United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Wood United States District Judge.
case concerns allegations that an officer exercised excessive
force while carrying out the arrest of a suspected drunk
driver. Plaintiff Marta Meneses Serna claims that, during the
course of her arrest by Officer Dennis Sears, she sustained
injuries resulting in a loss of consciousness and a loss of
some of her teeth-all due to Officer Sears's exercise of
excessive force. As a result, Serna has sued Officer Sears
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her right to be
free from the exercise of excessive force under the United
States Constitution and under Illinois common law for
battery. In addition, Serna has sued Police Chief Ronald
Price and the Village of Bannockburn (the
“Village”) under § 1983 for the alleged
constitutional violations arising from the Village's
use-of-force policy and Chief Price's execution and
implementation of said policy. Defendants have moved for
summary judgment on all three claims. (Dkt. No. 98.) As
explained below, Defendants' motion is granted in part
and denied in part. Specifically, the Court grants Defendants
summary judgment on the claim against Chief Price and the
Village, but denies Defendants summary judgment on the claims
against Officer Sears.
otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed. On
September 2, 2012, at approximately 12:33 a.m., Officer Sears
observed Serna's car traveling below the speed limit and
swerving. (Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts ¶¶
10, 11, Dkt. No. 98-4.) At the time, Serna's Illinois
driver's license was suspended and she did not have a
valid driver's license from any other state.
(Id. ¶¶ 5, 6.) Despite this suspension,
she was driving after consuming alcohol. (Id. ¶
9.) Also in her car was her boyfriend Leonardo Alvarado.
(Id. ¶ 15.)
Sears signaled Serna to pull over and she complied.
(Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.) Officer Sears asked Serna
to produce proof of vehicle insurance and a driver's
license. (Id.) Officer Sears could smell both vomit
and alcohol coming from inside the vehicle. (Id.
¶ 17.) Officer Sears observed Serna's eyes to be
droopy, watery, red, and glassy. (Id. ¶ 18.)
Officer Sears asked Serna if there was any reason that she
was travelling slowly and swerving; she said
“no.” (Id. ¶ 19.) Officer Sears
asked Serna how much she had been drinking, and she stated
that she did not know. (Id. ¶ 20.) Serna
subsequently testified that she had consumed three and a half
glasses of wine. (Id. ¶ 9.)
produced an expired insurance card to Officer Sears.
(Id. ¶ 21.) Serna also claims to have produced
a Mexican driver's license to Officer Sears. (Pl.'s
Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 7, Dkt. No. 101.) Officer
Sears requested that Serna exit her car. (Defs.' Stmt. of
Material Facts ¶ 22, Dkt. No. 98-4.) Officer Sears
observed Serna staring straight ahead and blinking for much
longer than normal before she exited her car. (Id.
¶ 23.) Officer Sears claims that he believed Serna was
falling asleep, but Serna denies that her behavior indicated
this. (Id.; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. of
Material Facts ¶ 23, Dkt. No. 100.) Officer Sears also
claims then that as Serna exited the car she stumbled but
caught her balance. (Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts
¶ 24, Dkt. No. 98-4.) Again, Serna disagrees with
Officer Sears's account and denies that she stumbled out
of the car. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. of Material
Facts ¶ 24, Dkt. No. 100 (citing video evidence).)
Officer Sears then instructed her to walk to the back of the
car. (Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 25, Dkt. No.
98-4.) In so doing, Serna walked up to Officer Sears's
partner, Officer John Kleffner, who was assisting Officer
Sears, and got very close to him. (Id. ¶ 26.)
Although Serna denies that it is true, Kleffner testified
that he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Serna's
breath. (Id. ¶ 27.) Serna was wearing
high-heeled shoes when she exited her vehicle. (Id.
Sears then administered the horizontal-gaze-nystagmus test
and the portable-breath test on Serna. (Id.
¶¶ 29, 34.) Both tests indicated that Serna had
been consuming alcohol. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 37.)
Because the results of this test indicated a
blood-alcohol-content level above the legal limit for
driving, Officer Sears determined that he had probable cause
to arrest her. (Id. ¶ 37.) But Officer Sears
claims that he did not inform Serna that she was under arrest
while he was standing in front of her, as he was in a
position in which she could charge at him. (Id.
¶ 39.) Officer Sears claims that he was also concerned
that, while he had Serna behind her vehicle, no one was
monitoring Alvarado; Officer Sears waited until after he was
behind her to tell her that she was under arrest.
(Id. ¶¶ 40, 38.) Serna disputes that
Officer Sears was either concerned at the prospect of Serna
charging at him or that Alvarado would be unmonitored.
(Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts
¶¶ 39, 40, Dkt. No. 100.)
asked Officer Sears why she was being arrested and he
responded “too many cervezas.” (Defs.' Stmt.
of Material Facts ¶ 41, Dkt. No. 98-4.) Officer Sears
attempted to handcuff Serna, placing one handcuff on
Serna's left wrist while attempting to handcuff the other
hand. (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.) As Officer Sears was
attempting to handcuff her, Serna turned her head and moved
her right arm. (Id. ¶ 43.) Observing this,
Officer Sears claims that he became concerned that Serna
would be able to use the open handcuff as a weapon and felt
that he was losing his grip on Serna's right hand; again
Serna denies that Officer Sears had any such concern and that
any such a concern would have been reasonable under the
circumstances. (Id. ¶¶ 44, 45; Pl.'s
Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts ¶¶ 44,
45, Dkt. No. 100.) Officer Sears then instructed Serna not to
move; Kleffner testified that, at that time, he heard Serna
reply “no.” (Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts
¶¶ 46, 47, Dkt. No. 98-4.) Serna states that she
moved her head so that she could look at Officer Sears
directly and determine why she was being arrested. (Pl.'s
Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 101.) At this
time, Officer Sears claims he attempted to execute a leg
sweep on Serna. (Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 48
Dkt. No. 98-4.) Serna denies that this was an attempted leg
sweep, but rather that Officer Sears tripped her. (Pl.'s
Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 48, Dkt.
No. 100 (citing video evidence).) In either case, Serna fell
forcefully onto the ground. (Defs.' Stmt. of Material
Facts ¶ 51, Dkt. No. 98-4.)When Serna hit the ground,
she landed on her left side and lost consciousness.
(Id. ¶ 53.) Serna states that she also lost two
or three teeth. (Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 4,
Dkt. No. 101.) Officer Sears called for an ambulance, which
arrived and removed Serna from the scene. (Defs.' Stmt.
of Material Facts ¶¶ 54, 56, Dkt. No. 98-4.)
judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Gross v. PPG Indus., Inc., 636 F.3d
884, 888 (7th Cir. 2011). In assessing whether the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Court must draw
all reasonable inferences from the evidence presented in
favor of the nonmoving party. McCann v. Iroquois
Mem'l Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010).
“The initial burden is on the moving party . . . to
demonstrate that there is no material question of fact with
respect to an essential element of the non-moving party's
case.” Cody v. Harris, 409 F.3d 853, 860 (7th
Cir. 2005). “If the moving party meets this burden, the
non-moving party must submit evidence that there is a genuine
issue for trial.” Delta Consulting Grp., Inc. v. R.
Randle Const., Inc., 554 F.3d 1133, 1137 (7th Cir.
have moved for summary judgment on each of Serna's three
claims: (1) the § 1983 claim against Officer Sears; (2)
the § 1983 claim against Chief Price and the Village;
and (3) the battery claim against Officer Sears.
Specifically, Defendants argue that Serna's § 1983
claim against Officer Sears fails because he is entitled to
qualified immunity and his exercise of force was reasonable
under the circumstances; that Serna's § 1983 claim
against Chief Price and the Village fails because Serna has
not identified an express policy of the Village that caused a
constitutional deprivation; and that Serna's battery
claim against Officer Sears fails because he is immune for
his conduct under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS
Section 1983 Claim Against Officer Sears
argue that Officer Sears is entitled to summary judgment on
Serna's § 1983 claim for use of excessive force
because Officer Sears has qualified immunity for his actions
related to the arrest. Government officials enjoy qualified
immunity “from liability for civil damages insofar as
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). “Qualified immunity balances two
important interests-the need to hold public officials
accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the
need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and
liability when they perform their duties reasonably.”
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009);
accord Whitlock v. Brueggemann, 682 F.3d 567, 580
(7th Cir. 2012).
Court must grant summary judgment on qualified-immunity
grounds unless the plaintiff has (1) adduced facts sufficient
to make out that the officers' conduct constituted a
constitutional violation, and (2) shown that the
unconstitutionality of the officers' conduct was clearly
established. McNair v. Coffey, 279 F.3d 463, 465
(7th Cir. 2002) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 200-01 (2001)). The Supreme Court has permitted
“[t]he judges of the district courts . . . to exercise
their sound discretion in deciding which of the two
[elements] of the qualified immunity analysis [to] addres[s]
first in light of the circumstances of the particular case at
hand.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236
(2009). But the Supreme ...