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Espinoza v. Talbot

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

September 19, 2017

ROSA ESPINOZA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SGT. SEAN TALBOT, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Hon. Virginia M. Kendall United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Rosa Espinoza (“Rosa”), [1] Erika Espinoza (“Erika”) and Ricardo Espinoza (“Ricardo”), through their counsel, filed suit against Defendant Officers Richard Burdett, Joseph Cassidy, Jason O'Hara, Joseph Gruben, Ken Kiklas, Antonio Tucker and Sergeant Sean Talbot (collectively “the Officers”), and the Village of Bolingbrook pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging damages as a result of the Officers' response to an emergency situation at the Espinoza's household. Ricardo's excessive force claim, [2] and Rosa's state law claim on behalf of her daughter Natalie for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count V) are no longer before the Court.[3] Remaining are Rosa's Fourth Amendment warrantless search claim (Count I), Rosa and Erika's false arrest claims (Counts II and IV), Rosa's excessive force claim (Count III), and Rosa's state indemnity claim on behalf of her daughter Natalie against the Village of Bolingbrook (Count VI). (Dkt. 76, at 4-9.) The Officers now move for summary judgment on Rosa's first claim alleging a violation of the Fourth Amendment for a warrantless search of her home against Sergeant Talbot and Officers O'Hara, Gruben, Kiklas, and Tucker.[4] For the following reasons, the Court denies the Officers' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 79.)

         BACKGROUND

         The parties do not dispute the following facts unless otherwise noted.[5]

         I. Events prior to the police search/”sweep”

         On December 24, 2014, Juan Espinoza Senior (“Juan Senior”) and his wife Rosa hosted a family Christmas party at their home in Bolingbrook, Illinois. (Def. SOF, ¶ 1.)[6] Family members attending the party included the Espinoza children: Erika, Ricardo, Juan Espinoza, Jr. (“Juan Junior”), Natalie Espinoza (“Natalie”), and Rosa's sister, Reyna Markiewicz (“Reyna”), with her two adult daughters Jessica Markiewicz (“Jessica”) and Jennifer Markiewicz (“Jennifer”). (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) At some point in the evening, Ricardo, who gets aggressive when he drinks, and Juan Junior - both of whom started drinking around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. - began wrestling, which turned into throwing punches, and ultimately turned into a serious altercation. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9, 11-14.) The fight aroused fear among other family members causing Erika, Natalie, Jennifer and Jessica to lock themselves into an upstairs bedroom out of fear for their safety. (Id. ¶¶ 16-19.) Juan Senior also became involved in the skirmish while attempting to break up the fight between his two sons. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         Eventually, one of the family members called 911 during which a “lengthy” conversation between Erika and the 911-dispatcher captured the chaos and severity of the altercation. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.) Officers Joseph Cassidy and Richard Burdett were the first police officers to arrive on the scene, followed by Sergeant Talbot, and then Officers Stepien, Kiklas, O'Hara, Tucker and Gruben shortly thereafter in part due to “scream[s] for help over the radio, [and] yell[s] for more people” to respond. (Id. ¶¶ 23-25.) Shortly after arriving, the police took Ricardo, Juan Senior and Juan Junior into custody. (Id.)

         II. The “protective sweep” or search of the Espinoza's home

         After securing Ricardo, Juan Senior and Juan Junior, several officers conducted a protective sweep of the home because “they did not know what happened before they arrived on the scene and they wanted to make sure the house was safe and no one else in the house was injured or hurt.”[7] (Id. ¶ 26.) Officers O'Hara and Tucker cleared the second floor of the residence, which included sending Natalie and another juvenile back downstairs to the first floor. (Pl. SOF, ¶¶ 1-3.) During the events on the second floor, Officer Stepien had the locked door to the basement “pinned” or guarded, so that no person could enter or exit the basement. (Id. ¶¶ 7-9.)

         Upon returning from the second floor, Officer Tucker used a utility knife to unlock the basement door and proceeded down into the basement.[8] Officer Tucker spent five minutes looking around in the unfinished basement, which included a Bedroom set-up with a mattress and a TV. (Id. ¶6; Def. Resp., ¶ 13.)[9] At some point in time Officers Tucker, Gruben, Stepien, Kiklas and Sergeant Talbot were also in the basement. (Def. Resp. ¶ 10.) During Tucker's time in the basement, he searched under the bed and also discovered a shoebox and a bag containing narcotics near a sofa.[10] Tucker returned to the first floor and informed Sergeant Talbot what he observed, which prompted Talbot to head into the basement to look around as well. (Pl. SOF, ¶ 16.) Ultimately Juan Senior and Juan Junior both pled guilty to battery, and Ricardo pled guilty to resisting a police officer.[11] (Def. SOF, ¶¶ 50-52.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Whether a fact is material depends on the underlying substantive law. Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). “A ‘genuine issue' exists with respect to any such material fact, and summary judgment is therefore inappropriate, when ‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Bunn v. Khoury Enters., Inc., 753 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2014 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). On the other hand, “where the factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is nothing for a jury to do.” Bunn, 753 F.3d at 682 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255); see also Kvapil v. Chippewa County, Wis., 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         The Officers move for summary judgment on Rosa's Fourth Amendment unlawful search claim (Count I), arguing that the search conducted after the arrest of Ricardo and Juan Junior qualified as an exception to the warrant requirement as a protective sweep for safety purposes. In the alternative, the Officers assert that even if the Court finds the search went beyond the scope of a protective sweep it was a lawful search incident to arrest. The Court needn't delve into this analytical distinction between a protective sweep and a lawful search ...


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