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Lopez v. Vidljinovic

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

August 22, 2016

Jose Lopez, by his wife and next best friend, Sandra Cardiel, Plaintiff,
Stevan Vidljinovic, Star No. 4051 et al., Defendants.


          John Robert Blakey United States District Court Judge.

         Plaintiff Jose Lopez, by his wife and next best friend Sandra Cardiel, sued defendants Chicago Police Officers Stevan Vidljinovic, John Guettler, Jose Valdovinos, Antonio Valenzuela, Manuel Gonzalez, Armando Alamillo, Joseph DeMonica and Daniel Lopez, Supervising Sergeant Mark Kearns, Watch Commander Robert Dubiel, Paramedics Sandra Cheatam and Julio Mendoza, and the City of Chicago. Plaintiff alleges five causes of action: (1) unlawful seizure in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) failure to intervene in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) assault and battery; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Fourth Am. Compl. [54] ¶¶ 91-128. Defendant City of Chicago has moved for summary judgment. Chi. Mot. Summ. Judg. [117]. This Court grants that motion.

         I. Background[1]

         On July 22, 2011, at approximately 3:00 a.m., Plaintiff Jose Lopez began having chest pains. CSOF [119] ¶ 4. Lopez’s friend, Guadalupe Guzman, called 911 shortly thereafter. PSOF [128] ¶ 1. Firefighters and paramedics arrived on the scene at approximately 3:30 a.m. Id. ¶¶ 1, 3. Paramedics Sandra Cheatam and Julio Mendoza attempted to administer medical treatment to Lopez. DSOF [115] ¶ 8. Personnel at the scene determined that the situation was a medical emergency and called the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) for assistance. Id. Defendant CPD Officers Stevan Vidljinovic, John Guettler, Antonio Valenzuela, Manuel Gonzalez, Jose Valdovinos, Armando Alamillo, Joseph De Monica, Daniel Lopez, and Mark Kearns (“Defendant CPD Officers”) all responded to the call for CPD assistance. Id. ¶¶ 10-13.

         The parties dispute what happened after the Defendant CPD Officers arrived. Lopez asserts that the Defendant CPD Officers ignored his refusals of medical treatment. CSOF [119] ¶ 5. CPD Officer Vidljinovic asserts that Lopez moved towards him with his fists clenched, in an aggressive manner. DSOF [115] ¶ 31. The parties do not dispute that Officer Vidljinovic eventually tased Lopez. Id. ¶ 13. After he was tased, Lopez was transported to Mt. Sinai Hospital. Id. ¶ 14.

         With regard to the City of Chicago, Lopez alleges liability pursuant to Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). More specifically, Lopez alleges that four explicit policies were the cause of his injuries: (1) Municipal Code Sec. 4-68-110; (2) Chicago EMS Policies and Procedures; (3) CPD Special Order S03-08; and (4) CPD Special Order S02-01-04. Municipal Code Sec. 4-68-110 provides that CPD officers may assist an emergency medical technician in transporting a person to a hospital when the officer is informed by an emergency medical technician that the situation constitutes an emergency and that person is in need of immediate hospitalization. PSOF [128] ¶ 7. Chicago EMS Policies and Procedures provide that CFD paramedics and EMS personnel are required to seek police assistance if a citizen will not cooperate with them by allowing either examination or transportation to a medical facility. Id. ¶ 6. CPD Special Order S03-08 requires CPD officers to assist paramedics in the transportation of a citizen for medical attention, unless that citizen refuses transportation on religious grounds. Id. ¶ 11. CPD Special Order S02-01-04 provides that citizens believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be assisted to a treatment facility if they consent. Id. ¶ 13.[2]

         Lopez also alleges that the City of Chicago failed to train its personnel regarding the use of force. To support this claim, Lopez has identified five discrete categories of purported evidence: (1) a newspaper article chronicling the increase in taser use by the CPD, PSOF [128] ¶ 15; (2) reports commemorating the dismissal of Independent Police Review Authority (“IPRA”) investigations into allegations of excessive force, id. ¶¶ 16-17; (3) statements by Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledging a “code of silence” within the CPD, id. ¶¶ 27-30; (4) letter requests from prominent politicians encouraging the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to investigate the CPD, id. ¶ 35; and (5) the alleged failure of the IPRA to investigate Lopez’s own case, id. ¶ 19-25.

         II. 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. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute as to any material fact 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 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See CTL ex rel. Trebatoski v. Ashland School District, 743 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2014).

         III. Monell Claims

         A plaintiff may bring a claim against a municipality for a federal civil rights violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Serves., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). To succeed on such a claim, however, a plaintiff must show that he suffered “a constitutional injury resulting from a municipal policy, custom, or practice.” Lewis v. Cnty. of Cook, No. 10-cv-1313, 2011 WL 839753, at *13 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 24, 2011). A plaintiff must also show that the municipal policy, custom, or practice “not only caused the constitutional violation, but was the moving force behind it.” Starks v. City of Waukegan, 946 F.Supp.2d 780, 792 (N.D. Ill. 2013) (quoting Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. Cnty. of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 514 (7th Cir. 2007)). An official policy or custom may be established via three different methods of proof: “[1] by means of an express policy, [2] a widespread practice which, although unwritten, is so entrenched and well-known as to carry the force of policy, or [3] through the actions of an individual who possesses the authority to make final policy decisions on behalf of the municipality or corporation.” Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs, 675 F.3d 650, 675 (7th Cir. 2012). Under each of the foregoing theories, the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate the existence of the policy or custom at issue. Smith v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, 165 F.3d 1142, 1149 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Board of Commissioners of Bryan County, Oklahoma v. Brown, 520 U.S. 379 (1997)). Here, Lopez does not assert that a person with final policymaking authority caused his alleged constitutional injury. The Court therefore must determine whether Lopez’s injuries can be reasonably ascribed to either an explicit policy or an established custom or practice.

         A. Explicit Policy

         There are actually two varieties of “express policy” claims under Monell. The first variation applies “where a policy explicitly violates a constitutional right when enforced.” Calhoun v. Ramsay, 408 F.3d 375, 379 (7th Cir. 2005). Under this type of claim, one application of the offensive policy resulting in a constitutional violation is sufficient to establish municipal liability. Id.

         A second way of attacking an “express policy” is to object to “omissions in the policy.” Hughes v. City of Chicago, No. 08-cv-627, 2011 WL 5395752, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 8, 2011). To prevail under this variation of the express policy theory, a plaintiff must adduce ...

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