United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Robert Blakey United States District Judge
Catherine Brown sued the City of Chicago and multiple Chicago
police officers for alleged constitutional violations arising
from a 2013 traffic stop. . Plaintiff asserted claims for
excessive force (Counts I and II), failure to intervene
(Count III), and unlawful seizure (Count IV) under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Plaintiff raised state-law claims for malicious
prosecution (Count V) and willful and wanton conduct (Count
VI). Finally, Plaintiff brought claims against the City under
Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York,
436 U.S. 658 (1978), and the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, 745
opinion addresses Defendants Michelle Morsi and Jose
Lopez's (Defendants) joint motion for summary judgment on
Count IV  and Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment on Counts I and II . For the reasons explained
below, this Court grants Defendants' motion and denies
Plaintiff's motion. This Court also grants Morsi summary
judgment on Plaintiff's excessive force claims relating
to Morsi's intentional collision with Plaintiff's
facts in this section come from Defendants' statement of
undisputed facts , Plaintiff's statement of
undisputed facts [125-2], Defendants' statement of
additional facts , and Plaintiff's statement of
additional facts . This Court further assesses the
parties' accounts in light of the video evidence
submitted with the parties' motions. See Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-81 (2007); Hurt v.
Wise, 880 F.3d 831, 840 (7th Cir. 2018). That evidence
consists of dashboard camera (dash cam) footage from
Defendants' squad car, see [119-5]; [125-8],
which captures most of the events giving rise to this case.
13, 2013, Plaintiff drove her car down the alley behind her
home in Chicago, Illinois. [125-2] ¶ 6;  ¶ 1.
Her two children, aged about eight and one, were in the car.
See [125-2] ¶¶ 5, 6; [134-6] at 7. In the
part of the alley located approximately behind 8320 South
Kerfoot Street, Plaintiff's car came across
Defendants' squad car heading in the opposite direction.
[125-2] ¶¶ 6-7.
they encountered Plaintiff, Defendants were on duty with
Lopez driving their marked squad car.  ¶¶ 4-5;
[119-4] at 7. As the parties' vehicles neared each other,
each slowed and stopped.  ¶ 7. The cars did not
have space to pass each other in the alley, so they came to a
halt with their front bumpers facing each other. Id.
¶ 10; [125-8] at 3:16. As Defendants' car slowed,
the high beam headlights on Plaintiff's car flashed on
for about 17 seconds. See [125-8] at 3:13-3:29;
 ¶ 9. The parties vigorously dispute whether
Plaintiff also honked her horn repeatedly. See,
e.g.,  ¶ 3.
Plaintiff switched off her high beams, Defendants exited the
squad car and approached her. See [125-8] at
3:30-3:58;  ¶ 11. Morsi testified that at this
point she did not believe that Plaintiff committed any
traffic violations,  ¶ 6, while Lopez testified
that he intended to speak to Plaintiff about her
“improper usage of a horn and improper usage of
highlights or high beams, ” [119-4] at 9. Lopez stated
that he believed Plaintiff's use of high beams violated
the Illinois Vehicle Code because she “was not in
traffic” and the conditions did not otherwise merit her
use of them. Id. Morsi testified that she approached
Plaintiff intending to get Plaintiff to back her car out of
the alley.  ¶ 7.
angle of the dash cam video does not fully capture the
ensuing interaction-the frame cuts off at the front passenger
seat, which is empty, and omits the driver's seat, where
Plaintiff sat. See [125-8] at 4:00. Nevertheless,
the video shows Lopez approaching the passenger side; the
parties agree that Morsi approached the driver's side and
asked Plaintiff for her license and proof of insurance.
Id.;  ¶ 13. Plaintiff testified that Morsi
supposedly also told her, “Bitch move that fucking car
back, ” which Morsi denies. See  ¶
11. The parties agree that Plaintiff proceeded to call 911,
but Defendants deny that she did so in response to any
profanity and the parties also dispute their interactions
regarding that call. See id. ¶¶ 12-14.
point Plaintiff moved so that her hands went out of
Defendants' view; Plaintiff claims that she reached for
her license in response to Defendants' request,
id. ¶ 15, but her cited deposition testimony
contains conflicting evidence about the timing of her
movements, see [140-1] at 24-27. The parties agree
that Defendants drew their weapons in response, but holstered
them again once Plaintiff complied with their instruction to
show her hands.  ¶¶ 14-15. Morsi then tried to
open Plaintiff's door, though the parties dispute exactly
what she did. See id. ¶ 16;  ¶ 16.
Somehow and at some point, Morsi opened Plaintiff's door.
 ¶ 17. The dash cam video does not show these
interactions, or much of what happened next.
dash cam captures part of an altercation around the
driver's seat of Plaintiff's car, after which
Plaintiff backs her car down the alley at a high rate of
speed. [125-8] at 8:49-9:04. According to Defendants,
Plaintiff suddenly reversed down the alley, dragging Morsi
alongside the car. See  ¶ 2. Plaintiff
says she never dragged Morsi and says that Morsi simply fell.
Id. The parties agree that Plaintiff backed down the
alley and onto South Kerfoot. See  ¶ 9.
The dash cam video then shows Morsi getting back into the
squad car, while-according to Defendants-Lopez pursued
Plaintiff's car on foot. See id. at 9:19; 
¶ 2-3. In the video, Morsi drives the squad car out of
the alley, going over a speed bump before turning right onto
South Kerfoot. [125-8] at 9:21-9:33. On South Kerfoot, the
dash cam shows Plaintiff's car driving in reverse down
the middle of the street with the driver's side door
open, facing the squad car. Id. at 9:33-9:38. Morsi
then drives the squad car into the front of Plaintiff's
car. See id. at 9:38-9:41;  ¶ 11.
the circumstances of that collision remain disputed and
cannot be definitively resolved by the dash cam video.
Plaintiff claims that her car came to “a stop next to,
or made slight contact with, a car parked on Kerfoot”
and that Morsi drove into her stopped car, pushing it into
the parked vehicle. [125-2] ¶¶ 10, 19. Morsi says
that she saw Plaintiff crash into the parked car on Kerfoot
before she bumped Plaintiff's car.  ¶¶
5-6. On the video, Plaintiff's car appears to still be in
motion as Morsi's squad car makes contact and
Plaintiff's car then bumps into the parked car.
See [125-8] at 9:34-9:43. The video does confirm
that Plaintiff's car door was still open as she fled down
the street and when the squad car made contact with
Plaintiff's car. Id.
knew that Plaintiff's children were in the car at the
time of the slow speed collision.  ¶ 13. Morsi
stated that she decided to “make contact” with
Plaintiff's car to prevent her from using it to
“flee the scene or strike anybody else, ” or
otherwise continuing to operate her vehicle. [147-1] at 8-9.
Morsi estimated that she was traveling under 30 miles per
hour when she hit Plaintiff's car. [125-2] ¶
According to her co-defendant's discovery responses,
Officer Jason Brown was “not aware” of any
“training” by the Chicago Police Department to
employ their cars to intentionally hit other vehicles as a
disabling technique. See  ¶ 21.
the officers stopped Plaintiff's vehicle, Plaintiff still
refused to submit to arrest and instead, over the next couple
of minutes, she exited and reentered her car on multiple
occasions and moved about the interior of her vehicle.
[125-8] at 9:55-11:40. Based upon Plaintiff's actions,
the officers ultimately needed to deploy mace and Morsi had
to draw her weapon again, before the Plaintiff showed her
hands. Id. at 11:00-11:40. Finally, Morsi, Lopez,
and other officers (who arrived on the scene shortly after
the stop) arrested Plaintiff, following some extremely rough
handling. See id. at 9:54-12:00; [119-6] at 2-4.
Plaintiff's arrest record shows that Defendants charged
her with various offenses, including violating section
9-40-090 of the Chicago Municipal Code, governing the use of
high beam headlights. See  ¶ 19; [119-6] at
result of these events, Plaintiff faced a criminal trial in
the Circuit Court of Cook County. See  ¶
15; [134-6]. After a bench trial, the state judge found
Plaintiff guilty of reckless conduct, meaning that she
performed “an act or acts that cause bodily harm to or
endanger the safety of another person” (in that case,
Morsi). [134-6] at 54-55.
filed this suit in May 2015. . She amended her complaint
in May 2016. . This Court then bifurcated and stayed
Plaintiff's Monell claims, pending resolution of
the allegations against the individual officers. . Before
the deadline for dispositive motions, Plaintiff voluntarily
dismissed a number of officers from this case. [115, 116].
Morsi and Lopez then filed their motion for partial summary
judgment , as did Plaintiff  and Defendant Michelle
Moore-Grose . Plaintiff has since voluntarily dismissed
her claims against Moore-Grose. . This ...