Lee v. Jones
OPINION AND ORDER denying 36 Motion for Summary Judgment. The parties' attorneys are directed to confer regarding possible trial dates, then contact the courtroom deputy for scheduling. Signed by Senior Judge James T Moody on 4/7/14. (smp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
P.O. ANTWON JONES,
No. 3:09 CV 19
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the court on defendant Antwon Jones motion for summary
judgment. (DE #36.) Plaintiff Yolanda Lee brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging that her rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution were violated when Jones used excessive force to effect her arrest.1 For the
reasons set forth below, the motion is to be denied.
Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are not genuinely disputed. At
approximately 9:00 a.m. on April 1, 2008, plaintiff Lee’s daughter, E-Toi, called Lee from
school. (DE #41-2 at 13.2) E-Toi said that she had been suspended and wanted her
mother to come pick her up. (Id. at 13-14.) Lee, accompanied by her son Erik (who was
In her complaint Lee also alleged that probable cause for the arrest did not exist. In her
response to the summary judgment motion she concedes that her claim is limited to one that
Jones used excessive force. (DE #41 at 1 n.1.)
In this order references to pages use the page number assigned by the CM/ECF
system, not the document’s own internal page number, except where otherwise indicated.
about 8 years old at the time3), got her friend and neighbor Christol Thompson to give
them a ride. (Id at 14.)
After arriving at the school Lee was invited to the office of Assistant Principal
Krystin Carlson to discuss the reason for E-Toi’s suspension. (Id. at 15.) School Principal
Derrick White was also present. (Id. at 16.) At some point during the meeting, Principal
White left and returned with defendant Jones. (Id.) Jones is a City of South Bend police
officer who was at the school as a community resources officer.4 White said to Jones: “I
need you to come into this meeting. We have an irate parent in here.” (DE # 37-5,
deposition p. 21.)
White and Jones returned to the meeting, and Lee announced that she was
leaving. (DE #41-2 at 17.) As she (along with E-Toi, Erik and Thompson) left the
building, Jones followed her out. (Id. at 19.) In his view, he was escorting her to be sure
she left the building and the school grounds. (DE #37-5, deposition pp. 27-36.) Shortly
thereafter, before Lee left the grounds, Jones arrested her and she was charged with
disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and resisting arrest. (DE #37-2 at 2.) Lee
At the time of Lee’s deposition in September 2009, she said that Erik was 9 years old.
(DE #41-2 at 11.)
Paragraph 4 of the amended complaint alleges that Jones was at all times a duly
appointed police officer of the City of South Bend. Jones’ somewhat ridiculous answer to that
paragraph is that he is “without sufficient information to admit or deny.” (DE #17 at 2.) The
basis for Jones’ motion for summary judgment is not only that he properly arrested Lee without
using excessive force, but also that he had qualified immunity for doing so, both of which
assume that he is a police officer. Because neither party disputes that Jones was an officer the
court will make that assumption, but as the record stands there is nothing which actually
establishes that fact, and summary judgment could be denied on the basis that a question of fact
exists whether Jones was a private citizen who committed a battery.
ultimately pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
(DE #37-1 at 2.)
The circumstances leading up to Lee’s arrest are disputed. According to Lee, she
remained calm at all times. (DE # 41-2 at 18.) As Jones followed her out of the building,
he was yelling, screaming and swearing at her, telling her she needed to “get the fuck
out now.” (Id. at 18-19.) She thought he was only a security guard and did not know he
was a police officer, and as she exited the building she used her cell phone to call 9-1-1.
(Id.) When they got in front of the school Erik told Jones to stop talking to his mother
“like that,” and Jones responded “shut the fuck up.” (Id. at 21.) Lee told Jones not to
speak to her son like that because he has a mental disability, and Jones responded, “I
don’t give a fuck.” (Id.) He told Lee to leave or he would charge her for trespassing. (Id.)
Lee began stepping off the curb into the school’s parking lot; she was limping
because she had two broken toes and was wearing an “air walk boot.” (Id.) She stood
still because she was afraid of losing her balance and falling. (Id. at 22.) She admits that
at about this time she called Jones a “fat fucker.” (Id.) Jones said that if she didn’t move
he would arrest her, and that was when she first realized he was a police officer. (Id.)
She began to walk again, holding onto a car because she thought she was going to fall.
(Id.) She heard her daughter, her son, and Thompson calling her name, and in Lee’s
[B]efore I could even turn around he had my right hand in a handcuff, and
he pushed my arm so hard behind my back that I heard something break.
And we rolled together on the car, and we ended up—my back was
against the car and his elbow was against my throat.
A police car arrived (apparently due to Lee’s 9-1-1 call) and Lee got into it,
complaining to Jones that the handcuffs were too tight. (Id. at 28). He told her that they
were fine. (Id.) After posting bond and being released, it is undisputed that later that
day Lee went to the hospital emergency room complaining of pain in her wrist. (Id. at
31.) Sixth months later, after constant pain in her shoulder, Lee was diagnosed as
having a previously-broken collar bone, which she believes occurred when she heard
the snap when Jones forced her arm behind her. (Id. at 33.)
School Principal White’s and defendant Jones’ descriptions of what occurred are
consistent with each other, but markedly different than Lee’s. According to White, Lee
was using profanity in the meeting, and that as soon as he returned with Jones, she said
that the school personnel “were all motherfuckers” and that she didn’t need “this
bullshit.” (DE #37-4 at 2.) White told her that if she didn’t stop using such language, he
would have her removed from the premises. (Id.) She continued in that vein, and White
said “this meeting is over.” (Id. at 2-3.) She continued using profanities as she walked
out, escorted by Jones. (Id. at 3.)
According to Jones, he followed Lee out of the meeting as she kept using
profanities and he told her “Ma’am, you need to leave before you end up going to jail.”
(DE #37-5, deposition p. 27.) All the way out, as Jones kept telling her she needed to
leave, she kept stopping to curse at him. (Id., deposition pp. 28-32.) Jones does not recall
if he felt physically threatened. (Id., deposition p. 34.) After they were outside the school
he told her that if she stopped again she was going to jail. (Id.) For that events occurring
after that, defendant Jones relies solely on Lee’s deposition testimony, accepting her
version of the arrest for the purposes of his summary judgment arguments.5
Thus, to summarize, Jones’ version of the events is that Lee was being hostile,
verbally abusive, and not leaving the school grounds as quickly as he believed his
orders warranted. Lee’s version, which the court must credit on summary judgment, is
that she was calm and Jones was the one being hostile and verbally abusive. She was
leaving as quickly as she could given her broken toes, and Jones, using a degree of force
not necessary in the circumstances, twisted her arm so hard that she heard something
snap, and laid on top of her on a car with his elbow against her throat. He handcuffed
her so tightly that she sought medical treatment later that day for the pain caused in her
Summary judgment must be granted when “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 issue of material fact exists when “the evidence is such that a
In Jones’ memorandum in support, he argues that Erik attacked him as he attempted to
place Lee in handcuffs. (DE #37 at 2.) In the portion of Lee’s deposition testimony he cites, she
states that Erik–an 8 year-old child—threw something at Jones while Lee was standing talking
to 9-1-1 on the phone, and then was screaming “let my mom go” while Jones was placing Lee in
handcuffs. (DE #41-2 at 28.)
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Not every dispute between the parties makes
summary judgment inappropriate; “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment.” Id.
To determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must
construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all
reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir.
2010). A party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion may not rely
merely on allegations or denials in his or her own pleading, but rather must “marshal
and present the court with the evidence she contends will prove her case.” Goodman v.
Nat’l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). If the nonmoving party fails to
establish the existence of an issue of fact on an essential element on which he or she
bears the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is proper. Massey v. Johnson, 457
F.3d 711, 716 (7th Cir. 2006).
Every person has the right not to be subjected to unreasonable or excessive force
while being arrested or detained by a police officer. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394
(1989). On the other hand, in making an arrest an officer has the right to use some
degree of physical coercion or threat to effect the arrest. Id. at 396. Whether the force
used is excessive depends on the totality of circumstances under an objective
reasonableness standard. Marion v. City of Corydon, Ind., 559 F.3d 700, 705 (7th Cir. 2009).
Courts should consider all of the circumstances, such as the severity of the crime at
issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or
others, and whether the suspect actively resists arrest or attempts to evade arrest by
flight. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. “[T]he question is whether the officers’ actions are
‘objectively reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them,
without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.” Id. at 387.
Defendant Jones argues that he is entitled to summary judgment based on the
undisputed facts outlined above for four reasons: 1) Lee’s having pleaded guilty to
disorderly conduct collaterally estops her from asserting an excessive force claim; 2) Lee
has no evidence that Jones used excessive force; 3) Lee has no evidence that Jones’
conduct proximately caused her any physical injury; and 4) Jones is entitled to qualified
immunity. None of these arguments merits a lengthy discussion.
First, Jones hasn’t cited a single case stating that Lee’s guilty plea to a
misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge estops her from asserting an excessive force
claim, because there are none. Jones has not shown the court what facts Lee admitted in
pleading guilty, but her plea could have been on any conduct which would violate the
statute, including making unreasonable noise and refusing to stop after being asked to
do so. Ind. Code § 35-45-1-3(a)(2). Admitting that she engaged in that conduct would
not act as a collateral estoppel by showing that the degree of force used by Jones to
effect Lee’s arrest was objectively reasonable. Cf. Ellis v. Wynalda, 999 F.2d 243, 245 n.1
(7th Cir. 1993).
Second, Jones argues that Lee has no evidence that the degree of force used was
unreasonable. The facts leading up to Lee’s arrest, in the light most favorable to her,
show her remaining calm (although using profanity at least once), and Jones being the
one using profanity multiple times and acting in a hostile and threatening manner. The
facts surrounding the arrest itself stand uncontradicted, and involve Jones unexpectedly
twisting Lee’s arm roughly behind her back, laying on top of her on a car with his
elbow against her throat and then handcuffing her so tightly that it caused enough pain
for her to seek medical treatment later that day. Roughly handcuffing a person who is
not offering any resistance can itself be enough to make out an excessive force claim.
Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 779 (7th Cir. 2003). Even without taking the facts in the
light most favorable to Lee, the undisputed facts surrounding her arrest are enough to
create an issue of fact for the jury as to whether the force Jones used was excessive.
Third, Jones argues that Lee has no evidence, other than self-reporting, showing
“to a reasonable medical certainty” that she has injuries proximately caused by Jones’
actions. (DE #37 at 7.) Although the court is inclined to agree that on the present record
she lacks any evidence showing Jones proximately caused a severe or permanent injury,
her pain caused by the overly-tight handcuffs, though self-reported, is itself evidence of
an injury. More importantly, an excessive force claim does not require proof of injury.
Meyer v. Robinson, 992 F.2d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1993).
Finally, Jones argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity for his actions.
Qualified immunity is applicable unless the official’s conduct violated a clearly
established constitutional right. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009). According
to Lee’s version of events, she was neither resisting Jones nor doing anything to justify
the degree of force he used. Under the law as it existed for quite some time when the
events here took place, Lee’s “right to be free from the excessive force . . . was
‘sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he [was] doing
violate[d] that right.’” Sallenger v. Oakes, 473 F.3d 731, 742 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Miller
v. Jones, 444 F.3d 929, 934 (7th Cir. 2006)). “When the qualified immunity inquiry cannot
be disentangled from disputed facts, the issue cannot be resolved without a trial.”
Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 540 (7th Cir. 2009). Therefore, Jones has not shown
that he is entitled to qualified immunity.
For the reasons above, Jones’ motion for summary judgment (DE #36) is
DENIED. The parties’ attorneys are directed to confer regarding possible trial dates,
then contact the undersigned’s courtroom deputy for scheduling.
Date: April 7, 2014
s/ James T. Moody
JUDGE JAMES T. MOODY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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