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Gupta v. Melloh

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 9, 2019

SACHIN GUPTA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD MELLOH, et al., Defendants.

          Traci Marie Cosby OFFICE OF CORPORATION COUNSEL

          Raeanna C. Spahn ESKEW LAW LLC Andrew J. Upchurch OFFICE OF CORPORATION COUNSEL Richard A. Waples WAPLES & HANGER

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Sachin Gupta-drunk and handcuffed-lost his balance, fell forward, and broke his neck when Officer Chad Melloh tugged him toward the hotel exit. Mr. Gupta alleges federal civil rights claims for excessive force and unreasonable prosecution against Officer Melloh and a state-law claim for battery against both Officer Melloh and the City of Indianapolis.[1] Defendants move for summary judgment.

         Background

         Mr. Gupta, a software salesman, accompanied a customer to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the early afternoon of May 22, 2017. (Gupta Dep. 30:15-31:4, ECF No. 49-7.) Once there, he began to drink. (Id. at 33:7-15.) He went to dinner with the customer and continued to drink. (Id. at 34:4-24.) After dinner and a stop at his hotel, Gupta went alone to Casablanca-evidently a bar near the hotel-and drank some more. (Id. at 37:5-7, 38:11-39:12.) The last thing he remembers was smoking a cigarette at Casablanca. (Id. at 39:16-25, 45:10-16.)

         Around midnight, of all the hotels in all the towns in all the world, Gupta walked into the Microtel Inn & Suites on Rockville Road. (Eweda Aff. ¶ 8, ECF No. 49-4.) Unfortunately, Gupta was not staying at the Microtel Inn & Suites; he was staying at the Holiday Inn Express down the street. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s 1st Interrog. ¶ 6, ECF No. 49-24; Eweda Aff. ¶ 8, ECF No. 49-4.)

         Gupta staggered into the Microtel's vestibule and tried to enter the lobby. The Microtel had locked its lobby doors at 11:00 p.m., and Gupta, of course, did not have a Microtel keycard. (Morcos Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No. 49-3;.Eweda Aff. ¶ 8, ECF No. 49-4.) Gupta swiped a card across the reader several times, but the lobby doors did not open. He stumbled back and forth between the reception window and the lobby doors and eventually engaged the night manager in conversation through the reception window.

         Gupta grew animated and shouted obscenities at the night manager-variations on the theme “open this f***ing door.” (Eweda Aff. ¶¶ 9-10, ECF No. 49-4.) Gupta lay his right hand on a brochure rack and threw it down, scattering ads for local attractions across the floor.[2] (Defs.' Ex. 18.4; Eweda Aff. ¶ 11, ECF No. 49-4.) The night manager called the police. (Eweda Aff. ¶¶ 12-13.)

         Officer Shawn Cook arrived at 12:34 a.m. (Defs.' Ex. 18.4 at 2:34.) Outside the hotel, Cook noticed flower pots overturned and pizza smashed on the glass of the side door. (Cook Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No. 49-2 at 1.) Once inside the vestibule, Cook saw the brochures scattered across the floor and Gupta, intoxicated and angry. (Cook Dep. 7:14-23, 9:2-14, 13:22-24.) Cook ordered Melloh to put his hands behind his back. Gupta instead put his hand in the air, and Cook grabbed it and cuffed his hands behind his back without incident. (Defs.' Ex. 18.4 at 3:12-27; Cook Aff. ¶ 11.) Gupta was “unsteady on his feet” and “swaying.” (Cook Dep. 13:14-19, ECF No. 49-9.)

         Officer Melloh arrived two minutes later and spoke with Officer Cook. (Defs.' Ex. 18.4 at 5:15.) Cook asked Melloh to watch Gupta and then left the vestibule. Melloh went to the door, opened it, and beckoned repeatedly for Gupta to follow. (Defs.' Ex. 18.4 at 7:48-8:11.) Gupta did not come to the door, so Melloh approached Gupta. (Id. at 8:12-18.) Melloh testifies that he tried twice to lead Gupta toward the door, and, when Gupta would not budge, he tugged Gupta more forcefully. (Melloh Dep. 13:22- 14:17, ECF No. 49-8.)

         Gupta and Melloh fell into the wall, then Gupta careened headlong to the floor. (Defs.' Ex. 18.4 at 8:18-20.) Melloh immediately grabbed Gupta and turned him on his side, then lifted Gupta by the arm and dragged him outside. (Id. at 8:21-48.) Once outside, Melloh sat Gupta upright and noticed Gupta bleeding from the nose and mouth. (Id. at 8:51.) One of the officers called for an ambulance, which arrived and transported Gupta to Eskenazi Hospital. Gupta was diagnosed with a fractured C-5 vertebra.

         Gupta was charged by information with resisting law enforcement and public intoxication based on Officer Cook's probable cause affidavit. (Pl.'s Ex. 14, ECF No. 59- 10.) Gupta entered a diversion agreement and the charges were dismissed. (Pl.'s Ex. 16, 17, ECF Nos. 59-12, 59-13.)

         Legal ...


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