Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lopez v. Vidljinovic

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

February 16, 2017

JOSE LOPEZ, by his wife and next best friend, Sandra Cardiel, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVAN VIDLJINOVIC, Star No. 4051, et al . Defendants.,

          LAURA M. RANUM, One of the Attorneys for Defendants

          DEFENDANTS' RULE 50 MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

          Honorable John R. Blakey Judge

         Defendants, by their attorneys and pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a), move this Court for a directed verdict on all counts of the Fourth Amended Complaint. In support, Defendants state:

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff has been fully heard on all of his claims and no disputed issues of fact exist which require the jury to resolve any of Plaintiff's claims. As an initial matter, Plaintiff has presented no evidence of any personal involvement of any defendant in Counts I (Section 1983 illegal seizure) and II (Section 1983 excessive force) other than Officer Vidljinovic. Regarding the claims against Officer Vidljinovic in Counts I and II, Plaintiff's case failed to rebut Defendants Guettler and Vidljinovic's testimony that Jose Lopez assaulted Guettler, thus providing both probable cause for seizure, and justification for Vidljinovic's single use of the Taser to seize Lopez. Defendant Vidljinovic is entitled to qualified immunity. Furthermore, all of the defendant officers who were bystanders had no reasonable opportunity to prevent the tasing, which they had no advance notice was going to occur, and happened very quickly. This same dearth of evidence deals fatal blows to Plaintiff's state law claims. As such, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         FACTS ESTABLISHED AT TRIAL

         On July 22, 2011, at approximately 3:23 a.m., Plaintiff Jose Lopez's girlfriend, Guadalupe Guzman, called “911" and informed the emergency operator that he was having trouble breathing. When Defendant Paramedics Mendoza and Cheatham arrived, they attempted to assess Plaintiff, but could not safely do so because he was acting erratically and appeared to be under the influence of PCP. Fire Department personnel called for police assistance. Upon arrival, some of the Defendant Officers took turns trying to speak to and persuade Plaintiff to go with the paramedics. The Defendant Officers also believed Plaintiff was under the influence of PCP. After unsuccessful attempts by other officers, Defendant Guettler approached Plaintiff to try to pursuade him to go to the ambulance. However, when Guettler touched the back of Plaintiff's arm, Plaintiff violently swung his fists at Guettler prompting Defendant Vidljinovic to discharge his Taser once. Plaintiff then fell to the ground. According to Ms. Guzman, Plaintiff repeatedly refused the officers' and paramedics' attempts to assist him. However, she did not see what happened immediately before Plaintiff was tased. Further, she testified that her view of the interaction between Plaintiff and the officers who were following him was at times obstructed and she did not see what occurred just before the deployment of the Taser. After Plaintiff was tased, he was placed on a gurney and taken to the hospital. Ms. Guzman testified that she believed the officers and paramedics on scene were there to help Plaintiff.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A court may enter judgment as a matter of law against a party “[i]f a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). “A legally sufficient amount of evidence need not be overwhelming, but it must be more than a ‘mere scintilla.'” Filipovich v. K & R Express Sys., Inc., 391 F.3d 859, 863 (7th Cir. 2004). A motion for judgment as a matter of law “may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury” and must “specify the judgment sought and the law and facts that entitle the movant to the judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2). The standard for judgment as a matter of law “‘mirrors'” that for summary judgment, such that “‘the inquiry under each is the same.'” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51 (1986)). Therefore, the question for the court is whether there is sufficient evidence upon which the jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, who bears the burden of proof. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         I. Defendants are Entitled to Judgment as a Matter of Law on Plaintiff's Section 1983 Seizure Claim (Count I).

         It is undisputed that Plaintiff was seized when he was tased by Officer Vidljinovic, leaving only a question of the reasonableness of that seizure. As an initial matter, this case involves one officer firing his Taser one time: all other Defendant Officers lack the requisite personal involvement to be liable under Plaintiff's seizure claim, entitling them to judgment as a matter of law. See, Wilson v. Warren County, Ill., 830 F.3d 464, 469 (7th Cir. 2016) (“Plaintiffs must show that the defendants were personally responsible for the deprivation of their rights.”) citing Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995). Additionally, as addressed in detail below, Officer Vidljinovic's actions were reasonable under the circumstances and as such, he is also entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         A seizure occurs when by either means of physical force or a show of authority, the subject yields. California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 626 (1991); see also, Tom v. Voida, 963 F.2d 952, 957 (7th Cir. 1992) (“A seizure requires not only that the reasonable person feel unfree to leave, but also that the subject actually yield to a show of authority from the police or be physically touched by the police.”). There can be no question that Plaintiff was not seized until he was actually tased by Officer Vidljinovic. Both civil and criminal seizures are governed by the Fourth Amendment's probable cause standard. Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 732 (7th Cir. 2013). Probable cause exists if “there are reasonable grounds for believing the person seized is subject to seizure under the governing legal standard.” Id. (quoting Villanova v. Abrams, 972 F.2d 792, 795 (7th Cir. 2013)). The Defendant Officers' testimony was clear that they were not on scene to arrest Plaintiff. However, for the purposes of probable cause, an arresting officer's state of mind is irrelevant, and actual probable cause supporting a seizure need not be closely related to the conduct identified by the arresting officer. Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146 (2004); Abbott v. Sangamon Cty., Ill., 705 F.3d 706 (2013). Though Defendant Officers have made clear that they had no intent of arresting Plaintiff for a crime and were only there to help him obtain the medical care he needed, there is unrebutted testimony that Plaintiff assaulted Defendant Guettler when he wildly swung his arms at him, creating probable cause for him to be seized. See, 720 ILCS 5/12-1(a) (“A person commits an assault when, without lawful authority, he or she knowingly engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.”)

         Furthermore, to the extent Plaintiff brings his seizure claim against Defendant Paramedics Cheatham and Mendoza for transporting Plaintiff to the hospital, Defendant Paramedics are also entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Indeed, there is no evidence that Plaintiff ever spoke to any defendant after being tased let alone indicated that he did not want to go to the hospital. Thus, Plaintiff has presented no evidence of an unlawful seizure by Defendants Cheatham and Mendoza. And even if Plaintiff had competently indicated he did not want to go to the hospital, Defendant Cheatham and Mendoza would be entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants' research has not revealed any clearly established rule that a paramedic cannot transport someone to the hospital after being tased when pursuant to policy, it is required to have Taser prongs removed at the hospital. See, infra, Sec. II at pp. 7-8; White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548 (2017) quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987) (“As this Court explained decades ago, the clearly established law must be ‘particularized' to the facts of the case.”). Defendant Mendoza testified that per the Paramedic Standing Medical Orders, if someone is tased, they have to be transported to a hospital. As such, at the very least, Defendant Paramedics Cheatham and Mendoza are entitled to qualified immunity on Count I.

         II. Defendants are Entitled to Judgment as a Matter of Law on Plaintiff's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.