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Ploski v. B. Medenica

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

August 26, 2019

JOHN PLOSKI, Plaintiff,
Chicago Police Officer B. MEDENICA, Star # 13522, and the CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.


          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff John Ploski (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against Defendant Officer Bogdan Medenica (“Defendant Medenica”) and Defendant City of Chicago (“Defendant City”). Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Medenica used excessive force against him in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 (Count I) and that Defendant City is required to indemnify Medenica under Illinois law (Count III).[1] The facts in this case are straightforward and largely undisputed except for whether the Defendant Officer's conduct was accidental or intentional. For purposes of the instant motion for summary judgment [51], the Court assumes the latter. The pivotal question is whether that conduct-which consisted of Medenica striking Ploski in the head with a baton at a police academy training exercise-raises a claim for battery under state law or for a violation of the Fourth Amendment under the federal Constitution. Because there is no clearly established law supporting the federal theory of liability, Medenica is entitled to qualified immunity on Count I. And as that is the only federal claim, Ploski must pursue any recovery in a refiled action in the Illinois courts, which remain open to him for a period of one-year (see 735 ILCS 5/13-217). In sum, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Count I on qualified immunity grounds, dismisses Count II with prejudice, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Count III, which is dismissed without prejudice. The Court will enter a Rule 58 final judgment and close this case.

         I. Background

         The Court takes the relevant facts primarily from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements, [53], [56], [57], and [58]. The following facts are undisputed except where a disagreement between the parties is noted.

         This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § §1331 and 1367. Venue in this judicial district is proper because the events alleged in Plaintiff's complaint occurred within the Northern District of Illinois and Defendants reside in or are located in this District.

         On August 23, 2016, Defendant Medenica struck Plaintiff in the head with an expandable metal baton. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was a recruit in the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) Training Academy Class 16-3C. Plaintiff was attending a training on the use of batons taught by Defendant Medenica, a police officer and gym instructor for the recruits. Plaintiff began the session by standing with the other recruits in a block formation of approximately three rows of nine. Defendant Medenica told the recruits not to hit anyone in the head, neck, or spine or back with a baton.

         Plaintiff's account of the training session is as follows. Shortly after the session began, Defendant Medenica pulled Plaintiff out of the front line of the formation by his collar and performed an “arm-bar” type technique on him using a collapsible metal baton for leverage. Defendant Medenica was showing the class how to use the baton to put pressure on someone's shoulder. When Defendant Medenica released Plaintiff, he asked if the arm-bar hurt. Plaintiff said “No, ” in an effort to demonstrate that he was tough enough to be a police officer. Defendant Medenica tapped Plaintiff on the chest with the baton and said, “That's not good.” Plaintiff returned to his position in the front line of the block formation and Defendant Medenica walked to the end of the formation on Plaintiff's left side. A few seconds later, Defendant Medenica walked aggressively toward Plaintiff. Defendant Medenica was not holding the baton closed with his thumb. He “loaded up” his baton-holding arm, made a punching motion towards Plaintiff with the baton in his hand, and struck Plaintiff with the baton on the left side of his forehead.

         Defendant Medenica does not recall which recruit he used for the armbar demonstration and denies that he hit Plaintiff intentionally. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff for the purposes of this motion, the Court accepts that Defendant Medenica struck Plaintiff intentionally. The parties agree that Defendant Medenica's approach, swing, and baton strike were not part of any training exercise or classroom demonstration.

         When the baton hit him, Plaintiff's vision went out briefly, he saw blood running down his arm, and he began to fall. Defendant Medenica caught Plaintiff and directed him to a chair. Defendant Medenica ran to another location, left Plaintiff alone in the chair, and returned with a compress for Plaintiff's head. Plaintiff walked to the locker room with a different instructor to wash out the laceration on his head and was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. He received stitches and was discharged that day. Plaintiff returned to the emergency room the next day because of continuing symptoms and was then diagnosed with a concussion. He was referred to a neurologist, who did not clear him to work for several weeks. Plaintiff sat out the rest of that term at the academy. He later graduated and is now a Chicago Police Officer.

         On March 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Defendant Medenica and Defendant City alleging an excessive force claim against Defendant Medenica (Count I), respondeat superior liability against Defendant City (Count II), and indemnification against Defendant City (Count III). Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment [51].

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “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). In determining summary judgment motions, “facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Summary judgment is proper where “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Gibbs v. Lomas, 755 F.3d 529, 536 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Jewett v. Anders, 521 F.3d 818, 821 (7th Cir. 2008)). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. “Once a party has made a properly-supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party may not simply rest upon the pleadings but must instead submit evidentiary materials that ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court will construe all ...

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