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Simenson v. City of Joliet

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

August 7, 2019

CHRISTOPHER SIMENSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF JOLIET, et. al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN ROBERT BLAKEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Christopher Simenson sues Defendants City of Joliet, Joliet Police Department (JPD) Officer Nicholas Crowley, and JPD Officer D. Weis based upon events that transpired following a 911 call on May 28, 2016. [1] ¶¶ 9-38. Defendants move for partial summary judgment on Counts I and III of Plaintiff's complaint. [35]. Counts I and III allege that Officer Crowley: (1) illegally seized Plaintiff in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); and (2) maliciously prosecuted Plaintiff in violation of Illinois state law (Count III). [1] ¶¶ 39-44, 51-57. For the reasons explained below, this Court grants Defendants' motion.

         I. Background

         The following facts come from Defendants' LR 56.1 statement of material facts, [37], Plaintiff's response to Defendants' statement of material facts, [46], Plaintiff's statement of additional facts, [45], and Defendants' response to Plaintiff's statement of additional facts, [47].

         A. The 911 Call

         Plaintiff resides in Will County, Illinois. [37] ¶ 1. Defendant Crowley has served as a police officer for Joliet since 2013. Id. ¶ 2.

         Minutes after midnight on May 28, 2016, John Torres-a security guard for Harrah's Joliet Hotel & Casino-called 911 to report that he encountered a male subject on casino property who said he planned to jump off nearby Jefferson Street Bridge. Id. ¶ 3. Torres remained on the phone with the 911 dispatcher as the dispatcher relayed the call's substance to JPD and confirmed that the officers approached the correct subject. Id. ¶ 4. JPD Officers Crowley, Luis Ayala, and Sergeant Tim Powers, among others, responded to the scene after hearing the 911 dispatch that an individual was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off the Jefferson Street Bridge. Id. ¶ 5. Joliet Fire Department paramedics Mark Boros and Tyler Wilson also responded to the scene. Id. ¶ 6. Officer Crowley, Sergeant Powers, Boros, and Wilson all knew from personal experience that the Jefferson Street Bridge serves as a suicide “hot spot.” Id. ¶ 8.

         Officer Ayala arrived on the scene first, followed shortly thereafter by Boros, Wilson, and Officer Crowley. Id. ¶ 9. Upon arrival, they saw Plaintiff sitting on a bench beside the river, yards from the Jefferson Street Bridge. Id. Sergeant Powers served as the on-scene supervisor for JPD and initially watched the scene from across the street so as to not interfere. Id. ¶ 7.

         While Plaintiff continued sitting on the bench, Officer Ayala, Boros, and Wilson began speaking to him; Officer Crowley did not speak to Plaintiff at this time. Id. ¶ 10. Defendants maintain that Simenson appeared visibly intoxicated throughout the conversation; Plaintiff counters that he “wasn't really drunk, ” but “had some alcohol in” him. Id. ¶ 11; [46] ¶ 11; [37-1] at 55. Regardless, Plaintiff concedes that he drank “numerous ‘mugs' of beer earlier in the day.” [37] ¶ 11. When the JPD officers approached Plaintiff, he also had a backpack containing a six pack of beer in his possession. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff told the JPD officers that he had been drinking and made statements to the effect that he “need[ed] some help, ” wanted to get into rehab, and wanted to quit drinking. Id. ¶ 13; [37-1] at 35, 53.

         While Plaintiff still sat on the bench, Boros and Wilson, in their role as paramedics, determined that they needed to take him to the hospital. Id. ¶ 14; [37-4] at 20; [37-5] at 10, 45. They made this decision based upon: (1) the 911 call reporting a suicidal individual; (2) the Jefferson Street Bridge's reputation as a suicide “hot spot”; (3) evidence of Plaintiff's alcohol consumption; and (4) Plaintiff's statement that he needed help. Id. ¶ 16. Boros and Wilson did hear Plaintiff deny being suicidal, but did not change their determination given: (1) the circumstances of the 911 call; (2) their standing medical orders; and (3) their experience as paramedics, including circumstances in which individuals had denied suicidal thoughts despite showing evidence of self-harm. Id. Accordingly, Boros and Wilson believed that a qualified mental health professional needed to further evaluate Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 17; [37-4] at 15, 57-58; [37-5] at 13-15.

         Boris and Wilson testified that upon arriving to a scene involving a suicidal patient, they usually explain to the patient that he or she can come to the hospital willingly, or the paramedics will take him or her to the hospital in protective custody. [37-4] at 62-63; [37-5] at 51-52. In this case, however, Boros and Wilson could not recall whether they explained these two options to Plaintiff. Id. According to Plaintiff, Boros and Wilson “nicely” asked him if they could take him to the hospital and never advised him that he had no choice but to go. [45] ¶ 7; [46] ¶¶ 14, 20; [37-1] at 32, 36.

         Eventually, Plaintiff entered the ambulance voluntarily and had his vital signs checked. [37] ¶ 21; [45] ¶ 3. While in the back of the ambulance, Plaintiff cooperated with Boros and Wilson, and both paramedics testified that he behaved in a calm manner. [45] ¶ 7. Sometime after entering the back of the ambulance, Plaintiff saw Officer Crowley for the first time. [37] ¶ 22. Officer Crowley heard Plaintiff deny making suicidal threats. [45] ¶ 5.

         While the paramedics checked Plaintiff's vital signs in the ambulance, Officers Crowley and Ayala searched through his backpack-outside of the ambulance-as part of standard security protocol and at the request of the paramedics; in doing so, they found alcohol in Plaintiff's bag. [37] ¶ 23. Plaintiff then became “agitated” and “angered, ” and stated that he wanted to bring his alcohol and bag with him into the ambulance. Id. ¶ 24; [37-3] at 17; [37-5] at 21-24. Plaintiff then stated that he wanted to go home, rather than to the hospital, and left the ambulance. [37] ¶ 25. While the parties dispute exactly what Officer Crowley told Plaintiff before he left the ambulance, the record demonstrates that Office Crowley, at the very least, told Plaintiff that he would go to the hospital either voluntarily or in handcuffs. [37] ¶ 27; [37-1] at 38; [37-2] at 33; [46] ¶ 27.

         Following Plaintiff's exit from the ambulance, a physical altercation occurred between him and Officer Crowley. [37] ¶ 29. According to Plaintiff, Officer Crowley tackled him, and in the process Plaintiff's face hit the corner of a metal box. [37-1] at 38-39. According to Officer Crowley, after he gave Plaintiff the option to go to the hospital voluntarily or in handcuffs, Plaintiff turned around and put his hands behind his back, telling Officer Crowley “fine; then fucking handcuff me.” [37-2] at 34. Officer Crowley maintains that he put one handcuff on Plaintiff's wrist before Plaintiff pulled away from him and twisted his torso towards the ambulance door; Officer Crowley then used his body weight to get him onto the floor of the ambulance to control his movements. Id. Defendants concede that in this process, Plaintiff struck his head on a metal box and cut his cheek. [3 7 ] ¶ 31. Fol lowing the altercation, Boros and Wilson tended to Plaintiff's cut cheek in the ambulance and controlled the bleeding. [37] ¶ 32; [37-4] at 38. Officer Crowley placed handcuffs on Plaintiff while he remained on the floor of the ambulance, but while Plaintiff received treatment, only one hand remained handcuffed. [45] ¶¶ 17-18.

         Sergeant Powers, still watching from a distance, heard loud speech and saw a commotion at the side of the ambulance, but did not see anything specific. [37] ¶ 33. He then walked to the back of the ambulance and discussed what had occurred with Officers Crowley and Ayala. Id. Following this conversation, Officer Crowley also decided to arrest Plaintiff for misdemeanor resisting or obstructing a police officer. Id. ¶ 34.

         Boros and Wilson then took Plaintiff in custody to Presence St. Joseph's Hospital for medical treatment. Id. ¶ 35. Specifically, they took him to Pod D of the Emergency Room-the Emergency Room's psychiatric section. Id. Plaintiff arrived at the hospital at 12:52 a.m. Id. Plaintiff was then released from police custody on a recognizance bond, known as an I-Bond, at 2:05 a.m., but remained at the hospital for treatment for four additional hours. Id. ¶ 36; [45] ¶ 21. Nurse Mark Wales, who treated Plaintiff, stated that Plaintiff was “very threatening” in the hospital. [37] ¶ 37; [37-10] at 12.

         Wales also testified that based upon his observations and training, Plaintiff was heavily intoxicated and not capable of making decisions. [37] ¶ 39. Plaintiff denies that he behaved uncooperatively, [37-1] at 69, but concedes that his behavior in the Emergency Room caused security officers and crisis intervention specialists to respond and handle him, [37] ¶ 38. While at the hospital, tests revealed that Plaintiff had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .242. Id. ¶ 42.[1] Ultimately, Dr. Kim Orlob treated the cut on Plaintiff's face at 5:05 a.m. by closing it with glue in a “simple repair.” Id. ¶ 43. The parties agree that Plaintiff ultimately never received a mental health evaluation before leaving the hospital at 5:55 a.m. See [44] at 5; [37] ¶ 43.

         B. Plaintiffs Criminal Prosecution

         Following the 911 call and subsequent incident, Officer Crowley filled out reports to generate the misdemeanor criminal complaint against Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 44. Officer Crowley's case report stated that with regard to the incident-he listed the subject line of the report as “suicide”-the disposition was “unfounded.” [45] ¶ 5; [45-1]. In his testimony, Officer Crowley said he incorrectly input “unfounded”-by clicking on the wrong option in a dropdown menu-when filling out the report. [47] ¶ 5; [37-2] at 114. The case against Plaintiff was assigned to the Circuit Court of Will County; Plaintiff hired an attorney and went to court on February 14, 2017-the day the court set his case for a jury trial. [37] ¶¶ 45-46. Officer Crowley also received notification ...


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