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Clemons v. City of Hobart

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

March 13, 2019

CITY OF HOBART, CITY OF HOBART POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER G. VIATOR #104, in his individual and official capacity, SERGEANT CLAUSSEN, in his individual and official capacity, and CEC ENTERTAINMENT, INC., Defendants.



         I. BACKGROUND

         Officer G. Viator, a police officer with the Lake Station Police Department, was “working security”[1] at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Hobart, Indiana, on October 19, 2014. (DE # 50-6 at 1.) Plaintiff Damon Clemons was also there; he had accompanied his brother, JR Clemons, and his niece to the restaurant. Pl. Dep. 31 (DE # 61-1). At one point, JR discovered that their coats had been moved by other individuals, and an argument broke out between them and JR. Pl. Dep. 33-34. According to plaintiff's version of the events, by the time he got over to JR, Officer Viator was already on the scene. Pl. Dep. 35:6-9.

         Video surveillance of the restaurant (DE # 57, Exs. B, C, D) reveals that plaintiff interacted with Officer Viator while Officer Viator was attempting to handle JR. (DE # 57, Ex. D, at 5:29:13-20.) The video shows plaintiff inserting his hands into the space between Officer Viator and JR. At one point, plaintiff places his hand directly in front of Officer Viator's face, appearing to block Officer Viator's view of JR. (Id. at 5:29:17.) Officer Viator argues in his brief that plaintiff put both hands on his arm (DE # 49-1 at 3), while plaintiff asserts that he “never interfered” and was merely telling JR to “cuff up.” Pl. Dep. 36:15-17, 121:17.

         The video evidence shows that plaintiff then moved back a few feet. (DE # 57, Ex. D, at 5:29:20-21.) Plaintiff claims that, at this point, a Chuck E. Cheese manager instructed plaintiff to stay where he was. Pl. Dep. 37:5-9. Plaintiff asserts that he felt that another patron was about to hit him, so he attempted to move away, but the manager blocked him with an arm. Pl. Dep. 37-39. Plaintiff claims that he tried to go under his arm, and the manager tried to get him in a choke hold. Pl. Dep. 40:14-22.

         Next, according to plaintiff, the manager attempted to restrain him by the legs. Pl. Dep. 126:7-10. Plaintiff admits that he attempted to avoid being restrained during this time. Pl. Dep. 119:21-22 (“I broke my legs free with my feet.”); Pl. Dep. 119:14-16 (“He was frustrated because he couldn't get ahold of me ‘cause I kept moving.”); Pl. Dep. 125:17-18 (“I basically was trying not to let him get a grip on me, that's all.”). Then, Officer Viator hit him in the eye. Pl. Dep. 126:7-10. Plaintiff claims he was then told “[g]ive me your hands, ” at which point he complied and was handcuffed. Pl. Dep. 126:13-17.

         After this, plaintiff alleges he was slammed “right on his face.” Pl. Dep. 126:14-15. Plaintiff further alleges that he was then punched in the ribs and face by Officer Viator, while the manager grabbed his handcuffs and twisted his hands and fingers. Pl. Dep. 127:5-6; 129:4-9. Ultimately, plaintiff suffered a lacerated cornea, optical floor damage, and an eye socket that was cracked in three different places. Pl. Dep. 43:24-25, 44:1-5.

         Plaintiff sued the City of Hobart, the City of Hobart Police Department, another officer named Sergeant Claussen (collectively, “the City defendants”), Officer Viator, and CEC Entertainment, Inc. (“CEC”). (DE # 3-1.) Plaintiff's suit alleges that defendants committed state and federal constitutional violations (specifically, unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest, false imprisonment, and excessive use of force in violation of the United States Constitution, and false arrest and false imprisonment in violation of the Constitution of the State of Indiana), and the state law torts of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). (Id.)

         Officer Viator, CEC, and the City defendants have each filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims. (DE ## 48, 52, 58.) The briefing period has expired for all motions, and they are ripe for ruling. Each motion is addressed in turn below.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must identify specific facts establishing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Palmer v. Marion County, 327 F.3d 588, 595 (7th Cir. 2003). In doing so, the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must present fresh proof in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Donovan v. City of Milwaukee, 17 F.3d 944, 947 (7th Cir. 1994). A dispute about a material fact is genuine only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         The court's role in deciding a summary judgment motion is not to evaluate the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994). In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences and resolve all doubts in favor of that party. NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-Am., Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 234 (7th Cir. 1995).


         A. Officer Viator's Motion ...

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