United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary
judgment filed by defendants City of Belleville
(“City”) and Officer Michael Siebel (Doc. 57).
Plaintiff Michele Brock has responded to the motion (Doc.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment must be granted “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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels
Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000).
The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986);
Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir.
2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.
initial summary judgment burden of production is on the
moving party to show the Court that there is no reason to
have a trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323;
Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir.
2013). Where the non-moving party carries the burden of proof
at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of
production in one of two ways. It may present evidence that
affirmatively negates an essential element of the non-moving
party's case, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A),
or it may point to an absence of evidence to support an
essential element of the non-moving party's case without
actually submitting any evidence, see Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(c)(1)(B). Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25;
Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1169. Where the moving party
fails to meet its strict burden, a court cannot enter summary
judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party
fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion.
Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).
responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party
may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the
pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a
genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322-26; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57;
Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1168. A genuine issue of
material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of
“some alleged factual dispute between the parties,
” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by “some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material
fact exists only if “a fair-minded jury could return a
verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence
presented.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in
Brock's favor, the evidence in the record establishes the
following relevant facts.
evening of March 1, 2015, Brock got into a physical fight
with her boyfriend Accozio Harriel at her home. In the fight,
Harriel smacked Brock several times in the face and tried to
choke her, and Brock bit Harriel and pulled his hair. Harriel
called 911. Belleville police officers responded to the call,
arrested Brock, and placed her in handcuffs. Belleville
Police Officer Hoepfinger transported her to the police
basement sally port of the police station, still in
handcuffs, Brock became unsteady on her feet after getting
out of the car. She bent over immediately upon leaving the
car and eventually collapsed face-down on the floor behind
the car. Siebel, who was working elsewhere in the police
station, saw on the surveillance monitor that Brock was
having trouble, so he came to check on her. He checked on
Brock, and then he and Hoepfinger lifted Brock to a standing
position. Brock was either limp or squirming, which required
both officers to struggle to keep her upright and help her
into the booking area of the police station. At some point
Brock began having a panic attack and felt like she could not
breathe, so she yelled at the officers that she could not
breathe and that she was going to faint. Siebel and Brock
then got into a heated verbal argument: Siebel told Brock to
stop acting the way she was acting, that she was acting
stupid, and to knock it off; Brock asked Siebel what he meant
and told him she did not feel well. At one point Siebel took
the lion's share of the burden to hold Brock up while
Hoepfinger used one hand to unlock and open the door between
the sally port and the rest of the station. To do this, he
wrapped both of his arms around her so he could support her
from both of her sides.
course of their argument and while Siebel was supporting most
of Brock's weight, spittle flew from Brock's mouth
when she spoke because of a gap between her teeth. She
covered Siebel's face with moisture, although she did not
intend to spit on Siebel. The flying saliva caused Siebel to
jerk his head backward, but because he needed to keep a hold
on Brock to keep her upright and was in a tight spot between
Brock and the door to exit the sally port, he could not move
to avoid Brock's saliva. In response, Siebel quickly
raised his open hand and briefly slapped Brock on the left
side of her face to redirect her head so her spit would not
land on his face anymore. Brock posed no additional threat to
Siebel or Hoepfinger during the entire incident and was not a
flight risk. Other than the force needed to hold her upright,
Siebel did not use any additional force on Brock either
before or after he slapped her. Brock asked Siebel why he had
smacked her, and he said it was because she had spit on him.
She denied spitting on him on purpose and explained that any
spitting was unintentional. Seibel and Brock later apologized
to each other.
being taken upstairs from the sally port, Brock had a panic
attack in the booking room of the station, passed out, and
hit the back of her head on a bench. An ambulance arrived to
provide medical treatment for her. Brock was alert enough to
hear the paramedics commenting, before they were able to
examine her, that there was nothing wrong with her and that
she was ignorant. Brock became agitated and did not want
anyone who thought she was ignorant to touch her, so she told
the paramedics she was fine and refused any treatment. She
requested that another ambulance be summoned, but the
following morning, two Belleville Police Department
detectives interviewed Brock. At that time, her left eye was
swollen. She reported to the detectives that Siebel smacked
her hard in the face, but she never made a formal written
citizen's complaint, so no formal investigation of the
was eventually transferred to the St. Clair County Jail,
where she was released on bond. She was charged with, among
other things, aggravated assault on a police officer for her
contact with Siebel. She eventually pled guilty to the
reduced charge of obstructing a peace officer from making an
arrest in violation of 720 ILCS 5/31-1(a), but that charge
was dismissed and expunged after she went to mental health
court on a regular basis and received counseling.
never sought medical treatment for any injury she suffered
while in custody, although her face remained swollen for
several weeks. She did not seek mental health treatment other
than what was ordered by the court in relation to her
obstructing a peace officer charge.
believes the City had a custom of having police officers slap
detainees on the pretense of redirecting their spit. The City
provided training on the general use of force, but Brock
believes the City did not provide training to officers
specifically about how to handle detainees who spit on them.
The City had a formal policy calling for the use of
“spit hoods” on detainees officers reasonably
thought would spit on them and calling for personal
protective equipment for officers likely to be spit on. Brock
also faults the City because there is a practice that police
detectives investigating crimes do not report detainees'
oral complaints of abuse made in interviews unless injuries
are visible or obvious. The City believes the use of force in
an arrest is already reflected in the police report, so the
supervisor of the officer using force already knows it
filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging the
defendants violated several of her constitutional rights in
connection with her arrest on March 1, 2015 (Counts I-IV).
Count 1 is against Siebel for excessive force, Count II is
against Siebel for denial of medical care following her
collapsing and Siebel's slap, Count III is against Siebel
for retaliation for speech, and Count IV is against the City
for policies condoning officers' unconstitutional
conduct. The Court has dismissed those claims to the extent
they are asserted against the Belleville Police Department
because it is not a suable entity and has dismissed
additional state law claims on the grounds that Brock brought
them after the statute of limitations had expired (Doc. 37).
and the City now ask the Court for summary judgment on all
remaining claims. Specifically with respect to Count I,
Siebel argues that the force he used in slapping Brock was
not excessive. With respect to Count II, Siebel argues he
responded reasonably to Brock's medical needs when
paramedics were called to assist her. With respect to Count
III, Siebel argues he slapped Brock because she was spitting
on him, not because she was exercising any First Amendment
speech right. Siebel also asserts he is entitled to qualified
immunity. With respect to Count IV, the City argues it cannot
be liable because Siebel is not liable and because Brock has
not identified any City policy that caused a violation her
constitutional rights. Brock asserts that genuine issues of
material fact remain as to all counts.
Count I: Excessive Force
claims Siebel used excessive force when he slapped her.
Siebel believes his force was ...