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Fakhoury v. Brongiel

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

July 2, 2019

Shereen Fakhoury, Plaintiff,
v.
Alsip Police Officer James Brongiel, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Elainle E. Bucklo United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Shereen Fakhoury was arrested by the Village of Oak Lawn Police Department in December of 2013 for driving under the influence. A warrant for her arrest was issued. On December 18, 2015, the Circuit Court of Cook County entered an Order declaring that the warrant had been executed. Plaintiff received a copy of that Order.

         On November 1, 2017, Officer Brongiel of the Village of Alsip Police Department approached plaintiff in the driveway of her residence in the Village of Alsip and inquired about the warrant. Plaintiff told Officer Brongiel that the warrant had been executed and offered to produce a copy of the December 18, 2015, Order from her home. According to the complaint, Brongiel “contacted Alsip dispatch to verify the status” of the warrant and “was advised said warrant remained outstanding.” Compl. at ¶ 21. Brongiel refused to allow plaintiff to retrieve her copy of the Order and instead took her into custody.

         Brongiel then drove plaintiff to a location on the border of the Village of Alsip and the Village of Oak Lawn, where he transferred her into the custody of Officer Carlson of the Oak Lawn Police Department. Officer Carlson contacted Oak Lawn Dispatch and, like Officer Brongiel, was advised that the warrant remained outstanding. Officer Carlson then transported plaintiff to the Oak Lawn Police Department Lockup. Plaintiff alleges that throughout this time, she repeatedly told the officers that the warrant had been executed and that she was in possession of a copy of the Order. Plaintiff repeatedly requested permission to contact her brother so that her brother could bring a copy of the Order to the Oak Lawn Police Station. Her requests were denied. Plaintiff also advised Officer Carlson that she suffered from an anxiety disorder requiring medication and requested permission to contact her brother so that her brother could bring her medication. This request was likewise denied.

         Plaintiff was placed in a cell at the Oak Lawn Police Department at around noon the same day. Over the next two hours, plaintiff's brother contacted the Oak Lawn Police Department to advise them of the Order stating that the warrant had been executed, but Officer Carlson and/or other officers of the Oak Lawn Police Department “continued to refuse to receive said Court Order” and continued to detain plaintiff. Compl. at ¶ 50. Shortly before 3:00 p.m., plaintiff complained of pain in her chest and side. She was transferred to a hospital emergency room ten minutes later, where she was treated for an aggravation of her anxiety disorder and returned to the Oak Lawn Police Department shortly after 7:00 p.m. She remained in the custody of the Oak Lawn Police Department until her appearance at a hearing pursuant to the warrant in the Circuit Court of Cook County at 8:35 the following morning. The judge determined that the warrant had been executed on December 18, 2015, and entered an order stating that all warrants issued in plaintiff's cause prior to the hearing date were quashed and recalled. Plaintiff was released from custody, and this lawsuit followed.

         The complaint alleges that Officers Brongiel, Carlson, unknown others, and the Villages of Alsip and Oak Lawn falsely arrested and falsely imprisoned plaintiff in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment. She also alleges that Officers Carlson and unknown others, and the Village of Oak Lawn, denied her medical care in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Finally, she asserts against all defendants state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. Against the municipal defendants, plaintiff also pleads counts captioned respondeat superior and indemnification. Defendants Brongiel and the Village of Alsip have answered the complaint. Defendants Carlson and the Village of Oak Lawn (“the Village”) have moved to dismiss the claims directed to them: false arrest and false imprisonment in violation of the Constitution and Illinois state law; denial of medical care in violation of the Constitution; and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

         I.

         A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint, not its merits. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). I assume the truth of plaintiff's factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor. Id. at 1521.

         Defendants raise several arguments for dismissal. First, they assert that the plaintiff's own allegations establish probable cause for her arrest, eviscerating her Fourth Amendment and Illinois wrongful arrest claims. At a minimum, defendants continue, the alleged facts show that Officer Carlson had “arguable probable cause” for her arrest, so he is qualifiedly immune from liability for the alleged constitutional violations. Next, defendants argue that plaintiff's allegations do not state an actionable claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need or IIED. Defendants' final argument is that there is no basis for municipal liability because even assuming that the complaint pleads a constitutional violation by Carlson, it fails to allege any facts suggesting the existence of a municipal policy, custom, or practice as required to hold the Village liable under Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978), and because each of her substantive state law claims is subject to dismissal. Plaintiff offers no response to defendants' argument concerning Monell liability, but she disputes their remaining arguments seriatim.

         II.

         I begin with the issue of probable cause, since its existence “is an absolute defense” to both federal and state claims based on a wrongful arrest. Mustafa v. City of Chicago, 442 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir. 2006) (probable cause defeats claims for false arrest and false imprisonment; Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 599 F.3d 617, 626 (7th Cir. 2010) (same under Illinois law). An officer has probable cause to arrest when the totality of the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge objectively support a reasonable belief that the individual has committed a crime. Holmes v. Village of Hoffman Estates, 511 F.3d 673, 679 (7th Cir. 2007). “Qualified immunity is available if there is ‘arguable probable cause' for the arrest. Muhammad v. Pearson, 900 F.3d 898, 908 (7th Cir. 2018)

         At the outset, it bears noting that plaintiff does not allege that Carlson was involved in the decision to arrest her. Instead, she states that Carlson took custody of her after she was detained by Officer Brongiel. See Compl. at ¶ 25 (Officer Brongiel took plaintiff into custody at her home). According to the complaint, Brongiel transferred custody of plaintiff to Carlson on a street corner at the border of Alsip and Oak Lawn. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. There, Carlson contacted the Oak Lawn police department and learned-just as Officer Brongiel had from the Alsip police department-that a warrant for her arrest was outstanding. Id. at ¶¶ 28, 21. Carlson then transported plaintiff to the Village lockup. Id. at ¶ 28. These facts do not easily lend themselves to a claim of false arrest against Carlson, who had no role in plaintiff's initial arrest and took affirmative steps to confirm that her custody was lawful prior to taking custody of her. Those steps yielded information supporting probable cause. Moreover, unlike in plaintiff's central authority, McMurry v. Sheahan, No. 95 C 999, 1996 WL 296585 (N.D. Ill. May 31, 1996) (Gettleman, J.), plaintiff neither alleges nor offers facts to suggest that Carlson knew or should have known that the information he obtained from his fellow officers was unreliable. Cf. id. at *7. (computerized system showing outstanding warrants was allegedly known to be “an utter failure and cannot be relied upon, ” and “routinely leads to false arrests.”)(citations omitted).

         “Generally, a person arrested pursuant to a facially valid warrant cannot prevail in a § 1983 suit for false arrest, ” unless the arresting officer knew the warrant was invalid. Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 443-44 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137 143 (1979)). Plaintiff insists that she told Carlson-as she had Brongiel-that her arrest warrant had been executed, and that she could prove it by showing them the Order. But even with the Order in hand, Officer Carlson would have been faced with facially contradictory evidence: information he obtained from his fellow officers indicating that a warrant for plaintiff's arrest was outstanding, and a judicial order that, on its face, appeared to show the contrary. “Courts, and not the police, should determine whether to credit a suspect's claim of innocence.” Dakhlallah v. Zima, 42 F.Supp.3d 901, 909 (N.D. Ill. 2014). See also Reynolds v. Jamison, 488 F.3d 756, 762 (7th Cir. 2007) (suspect's denial of guilt “does not negate probable cause for his arrest”). While an officer “may not close his eyes to facts that would clarify the situation, ” McBride v. Grice, 576 F.3d 703, 707 (7th Cir. 2009), the Fourth Amendment does not require officers in the field to resolve inconsistencies in the facts they observe prior to taking a suspect into custody, see Leaver v. Shortess, 844 F.3d 665, 669 (7th Cir. 2016) (conflicting information uncovered in police investigation does not “conclusively negate” probable cause). See also McBride 576 F.3d at 708 (“[t]here is no constitutional or statutory requirement that before an arrest can be made the police must conduct a trial.”) (quoting Gramenos v. Jewel Companies, Inc., 797 F.2d 432, 439 (7th Cir. 1986)); Dakhlallah 42 F.Supp.3d at 921 (N.D. Ill. 2014) (information arresting officer obtained from law enforcement database supported probable cause, notwithstanding suspect's offer to provide copy of a court order showing inaccuracy of that information).

         At a minimum, Officer Carlson is entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable officer in his situation could have believed that he had probable cause to detain plaintiff “at least long enough to figure out definitively” whether plaintiff's arrest warrant was still outstanding. See Muhammad v. Pearson, 900 F.3d 898, 909 (7th Cir. 2018) (officer executing search warrant had “arguable probable cause” to arrest individual who “did not look like the picture” the officer had of the suspect, but who met other criteria known about the suspect and had no identification to prove who he was or where he lived). Plaintiff argues that qualified immunity is inappropriate on the facts alleged, but her cited authorities confirm the opposite. See Fleming v. Livingston County, Ill., 674 F.3d 874, 879 (7th Cir. 2012) (granting qualified immunity to arresting officer who “reasonably, albeit possibly mistakenly” believed probable cause existed); Duckett v. City of Cedar Park, Tex., 950 F.2d 272, 278 (5th Cir. 1992) (granting qualified immunity to officer who arrested the plaintiff based on “a computer check” that revealed an outstanding warrant, notwithstanding the plaintiff's insistence that the warrant had been withdrawn); Lauer v. Dahlberg, 717 F.Supp 612 (N.D. Ill. 1989)(granting qualified immunity to officer who arrested the plaintiff ...


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