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Mederich v. City of Chicago

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

July 6, 2017

John Mederich, Plaintiff,
City of Chicago, Officer Nicholas M. Chrabot #12748, Officer Dennis J. Cochran #16631, Sergeant Joseph W. Giamrbone #2500, Detective Joy Van Beveren #21219, Officer Eric Gomez, Officer Edward Gomez, Coban Technologies, Inc., and Mike Liacopoulos, Defendants.


          Manish S. Shah United States District Judge.

         While arresting plaintiff John Mederich, defendant Officer Michael Chrabot broke Mederich's arm. Dash cameras in the police squad cars and surveillance cameras from nearby businesses should have recorded the interaction between Mederich and the police officers, but no video or audio footage exists. Mederich brings a variety of claims against the City of Chicago; individual police officers; Coban Technologies, a company that services the police department's dash cameras; and Mike Liacopoulos, the owner of a liquor store that may have had surveillance video of the arrest. Defendants move to dismiss all claims, except the excessive force claim (Count I) and the Monell claim (Count IV).

         I. Legal Standards

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain factual allegations that plausibly suggest a right to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). In ruling on a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6), a court must accept all factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, but the court need not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations. Id. at 680-82.

         II. Background

         John Mederich and two of his friends were standing in an alley when a marked squad car with Officers Nicholas Chrabot and Dennis Cochran, in full dress uniform, arrived. [36] at 3 ¶¶ 6-7.[1] Mederich was holding a brown paper bag that contained an open twenty-five ounce alcoholic beverage. Id. at 3 ¶ 6. The squad car's dash camera pointed at Mederich and his friends. Id. at 3 ¶ 7. Chrabot exited the squad car and said to Mederich, “Did you think I wasn't going to see you?” Id. at 3 ¶¶ 7-8. While writing Mederich a ticket, Chrabot asked Mederich if he knew why he was being stopped. Id. at 3 ¶ 8. Mederich answered that he was stopped because he was drinking in public, in violation of the law. Id. Chrabot threatened to write Mederich up for “not cooperating, ” and told Mederich that he was under arrest and to put his hands on the squad car. Id. at 3 ¶ 9. Mederich followed Chrabot's instruction. Id. Chrabot warned Mederich that the dash camera was recording their interaction. Id.

         Mederich's friends told Chrabot that “Black lives matter” and that Chrabot would not be treating Mederich the way Chrabot was if Mederich and his friends were “straight white guys.”[2] Id. at 3-4 ¶¶ 9-10. Chrabot demanded: “What did you say to me?” Id. at 3 ¶ 10. Then, without cause or provocation, Chrabot twisted Mederich around and threw him to the ground, fracturing Mederich's right arm. Id. at 7 ¶ 13. Before being transported to the police station, Mederich's arm was placed in a cast at Norwegian American Hospital. Id. at 7 ¶ 14.

         Sergeant Joseph Giambrone investigated Mederich's arrest and concluded that Officer Chrabot used an appropriate amount of force. Id. at 4 ¶ 11. Despite the fact that at least five cameras may have captured or did capture Mederich's arrest, Giambrone did not consider any video or audio footage in reaching his conclusion. Id. At the time of the arrest, there were three squad cars with dash cameras, id. at 16 ¶ 1, and there were surveillance cameras owned by Rite Liquors and the Chicago Athletic Club in or near the alley, id. at 4 ¶ 11. The police department maintains Watch Incident Logs to report malfunctioning dash cameras; none of the dash cameras that were at the scene of Mederich's arrest appeared in the relevant logs before Mederich's arrest, thereby suggesting that all of those dash cameras were properly functioning.[3] Id. at 16 ¶¶ 2-3. Nevertheless, the City reported that the dash camera in Chrabot's vehicle had had drained batteries for twenty-nine days before Mederich's arrest, id. at 16 ¶ 2, and the individual log for a second police car indicated that its dash camera “was abruptly shut down” during Mederich's arrest, [4]id. at 18 ¶ 1. The complaint does not make any specific allegations about the third police car's dash camera or whether it captured Mederich's arrest.

         With respect to the surveillance videos, the complaint says that Rite Liquors had video of the incident for at least seven days and that the Chicago Athletic Club had video of the incident for at least ten days. Id. at 11 ¶ 13. But, the owner of Rite Liquors, Mike Liacopoulos, allegedly conspired with the Chicago Police Department to “destroy or allow to be destroyed” the video surveillance evidence. Id. at 11 ¶ 13. Similarly, the management from the Chicago Athletic Club “either destroyed or failed to save video footage of the incident.” Id. The complaint does not name the Chicago Athletic Club or its agents as defendants.

         Despite Officers Chrabot's and Cochran's claim that Mederich grabbed Chrabot's left wrist during the altercation, which Mederich denies, neither officer nor Detective Van Beveren contacted the Cook County State's Attorney's felony review unit to seek felony charges for aggravated battery against Mederich. Id. at 11-12 ¶ 14. Mederich believes they only charged him with misdemeanors, [5] because they knew that a felony review request would result in the Assistant State's Attorney insisting on viewing video evidence from the dash and surveillance cameras as well as interviewing the parties involved; all of which would have corroborated Mederich's version of the events and not the officers'. Id. at 12 ¶ 14, 13 ¶ 16.

         The complaint also says that Giambrone did not document any medical treatment of Chrabot's claimed injury, id. at 13 ¶ 15, nor did he interview Mederich's friends or any other potential witnesses, id. at 4 ¶ 11. Although he approved the resisting arrest charge, Giambrone did not document any verbal commands Chrabot gave that Mederich failed to follow, nor did he review any evidence that Mederich “fled” or “pulled away.” Id. at 13 ¶ 15. Mederich accuses Giambrone of “maliciously and willfully” framing him, when Giambrone “knew or should have known” that the video evidence contradicted the officers' story about him grabbing Chrabot's wrist. Id. at 12 ¶ 15. Mederich believes Giambrone failed to fully investigate the incident as required under Chicago Police Department Rules and instead adhered to the Chicago Police Department's “code of silence.” Id. at 12 ¶ 15.

         Mederich alleges that the individual defendants acted together in a conspiracy to deter Mederich from bringing an action, and that they did so by bringing false criminal charges of battery and resisting arrest against him, and by destroying the video and audio evidence of his arrest. Id. at 10 ¶ 12.

         III. Analysis

         A. Coban Technologies' Motion to Dismiss

         Mederich brings a claim for negligent repair of the dash cameras against Coban Technologies and the City of Chicago, but the complaint places liability on one or the other, not on both: “The City negligently failed to issue a purchase order to repair the dash cams [. . .] until after the Plaintiff was injured. Alternatively, the City did issue a purchase order to repair the dash cameras [. . .] but Coban Technologies, Inc. failed in its duty to fix the dash cams in 14 days.” [36] at 16-17 ¶ 5. Mederich says that Coban and the City had a duty to provide timely repair services to the dash cameras and that they breached this duty by failing to replace the batteries in two dash cameras involved in his arrest and injury. Id. 17 ¶ 7. As a result of the negligent failure to replace the dash cameras' batteries, Mederich says that he was “forced to defend himself from baseless criminal charges, ” and that his ability to recover damages from Chrabot's intentional and malicious use of excessive force was harmed. Id. 17 ¶ 9. Coban moves to dismiss this count arguing that Mederich has not pled facts to demonstrate that Coban owes him a duty or that Coban's alleged breach was the proximate cause of Mederich's alleged injuries. See [48] at 4.

         To state a cause of action for negligence, Mederich must show that Coban owed a duty to him, that Coban breached that duty, and that Mederich incurred injuries proximately caused by the breach. First Springfield Bank & Trust v. Galman, 188 Ill.2d 252, 256 (1999). Breach and proximate cause are questions of fact for the jury, but the existence of a duty is a question of law for the court. Adamsv. N. Illinois Gas Co., 211 Ill.2d 32, 43-44 (2004). To determine if a duty exists, courts consider whether the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant is one where the law imposes an obligation of reasonable conduct on the defendant, for the benefit of the plaintiff. Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill.2d 422, 436 (2006). This inquiry involves four factors: (1) the reasonable foreseeability of the injury; (2) the ...

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