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Irons v. Village of Dolton

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

September 5, 2017

CINDY C. IRONS, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF DOLTON, a municipal corporation, MARLON HARRIS, LEWIS LACEY, and JOEL McQUEEN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN J. THARP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Cindy C. Irons sues the Village of Dolton and three of its police officers in connection with her arrest at her daughter's high school in April 2015. The Amended Complaint alleges three Counts and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Though the Complaint itself does not identify the bases for those Counts with perfect clarity, Irons asserts in her Response brief-and language in the Complaint supports her assertions-that Count I brings a state law claim for false arrest and imprisonment against the three officers (and the Village of Dolton based on the theory of respondeat superior); Count II asserts a state law claim for battery, again against the three officers and the Village as their employer; and Count III brings a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against the three officers only, both in their individual and official capacities. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 15; Pl. Resp. at 2, ECF No. 56. Defendant Lewis Lacey seeks summary judgment in his favor as to all three Counts. Defendant Marlon Harris seeks summary judgment in his favor on Count II, and on the excessive force component of Count III. Defendant Joel McQueen seeks summary judgment as to Irons' false arrest claims, and further argues that any claims Irons brings against him in his official capacity must be dismissed as redundant of Irons' claims against the Village.

         The issue of whether the police officer defendants had probable cause to arrest Irons is riddled with material questions of fact that impact all of Irons' claims. Because of that pervasive factual problem, the defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment largely fail. Lacey is granted summary judgment only as to Count II and the excessive force component of Count III. In all other respects, the Motions are denied.

         BACKGROUND

         This story begins at Thornridge High School. On April 23, 2015, Plaintiff Cindy Irons drove her daughter the school, dropping her off between 7:00 and 7:15 a.m. Harris and Lacey's Statement of Facts (“Defs. SOF”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 49; see also McQueen SOF ¶ 1, ECF No. 46. Shortly thereafter, Shavona called Irons in a panic to say that other girls had “tried to jump on me” and that she had just been involved in a fight. Irons Dep., 18:7-10, Apr. 28, 2016, ECF No. 46-1; Defs. SOF ¶ 2; McQueen SOF ¶ 3. Irons returned to the school, where she met with Shavona and Steve Valant, a school administrator, in Valant's office area. Defs. SOF ¶ 3. Irons' daughter had previously told Irons, before Irons arrived back at the school, that she had been suspended for ten days as a result of the fight, and Irons asked Valant upon her arrival why her daughter had been “suspended for defending herself.” Irons Dep., 26-28; see also Defs. SOF ¶ 3; McQueen SOF ¶¶ 5-6. While Irons was talking to Valant, she also had her phone to her ear with her own mother on the line. Irons Dep., 29:17-20; Defs. SOF ¶ 4.

         Three uniformed police officers-defendants Harris, Lacey, and McQueen-then arrived and entered the inner office where Irons, Shavona, and Valant were gathered. Defs. SOF ¶ 5. Officer McQueen testified at his deposition in this case that when he arrived at the school, he heard “[l]ots of shouting, yelling, [and] profanities.” McQueen Dep., 54:22-23, May 12, 2016, ECF No. 46-2; McQueen SOF ¶ 8. Irons denies the accuracy of that description; she testified at her own deposition that she was not angry when she asked Valant about the suspension but that she then “got angry when the police came.” Irons Dep. 28:20-22; see also Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF ¶ 8, ECF No. 57. Lacey asked Irons for her name, to which Irons replied, “Cindy, ” while she still had her own mother on the phone. Defs. SOF ¶ 6. Irons then hung up with her mother, saying she would call her back, and gave the officers her last name. Defs. SOF ¶ 7. Irons and the officers left Valant's inner office and moved into the administrative outer office. Id. Lacey asked Irons to step out into the hallway with Harris and McQueen, which Irons did; Lacey, meanwhile, remained in Valant's office. Defs. SOF ¶ 9; McQueen SOF ¶ 11. Irons began complaining about the fact that Lacey and Valant were now in the office meeting with Shavona without Irons. Defs. SOF ¶ 10. At some point, Irons resumed her phone conversation with her mother and told her that, “they've got her in there by herself and they're questioning her and they've got me out here in the hallway.” Id. ¶ 11; see also Irons Dep. 41:2-5.

         Harris told Irons to get off the phone, but Irons instead stepped into the girls' bathroom, where she continued her phone conversation. Defs. SOF ¶ 12. When Irons came out of the bathroom, Harris said to her, “Didn't I tell you to hang up your phone?” Id. ¶ 14. Irons responded that she did not have to hang up her phone, that she was “grown, ” and that Harris did not pay her bill. Id. Irons admits that she was probably “pretty loud” when she told Harris, “You don't pay my bill.” Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF; Irons Dep. 46:22-23. At that point, while standing in the hallway in front of the door to Valant's office area, Harris grabbed Irons' arm and told her she was under arrest. Defs. SOF ¶ 15. Harris began to handcuff Irons' left arm while Irons held her phone in her right hand. Id. ¶ 16. McQueen had been in the restroom during the start of the arrest process, but now emerged from the restroom, grabbed Irons' right arm and brought it behind her, and said that Irons was resisting arrest, a point Irons disputed. Id.; McQueen SOF ¶ 22; Irons Dep. 48:15-22. McQueen also took Irons' phone out of her right hand. Defs. SOF ¶ 19. Harris completed handcuffing Irons' left hand, but Irons is not sure who completed cuffing her right hand. McQueen SOF ¶¶ 23-24.

         Lacey then came into the hallway, and Harris and McQueen walked Irons down the hallway. Id. ¶ 25; Defs. SOF ¶ 21. Lacey never touched Irons. Defs. SOF ¶ 21. Irons testified that there was nothing painful about “what Harris was doing, ” but also testified that McQueen was holding her right arm too tightly, and that McQueen held her arm the entire walk from the school building to the police squad car that was parked outside. Defs. SOF ¶¶ 23-24; Irons Dep. 56:5- 57:16. Irons testified that McQueen exerted “[a] lot of pressure” and that “[i]t was painful.” Irons Dep. 56:17-21. The defendants all deny that McQueen exerted too much pressure or caused Irons pain. McQueen Resp. to Pl. SOF ¶ 5, ECF No. 69; Defs. Resp. to Pl. SOF ¶ 5, ECF No. 67. Once outside and near the squad car, Harris told Irons, “[Y]ou just need to calm down, because your daughter is in there, you need to get back to her.” Defs. SOF ¶ 25; Irons Dep. 60:4-6.

         Either Harris or McQueen asked Irons for her driver's license, and after Irons indicated to that the license was in her jacket pocket, Harris removed it and handed it to McQueen. Defs. SOF ¶ 26; Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF ¶ 26. At some point, Irons sat in the back of the squad car, with the door left open and her feet still outside the vehicle. Defs. SOF ¶ 27; Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF ¶ 27. Lacey then joined the other officers and Irons, and instructed Harris to remove the handcuffs from Irons, which Harris did. Defs. SOF ¶ 28; McQueen SOF ¶ 28. Lacey told Irons that she needed to calm down, and that Harris was going to issue her a ticket for disorderly conduct because she was “too emotional.” Defs. SOF ¶ 29; Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF ¶ 29; McQueen SOF ¶ 29. Irons complained about McQueen's conduct after Harris removed the handcuffs and while Harris was writing out her ticket. Defs. SOF ¶ 30; Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF ¶ 30. Irons testified that she told Lacey that “he abused me” and that “[h]e had my arm too tight, ” and testified that she took her jacket off and showed Lacey that her arm was red.” Irons Dep. 63:8-14; Pl. SOF ¶ 6.

         McQueen was sitting in his squad as Harris wrote out the ticket, and Lacey approached McQueen and spoke to him before McQueen pulled off and drove away. Defs. SOF ¶ 31; McQueen SOF ¶ 30. Irons asked Lacey for McQueen's badge number, which Lacey provided to her. Defs. SOF ¶ 32. Lacey and Harris then left the scene, and Irons returned to the school to retrieve her daughter and speak with Valant about the terms of her suspension. Id. Irons then left the school. Id. She went to the emergency room at Ingalls Hospital, where she received an X-ray. Id. ¶ 33. A doctor told her at the hospital that she had a “sprained [right] arm” in the area of “the upper middle arm between the elbow and shoulder.” Irons Dep. 67:8-15; Defs. SOF ¶ 33. Irons also had scratches on her inner arm, and she testified that she believes those scratches resulted from McQueen's hands and fingernails. Irons Dep. 67:16-24; 68:1-7; Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF ¶ 33. Irons had been wearing a thin jacket at the time of her arrest. Irons Dep. 69:9-10. Irons also visited her own regular physician a few days after the incident, and he told her to continue using ice packs and to take the ibuprofen pain pills that the hospital physician had prescribed for her if she experienced pain. Id. 70:15-71:10. Irons admits that Harris did not injure her. Pl. Resp. to Defs. SOF ¶ 35. She also admits that Lacey did not touch her, or “initially place her under arrest, ” but argues in her filings that he “ratified the charges placed by Harris.” Id. ¶ 36.

         A village hearing officer found against Irons on the disorderly conduct charge. Pl. SOF ¶ 15. Irons then pursued administrative review in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Sixth Municipal District, and a judge in that court found that the charging document was “defective” and that the Village had failed to prove its case at the hearing. Id. ¶ 17. That court reversed the ruling against Irons and vacated the $250 fine that the village hearing officer had levied against her. Id.

         ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” EEOC v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., 809 F.3d 335, 339 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). A genuine dispute as to a material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Kvapil v. Chippewa Cnty., 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court construes the facts and makes all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Jajeh v. Cnty. of Cook, 678 F.3d 560, 566 (7th Cir. 2012). “[D]istrict courts presiding over summary judgment proceedings may not weigh conflicting evidence . . . or make credibility determinations.” Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Rather, the Court's role is “to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014).

         I. Constitutional ...


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