylor, or her sister Rissa Taylor.

Over the next few days, Sizemore and Nelson continued to jointly interview witnesses, including S.T.'s siblings and her friend, M.C. During the March 3, 2006 interview with Sh.T., S.T.'s brother, Sh.T. stated that Taylor-Doyle struck S.T. in the face with a shoe and forcibly placed S.T.'s head in a basin of water. Sizemore and Nelson re-interviewed Sh.T. at the Peoria Police Department later the same day. Sh.T. repeated his earlier statements and stated that he witnessed Taylor-Doyle hit S.T. after she spoke with Poehls over the telephone, and that Taylor-Doyle hit S.T. with a shoe and choked her following the February 22, 2006 telephone call from Poehls regarding S.T.'s discipline. This statement was contradicted by S.T.'s other siblings, L.T., K.D., and Ki.A., who all stated that S.T. received the mark on her forehead from a kitchen cabinet. L.T. also stated that the mark on S.T.'s neck was the result of roughhousing with her brother Sh.T, who subsequently denied this accusation.

On March 21, 2006, Sizemore was informed that Taylor-Doyle had been arrested by the Peoria Police Department for endangering the life and welfare of a child and domestic battery. Subsequent to Taylor-Doyle's arrest, Mr. Doyle entered into a DCFS safety plan that restricted Taylor-Doyle's access to the children and required that the children reside outside of Taylor-Doyle's home. Gary Doyle renewed this plan weekly until April 24, 2006, around the time that the charges against Taylor-Doyle were dropped. However, although the criminal charges against Taylor-Doyle were dropped, her foster children were not allowed to move back into Taylor-Doyle's home because the allegations against Taylor-Doyle before DCFS were still pending.

On June 14, 2006, Sizemore met with his supervisor, Karla Allen, to discuss the DCFS investigation of Taylor-Doyle. After reviewing the interviews Sizemore conducted months earlier, Allen decided to "indicate" Taylor-Doyle for child abuse. Taylor-Doyle appealed the indicated finding of child abuse with DCFS, and on January 11, 2007, the DCFS Administrative Hearings Unit entered an order voluntarily unfounding the indicated child abuse finding against Taylor-Doyle and dismissed the administrative proceeding.

On March 2, 2007, Plaintiffs, Annestra Taylor-Doyle, individually, and as mother and next friend of S.T. and L.T., commenced this action against Poehls and District 150; Nelson and the City of Peoria, IL; Sizemore; Michael McCoy, Sheriff of Peoria County; Stephen Smith, Jail Superintendant of Sheriff of Peoria County; Peoria County, Illinois; and Jennifer Streitmatter, Director of Human Services for the Children's Home. Defendants McCoy, Smith, Streitmatter, and Peoria Countyhave all been subsequently dismissed from this matter with prejudice. Also dismissed with prejudice was Plaintiff S.T. Remaining are Plaintiff's various constitutional and state law claims against Defendants Poehls and District 150, Nelson and the City of Peoria, and Sizemore. On July 10, 2009, Defendant Sizemore filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. This matter is now fully briefed, and this Order follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party must demonstrate, through portions of the record or affidavits, the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988).

If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party then has the burden of presenting specific facts to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and produce evidence of a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Nevertheless, this Court must "view the record and all references drawn from it in the light most favorable to the [non-moving party]." Holland v. Jefferson Nat. Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). The Court will deny summary judgment if a reasonable jury ...


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