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Townsend v. City of Fort Wayne

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

June 16, 2014

CITY OF FORT WAYNE, et al., Defendants.


JON E. DEGUILIO, District Judge.

On September 19, 2012, Plaintiff Melissa Townsend filed a complaint against the City of Fort Wayne, Officer Ian Wolfe, Sergeant Tom Strausborger, and Officer Gregory Addison, alleging that she was unlawfully arrested. [DE 1]. She sued the officers in their individual capacities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating her rights under the Fourth Amendment, and she sued the City for false arrest and false imprisonment under Indiana law based on the acts of its police officers. The defendants have now moved for summary judgment, and that motion has been fully briefed. [DE 32, 33, 39, 40, 44]. For the reasons that follow, summary judgment is GRANTED as to the claims against Sergeant Strausborger and Officer Addison, but is DENIED as to the claims against Officer Wolfe and the City of Fort Wayne. The defendants have also moved to strike Ms. Townsend's supplemental Rule 26(a)(1) disclosure as untimely, and that motion is DENIED.


While visiting her mother at East Central Towers apartment complex on the afternoon of July 13, 2011, Ms. Townsend was approached by a little girl who was screaming for help because someone was fighting her mother. [DE 32-1, 39-1]. Ms. Townsend and several other people followed the girl and found two women, Yvette Howard and Lynette Faye Calligan, engaged in a physical altercation. [ Id. ] The women were on the ground and Ms. Howard was on top of Ms. Calligan, holding her down. [ Id. ] Ms. Townsend shouted at them to stop fighting, and when they did not, she and two maintenance men broke up the fight by getting in between the women to separate them. [ Id. ] Ms. Townsend then returned to her mother's apartment. [ Id. ]

Several police officers responded to the scene, including Officer Ian Wolfe, Officer Gregory Addison, and Sergeant Thomas Strausborger, of the City of Fort Wayne Police Department. [DE 32-2, 32-4]. When Officer Wolfe arrived, he made contact with Ms. Howard, who had called the incident into the police. [De 32-2]. She told him that Ms. Calligan attacked her and that she took Ms. Calligan down to the ground to restrain her. [DE 39-4]. According to Officer Wolfe's report, she also "stated that another female, later identified as Melissa Townsend, witnessed the event and pulled her off of Calligan." [ Id. ] Ms. Howard further told Officer Wolfe that she wanted to make a citizen's arrest of Ms. Calligan. [ Id. ] Having learned that police officers were investigating the incident, Ms. Townsend then returned to the scene. [DE 39-1]. Officer Addison arrived at around the same time, and he and Officer Wolfe located Ms. Calligan and arrested her for battery. [DE 39-4].

According to Ms. Townsend, Officer Wolfe approached her, told her that she was a witness to the altercation, and asked her for her name, address, and social security number. [DE 39-1]. Ms. Townsend gave him her name and address, but told him that she was not comfortable saying her social security number out loud in public, as there were a number of people nearby and she had once been the victim of identity theft. [ Id. ] She offered to write the number down, but Officer Wolfe instead asked her for an identification card. [ Id. ] Ms. Townsend did not have her driver's license with her, but provided Officer Wolfe with her Ivy Tech student identification card, which had her picture on it. [ Id. ]. Officer Wolfe was not satisfied, and told Ms. Townsend that he was arresting her and that she was "going to jail." [ Id. ]

Officer Wolfe's version of this encounter is somewhat different. Officer Wolfe recounts that Ms. Townsend approached him, explained that she saw the women fighting, and said that she physically pulled Ms. Howard off of Ms. Calligan. [DE 39-4]. According to his affidavit, "Townsend said that she grabbed Howard while Howard was punching Calligan." [DE 32-2]. Officer Wolfe then "advised [Ms. Townsend] that because she was involved in the altercation, she needed to provide her identification to [him]." [ Id. ] Ms. Townsend initially resisted, then gave Officer Wolfe her name. [DE 39-4]. Officer Wolfe told her that she had "to either tell [him] her date of birth, social security number, and address or to provide [him] with a state issued identification card." [ Id. ]. Ms. Townsend looked through her purse and handed Officer Wolfe a student identification card that contained her name but no other personal identification information. [ Id. ]. Officer Wolfe told her the he needed to see a legitimate state-issued identification, and when she failed to comply, he "advised her that she was being placed under arrest for Refusal to Identify, " and he placed her in handcuffs. [ Id. ] Officer Addison appears to have been interviewing Ms. Calligan during this exchange. [DE 32-4, 39-4]

Sergeant Strausborger then arrived at the scene and spoke with Officer Wolfe. [DE 39-4]. Officer Wolfe states that he "explained the situation to Sgt. Strausborger, who then spoke with Townsend and advised her that she was required to provide identification." [ Id. ] Sergeant Strausborger described his conversation as follows: "Officer Wolfe asked me whether he could arrest someone who had been involved in a battery because that person refused to provide identification to Officer Wolfe. I informed Officer Wolfe that if the individual was involved in an altercation, that individual could be arrested for refusing to provide information to Officer Wolfe." [DE 32-3]. Officer Wolfe then walked Ms. Townsend to his squad car and transported her to the Allen County jail. [DE 39-4]. Meanwhile, the officers released Ms. Calligan at the scene, as Ms. Howard no longer wished to press charges. [ Id. ]. Ms. Townsend was detained at the jail for about eight hours and was charged with failing to identify herself to officers, in violation of Indiana Code § 34-28-5-3.5. [DE 39-1]. The charges were dropped the following day. [ Id. ].


On summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to demonstrate 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). That means that the Court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, making every legitimate inference and resolving every doubt in its favor. Kerri v. Bd. of Trustees of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006). A "material" fact is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" exists with respect to any such material fact, and summary judgment is therefore inappropriate, when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. On the other hand, where a factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Servs. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, as well as draw all reasonable and justifiable inferences in its favor. King v. Preferred Technical Grp., 166 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. 1999). Thus, in responding to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Court must credit Plaintiff's version of the facts. In so doing, the Court does not vouch for the truth of those facts, but merely uses them to determine whether a genuine issue for trial exists. See Herzog v. Vill. of Winnetka, 309 F.3d 1041, 1044-45 (7th Cir. 2002).

However, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations or denials contained in its pleadings, but must present sufficient evidence to show the existence of each element of its case on which it will bear the burden at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Robin v. Espo Eng'g Corp., 200 F.3d 1081, 1088 (7th Cir. 2000). Finally, the fact that the parties have cross-filed for summary judgment does not change the standard of review. M.O. v. Ind. Dep't of Educ., 635 F.Supp.2d 847, 850 (N.D. Ind. 2009). Cross-motions are treated separately under the standards applicable to each. McKinney v. Cadleway Properties, Inc., 548 F.3d 496, 504 n.4 (7th Cir. 2008).


Ms. Townsend's complaint asserts a claim under federal law against each of the officers, including Officer Wolfe, Officer Addison, and Sergeant Strausborger, for arresting her without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. She also asserts a claim for false arrest and false imprisonment under Indiana law against the City of Fort Wayne, as the employer of the officers. The ...

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