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Edwards v. David

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

June 20, 2017

ERIC DAVID, et al., Defendants.


          Robert M. Dow, Jr. Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants Eric David's and Hiram Grau's motion to dismiss [47] Plaintiff Demond Edwards's amended complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss [47] is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background[1]

         Early in the morning on November 16, 2013, Plaintiff Demond Edwards was arrested by Illinois State Police (“ISP”) officer Defendant Eric David on Interstate 80 near Torrence Avenue in Illinois on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. [41] at ¶¶ 6, 8. Following the arrest, Defendant David handcuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back and placed him in the rear seat of a police cruiser. Id. ¶ 9. Significantly, Defendant David did not fasten Plaintiff's seatbelt, and, because he was handcuffed, Plaintiff could not fasten the belt. Id. ¶ 10.

         According to the amended complaint, Defendant David then proceeded to drive Plaintiff to the Lansing, Illinois police station recklessly. Specifically, Defendant David continually took his eyes off the road to “interrogate” Plaintiff, he drove through a construction zone at a high rate of speed, and he dangerously passed an 18-wheel truck and merged as a lane was closing due to construction work. Id. ¶¶ 12-13. Defendant David began to pass a second truck on the right, but as he did so, he failed to notice the “clear signage” that the right lane was about to be closed by construction barrels. As Defendant David continued to drive, the right lane ended, and Defendant David-to avoid crashing into the truck-“swerved to the right, crashed through construction barrels, and abruptly brought the cruiser to a stop in a construction zone.” Id. ¶¶ 14-15. During this incident, Plaintiff, who again was not seatbelted and whose hands were restrained, was “thrown” from the rear passenger side to the driver's side floor, thereby causing injuries to his lower spine, right shoulder, and right wrist. Id. ¶¶ 16, 21. Despite his injuries, Defendant David “commanded” him to sit up and get off the floor of the car. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff does not elaborate on the nature of his injuries, although he alleges that he was taken to the hospital, treated, and billed. Id. ¶¶ 21, 23.

         Plaintiff alleges that this accident was recorded on Defendant David's dashboard and rear seat video cameras, and he has supplied the Court with an excerpt of the recording. Id. ¶ 24 & Ex. A. Regarding the entire recording, Plaintiff alleges that the corresponding audio “inexplicably cuts out” for two minutes and 45 seconds of its duration while Defendant David made a phone/radio call. Id. ¶ 24.

         On November 9, 2015, Plaintiff's pro se complaint was docketed with the Court. [9]. Plaintiff was later appointed counsel [27], and on September 15, 2016, he filed an amended five-count complaint. [41]. Against Defendant David, the amended complaint asserts the following claims: alternative Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims for “unsafe conditions of confinement or failure to protect” (Count I); negligent or willful and wanton conduct under Illinois law (Count II); intentional infliction of emotional distress under Illinois law (Count III); and spoliation of evidence under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois law (Count IV). Against Defendant Grau, who was the Director of the ISP at the time of the traffic accident, Plaintiff asserts a claim for “Failure to Train or Supervise” that takes issue with ISP policies in place at the time of the incident (Count V). All of Plaintiff's claims are brought against Defendants in their individual capacities. Defendants have moved to dismiss the amended complaint, offering specific arguments against Counts I and V and the federal portion of Count IV, and suggesting that the Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. See [47].

         II. Legal Standard

         Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which challenges its legal sufficiency. To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff's complaint must first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given “fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)) (alteration in original). Second, the factual allegations must, when taken as true, “‘plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level.'” Cochran v. Ill. State Toll Highway Auth., 828 F.3d 597, 599-600 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)). The Court reads the complaint and assesses its plausibility as a whole. See Atkins v. City of Chicago, 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011). However, a “pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558. For purposes of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Killingsworth, 507 F.3d at 618.

         III. Analysis

         Defendants' motion to dismiss challenges only Plaintiff's federal claims, which are all brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To allege a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must set forth facts sufficient to show that the defendants deprived him of a right or an interest secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that the defendants were acting under color of state law. Payne for Hicks v. Churchich, 161 F.3d 1030, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). Here, there is no question that Defendants are state actors, and the Court therefore must determine whether Plaintiff has alleged that the Defendants deprived him of federally-protected rights. Id.; see also County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 862 n.5 (1998) (the first step in a § 1983 action “is to identify the exact contours of the underlying right said to have been violated”).

         A. Count I - Constitutional Violations by Defendant David

         Count I repeatedly alleges that “there was no reasonable basis” for Defendant David's actions of (1) handcuffing Plaintiff, (2) failing to fasten Plaintiff's seatbelt, (3) driving recklessly, and (4) demanding that Plaintiff move following the accident. See [41] at ¶¶ 26-29. Plaintiff ultimately alleges that Defendant David's “objectively unreasonable” actions violated not only his Fourth Amendment rights (id. ¶ 30), but also that, “in the alternative, ” they violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights because they were performed “intentionally” and demonstrated a deliberate indifference to his safety (id. ¶ 31). Accordingly, in alleging that Defendant David put him in danger during his transport from the scene of his arrest to the police station, Plaintiff asks the Court to construe Count I as a claim for violation of both his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

         Although the parties do not dispute that “when the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well-being, ” see DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199-200 (1989); see also [51] at 8; [55] at 2-3; they dispute the constitutional right potentially implicated by Defendant David's conduct. Defendants move to dismiss Count I in its entirety, arguing that it primarily alleges a Fourth Amendment violation and that Amendment does not protect Plaintiff from the conduct he has alleged. Specifically, Defendants argue that the Fourth Amendment is more appropriately involved in situations of (i) searches and seizures performed without probable cause, (ii) excessive force, (iii) failure to protect, or (iv) abusive conditions of confinement, to name a few. See [47] at 4-5. According to Defendants, applying the Fourth Amendment to Plaintiff's allegations would constitute an unwarranted expansion of the Amendment under the Seventh Circuit's decisions in Wilkins v. May, 872 F.2d 190 (7th Cir. 1989) and Payne for Hicks v. Churchich, 161 F.3d 1030 (7th Cir. 1998). [47] at 6. Citing little relevant Seventh Circuit case law, Plaintiff responds that because of his status as an arrestee who had not yet been charged, he was protected from any injury at the hand of law enforcement by both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. See [51] at 4-5. Before delving into Count I's specific allegations, the Court considers which standard to apply-the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness standard or the deliberate-indifference standard derived from the Eighth Amendment and applied to claims by detainees awaiting trial by virtue of the Due Process Clause. See Williams v. Rodriguez, 509 F.3d 392, 401 (7th Cir. 2007) (although the Eighth Amendment deliberate-indifference standard only applies to convicted prisoners, the Seventh Circuit has previously stated that the same standard applies to pretrial detainees under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause).

         1. Constitutional Claims by Arrestees

         The Seventh Circuit has explained more than once that the scope of an individual's right to be free from punishment “hinges on his status within the criminal justice system.” Lewis v. Downey, 581 F.3d 467, 473 (7th Cir. 2009). In particular, the protections of the Fourth Amendment apply at arrest and until an arrestee has benefitted from a judicial determination of probable cause, otherwise known as a Gerstein[2] hearing; then, the Fourteenth Amendment's due process principles apply to pretrial detainees; and finally, the Eighth Amendment applies following conviction. Ortiz v. City of Chicago, 656 F.3d 523, 530-31 (7th Cir. 2011).

         In Lopez v. City of Chicago, 464 F.3d 711 (7th Cir. 2006), the Seventh Circuit articulated when a Fourth-Amendment arrestee becomes a Fourteenth-Amendment detainee:

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable seizures; an arrest is a seizure, and the Fourth Amendment affords persons who are arrested the further, distinct right to a judicial determination of probable cause as a prerequisite to extended restraint of liberty following arrest. The judicial determination of probable cause may be made before the arrest (in the form of an arrest warrant) or promptly after the arrest, at a probable cause hearing (sometimes called a Gerstein hearing). But whether the arresting officer opts to obtain a warrant in advance or present a person arrested without a warrant for a prompt after-the-fact Gerstein hearing, the Fourth Amendment requires a judicial determination of probable cause.

Id. at 718-19 (internal quotations and citations omitted); cf. Forrest v. Prine, 620 F.3d 739, 743-44 (7th Cir. 2010) (applying the Fourteenth Amendment to excessive-force claim brought by an individual who alleged harm in the booking process; repeatedly calling plaintiff a “pretrial detainee”). In Lopez, the plaintiff brought a claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement regarding mistreatment he sustained during four days in custody following a warrantless arrest.

         The district court analyzed the claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Seventh Circuit disagreed, holding that the claim instead was properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness standard because the plaintiff had not yet had a Gerstein hearing. Lopez, 464 F.3d at 718-19. This is consistent with the Supreme Court's more recent articulation that “those detained prior to trial without such a [probable cause] finding could appeal to ‘the Fourth Amendment's protection against unfounded invasions of liberty.'” Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S.Ct. 911, 918 (2017) (quoting Gerstein, 420 U.S. at 112).[3]

         Recently, a court in this district considered the interplay of a finding of probable cause with the application of either the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment. In Sims v. Olszewski, 2017 WL 1903121 (N.D. Ill. May 9, 2017), the court was faced with a situation in which a pretrial detainee in custody at the Cook County Jail for one crime brought claims against Chicago police officers under the Fourteenth Amendment alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement relating to his exposure to extremely cold temperatures without adequate clothing during transport to a police station and then overnight at the station while police investigated him for a separate crime. Id. at *2-*3. The police officers moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff's claims were governed instead by the Fourth Amendment, because he had not yet had a probable cause hearing in the case that was still under investigation. Id. at *3. Ultimately, the court rejected the officers' argument and applied the Fourteenth Amendment because the government already had established probable cause to detain the plaintiff in his other case. The court explained:

The distinction between an arrestee and a pretrial detainee, then, is not simply whether a Gerstein hearing has been held. Instead, the defining moment is when the government has made a sufficient showing to justify holding the accused for an extended period. * * * The question is not precisely whether any particular event has happened in the specific case in question; it is whether the government has shown that it has probable cause to detain the accused. Before the government has met ...

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