WILSON v. CITY OF EVANSVILLE et al
ORDER granting 34 Motion for Summary Judgment - Summary judgment is granted to each of the Defendants on all claims asserted by Wilson. The Court will issue Final Judgment under separate order. SEE ORDER. Signed by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on 2/7/2018. (JRB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
CITY OF EVANSVILLE, OFFICER JONATHAN )
OAKLEY, in his individual and official capacities, )
and OFFICER BRYAN UNDERWOOD, in his
individual and official capacities,
Case No. 3:16-cv-00039-TWP-MPB
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by Defendants City of Evansville (“the City”), Officer Jonathan
Oakley (“Oakley”), and Officer Bryan Underwood (“Underwood”) (collectively, “Defendants”)
(Filing No. 34). Following his arrest for maintaining a common nuisance and possession of a
precursor by a methamphetamine offender, Plaintiff Gary Wilson (“Wilson”) filed this action
asserting a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 due to excessive
force, and state law claims of assault, battery, negligence, and intentional and negligent infliction
of emotional distress. (Filing No. 1-3.) The Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment
asserting that Wilson resisted arrest and reasonable force was used to effect an arrest. For the
reasons set forth below, the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
The following statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary
judgment standard requires, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of Wilson as
the non-moving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. See
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
On the evening of April 18, 2014, Evansville Police Department (“EPD”) officers David
Brown (“Brown”) and Jackie Lowe (“Lowe”) were on patrol when they smelled the odor of an
active methamphetamine lab at 5322 North Kerth, Evansville, Indiana. Brown and Lowe observed
a person leave the residence and because Wilson was known to them, they identified him by name.
Brown and Lowe sent out a communication that “they smelled what was a meth lab” and as they
were investigating, “Gary Wilson took off out the back door.” (Filing No. 34-5 at 6.)
Underwood and Oakley were partners in the same EPD patrol vehicle that night, when they
received the communication from Brown and Lowe regarding a potential active methamphetamine
lab on North Kerth and a request for assistance to approach the house. (Filing No. 34-4 at 5-6,
Filing No. 34-5 at 6.) Using Wilson’s name, Oakley pulled up Wilson’s picture on the EPD
computer system in their vehicle. The computer also provided information in an alert that “Mr.
Wilson was not police friendly, and was known to carry pepper spray and knives.” (Filing No. 345 at 7.) Underwood and Oakley proceeded down an alley in the neighborhood with their lights
turned off and did not use sirens, so that Wilson would not know of their location. (Filing No. 344 at 6.)
Wilson left his house on North Kerth sometime after 10:00 p.m. and started heading to a
friend’s house, just to take a walk. While out walking, he noticed the officers’ patrol car, without
its police lights or sirens on, pass by him on the street. (Filing No. 34-3 at 17-18.) Wilson saw
the police at his house, and then he saw one policeman get out of his car and head in his direction.
Id. at 20. Wilson had no interest in meeting with police officers, so he attempted to elude them by
cutting through an alley. Id. at 18-20. At some point, during the encounter, he took a break by an
air conditioning unit in a neighbor’s yard, near an alley, to catch his breath. Id. at 17. Wilson
could not recall if he needed to catch his breath due to the walk or from a medical condition. Id.
After sitting at the air conditioner for approximately five minutes, Wilson noticed a policeman
coming from the alley and another coming from the street. Id. Wilson began to have a panic
attack. 1 Wilson does not recall if he took off running when he saw the police. (Filing No. 34-3 at
18-19). However, Wilson admits that he saw a police officer from a distance and jogged away
when he observed the police heading in his direction. (Filing No. 34-3 at 19, 21.) The officers
allege that Wilson took off running through a fence in a neighborhood backyard as soon as he saw
them. (Filing No. 35 at 3.) Underwood alleges that when he spotted Wilson, he told him to stop.
However, Wilson never heard the police yell “stop” or “halt.” (Filing No. 34-3. at 21.)
Once Underwood caught up with him, Wilson heard Underwood say “on your stomach,
hands behind your back.” (Filing No. 44-1 at 8). As a result, Wilson rolled over onto his stomach
and put his hands behind his back. Oakley arrived within a few seconds of Underwood. Wilson
immediately complied, and Underwood handcuffed his right hand behind his wrist and left the
other hand free. Id. at 10. Underwood kneed Wilson in the back to get Wilson’s right hand cuffed.
Underwood also hit him in the face and head repeatedly while saying “quit resisting, quit resisting”
and told Oakley to tase Wilson. Id. Oakley tased Wilson twice. Id. at 11.
In contrast, Underwood testified that Wilson did not comply with his commands to get on
the ground and that when he attempted to handcuff Wilson he could only get one hand cuffed
because Wilson was resisting. (Filing No. 35 at 5.) Underwood concedes that he struck Wilson
twice in the head area, but he alleges he did so to get Wilson turned onto his stomach. Id. at 5.
Sergeant Donald Thompson (“Thompson”) arrived on the scene during the struggle, and
Wilson’s panic attacks are related to his fear of police officers based on prior arrests. (Filing No. 34-3 at 20-21.)
Thompson struck Wilson in the face with his hand in an attempt to gain compliance. Id. Without
giving a warning, Oakley deployed his taser after Wilson’s hand went underneath his body and
was not visible to officers. (Filing No. 34-4 at 6.) The taser did not appear to have any effect on
Wilson who was wearing thick clothes. Id. Oakley testified that he deployed his taser once, but
ran three to four cycles. Id. at 7. However, Wilson testified that Oakley deployed his taser twice,
and he was hit at least twenty times. (Filing No. 34-3 at 11.) Oakley also struck Wilson with his
hand in the brachial plexus (neck area and known as a pressure point) after the unsuccessful taser
deployments. Id. (Filing No. 34-4 at 7.) After both of Wilson’s hands were in handcuffs the force
ended. (Filing No. 34-3 at 13.)
Both Underwood and Oakley were wearing body cameras that were newly issued to the
EPD. Underwood did not turn on his body camera during the incident because of the rapidness of
the situation and he did not think about pushing the button. (Filing No. 34-5 at 14.) Oakley did
not turn on his body camera because he did not think to turn it on. (Filing No. 34-4 at 9.)
Following the incident, Wilson was unable to stand and he sustained a small cut that was
bleeding. (Filing No. 34-3 at 13.) Officers called an ambulance which transported Wilson to
Deaconess Hospital. Id. at 13. At the hospital, a drug test and an alcohol test were performed.
The alcohol test came back .8 and Wilson tested positive for methamphetamine. Id. at 16. Wilson
was treated at the hospital for his injuries and taken to jail early the next morning. Id. at 23. He
incurred $10,512.94 in medical expenses as a result of the incident. (Filing No. 44-4 at 1.) The
billing summary breakdown indicates that the largest expense was for a computerized tomography
(CT) scan performed. Wilson suffered two black eyes and the cut. He also alleges permanent
injuries from the incident in that he suffers from blurred vision and his head shakes uncontrollably
at times. (Filing No. 34-3 at 17.) He has not seen a neurologist for the neurological damage. His
symptoms onset months after the incident and he now suffers post-traumatic stress from fear of
the police. Id.
Wilson was charged in case number 82D02-1404-FD-535 with Maintaining a Common
Nuisance, a Class D Felony, and Possession of a Precursor by a Methamphetamine Offender, a
Class D Felony. The charges related to this incident were eventually dismissed in a plea agreement
to charges in two other cases. (Filing No. 34-6.)
On March 14, 2016, Wilson filed this action in the Vanderburgh County Superior Court
against the City and officers Underwood and Oakley. (Filing No. 1-3 at 1.) He brought claims of
excessive force and failure to protect against Underwood and Oakley for violation of his Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also brought state law claims for
assault and battery against Underwood and Oakley and for negligence and intentional and
negligent infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants. Id. Defendants removed the
action to this Court on March 29, 2016. (Filing No. 1.) On May 1, 2017, Defendants filed their
Motion for Summary Judgment.
The purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in
order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indust. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp. 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary
judgment is appropriate if “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.” Hemsworth v.
Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489–90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted).
“However, inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a
summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007)
(citation and quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on
a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific
factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth,
476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). “The opposing party cannot meet this burden with conclusory
statements or speculation but only with appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.”
Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F. Supp. 1065, 1072 (S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).
“In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence
to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits
of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation
marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties
nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion
for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir.
1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Defendants request summary judgment on each of Wilson’s claims on the bases that
reasonable force was used against Wilson to effectuate an arrest, qualified immunity protects
Underwood and Oakley, and the Indiana Tort Claims Act bars Wilson’s state law claims. The
Court will address each contention in turn.
Fourth Amendment Claims
Wilson asserts excessive force claims and failure to intervene claims against Officers
Underwood and Oakley for their individual roles in not preventing harm to him.
Excessive Force (Count I)
In judging whether the government’s use of force was reasonable, courts must balance the
risks of bodily harm in apprehending a fleeing suspect that the government’s actions poses in light
of the threat to the public that the government is trying to eliminate. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
383 (2007). In considering this balance, the court considers the severity of the crime at issue,
whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of others, and whether the suspect was
actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386,
396 (1989). The court views the circumstances “from the perspective of a reasonable officer on
the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision hindsight.” Id. The reasonableness of force used is a
legal question. Bell v. Irwin, 321 F.3d 637, 641 (7th Cir. 2003). “But when material facts (or
enough of them to justify the conduct objectively) are undisputed, then there would be nothing for
a jury to do except second-guess the officers.” Id. at 640.
Wilson argues that Underwood’s and Oakley’s use of hits, strikes, kicks, and deployment
of a taser twice constituted excessive force. (Filing No. 45 at 11). He is not pursuing an excessive
force claim against Thompson. 2 Wilson also conceded that the initial knee placed on his back by
Underwood is not part of his excessive force claim. Id. at 24. Defendants argue that they used
reasonable force in order to effectuate Wilson’s arrest as he was fleeing and resisting arrest. By
his own admission, Wilson sought to elude the police by cutting through an alley, jogging away,
and he was out of breath by the time he reached the air conditioning unit in a neighbor’s backyard.
Thompson struck Wilson in the face with his hand. For tactical reasons, Wilson is not pursuing an excessive force
claim against Thompson. (Filing No. 45 at 13.)
Although Wilson explains that he was out of breath due to either walking or a prior medical
condition, the Court accepts these facts as true, while viewing the circumstances—i.e. Wilson
cutting through an alley, jogging and being out of breath—from the perspective of a reasonable
officer on the scene. Accepting Wilson’s explanation as true, a reasonable officer could have
concluded that Wilson was fleeing from the police.
Wilson has not disputed the officers’ suspicions that methamphetamine activity was
occurring at his residence. Although there is no allegation that Wilson was in fact carrying a
weapon on him on the night in question, Wilson admits that he sometimes carried a pocketknife
on him, a fact that was known by police before pursuing Wilson. (Filing No. 34-3 at 21.) Accepting
as true, the facts alleged by Wilson, officers could reasonably conclude, at the time, that he was
engaged in methamphetamine activity, was attempting to flee, and posed a threat to the officers’
safety based on the information Underwood and Oakley had received that Wilson was unfriendly
to police and carried a pocketknife. The Seventh Circuit has held that only facts known to a
reasonable arresting officer at the time of the alleged Fourth Amendment violation are relevant.
See Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 733 (7th Cir. 2013).
Under the totality of the
circumstances, officers could reasonably conclude that force would be necessary to effectuate
The Court will now turn to the degree of force that officers used. Wilson asserts two factual
disputes here. First, he contends that he immediately complied with Underwood’s commands to
lay down on his stomach and put his hands behind his back. Next, Wilson testified that the he was
beaten in the head enough times and tased long enough to “kill a person”. (Filing No. 44-1 at 8.)
Wilson does not dispute that throughout the encounter, one of his hands remained uncuffed and
that when both hands were cuffed the officers stopped using force. He also relieves Thompson of
any potential liability for his striking of Wilson’s face with his hand and the initial knee placed on
his back by Underwood. What remains for the reasonable force analysis is Underwood’s striking
of Wilson in the head several times, Oakley’s deployment of the taser twice, as well as his striking
Wilson. The Court notes that it is not required to accept Wilson’s conclusory statement that the
force that Underwood and Oakley used was enough force to kill someone.
When viewing the evidence in a light favorable to Wilson, no reasonable jury could find
that the officers’ use of force was unreasonable or excessive under the totality of the circumstances.
As previously noted, a reasonable officer could have perceived Wilson’s admitted eluding as
fleeing the scene where an active methamphetamine lab was observed by officers. (Filing No. 343 at 18-20.) Wilson was known to law enforcement and was identified in their system as unfriendly
to police and someone who carried pepper spray or a knife. (Filing No. 35 at 3.) It was dark on
the night in question and Wilson went into an alley, admittedly to evade the officers. (Filing No.
34-3 at 19, 21.) One of Wilson’s hands remained uncuffed throughout the time that the officers
used force on him. Id. at 10. As acknowledged by Wilson, Underwood told him several times to
“quit resisting.” Id.
After the encounter, officers called an ambulance because Wilson had a “small cut that was
bleeding…, he was sweating profusely, seemed to have a high heart rate and may have been under
the influence of something.” (Filing No. 35 at 8.) Although, “an excessive force claim does not
require any particular degree of injury,” the Seventh Circuit has held it can be a relevant factor in
determining whether an officer used excessive force. Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 690 (7th
Cir. 2008). Here, the medical evidence confirmed the officer’s belief that Wilson was under the
influence of something and not acting rational, as he admitted that he tested positive for
methamphetamine at the hospital and had a 0.8 alcohol blood level. (Filing No. 34-3 at 16.)
Approximately, $644.00 in professional/clinical services was rendered to Wilson, although the
billing record does not indicate what was actually performed or what injuries he suffered. (Filing
No. 44-4.) The officers’ use of force concluded once both of Wilson’s hands were placed in
handcuffs. Id. at 13. These are undisputed facts. The degree of force the officers used in effecting
arrest was not deadly force, as a matter of law.
The Court takes as true, Wilson’s assertion that Oakley deployed his taser twice 3. Id. at 11.
A reasonable officer might make the decision to deploy a taser a second time where it seemed to
have no effect in apprehending a resisting suspect wearing thick clothes. Thus, looking at the
totality of the circumstances, the officers’ reasonable use and degree of force employed in
effectuating Wilson’s arrest was not excessive. “The calculus of reasonableness must embody
allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in
circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is
necessary in a particular situation.” Graham, 490 U.S. at 396–97.
Failure to Protect (Count II)
Turning to Wilson’s Count II Failure to Protect claim, it fails because, as discussed above,
the officers did not commit a Fourth Amendment violation.
An officer who is present and fails to intervene to prevent other law enforcement
officers from infringing the constitutional rights of citizens is liable under § 1983
if that officer had reason to know: (1) that excessive force was being used, (2) that
a citizen has been unjustifiably arrested, or (3) that any constitutional violation has
been committed by a law enforcement official; and the officer had a realistic
opportunity to intervene to prevent the harm from occurring.
Yang v. Hardin, 37 F.3d 282, 285 (7th Cir. 1994). As discussed extensively above, the officers
did not use excessive force against Wilson, thus he did not suffer an underlying constitutional
violation. He also does not claim that he was unjustifiably arrested. Wilson’s failure to intervene
Oakley testified that he deployed the taser once, and ran three to four cycles. (Filing No. 34-4 at 7.)
claim fails as a matter of law because he has not shown that the officers had a reason to intervene
against each other’s use of force.
Summary judgment in favor of the Defendants on Wilson’s excessive force and failure to
intervene claims is also appropriate under an alternate ground. The officers are entitled to qualified
immunity. Qualified immunity shields public officials from civil liability for acts done in their
official capacity, insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457
U.S. 800, 818 (1982). The issue of qualified immunity is a question of law for the court, not the
jury. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985). To determine whether qualified immunity
applies, the Court must determine whether, “[t]aken in the light most favorable to the party
asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer’s conduct violated a constitutional right?”
Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). The Court also determines “whether the right was
clearly established. This inquiry, it is vital to note, must be undertaken in light of the specific
context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.” Id. As stated by the United States Supreme
Court, “[t]he judges of the district courts and the courts of appeals should be permitted to exercise
their sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis
should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand.” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236, (2009).
Wilson cannot meet the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis, even if the Court
were to assume a constitutional violation occurred. For the clearly established prong, a plaintiff
“must show, on some level, that a violation of this right has been found in factually similar cases,
or that the violation was so clear that a government official would have known that his actions
violated the plaintiff’s rights even in the absence of a factually similar case.” Lee v. Young, 533
F.3d 505, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). Plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating a violation of a clearly
established right, and Wilson has not met this burden. See id.
Wilson relies on conclusory statements to create genuine issues of material facts in an effort
to defeat summary judgment in favor of the Defendants on the basis of qualified immunity. It is
true, as stated by Wilson, that it was clearly established, at the time, that excessive force violates
the Fourth Amendment. However, Wilson fails to mention the material facts that are particular to
his case which dooms his excessive force and failure to intervene claims. He has not produced an
analogous case or a violation so clear that officers should have known that their actions violated
his constitutional rights. As Wilson admitted, at least initially, he was eluding police by cutting
through the alley. Regardless of his reasons for doing so (which were not known to police at the
time), a reasonable officer could view his actions as fleeing the scene of what they suspected was
an active methamphetamine lab. Further, Wilson does not dispute the officers’ information that
he was “unfriendly to police” and potentially carried pepper spray or a knife. In fact, he admits
that he sometimes carried a pocketknife. Moreover, Wilson does not dispute that the first taser had
no effect on him.
Wilson acknowledges that his left hand was uncuffed throughout the forceful encounter,
and that once both hands were cuffed the officers ceased using force. Finally, many of the cases
that Wilson cites involve the use of deadly force on fleeing suspects. See Estate of Starks v. Enyart,
5 F.3d 230, 234-235 (7th Cir. 1993) (deadly force used and factual dispute whether officer placed
himself in front of vehicle prior to shoot). Here, officers did not use deadly force on Wilson, as a
matter of law. Contrary to Wilson’s conclusions, the sparse medical evidence he provided from
the night in question, in the form of a bill for services rendered, does nothing to establish the
alleged significant injuries he suffered as a result of his encounter with the police.
The Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because Wilson has failed to establish
that the degree of force used by the officers in effectuating his arrest was clearly established as
excessive by an analogous case or so clear that it was a violation in light of the circumstances of
the particular case at hand. The Court need not address the first prong of the qualified immunity
analysis, as Wilson cannot meet the second-prong of the two-part test. Therefore, summary
judgment is appropriate on the basis of qualified immunity.
State Law Claims
Wilson raises state law claims for assault and battery against Underwood and Oakley in
their individual and official capacities, and claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligence against all Defendants. (Filing No. 1-3
Assault and Battery (Count III)
Wilson incorporates by reference his argument related to his Fourth Amendment excessive
force claim in asserting Count III for assault and battery. (Filing No. 45 at 24.) As previously
noted, the excessive force analysis is examined from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the
scene, knowing the facts as they existed at the time, rather than from 20/20 hindsight or facts that
subsequently came to light. It is undisputed that the officers’ use of force continued while one of
Wilson’s hands were cuffed, but it also undisputed that the officers stopped using force after both
of his hands were cuffed. Wilson’s one cuffed hand during the forceful encounter certainly makes
this a close case, but combined with the facts that Wilson initially fled or eluded officers at night,
into an alley, and was known to be unfriendly to police and to carry a weapon defeats Wilson’s
claim for assault and battery. A reasonable officer could conclude that some low-level form of
force, though not deadly, was necessary to place Wilson completely in custody and he remained a
threat to officer safety so long as he had one hand uncuffed. “Indiana’s excessive force standard
effectively parallels the federal standard.” Thompson v. City of Indianapolis, 208 F. Supp. 3d 968,
977 (S.D. Ind. 2016). Based on the analysis above of Wilson’s Fourth Amendment claims for
excessive force, the Court determines that the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on
Wilson’s state law tort claims for assault and battery.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count IV), Negligent Infliction of
Emotional Distress (Count V) and Negligence (Count VI).
The Defendants contend the state law claims in Counts IV, V and VI are barred by the
Indiana Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”) because the officers were acting within the scope of their
employment and under the circumstances of this case, the City is immunized. The ITCA provides
substantial immunity for political subdivisions, and its employees, for conduct within the scope of
the employee’s employment. Bushong v. Williamson, 790 N.E.2d 467, 472 (Ind. 2003).
“Generally, whether the tortious act of an employee is within the scope of employment is a
question of fact. However, under certain circumstances the question may be determined as a matter
of law.” Id. at 473. Employees found acting within the scope of employment is dispositive on any
claims under the ITCA. Id. at 474. (Indiana Supreme Court holding defendant had immunity under
the Indiana Tort Claims Act due to being within the scope of employment despite the plaintiff’s
allegation that the defendant’s acts were criminal). Indiana Code § 34–13–3–3(8) explicitly
provides immunity for governmental employees carrying out law enforcement duties, unless the
act of enforcement constitutes false arrest or imprisonment. Johnson ex rel. Indiana Dep’t of Child
Servs. v. Marion Cty. Coroner’s Office, 971 N.E.2d 151, 156 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). In Johnson,
the Indiana Court of Appeals synthesized the “law enforcement immunity” section and Indiana
Supreme Court holdings as, “[t]he Davis court reiterated that ‘the critical determination is not
whether a governmental entity or employee failed to follow procedures; it is whether a
governmental entity or employee failed to enforce a law.’” Id. at 158. (quoting Davis v. Animal
Control-City of Evansville, 948 N.E.2d 1161, 1164 (Ind. 2011).
Wilson has not claimed that he was falsely arrested or imprisoned. Officers pursued
Wilson after they saw him leave a residence that they suspected was an active methamphetamine
lab. Thus, as a matter of law, the officers’ pursuit and arrest of Wilson falls squarely within the
“law enforcement immunity” section of the ITCA as the officers were carrying out law
enforcement duties within the scope of their employment.
Wilson makes much out of the officers’ failure to have their body cameras turned on. It is
undisputed that Underwood and Oakley had their body cameras for approximately two months,
and that they both testified that they did not think to turn them on in the heat of the moment.
Counsel for Wilson asked Oakley if he had wished he had turned the body camera on to which he
responded no, because “body cam videos are subject to different perceptions from individuals, so
everybody is going to perceive a camera video different from what we did that day.” (Filing No.
44-3 at 8.) While this after-the-fact speculation cannot serve to defeat summary judgment,
Defendants are reminded that body cameras not only serve to deter police misconduct, but can also
be used defensively where excessive force has been alleged. Body camera footage certainly would
have helped the Court in the case at bar quickly reduce, if not eliminate, many non-genuine factual
disputes at issue.
Indiana courts have recognized that ITCA grants immunity to police officers for negligent
and intentional torts committed while effecting an arrest, unless the officers’ conduct is so
egregious to be considered outside the scope of their employment. Jordan v. City of Indianapolis,
No. IP 01-1391-C H/K, 2002 WL 32067277, at *11 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 19, 2002) (see also City of
Anderson v. Weatherford, 714 N.E.2d 181, 186 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999)). The facts of this case,
considered in the light most favorable to Wilson, do not show conduct so egregious to be
considered outside the scope of their employment. Accordingly, all state law claims under the
ITCA against Underwood and Oakley fail and summary judgment is granted in their favor.
The claims against Underwood and Oakley in their official capacities, and the City, fail, as
a matter of law, because the case at hand falls squarely within the “law enforcement immunity”
section of the ITCA. Summary judgment is granted in favor of all Defendants on all remaining
state law claims (negligence and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress).
For the foregoing reasons, the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 34)
is GRANTED. Summary judgment is granted to each of the Defendants on all claims asserted by
Wilson. The Court will issue Final Judgment under separate order.
KEFFER BARNHART LLP
Scott Leroy Barnhart
ATTORNEY AT LAW
Clifford R. Whitehead
ZIEMER STAYMAN WEITZEL & SHOULDERS LLP
Keith W. Vonderahe
ZIEMER STAYMAN WEITZEL & SHOULDERS
Robert L. Burkart
ZIEMER STAYMAN WEITZEL & SHOULDERS
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