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Robert Tarnoff v. Sgt. Thomas Boyd

January 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez


Plaintiff Robert Tarnoff brought this complaint against Defendant Sgt. Thomas Boyd alleging one count of false arrest in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The matter is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 39]. For the reasons that follow, the Court holds that Defendant is shielded from liability based on qualified immunity, and Defendant's motion is therefore granted.


The following facts are undisputed or are deemed admitted due to a party's failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1, which this Court strictly enforces. The plaintiff, Robert Tarnoff, was a hearing officer for the Cook County Child Support Division on November 1, 2006, and worked at 32 W. Randolph, in Chicago, Illinois. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 2.) The defendant, Sgt. Thomas Boyd, was a Cook County Deputy Sheriff on November 1, 2006, assigned to the Daley Center Courts. (Id. ¶ 3.) On November 1, 2006, at approximately 1:40 p.m., Plaintiff, who suffers from Crohn's disease, had a sudden stomach problem and went into a bathroom at 32 W. Randolph. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) While inside the bathroom, Plaintiff experienced an "explosion" of fecal matter all over himself, the floor, and the walls. (Id. ¶ 6.) After the incident, Plaintiff attempted to clean the affected areas, which took a long time, and he also took off his pants to clean them in the sink. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶¶ 1-2.)

At approximately 4:00 p.m. the same day, Defendant received a call from his supervisor informing him that Plaintiff had been in a bathroom at 32 W. Randolph since 1:30 p.m. Defendant went to the bathroom area with Deputy Morrissey, Deputy Hubbard, and the building engineer. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶¶ 7-8.) At approximately 4:05 p.m., Defendant knocked on the bathroom door, identified himself to Plaintiff, and asked Plaintiff several times if he needed any medical assistance. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) According to Defendant, Plaintiff's voice sounded slurred and trembling. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff repeatedly told Defendant not to come into the bathroom and would not open the door. Defendant told Plaintiff that he was going to have to open the door if Plaintiff did not come out. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff was too embarrassed to come out of the bathroom when directed to do so, because he remained naked below the waist. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 3.) Defendant ultimately had the building engineer open the door. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 13.) When the door was finally opened, Defendant saw that, in his opinion, Plaintiff was sweating profusely, had an ashen face, was trembling, and appeared to be in a severe amount of pain and suffering. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff maintains that at the time Defendant first encountered him in the bathroom, he was healthy. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 5.)

Defendant told Plaintiff he had opened the door to make sure Plaintiff was not lying on the ground. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff asked Defendant why did not just shut the door and leave him alone after he checked. (Id. ¶ 16.) Defendant again offered to call an ambulance for Plaintiff, but Plaintiff refused. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 15.) Defendant told Plaintiff that he could not stay there alone and that he had to put his pants back on and leave the bathroom. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff, however, did not want to leave the bathroom or the building, because he did not want any co-workers or litigants to see him. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Defendant told Plaintiff that he could stay in the back of the floor until everyone left. (Id. ¶ 19; Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 12.) Plaintiff left the bathroom wearing wet and soiled clothes. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 8.) Two other individuals were outside of the bathroom when Plaintiff exited, and the door remained wide open. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) While Defendant disputes Plaintiff's recollection, Plaintiff states that he was left standing in a public hallway with wet and soiled pants, in the presence of several individuals, including a female deputy. (Id. ¶ 13-14.)

Defendant then went to the front of the floor with Deputy Morrissey; Defendant had Deputy Hubbard stay in the back with Plaintiff because he was concerned about Plaintiff's health. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶¶ 20, 27.) Defendant did not know if there was a chance that Plaintiff might pass out or become incapacitated in any way. (Id. ¶ 29.) Defendant ordered Deputy Hubbard to stay with Plaintiff and not to let Plaintiff into the bathroom unless absolutely necessary until 4:30 p.m. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 18.) Defendant stated that he could not leave Plaintiff alone, which Plaintiff interpreted to mean that he had to stay right there. (Id. ¶ 20.) Defendant disputes Plaintiff's interpretation. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a) ¶ 20.) None of the deputies ever handcuffed or physically touched Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 28.)

While Plaintiff was alone with Deputy Hubbard, he asked to go back into the bathroom, and he was allowed to go into a different bathroom. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 22.) Plaintiff did not try to go back into his office when he was with Deputy Hubbard, but he was never told that he could not go back into his office. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Plaintiff could have left the building when Defendant originally told him to leave the bathroom. (Id. ¶ 25.)

While the precise timing is unclear in the record, at some point Plaintiff went to his hearing office, followed by two deputies, and gathered his coat and briefcase. (Id. ¶ 21; Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 17.) Plaintiff left the building at 4:30 p.m. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 31.) Plaintiff wanted to wait to leave until after everyone in the office left at 4:30 p.m. due to his wet and soiled clothes. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 12.) Plaintiff normally leaves work at 5:00 or 5:15 p.m., and there is no directive prohibiting employees from working after 5:00 p.m. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Plaintiff was humiliated and embarrassed by the incident, and although he normally gets along with the deputies in his courthouse, he worries whether this incident could happen again. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.)


Defendant argues that summary judgment should be granted because Plaintiff was not seized; and if there was a seizure, it was reasonable. Defendant further contends that he is entitled to qualified immunity, and any claims based in Illinois state tort law are time-barred by the Tort Immunity Act.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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). The Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Bennington v. Caterpillar Inc., 275 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001).

However, once the movant has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment must offer admissible evidence in support of his version of events, and hearsay evidence does not create a genuine issue of material fact. McKenzie v. Ill. Dep't of Transp., 92 F.3d 473, 484 (7th Cir. 1996). "The mere existence of an alleged factual dispute is not sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion. . . . The non-movant will successfully oppose summary judgment only when it presents 'definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.'" Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trs. of N. Newton Sch. Corp., 278 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). Furthermore, the Court is "'not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record,"' McCoy v. Harrison, 341 F.3d ...

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