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Esteban Montano, David Mendez, Yesenia Mendez, Julio Perales, and v. Jesse Atilano

September 29, 2011

ESTEBAN MONTANO, DAVID MENDEZ, YESENIA MENDEZ, JULIO PERALES, AND RICARDO RUIZ, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JESSE ATILANO, CHRISTINE LAFRANCIS, FAITH LAMBERT, NATHAN LOPEZ, KENNETH MADUZIA, AND RICHARD TOOLIS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On November 19, 1997, several plaintiffs including Esteban Montano, David Mendez, Yesenia Mendez, Julio Perales, and Ricardo Ruiz (collectively "Plaintiffs"), initiated this civil rights action against the City of Chicago and certain officers of the Chicago Police Department, including Jesse Atilano, Christine LaFrancis, Faith Lambert, Nathan Lopez, Kenneth Maduzia, and Richard Toolis, asserting various claims, including 42 U.S.C. § 1983 false arrest, unreasonable search, and excessive force claims, based on an incident occurring on September 14, 1996. This case has a protracted history in the federal courts, including three appeals to the Seventh Circuit. The extensive procedural history is set forth in Montano v. City of Chicago, 535 F.3d 558 (7th Cir. 2008). After the retirement of U.S. District Judge Wayne Anderson, the case was reassigned to this court on October 29, 2010, and set for a jury trial on Montano's, David Mendez's, Yesenia Mendez's, Perales's, and Ruiz's claims against Officers Atilano, LaFrancis, Lambert, Lopez, Maduzia, and Toolis.

That jury trial commenced April 25, 2011 and concluded with the jury's verdict on May 9, 2011. The jury found in favor of plaintiff Montano on his claim for false arrest under the Fourth Amendment against Officers Atilano and LaFrancis. The jury also found in favor of Montano on his claim of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment against Officers Atilano, Lopez, and Toolis, and his claim for malicious prosecution against Officers Atilano and LaFrancis. On Montano's Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim against Officer Maduzia, the jury found Officer Maduzia not liable. The jury awarded Montano $100,000 in compensatory damages and $17,000 in punitive damages, which consisted of $5,000 in punitive damages against Officer Atilano; $2,000 in punitive damages against Officer LaFrancis; $5,000 in punitive damages against Officer Lopez; and $5,000 in punitive damages against Officer Toolis.

The jury found in favor of plaintiff David Mendez on his claim of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment against Officer Lopez and awarded Mendez $15,000 in compensatory damages and $2,000 in punitive damages against Officer Lopez.

On Ruiz's, Yesenia Mendez's, and Perales's Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claims and Ruiz's Fourth Amendment excessive force claim, the jury found that the accused officers were not liable.

Defendants Atilano, LaFrancis, Lopez, and Toolis (collectively "Defendants") have filed a "Motion for New Trial on Damages or in the Alternative a Remittitur" (Dkt. No. 608) seeking a new trial on Montano's and David Mendez's compensatory damages award or, in the alternative, a remittitur. Additionally, Defendants argue that they are entitled to either judgment or a new trial on Montano's and David Mendez's punitive damages award. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND*fn1

I. Background Relevant to Montano's Damages

In the evening of September 14, 1997, several Chicago Police Officers, including Defendants, were on patrol and stopped at the corner of 25th Street and Whipple in Chicago where Plaintiffs were outside celebrating Mexican Independence Day. Officer Atilano told plaintiffs Montano, Ruiz, and Perales to put their hands on the squad car and then proceeded to conduct pat downs of Montano, Ruiz, and Perales. At trial, Montano testified that during the pat down he felt pain in his testicles, and turned around and asked Officer Atilano, "Why did you hit me?" At that point, according to Montano's trial testimony, Officer Atilano began to strike Montano with his flashlight. Montano further testified that a second officer, Officer Toolis, came to Montano's right side and hit Montano on the neck and head with his flashlight. Then, according to Montano, a third officer, Officer LaFrancis, began pulling Montano's hair. Montano also testified that Officer Toolis began to choke him, causing Montano to being losing consciousness. At this time, according to Montano, he was experiencing both fear and physical pain. A video was played at trial depicting a portion of this incident between the officers and Montano. Montano was arrested and eventually charged with disorderly conduct. According to Montano, while he was at the police station, Officer Lopez repeatedly punched and kicked him.

After being bailed out of jail, Montano saw Dr. Mendez, David Mendez's father, regarding the injuries Montano had sustained. After that Montano began taking pain killers to treat his pain. He also applied bandages to his ribs. The next day, Montano saw his family doctor for additional treatment. Montano also presented photographs of his injuries taken on September 15, 1997. The photographs depicted the injuries to Montano's face, ribs, and wrists. Montano testified that after taking the photographs, he then went to a hospital for treatment for his back, ribs, and wrists. He received pain killers and a cane and used the cane for approximately eight months. Montano further testified that after the September 14, 1997 incident, he went to a physical therapist, who used both cooling and heating pads to work on the swelling in Montano's back. He received this treatment for a year, starting at five days a week and then eventually reducing to three days a week. Montano also testified that he received treatment from additional doctors, one for the pain in his back and another for the pain in his testicles. As a result of his injuries, Montano could not return to his job. He also was unable to have intimate relations with his wife due to the injuries to his testicles and his back. Montano additionally testified that the disorderly conduct charge was pending against him for almost a year. He had to retain counsel and went to trial, but the disorderly conduct charge against him ultimately was dropped.

II. Background Relevant to David Mendez's Damages

David Mendez was also present at the corner of 25th Street and Whipple during the September 14, 1994 incident. At trial, Mendez testified that he was watching the altercation between Montano and Officers Atilano, LaFrancis, and Toolis, and upon turning to leave, an officer grabbed Mendez's shirt, swung Mendez around, and knocked him to the concrete.

Mendez hit his knee, his chest, and his face on the ground. At one point, an officer was standing on Mendez's face. Mendez then saw Officer Lopez kick him in the ribs. Mendez was never able to identify the two other officers who were holding him down. During the trial, Mendez testified that as a result of the kick to his ribs, he had rib pain for one or two ...


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