United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
DER-YEGHIAYAN, DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for
summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion
for summary judgment is denied.
Vito Scavelli (Scavelli) contends that at 2:30 a.m., after
celebrating Christmas eve with his family, he was in his
house (House) asleep with his wife and four minor children.
Defendant Officer Michael Schaeffer (Schaeffer), allegedly
responded to a call of a barking dog outside at the House.
Schaeffer allegedly pulled up to the House in an unmarked
SUV. Schaeffer admits that when he arrived at the House, he
heard no barking dogs outside or inside the House. Schaefer,
who is 6T' tall and approximately 260 pounds, allegedly
proceeded to pound loudly on the front door of the House with
his metal flashlight yelling "open the fing door, "
awaking Scavelli and members of his family. Scavelli's
wife claims she thought someone was trying to break into the
House when she heard the noise. The knocking also allegedly
caused Scavelli's dogs inside the House to start barking,
which created more of an uproar and added to the confusion of
the situation. Schaeffer then began ringing the doorbell next
to the front door.
allegedly proceeded to the front door. Fearing for the safety
of his family, Scavelli allegedly grabbed his unloaded
registered firearm from a shelf. Scavelli claims he yelled
through the door to the individual outside to identify
himself and Scavelli did not hear Schaefer announce himself
as a police officer. Scavelli allegedly opened the door while
holding back one of his dogs. Scavelli contends that he was
disoriented after being awoken at 2:30 a.m. on Christmas
morning and he was not sure what was happening, and did not
realize at first that Schaeffer was a police officer since
the lighting was bad, he was not wearing a police officer
cap, and he was not wearing a typical police uniform.
Scavelli contends that at no point did he actually point the
gun at Schaefer. Schaeffer then allegedly saw the firearm and
screamed at Scavelli "drop the f___ing gun."
Scavelli yelled back that he had a right to defend his house,
but then put the gun down on a nearby shelf. Schaefer then
allegedly attempted to step into the House and grab Scavelli,
but Scavelli was able to push Schaeffer outside and close the
door. Scavelli then allegedly yelled that he wanted a police
supervisor on the scene and called 911. When other officers
arrived on the scene, Scavelli was compliant and did not
resist in any way when he was placed under arrest. Scavelli
was charged with assaulting a police officer and spent the
next three days in jail before he was able to post bond. In a
bench trial, Scavelli was found not guilty of the assault
charges. Scavelli includes in his complaint a false
arrest/detention claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(Section 1983) (Count I), a state law false arrest claim
(Count II), a state law false imprisonment claim (Count III),
a state law malicious prosecution claim (Count IV), a state
law respondeat superior claim (Count V), and a state
law indemnification claim (Count VI). Defendants now move for
summary judgment on all claims.
judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56©; Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699
(7th Cir. 2009). A "genuine issue" in the context
of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a
"metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue
of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Phillip Morris,
Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a
motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the
record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor
of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255;
Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th
argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on the false
arrest claims because Schaefer had probable cause to arrest
Scavelli. The existence of probable cause provides "an
absolute defense to claims of wrongful or false arrest under
the Fourth Amendment in section 1983 suits." Ewell
v. Toney, 853 F.3d 911, 919 (7th Cir. 2017). An officer
has probable cause "if the facts and circumstances
within the officer's knowledge ... are sufficient to
warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in
believing . . . that the suspect has committed, is
committing, or is about to commit an offense."
Id. (internal quotations omitted)(quoting
Williams v. City of Chicago, 733 F.3d 749, 756 (7th
Cir. 2013))(stating that "[p]robable cause is gauged
from the vantage point of a reasonable officer facing the
argue that after Schaeffer had repeatedly pounded on the door
to the House, Scavelli "opened the door with a
Rottweiler and a gun . . . ." (Resp. 5). Defendants
argue that Schaeffer reasonably believed a crime was
occurring or was going to occur and he feared for his safety
because "an individual with a gun and a large dog
responded to a knock on the door." (Rep. 6). Defendants
insinuate that there was somehow something sinister that one
of Scavelli's dogs went to the front door with him after
Schaeffer started pounding on the front door in the middle of
the night. It is unclear why Defendants believe that a dog
inside its master's home responding to an intruder in the
middle of the night is somehow an indication of an ongoing or
future crime. There is no indication that Scavelli sent the
dog to attack Schaeffer or that the dog even made any attempt
to harm Schaeffer. There is, in fact, evidence that Scavelli
put a leash on the dog to restrain the dog before opening the
door. Nor is the fact that Scavelli grabbed his registered
firearm in his own house to defend his home and family any
indication of wrong doing. Any reasonable officer in
Schaeffer's position should have found nothing out of the
ordinary when such circumstances unfolded after allegedly
pounding on the front door in the middle of the night and
yelling "open the f___ing door."
in arguing that a reasonable officer in Schaeffer's
position would have had probable cause, also rely on several
genuinely disputed material facts. Defendants contend that
Scavelli pointed the gun at Schaeffer, but that fact is
denied by Scavelli. Scavelli also points to evidence that he
contends shows that Schaeffer gave statements at
Scavelli's trial, to the dispatch, to felony review
prosecutors, and to the grand jury that are not consistent
with the statements provided in this case.
also contend that Schaeffer announced he was a police officer
when he knocked, but that fact is also disputed by Scavelli.
Scavelli and his wife both claim that they never heard such
an announcement by Schaeffer. Even if Schaeffer had made such
an announcement, a reasonable officer might have suspected
that at 2:30 a.m. on Christmas morning there might not have
been anyone awake to hear the announcement. Defendants also
contend that Scavelli did not initially put down his gun when
told to do so, and stated he had a right to defend his home.
There are disputed facts as to how long of an interval
occurred before Scavelli complied and set down the gun, and
when Schaeffer suddenly lunged toward Scavelli to grab him.
Such facts can only be resolved by the trier of fact.
Defendants cannot obtain summary judgment based on their
version of events. There are not sufficient undisputed facts
that would establish that Schaefer had probable cause to