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Stewart v. Warnisher

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

June 14, 2017

YVONKIA STEWART, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER CHANCE WARNISHER and OFFICER AMY MADDOX, Defendants.

          OPINION

          Richard Mills Richard Mills United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff alleges the Defendants used excessive force in arresting her.

         Pending before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Yvonkia Stewart filed a Pro Se Complaint asserting that Defendants Chance Warnisher and Amy Maddox, acting in their official capacities as Springfield Police Officers, used excessive force when arresting the Plaintiff for trespassing at the Memorial Medical Center's emergency room on February 24, 2014. She also alleges claims for false arrest and a resulting seizure while in the sheriff's custody. The Plaintiff contends the Defendants' actions violated her constitutional rights and caused her physical injury and emotional damage.

         The Defendants, Officers Warnisher and Maddox, are Springfield Police Officers who at all relevant times were acting within the scope of their authority as officers and acting under color of state law. The Plaintiff claims to experience “recurrent simple partial seizures.” The “seizure disorder” is apparently self-diagnosed by the Plaintiff, as no medical doctor or other medical authority has diagnosed the Plaintiff as subject to seizures. The Plaintiff testified that no local medical provider will accept her as a patient. She maintains the local medical community has conspired to cover up her seizure disorder.

         The Plaintiff claims her seizures are due to outside stimuli and occur every time she experiences any such stimulus. She alleges the stimuli which trigger seizures include the following: (1) walking on concrete surfaces; (2) pulling, gripping or turning things; (3) contact by any object with the back of her legs or knees; (4) persons or things that “tap” her; (5) hugging her tightly; (6) flash photography; (7) blood pressure cuffs on either arm; (8) pushing her elbows down; (9) motion, provocative movement, jerks, bumps; (10) the metal of seat belts; and (11) the metal of scales in a doctor's office. The Plaintiff stated that the metal of a car or bicycle do not trigger seizures because the rubber tires insulate the metal from the ground. During these seizures, the Plaintiff claims to have no control over her limbs and may strike nearby persons or bruise herself.

         On February 24, 2014, the Plaintiff was transported to the Memorial Medical Center emergency room after exhibiting seizure symptoms at a local doctor's office. While there, the Plaintiff was seen by a doctor and several nurses. After being seen by a second doctor, the Plaintiff was determined to be worthy of discharge from the hospital by both physicians who had seen her. Thereafter, hospital personnel attempted to issue discharge papers but the Plaintiff refused to accept the papers because she wanted to see another physician. The Plaintiff refused to leave the examining room at the hospital.

         The Plaintiff believed that, because all the medical professionals she had seen refused to diagnose her seizure disorder, her visit to the emergency room on this day was an opportunity to be seen by a neurologist or epileptologist in order to diagnose her condition. When told that no neurologist or epileptologist was going to see her that day, the Plaintiff called 911.

         After the Plaintiff refused to leave the examining room at the hospital, the emergency room staff called the hospital's security department as well as the Springfield Police Department. The Defendant Officers responded to the call. Joseph Bracco was one of the Memorial security officers who responded. When Bracco told the Plaintiff she was required to leave the hospital, the Plaintiff continued to refuse. The Defendants arrived and spoke with hospital personnel, including the doctors and nurses who had examined the Plaintiff, and the hospital security officers. Nurse Saxsma advised the Defendants that, although the Plaintiff claimed to have a seizure disorder, every neurologist in town who had seen her stated there were no neurological issues with the Plaintiff and they expressed doubts as to whether her seizures were genuine. Saxsma also told the Defendants that Plaintiff had been asked to leave but that she refused to do so.

         After the Defendant Officers spoke to hospital personnel, Maddox spoke with the Plaintiff and advised her that she needed to leave the hospital. Officer Maddox spoke to the Plaintiff in a calm and appropriate manner. The Plaintiff maintained her uncooperative behavior and continued to refuse to leave the hospital. Officer Warnisher then spoke with the Plaintiff but she remained uncooperative. Warnisher spoke to the Plaintiff in a calm and appropriate manner. When the Defendant Officers directed her to leave, the Plaintiff repeated her demand to see a neurologist or epileptologist.

         The Plaintiff continued to refuse to leave until the Defendants were required to physically remove her from the premises. Joseph Bracco retrieved a wheelchair for the Plaintiff but the Plaintiff refused to sit in it. While the Plaintiff was being removed from the emergency department, as they passed through the waiting room she became angry and began kicking her legs and refusing to walk on her own, which resulted in the Defendant Officers being required to carry her out. While carrying the Plaintiff, the Defendants continued to try to calm the Plaintiff but were unsuccessful in calming her. The Plaintiff was violently resisting while the officers carried her, as each officer held one of the Plaintiff's shoulders. Bracco attempted to help carry the Plaintiff out by holding onto and carrying her legs but the Plaintiff continued to struggle so vigorously that she pulled out of Bracco's hold.

         When they arrived at the Defendants' squad car, the Plaintiff refused to get into it. The Defendants had to forcibly guide the Plaintiff's head into the car. Attending Nurse Saxsma did not observe the Officers use a level of force in excess of that which was necessary to help he Plaintiff leave the hospital. Bracco did not observe any force that was unreasonable given the Plaintiff's continued resistance. Both Defendants state they did not use greater force than ...


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