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Russian v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

December 18, 2014




Plaintiff Carlos Russian has sued the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Officer Kevin Navarro pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as for battery and negligence pursuant to state law. In addition, Plaintiff has sued the City of Chicago for respondeat superior liability and indemnification under Illinois law. The City of Chicago and Officer Navarro (“Defendants”) have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons provided herein, the Court grants Defendants’ motion.[1]

Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On August 30, 2011 at around 2:00 a.m., Officer Navarro responded to a call from the police dispatcher to investigate a complaint about drag racing on South Chicago Avenue. Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. B, Navarro Dep. at 34:4-14. South Chicago Avenue has two southbound lanes, two northbound lanes, as well as bike and parking lanes on each side. Id. ¶ 21. This particular stretch of South Chicago Avenue is well known by Chicago police officers, including Navarro, for drag racing. Id. at 25:5-13, 28:5-10, 40:21-41:2, 73:5-9. It is also known as a common late-night meeting place for motorcyclists. Id. Ex. C, Benjamin Perez Dep. at 26:9-20, 28:11-21, Ex. E, Plaintiff’s Dep. at 81:14-20.

When Navarro was about three quarters of a mile away from the site of the incident, he could hear the revving of engines. Id. ¶ 19. Based on his prior investigations into incidents of drag racing, Navarro believed the revving of engines signaled that a race was about to begin. Id. Ex. B, Navarro Dep. at 35:15-19. As Navarro drove northbound on South Chicago Avenue, he no longer heard the revving of engines. Id. ¶ 24. As Navarro continued driving northbound on South Chicago Avenue, he observed a crowd of people gathered on the west side of the street, both on the sidewalk and in the street.[2] Id. ¶ 27. Navarro also saw the headlights of two motorcycles that were stationary at a traffic light approximately two hundred feet north of the crowd’s location. Id. ¶¶ 31-32. Plaintiff Carlos Russian was one of the two motorcyclists. Id. ¶ 33. Based on his prior experiences, Navarro believed that these individuals could be either participants in, or observers of, drag racing. Id. ¶ 30.

Navarro then drove into the southbound lane driving northbound.[3] Id. ¶ 34. It is undisputed that the two motorcycles were stationary when Navarro moved into the southbound lane. Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 24. It is also undisputed that both motorcyclists only started moving southbound towards Navarro when Navarro was already travelling northbound in the southbound lane. Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 28; Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 36 (Plaintiff stating that “The motorcycles started to move southbound only after Navarro drove toward the motorcycles whilst in the southbound lane.”). The parties agree that Navarro crossed into the southbound lane because he wanted to issue tickets to the motorcyclists for drag racing. Defs.’ Resp. Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 12.

Plaintiff asserts, and Defendants dispute, that when Defendant Navarro entered the southbound lanes, he drove directly toward the stationary motorcycles. Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 12; Pl.’s’ LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 34. Defendants counter, and Plaintiff denies, that Navarro drove his car over to the curb toward the crowd. Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 34, 36, Ex. B, Navarro Dep. at 46:2-15.

Defendant Navarro states that he did not notice the headlights of the motorcycles coming toward him until a second before impact. Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 37.[4] When Navarro realized that the motorcycles were coming toward him, he did not want to move his vehicle either to the left or right. Id., Ex. B, Navarro Dep. at 52:24-53:4, 53:3-13. Rather, he wanted to stay where he was because he did not believe the motorcycles were going to come directly at him. Id. at.

Russian first saw Navarro’s headlights in the lane closest to the curb, facing toward him. Id. ¶ 38. Once Russian’s motorcycle was in motion, Russian was unable to stop or drive onto the curb to avoid the collision. Id. ¶ 42.

Navarro’s car and Russian’s motorcycle collided head on. Id. ¶ 44. Russian’s speed right before impact was between twenty-five and thirty-five miles per hour. Id. ¶ 39. Although Navarro stated that his foot was on the accelerator before the collision, Navarro’s car was decelerating right before, and at the moment of, the collision. Compare Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 15, Ex. 3, Jan. 23, 2012 Trial Transcript, Navarro Testimony at 25:14-17 (stating that his foot was on the accelerator), with Defs.’ Ex. B, Navarro Dep. at 52:24-53:3-17 (stating that he was moving forward but slowing down), and Defs.’ Ex. D, Dash Camera Video at 10:11-10:14 (showing that the vehicle was decelerating immediately before the collision).

Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate 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); see Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Servs., Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 456 (1992). Section 1983 permits an individual to sue for damages for the deprivation of rights “secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994); see Kole v. Vill. of Norridge, 941 F.Supp.2d 933, 962 (N.D. Ill. 2013).


The Fourth Amendment guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Thus, the Fourth Amendment inquiry necessarily begins with a determination of whether a seizure actually occurred. See Leaf v. Shelnutt, 400 F.3d 1070, 1089 (7th Cir. 2005) (“In order to determine whether [an officer] seized [an individual] in violation of the Fourth Amendment, . . . [w]e first consider whether [the individual] was seized . . . .”). If that question is answered in the affirmative, then the court asks whether the seizure was unreasonable. See Brower v. Cnty. of ...

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