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Bartl v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 27, 2014

ERIC BARTL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER ELADGIO GASPAR, STAR #8488 and CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER FRANCISCO DUARTE, STAR #10400, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN Z. LEE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Eric Bartl ("Bartl") brings this suit against Defendants the City of Chicago (the "City") and Chicago Police Officers Eladio Gaspar ("Gaspar") and Francisco Duarte ("Duarte"), alleging violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"). Bartl contends that Gaspar and Duarte wrongfully arrested him while responding to a taxi fare dispute. Additionally, Bartl alleges that the each of the officers failed to intervene while the other was depriving him of his constitutional rights. Bartl also brings state law claims, alleging that the officers conspired to arrest him, that the City is liable for their actions, and that the City should pay compensatory damages due to the officers' wrongdoings.

The City, Gaspar, and Duarte jointly seek summary judgment on Bartl's false arrest claim, arguing that Bartl is collaterally estopped from bringing this claim, or, alternatively, that the officers had probable cause to arrest him. Because the validity of the section 1983 failure to intervene claim depends on whether Gaspar and Duarte wrongfully arrested Bartl, Defendants seek summary judgment on that claim as well. Due to the multiple disputed material facts involving the encounter that led to Bartl's arrest, the Court denies Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the wrongful arrest and failure to intervene claims. Bartl's state law claims are time barred and Plaintiff makes no effort to defend them; therefore, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on those claims.

Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed, except where otherwise noted. On September 18, 2011, Bartl hailed a cab on the north side of Chicago near the intersection of Crosby Street and Larrabee Street. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 1. He and the cab driver promptly agreed on the appropriate route to his destination, a movie theater on the corner of Cermak Road and Cicero Road. Id. The cab was to take Interstate 290, exit at Kostner, continue southbound to Cermak, and then turn westbound to Cicero. Id. After exiting Interstate 290 but before reaching the move theater, the taxi driver demanded payment, resulting in an argument with Bartl. Id. ¶¶ 2-18.[1]

Officers Duarte and Gaspar responded to the scene approximately ten minutes later and began investigating the situation by talking to both Bartl and the taxi driver. Id. ¶¶ 18-20. The officers had been informed prior to arriving that there was a dispute between a taxi driver and his customer, who refused to pay. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 14. Upon arrival at the scene, Gaspar and Duarte began their investigation by questioning the cab driver, followed by Bartl. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 20-22. Unsurprisingly, the two parties presented conflicting stories. Bartl told the officers that he had been held captive inside of the cab after not remitting payment before reaching the agreed destination, and that the cab driver had attempted to attack him following their argument. Id. ¶¶ 5, 8, 15, 22. The cab driver, on the other hand, claimed that Bartl had started acting strangely by sticking his head through the partition and screaming. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 18. After hearing both stories, Duarte made it clear to Bartl that he would be arrested if he did not pay the fare. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 24; Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 25.

What occurred next is a matter of dispute. Bartl claims that he told both Gaspar and Duarte that he would pay the fare and displayed a $20.00 bill that he had in his pocket to both of them. Additionally, Bartl claims that he had at least $100.00 in his wallet with which he could have paid the fare. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 25-27. Though he had responded yes to their inquiries of whether he would pay, Gaspar additionally asked Bartl whether he wanted to pay. Id. ¶ 28. Bartl responded that he did not think that he should have to pay. Id. ¶ 29. According to Bartl, officer Gaspar then said, "so you're not going to pay him, " to which Bartl repeatedly replied that he would indeed pay. Id. Bartl, however, was handcuffed and arrested at this point for failure to pay the cab fare based on a criminal complaint signed by the cab driver. Id. ¶ 30; Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 26.

Defendants dispute Bartl's version of events. Instead, they claim that Bartl never took out a $20.00 bill, did not have any money in his wallet, never offered to pay, and is mischaracterizing the way in which the officers asked him to pay his fare. Defs.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 24-30, 32.

As a result of this encounter, Bartl was charged with misdemeanor theft of services and was released on bond about six hours after his arrest. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 31. The prosecutor, however, voluntarily dismissed Bartl's case and his criminal record was expunged. Id. ¶¶ 32-33. Subsequently, Bartl filed a lawsuit in state court against the cab driver and cab company on multiple grounds, including malicious prosecution. Id. ¶¶ 34, 37. A jury trial commenced in October, 2013, and a verdict was returned in favor of the defendants on all claims. Id. ¶¶ 35, 39.

Legal Standard

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant 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). The Court gives "the non-moving party the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that could be drawn from it." Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th Cir. 2013). In order to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party 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), and instead "must establish some genuine issue for trial such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor." Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2012). The Court will, however, "limit its analysis of the facts on summary judgment to evidence that is properly identified and supported in the parties' [Local Rule 56.1] statements." Bordelon v. Chi. Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000).

Analysis

I. Section 1983 False Arrest Claim

Defendants move for summary judgment on Bartl's false arrest claim on three alternative grounds. They first argue that, because Bartl's claim of malicious prosecution was defeated in his state court lawsuit, he should be estopped from bringing a section 1983 false arrest claim. Alternatively, Defendants argue that the officers had probable cause to arrest Bartl, or ...


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