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Eric Chagolla v. City of Chicago

February 8, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:


Eric Chagolla has sued the City of Chicago and seven Chicago police officers, claiming that the officers arrested him without probable cause and made false statements that caused him to be charged with a crime and detained. Chagolla has asserted five claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and three state-law claims against the officers. He has also asserted three claims against the city, one of which the Court previously stayed. All of the defendants now seek summary judgment in whole or in part.*fn1 For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motions in part and denies them in part.


On a motion for summary judgment, the Court construes all facts favorably to the nonmoving party and makes reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Eaton v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 657 F.3d 551, 552 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court takes the following facts from the parties' memoranda of law and statements of uncontested facts.

Around 10 p.m. on August 12, 2005, Chagolla and Salvador Mancia walked from a tavern to Mancia's residence at 2032 North Keeler Avenue in Chicago. Chagolla sometimes stayed at Mancia's apartment, but he had not been there for several days. As Mancia was unlocking the door, Chagolla heard cars pulling up and someone saying, "Freeze, put your hands up." Chagolla then turned around and saw Finnigan, Herrera, Markiewicz, Hopkins, and Parker, who were all wearing their police uniforms. One of the officers told Chagolla to walk backwards down the porch steps. After he did so, an officer grabbed him, patted him down, handcuffed him, and placed him in the back seat of a squad car. Another officer placed Mancia in the same car.

From the car, Chagolla watched Finnigan, Herrera, and Markiewicz enter the house using Mancia's keys. Parker and Hopkins then entered the car, and Parker drove it to an alley behind the house. Mancia was then removed from the car. Chagolla testified that he then saw Finnigan, Herrera, Markiewicz, and Zogg walk from the direction of the house carrying black garbage bags, which turned out to contain a large quantity of cocaine and marijuana. Chagolla also alleges that the officers took money and some of his clothing from the house.

After the officers placed the garbage bags in the trunk of one of the cars, Parker and Hopkins drove Chagolla through various nearby streets and alleys. The air conditioning in the car was running during this time. Eventually, Parker and Hopkins pulled into a vacant lot, followed by the other officers in their squad cars. Parker and Hopkins exited the car, leaving the window slightly cracked. The officers formed a "huddle" to speak to each other, which they did for fifteen to twenty minutes, leaving Chagolla alone in the back seat. Chagolla felt extremely hot and anxious during this time. He testified that he "was almost asphyxiated" while sitting in the car. Chagolla Dep. at 291:2-22. He does not allege that the officers hit him or physically threatened him, that he sustained any physical injuries, or that he sought medical attention based on the officers' actions during his arrest. The temperature that evening ranged from seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit at 9 p.m. to seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit at midnight.

After leaving the huddle, Parker and Hopkins returned to the squad car and drove Chagolla to a police station. Chagolla was eventually indicted for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. He was detained for approximately eight months before posting bail in March 2006. On September 14, 2006, county prosecutors made a nolle prosequi motion in his case, and the case was dismissed.

Finnigan, Herrera, Hopkins, and Markiewicz were later charged criminally for various offenses in connection with their police work, including armed violence, residential burglary, theft, and acts similar to those alleged by Chagolla. The incidents surrounding Chagolla's arrest provided one of the bases for these charges. All four officers eventually pled guilty to some or all of the charges against them.


Summary judgment is appropriate where the record shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Lexington Ins. Co. v. Rugg & Knopp, Inc., 165 F.3d 1087, 1090 (7th Cir. 1999); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable and justifiable inferences in favor of that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). "The nonmoving party must offer something more than a 'scintilla' of evidence to overcome summary judgment . . . and must do more than 'simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Roger Whitmore's Auto. Servs. v. Lake County, Ill., 424 F.3d 659, 667 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

Chagolla has sued the individual defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and detention, failure to intervene, and deprivation of due process. He has also asserted state-law claims against the officers for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conversion.

Chagolla has also sued the City of Chicago on a theory of respondeat superior on Chagolla's state-law claims, for indemnification under 745 ILCS 10/9-102, and under section 1983 based on his allegations that the City had a pattern or practice of condoning this type of police behavior and that it was aware of similar misbehavior by the defendants and others in their unit but did nothing to correct it. The Court has stayed the section 1983 claim against the city. As the Court will explain below, it grants summary judgment in favor of the individual defendants on some but not all of Chagolla's claims. Therefore, to the extent that the city has moved for summary judgment on the issues of statutory indemnification and respondeat superior for the claims and/or defendants that no longer will be a part of this lawsuit, the Court grants the city's motion. To the extent that "the City requests that summary judgment be entered in its favor on all claims against it in plaintiff's complaint," City of Chicago Mem. at 3, the Court denies the motion.

1. Excessive force

Chagolla claims that leaving him in the back seat of the squad car while huddling for fifteen or twenty minutes was the officers' way of "roasting" or "sweating" him and amounted to excessive force. Pl.'s Resp. at 2. He contends that the officers who left him in the car or knew that he remained there were "mentally torturing [him] in order to get him to confess or produce other goods." Id. Defendants respond that the action of leaving a suspect in the back seat of a hot car for this length of time cannot constitute excessive force. Some of the individual defendants also argue that even if this action did violate Chagolla's rights, they are not liable because they were not personally involved in placing Chagolla in the car.

Chagolla argues that "the defendants . . . surely knew anything they were doing with Chagolla after he was stopped without probable case and while they continued their criminal acts was illegal." Id. at 4. To the extent that this represents a contention that "any amount of force used to an effect an arrest without probable cause is per se excessive," it is incorrect. Carlson v. Bukovic, 621 F.3d 610, 622 n.19 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting McKenna v. City of Philadelphia, 582 F.3d 447, 460 (3d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Instead, the Court must consider whether the alleged force was itself unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 768 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989)). "[T]he 'reasonableness' of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight." Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. The question is "whether the officers' actions are 'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Id. at 397.

Courts have recognized that detaining a suspect in a police car in extreme heat can constitute excessive force. In Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 944-45 (6th Cir. 2002), the Sixth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of officers who left a handcuffed suspect in an unventilated police car for three hours in ninety degree heat. A number of courts, however, have found that detention in a hot car for periods of twenty, thirty, or even forty-five minutes -- much longer than the fifteen to twenty minutes in Chagolla's case -- does not violate the Constitution. See Emmerick v. City of Gatlinburg, No. 08 C 305, 2010 WL 3861047, at *3-4 (E.D. Tenn. Sept. 24, 2010) (collecting cases).

Although the officers concede that Chagolla experienced discomfort in the car and claims to have felt as if he was being suffocated, they argue correctly that the Court must analyze the objective reasonableness of their actions, rather than Chagolla's subjective experience. The Court concludes that no reasonable jury could find that the officers responsible for leaving Chagolla in the car acted unreasonably in doing so. In addition to the relatively brief length of Chagolla's detention in the police car, a window in the car was at least slightly cracked, meaning that the car was not entirely unventilated, and the air conditioning had been on before the officers got out. Although the temperature was in the high 70s, Chagolla was not exposed to direct heat from the sun, because it was after 10 p.m. ...

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