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Lipinski v. Castaneda

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

September 13, 2019




         After plaintiff Jeanette S.R. Lipinski (“Lipinski”) was arrested for and acquitted of poisoning her neighbors' dog, she sued a long list of defendants. Plaintiff has two remaining claims. In Count IV, against defendant Lt. Bonner and Officer Andrielle Cap (“Officer Cap”), plaintiff seeks relief under § 1983 for false arrest. In Count III, plaintiff asserts a claim for malicious prosecution against defendants Yolanda Castaneda, Alonso Castaneda, Lt. Bonner and Officer Cap. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Local Rule 56.1 outlines the requirements for the introduction of facts parties would like considered in connection with a motion for summary judgment. The Court enforces Local Rule 56.1 strictly. Where one party supports a fact with admissible evidence and the other party fails to controvert the fact with citation to admissible evidence, the Court deems the fact admitted. See Curtis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 807 F.3d 215, 218-19 (7th Cir. 2015); Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-18 (7th Cir. 2004). This does not, however, absolve the party putting forth the fact of the duty to support the fact with admissible evidence. See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012). The Court does not consider any facts that parties failed to include in their statements of fact, because to do so would rob the other party of the opportunity to show that the fact is disputed.

         In this case, defendants put forth a joint statement of facts. Plaintiff has filed a response, in which plaintiff agrees that many of the facts are undisputed. Plaintiff states that other facts are disputed, but she does not cite any evidence to support her assertions that such facts are disputed. Thus, the Court has deemed admitted those facts that defendants have supported with admissible evidence, because plaintiff failed to controvert those facts with citation to evidence. The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         In July 2014, plaintiff and the Castanedas were next-door neighbors. Their backyards were separated by a fence.

         On the afternoon of July 14, 2014, Yolanda Castaneda was in her backyard when she noticed an area of dead grass along her side of the fence that separated her yard from plaintiff's. She also noticed that the area smelled like bleach. A few days before, the Castanedas' dog had been vomiting, and, after Yolanda Castaneda noticed the smell of bleach, she also noticed her dog's paw pads were white, rather than black. When her husband, Alonso Castaneda, arrived home, he inspected the backyard and the dog. He, too, observed dead patches of grass, smelled the bleach and noticed the discolored paw pads on the dog. Yolanda Castaneda telephoned 911. She informed the operator that someone had poured bleach in her yard.

         Soon, two officers, Lt. Bonner and Officer Cap, arrived at the Castanedas' house. The Castanedas told the officers that bleach had been poured into their yard. The Castanedas also told the officers that they suspected their neighbor, plaintiff, had poured the bleach, because the bleach was along their shared fence line and because plaintiff had expressed her dislike of the Castanedas' dog. The Castanedas told the officers that the dog had been ill and that its paw pads were white. It is undisputed that everything the Castanedas told the officers was true.

         The officers proceeded to the Castanedas' backyard to investigate. Lt. Bonner and Officer Cap noticed the dead grass along the fence line, and each also noticed the “overwhelming” smell of bleach.

         The officers returned to the Police Station, where Officer Cap began writing an incident report. Lt. Bonner, for his part, telephoned plaintiff and invited her for an interview at the station, where she admitted to having poured bleach along the fence line.

         The State of Illinois brought charges against plaintiff for poisoning a domestic animal. Yolanda Castaneda was subpoenaed and testified truthfully. She also tendered to the State's Attorney a bill she had paid for veterinary care, as well as a letter from a veterinarian, who stated the dog had exhibited symptoms of exposure to a chemical. Plaintiff was acquitted and filed this suit.


         Summary judgment shall 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). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Hutchison v. Fitzgerald Equip. Co., Inc., 910 F.3d 1016, 1021 (7th Cir. 2018). Summary judgment is appropriate when the non-moving party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). “A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Brummett v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005).

         III. ...

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