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Skube v. Williamson

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

February 27, 2015

TAMARA SKUBE, Plaintiff,
v.
NEIL M. WILLIAMSON, Sheriff of Sangamon County, Illinois, Solely In His Official Capacity, TRAVIS KOESTER, In His Individual and Official Capacities as Deputy of The Sangamon County Sheriff's Office, SANGAMON COUNTY, SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, Defendants.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

Before the Court are the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Neil Williamson, Travis Koester, and Sangamon County (d/e 107) and Plaintiff Tamara Skube's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 108). The Defendants' Motion is GRANTED as to Skube's false arrest claim against Deputy Koester in his official capacity and her improper search and seizure claim and DENIED as to her other claims, and Skube's Motion is DENIED. Additionally, the Court issues notice to the parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f) that the Court is considering granting summary judgment in favor of Skube on her excessive force and false arrest claims against Deputy Koester in his individual capacity.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 21, 2011, Deputy Travis Koester of the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office pulled over a black sports utility vehicle driven by Clifton Flagg in which the Plaintiff, Tamara Skube, was a passenger. What followed is largely undisputed, as the events were captured by a camera mounted on the dashboard of Deputy Koester's car. Deputy Koester approached Flagg's window and informed Flagg that he had illegally stopped over two stop lines and had not stayed in his lane while making a left turn. Video, d/e 1-8 at 2:45-4:25. Deputy Koester then asked Flagg to step out of his car to perform a field sobriety test. Vid. at 4:30-4:42. Flagg eventually complied with Deputy Koester's orders to exit his vehicle, but he refused to perform the sobriety test. Vid. 4:54-5:52. While Deputy Koester was talking to Flagg about taking the sobriety test, he called in the support of Officer Rachel Leggitt of the Southern View Police Department. Vid. 5:20-5:21. When Flagg refused to perform the sobriety test, Deputy Koester ordered him to turn around and told him that he was under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Vid. 5:53-6:00. As Deputy Koester was placing Flagg under arrest, Skube briefly exited the SUV and walked to the back of the vehicle where Deputy Koester and Flagg were standing. Vid. 6:01-6:06. Deputy Koester ordered her to "get back in the car right now, " which she did. Vid. 6:07-6:14. Officer Leggitt arrived a short time later, and Deputy Koester kept his taser drawn and at the ready while Officer Leggitt handcuffed Flagg. Vid. 7:50-8:30. The officers then placed Flagg in the front seat of Deputy Koester's car. Vid. 8:45-10:22.

Deputy Koester next approached the passenger's side of Flagg's SUV and asked Skube to show him her identification. Vid. 10:34-10:37. Skube then threw a cigarette butt out of her car window, and Deputy Koester asked her to step out of the SUV and pick it up. Vid. 10:39-10:44. Skube complied with Deputy Koester's orders by stepping out of the car, showing him her identification, and picking up the cigarette butt. Vid. 10:48-11:05. She then stepped back into the passenger's side of the SUV. Vid. 11:11-11:18. At that point, Deputy Koester informed Skube that she needed to "make some arrangements to get a ride" because the SUV was "being impounded" for a "12-hour DUI hold." Vid. 11:23-11:37. Deputy Koester then asked Skube to exit the SUV again and led her back to his squad car, which was parked a short distance behind the SUV. Vid. 11:42-11:45. He instructed Skube to wait next to Officer Leggitt, who was standing by Deputy Koester's squad car and keeping an eye on Flagg in the front passenger's seat. Vid. 11:46-11:52.

Deputy Koester next returned to the passenger's side of the SUV where, according to Skube, he began looking through Skube's purse. Vid. 11:54-12:07; Skube Deposition, d/e 107-6 at 47. Skube then quickly approached Deputy Koester, exclaiming, "Hey, you have no right." Vid. 12:08-12:09. Deputy Koester turned to face her, stating, "Back up now or you're under arrest." Vid. 12:10-12:12; Deputy Koester Deposition, d/e 107-1 at 285. Skube continued to object that Deputy Koester did not have the right to search the vehicle, to which Deputy Koester replied, "I'm not searching it, I'm inventorying it. And if you don't do what I tell you right now you're going to be tased." Vid. 12:12-12:15. Skube continued to object, and Deputy Koester told her, "Turn around, you're under arrest." Vid. 12:15-12:17. Skube responded, "How am I under arrest?" and held her arms out to her sides in a questioning gesture, and Deputy Koester again told her, "Turn around and put your hands behind your back." Vid. 12:18-12:22. Skube took a step back and began to repeat that Deputy Koester "had no right, " and Deputy Koester repeated his order to "Turn around and put your hands behind your back." Vid. 12:22-12:24.

At that point, Deputy Koester raised his taser and fired it in dart mode into Skube's abdomen. Vid. 12:24-12:25. Skube turned away, screaming, as Deputy Koester approached her while telling her, "Get on the ground." Vid. 12:26-12:28. Skube and Deputy Koester then go off-screen and are no longer visible, but the video includes the audio for the remainder of their interaction. Skube screamed while Deputy Koester told her, "Roll over and put your hands behind your back or you're getting it again." Vid. 12:31-12:34. Skube began to say "all right, " and then Deputy Koester fired the taser again and Skube screamed. Vid. 12:35. Deputy Koester continued to yell at Skube to "Put your hands behind your back, " to which Skube screamed, "Okay, goddamn!" Vid. 12:36-12:41. Deputy Koester repeated that order, and Skube yelled out something inaudible. Vid. 12:42-12:46. Skube can then be heard sobbing and saying, "Oh, god." Vid. 12:47-12:52. Skube cried that she "did not do anything, " to which Deputy Koester responded, "I gave you several lawful orders and you didn't follow any of them. And then I told you turn around and put your hands behind your back, ' and you want to fight with us. I'm not doing that, okay?" Vid. 12:55-13:06. Deputy Koester then took Skube into custody. Second Amended Complaint, d/e 69 at ¶ 71.

After this incident, Flagg pled guilty to reckless driving and Skube was not charged with any offenses. Second Amended Complaint, d/e 69 at ¶¶ 57, 78. On July 13, 2012, Skube filed suit against Deputy Koester, Sheriff Neil Williamson, the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office, Sangamon County, and two of Deputy Koester's supervising officers. See Complaint, d/e 1. She amended her complaint to its current form on February 28, 2014, bringing Fourth Amendment violation claims through Section 1983 against Deputy Koester in his official and individual capacities for excessive use of force based on the first and second uses of his taser, improper search and seizure, false arrest, and false imprisonment; state-law claims against Deputy Koester in his official and individual capacities for intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery; a supervisor liability claim against Sheriff Williamson; and an indemnity claim against Sangamon County. See Second Amended Complaint, d/e 69 at 15-30.

On September 22, 2014, Skube moved for summary judgment on her improper search and seizure claim. See Plaintiff's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment, d/e 108. At the same time, the Defendants moved for summary judgment against Skube's false arrest and false imprisonment claims, her excessive use of force claims related to the first use of the taser against Deputy Koester in both his official and individual capacities, her excessive force claim related to the second use of the taser against Deputy Koester in his official capacity, the intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery claims, improper search and seizure claims, any claim for compensatory damages arising out of the search, and the supervisor liability claim. See Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, d/e 107. In response to the Defendants' motion, Skube voluntarily dismissed her claims against Deputy Koester in his official capacity for excessive use of force and improper search and seizure, her false imprisonment claims, her intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, her claim for assault and battery against Deputy Koester in his individual capacity, and her supervisor liability claim. See Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, d/e 113 at 2. The Court will address the remaining claims below.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Summary judgment is appropriate where the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, reveals that there are no genuine issues as to any material fact, meaning that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Trentadue v. Redmon, 619 F.3d 648, 652 (7th Cir. 2010) (noting that all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmovant). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the movant has met this burden, the nonmovant must present evidence sufficient to create triable issues of fact on each of the essential elements of her claim. Trentadue, 619 F.3d at 652. The court simply determines whether there is a genuine issue of fact for trial without weighing the evidence or evaluating the credibility of the parties and witnesses. Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001).

In addition to moving for summary judgment against most of Skube's claims, Deputy Koester argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity against Skube's Fourth Amendment claims. Governmental actors are entitled to qualified immunity where their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982) (providing that qualified immunity protects governmental actors from liability for civil damages).

The court applies a two-part inquiry to determine whether a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. First, the court examines whether the plaintiff has presented evidence, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, that would allow a reasonable fact finder to determine that the plaintiff was deprived of a constitutional right. Sallenger v. Oakes, 473 F.3d 731, 739 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001), overruled in part by Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). Second, the court examines whether the particular constitutional right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. Id . A court may, in its discretion, address the second prong of the test first. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 242.

The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the existence of a clearly established constitutional right. Rice v. Burks, 999 F.2d 1172, 1174 (7th Cir. 1993). A plaintiff may do this by either pointing to a closely analogous case or showing that the conduct was so egregious that no reasonable officer would have thought he was acting lawfully. Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 691 (7th Cir. 2008); Abbott v. Sangamon Cnty., Ill., 705 F.3d 706, 723-24 (7th Cir. 2013). "Importantly, the right must be clearly established in a particularized sense, rather than in an abstract or general sense." Abbott, 705 F.3d at 731. However, "a case directly on point is not required for a right to be clearly established and officials can still be on notice that their conduct violates established law even in novel factual circumstances.'" Phillips v. Cmty. Ins. Corp., 678 F.3d 513, 528 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 741 (2002)).

III. ANALYSIS

The Defendants move for summary judgment on Skube's excessive force claim against Deputy Koester in his individual capacity related to the first use of his taser, her improper search and seizure claim against Deputy Koester in his individual capacity, her false arrest claims against Deputy Koester in his official and individual capacities, and her assault and battery claim against Deputy Koester in his official capacity.[1] See Defs.' Mot., d/e 107. Skube moves for summary judgment on her improper search and seizure claim. Pl.'s Mot., d/e 108. The Court finds that summary judgment should be granted against Skube's false arrest claim against Deputy Koester in his official capacity and her improper search and seizure claim and denied against the remainder of her claims. The Court also finds that Skube's motion for summary judgment should be denied. Additionally, the Court issues notice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f) that the Court is considering granting summary judgment in favor of Skube on her false arrest and excessive force claims against Deputy Koester in his individual capacity.

A. Deputy Koester is entitled to summary judgment against Skube's false arrest claim against him in his official capacity.

As an initial matter, Deputy Koester should be granted summary judgment against Skube's false arrest claim against him in his official capacity. "An official capacity suit is the same as a suit against the entity of which the officer is an agent." DeGenova v. Sheriff of DuPage Cnty., 209 F.3d 973, 975 (7th Cir. 2000). Because such a claim is really brought against a defendant's employer, a plaintiff must show that her constitutional rights were violated due to a "policy, custom, or practice" of the employing entity. Waters v. City of Chicago, 580 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009). A plaintiff may make such a showing by establishing "(1) an express policy that causes a constitutional deprivation when enforced; (2) a widespread practice that is so permanent and well-settled that it constitutes a custom or practice; or (3) an allegation that the constitutional injury was caused by a person with final policymaking authority." Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. Cnty. of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 515 (7th Cir. 2007).

Skube voluntarily dismissed all of her other claims against Deputy Koester in his official capacity, and she does not present any arguments related to a pattern, practice, or custom within the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office related to false arrests. See Pl.'s Resp., d/e 113 at 10-16. Therefore, the Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted as to Skube's false arrest claim against Deputy Koester in his official capacity.

B. Deputy Koester is not entitled to summary judgment or qualified immunity against Skube's false arrest claim against him in his individual capacity.

While Deputy Koester may be entitled to summary judgment against Skube's false arrest claim against him in his official capacity, the same is not true of Skube's false arrest claim against him in his individual capacity. Skube's false arrest claim amounts to an allegation that Deputy Koester violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure by arresting her without probable cause. It follows that if Deputy Koester did have probable cause to arrest Skube, her false arrest claim must fail. See Morfin v. City of E. Chicago, 349 F.3d 989, 997 (7th Cir. 2003); Juriss v. McGowan, 957 F.2d 345, 349 (7th Cir. 1992) ("[A] person arrested with probable cause cannot cry false arrest."). Deputy Koester had probable cause to arrest Skube if "the facts and circumstances within [Deputy Koester's] knowledge and of which [he] ha[d] reasonably trustworthy information [were] sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing [Skube] ha[d] committed or [was] committing an offense." See United States v. Sawyer, 224 F.3d 675, 678-79 (7th Cir. 2000).

Deputy Koester claims that he had probable cause to arrest Skube for the offense of resisting or obstructing a peace officer. Defs.' Mot., d/e 107 at 9. He further argues that even if he did not have probable cause to arrest her, he is entitled to qualified immunity against Skube's claim because there ...


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