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Robin L. Knight v. Ron Kerstein

October 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo United States District Judge


Defendants DuPage County Sheriff's Deputies Ron Kerstein, Gary Naydenoff, David Hakim, and Mark Asmussen (collectively, "Deputies" or "defendants") seek summary judgment on plaintiff Robin Knight's second Amended Complaint at Law ("Amended Complaint" or "Complaint"). The Amended Complaint alleges three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: 1) excessive force; 2) failure to intervene; and 3) false detention. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages, which defendants also challenge in this motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, I deny the motion in part and grant it in part.


Many of the facts in this case are disputed. The parties agree that, on the morning of October 18, 2007, DuPage County Sheriff's Deputies, including defendants, and Lisle, Illinois Police Officers were searching for Tammy Unak-Murray, a reportedly suicidal and missing person thought to be in or near the "Four Lakes" area of unincorporated Lisle, Illinois. Defendants received a "Missing Suicidal" flyer that included a low-quality picture of the missing woman and a description of her physical and mental state. Unak-Murray was described in the flyer as female, white, thirty-seven years of age, weighing 128 pounds, height of 5' 04", "shoulder length blonde hair," and green eyes. She had last been seen wearing a gray sweater and dark corduroy pants. The flyer also indicated that Unak-Murray was "bi-polar on medication" and "known to carry razor blades in her socks."*fn1 Though the photo on the flyer was of a poor quality, defendants state a Lisle Police Officer who was familiar with Unak-Murray was available to identify her.

That same morning, Knight was walking on Four Lakes Avenue in the "Four Lakes" area of Lisle. At the time, Knight, who is female and white, was forty-four years of age, weighed 125-130 pounds, was approximately 5' 04 1/2", and had "dark blondish" hair and "hazel" eyes. On the morning in question, Knight was wearing "gray pants" and a "black windbreaker." Knight was on her way to a near-by convenience store ("the pantry") for coffee before going to a job interview. Kerstein and Naydenoff spotted Knight while they were driving in the area in an unmarked Sheriff's Department vehicle. The two Deputies approached Knight and Naydenoff, dressed in casual clothes, got out of the vehicle and attempted to engage Knight.

At this point, the parties' version of the ensuing encounters diverge. Knight testified in her deposition that the vehicle almost blocked her path and Naydenoff quickly jumped out and engaged her without identifying himself, though Knight also indicated in her testimony that at some point she became aware that the defendants were in fact law enforcement officers. Defendants counter that Naydenoff did in fact identify himself and also that he attempted to explain his purpose in stopping Knight. Both parties agree, though, that Naydenoff showed Knight the picture of Unak-Murray on the flyer, and asked if Knight knew or recognized the woman. Knight told Naydenoff that she did not recognize the woman in the picture and could not help any further. Knight also told Naydenoff that she had a job interview that morning and wanted to be on her way to the pantry for her coffee. Knight disengaged and continued on her walk.

The parties disagree as to whether or not Naydenoff and Kerstein requested that Knight identify herself, with defendants claiming they did request identification and plaintiff claiming they did not.*fn2 The parties also disagree on the point of Knight's behavior. Knight claims that she simply ended the conversation with Naydenoff, but the defendants contend that Knight responded to Naydenoff's attempt to engage her "by continually swearing at him" and "yelling at him to leave her alone."

In either case, it is undisputed that Naydenoff and Kerstein continued to follow Knight in their car. One of the Deputies then got out of the car and began following Knight on foot. The Deputy addressed Knight as "Tammy," calling out the name as he followed her. According to Knight, she explained to the Deputy that her identification was at home but that the employees at the pantry would be able to identify her. The Deputies did not take Knight up on her offer, and claim that Knight continued to yell and swear at them. According to defendants, Kerstein communicated the situation to the command post, and additional officers were dispatched, including the Lisle police officer who would be able to identify Unak-Murray.

Defendants state that Hakim and Asmussen heard the radio call indicating that it was believed Unak-Murray had been sighted, and drove to the area of the pantry. Hakim and Asmussen observed Knight either running or walking toward the pantry, and they decided to block the entrance to the store. The Deputies stopped their vehicle in front of the entrance, and got out of the vehicle to block Knight's path. The Deputies were, again, in an unmarked vehicle and were wearing casual clothes, though Knight observed that Hakim was wearing his badge on his belt. Again, the parties dispute whether or not the Deputies identified themselves to Knight, with Knight stating that they did not and defendants claiming that they did.

Knight continued her attempt to get past the Deputies and into the pantry. She claims that one of the Deputies was still yelling "Tammy," and she testified that she told Hakim or Asmussen that she needed to get into the convenience store to get "an identification." Defendants have testified that she approached Hakim and Asmussen yelling obscenities and saying that she didn't have to talk and had a "medical condition." Knight attempted to enter the pantry, but Hakim stopped her from doing so. According to defendants, she tried to kick Hakim and possibly Asmussen as well. Knight claims that she did not attempt to kick any of the defendants.

Whether or not Knight kicked or attempted to kick any of the defendants, the parties agree that before Knight could enter the store, Hakim and Asmussen physically took hold of Knight by her arms and legs and brought her down to the ground. Knight testified that at this point she was yelling for an employee who she believed was working in the convenience store and then yelled "I am not Tammy. I told you I am not Tammy. My name is Robin." Defendants testified that Knight yelled at them to leave her alone and that she was also yelling obscenities.

Knight's version of how Hakim and Asmussen brought her down onto the ground differs from defendants' version. Defendants recount only one instance of physical contact: That after Knight attempted to kick them, they controlled her actions and brought her to the ground. According to defendants, the Deputies restrained Knight less than a minute before the Lisle police officer arrived and confirmed that she was not Unak-Murray. According to Knight, Hakim grabbed her, pushed her behind him, and then let her go. Shortly after, one of the Deputies grabbed her arms behind her back and someone then kicked her knee out from behind, causing her to fall. After she fell to the ground, Hakim grabbed her ankles, flipped her onto her back, and eventually manipulated her legs against her torso. As to the latter action, Knight claims that Hakim pushed her legs down and twisted them like a pretzel by crossing her right leg over her left at the knee. Further, Knight says that she was screaming that Hakim was hurting her neck and back and also informed him that she had health problems. Knight testified that she believes the time that elapsed from the moment Hakim initially grabbed her to when he released her was more than ten but less than fifteen minutes. Knight admits that she was released quickly after the Lisle police officer confirmed that she was not, in fact, Unak-Murray.


Summary judgment is appropriate where the record shows that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A genuine issue for trial exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment initially bears the burden of "identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the movant has met its burden, the non-moving party may not "resist the motion and withstand summary judgment by merely resting on its pleadings." Keri v. Board of Trustees of Purdue University, 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006). Rather, the non-movant must show there is a genuinely disputed ...

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