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Rayas v. United States

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

January 8, 2020

VICTOR RAYAS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. KENDALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Victor Rayas, a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, was arrested for battery after an altercation with an officer in the parking lot of the Jesse Brown Veterans Administration hospital. He was tried for misdemeanor battery, but a state court granted a motion for a directed finding in Rayas's favor. Rayas now brings this suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), alleging malicious prosecution.

         The government has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Rayas has failed to establish three required elements of his claim: lack of probable cause, malice, and favorable termination. (Dkt. 25). Because a genuine dispute of material fact remains in this case and the government has not shown that the underlying criminal case was not terminated in Rayas's favor, the Court denies the government's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 18, 2017, Rayas took his father to the Jesse Brown Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. (Dkt. 30 ¶ 3). Around 4:00 p.m., while his father was still inside, Rayas went outside to smoke a cigarette and to get his car from the parking garage so that he could pick his father up at the building entrance. (Id. at ¶ 4). Rather than walking in the covered pedestrian walkway that leads from the hospital entrance to the parking garage, Rayas walked outside of the walkway, by the traffic circle, while smoking his cigarette. (Dkt. 26 ¶¶ 5, 9). He denies, however, that he was walking in the roadway. (Dkt. 30 ¶ 9). When Rayas arrived at the parking garage, he ducked under a chain demarcating the traffic circle from the pedestrian area at the entrance to the parking garage, still holding his cigarette. (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 10). VA Police Sergeant Carlos Echeverry, who was dressed in his police uniform at the time, saw Rayas cross these chains. (Id. at ¶ 11). From this point, the parties' accounts of what happened diverges.

         According to Rayas, when he entered the garage, he was met by Sgt. Echeverry. (Dkt. 32 ¶ 8). Sgt. Echeverry told Rayas that the chains were there for a reason, Rayas said he understood and proceeded to his car. (Dkt. 30 ¶ 12). Sgt. Echeverry blocked Rayas's path and moved to continue blocking Rayas as he walked. (Dkt. 32 ¶ 9). When Rayas attempted to walk around him, Sgt. Echeverry bumped into Rayas's chest and pushed Rayas. (Id. at ¶ 13). Sgt. Echeverry continued to act aggressively towards Rayas and ultimately handcuffed and arrested Rayas. (Id. at ¶ 14).

         According to the government, Sgt. Echeverry heard Rayas curse as Rayas approached the chains. (Dkt. 30 ¶ 12). Sgt. Echeverry went up to Rayas and told Rayas that the chains were there for safety reasons. (Id. at ¶ 12). After Rayas crossed under the chains, Sgt. Echeverry put his hand up and told Rayas to stop. (Dkt. 26-2 at 9). Rayas cursed in response and bumped his chest into Sgt. Echeverry. (Dkt. 30 ¶ 14). Sgt. Echeverry continued to obstruct Rayas's path, and Rayas forcefully bumped Sgt. Echeverry for the second time, at which point Sgt. Echeverry pushed Rayas back. (Id. at ¶ 20). Rayas continued to try to force past Sgt. Echeverry, and Sgt. Echeverry grabbed Rayas by the arm and told him to put his hands on the wall. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). Rayas refused to drop his cigarette or put his hands behind his back, so Sgt. Echeverry called for backup. (Id. at ¶ 23).

         Turning back to the undisputed facts, Sgt. Echeverry signed a complaint against Rayas for battery in violation of 720 ILCS 5/12-3(a)(2). (Dkt. 30 ¶ 25; Dkt. 32 ¶ 15). The complaint alleged that Rayas “[b]ecame belligerent when Sergeant Echeverry attempted to stop him for smoking in a non smoking area and [b]umped his chest into the chest of Sergeant Echeverry in an attempt to get past Sergeant Echeverry.” (Dkt. 26-2 at 87).

         On April 6, 2017, Rayas proceeded by bench trial in state court. (Dkt. 30 ¶ 26). At the close of the State's case, defense counsel moved for a directed finding. (Id. at ¶ 29). Defense counsel argued that the State had not shown that Rayas made the insulting or provoking contact required for battery under 720 ILCS 5/12-3(a)(2). (Dkt. 26-2 at 20). The court granted Rayas's motion and found Rayas not guilty. (Id. at 20-21). The court stated that there was “no testimony that there was any bodily harm, nor was there any testimony of an insulting or provoking nature.” (Id. at 21). The judge also observed that there was “no element in the complaint itself as to the insulting or provoking nature” and thus, it was a defective complaint. (Id. at 21). After Rayas exhausted the required administrative remedies, he filed this FTCA action seeking damages for malicious prosecution. (Dkt. 30 ¶ 34).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper when “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); see, e.g., Reed v. Columbia St. Mary's Hosp., 915 F.3d 473, 485 (7th Cir. 2019). The parties genuinely dispute a material fact when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Daugherty v. Page, 906 F.3d 606, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must take the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; see also Zander v. Orlich, 907 F.3d 956, 959 (7th Cir. 2018).

         DISCUSSION

         To prevail on a malicious prosecution claim under Illinois law, a plaintiff must show: “(1) he was subjected to judicial proceedings; (2) for which there was no probable cause; (3) the defendants instituted or continued the proceedings maliciously; (4) the proceedings were terminated in the plaintiff's favor; and (5) there was an injury.” Martinez v. City of Chicago, 900 F.3d 838, 849 (7th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). If the plaintiff fails to prove even one of these five elements, his claim fails. Holland v. City of Chicago, 643 F.3d 248, 254 (7th Cir. 2011).

         The government argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because Rayas cannot establish three of the five elements: lack of probable cause, malice, and ...


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