United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
City of Elkhart, Officer Scott Haigh, and Corporal Andy
Rucker move for summary judgment against Plaintiff Wendell
Manuel on his Fourth Amendment excessive force and Indiana
battery complaint. For the reasons below, this Court denies
Overview of the Case
suffers from a disability in which his right arm is visibly
shorter than his left arm. (DE 33-1.) This inhibits
Plaintiff's ability to bend or stretch his right arm. (DE
32-1 at 16.) A few weeks prior to the events at issue,
Plaintiff suffered a fractured arm when a police officer bent
his right arm to handcuff him. (Id. at 17.) In
response, he started wearing a brace and a sling for his
right arm. (DE 33-2 ¶ 9.) On December 14, 2013,
Plaintiff encountered an acquaintance at a gas station, and
the two started fighting. (DE 32-1 at 19.) Although
Plaintiff's arm remained in the sling throughout the
fight, he managed to throw a punch with his left hand.
(Id. at 20.) Officer Haigh then arrived at the
scene, spoke to Plaintiff and the acquaintance, spoke to some
of the gas station employees, reviewed the security footage,
and determined that Plaintiff should be placed under arrest.
(DE 32-2 ¶¶ 6-9.) Officer Haigh observed that
Plaintiff “was wearing a splint.” (Id.
at ¶ 11.)
point, the parties' stories greatly diverge. The
evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, indicates that Plaintiff told Officer Haigh that
his right arm was fractured, that his arm was frail due to a
disability, and that handcuffing him behind his back would
cause extreme pain. (DE 33-2 ¶¶ 11-16.)
Disbelieving him, Officer Haigh ordered Plaintiff to put his
hands behind his back and threatened to use a taser if he
failed to do so. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Officer Haigh
then removed Plaintiff's sling and brace. (Id.
at ¶ 20.) He handcuffed Plaintiff, causing extreme pain.
(Id. at ¶¶ 21-22.) Corporal Rucker, who
arrived at the scene after Officer Haigh, observed the arrest
but did not intervene. (Id. at ¶ 23.)
Standard of Review
succeed on summary judgment, Defendants must “show
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact” and that they are “entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). They can meet
this burden by “identify[ing] those portions of the
record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne,
91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). Because Plaintiff bears the
burden of proof on the issues underlying the complaint,
“he must then go beyond the pleadings and affirmatively
demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact for trial”
by “demonstrat[ing] that the record, taken as a whole,
could permit a rational finder of fact to rule in favor
of” Plaintiff. Id. As the non-moving party,
Plaintiff is entitled to “the benefit of conflicts in
the evidence and any reasonable inferences in [his]
favor.” Perez v. Thorntons, Inc., 731 F.3d
699, 700 (7th Cir. 2013).
argue that no reasonable jury could find them liable on any
of Plaintiff's claims. However, Defendants' position
holds water only if this Court accepts their version of the
events over Plaintiff's story. Thus, summary judgment
must be denied.
Officer Haigh May Have Used Excessive Force
alleges that Officer Haigh used excessive force by bending
his visibly fractured arm behind his back to handcuff him.
Such claims are “analyzed under the Fourth Amendment
and its ‘reasonableness' standard.”
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). Whether
an officer made an arrest in a reasonable manner depends on
“the totality of the circumstances.”
Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1985).
Specifically, courts should be mindful of “the severity
of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate
threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether
he is actively resisting arrest or attempting 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 397.
An Officer Cannot Use Excessive Force in Handcuffing a
mere act of handcuffing a suspect can be unreasonable if done
with excessive force. For instance, in Herzog v.
Winnetka, 309 F.3d 1041, 1043 (7th Cir. 2002), the
officer arrested the plaintiff for driving under the
influence, even though she passed every sobriety test the
officer gave her. The officer then applied the handcuffs too
tightly, and nobody loosened them until an hour later.
Id. The Seventh Circuit found this to be excessive
force. Id. In another case, three officers assembled
around the plaintiff and then “grappled over [her] arm
. . . not because she was resisting the arrest, but because
the[y] were arguing over who would handcuff her.”
Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 774-75 (7th Cir.
2003). Eventually, one of the officers “grabbed [the
plaintiff's] left arm, jerked it into handcuffing
position, forced her arm behind her back, slammed the
handcuff down on her wrist, jerked her wrist, and tightened
the handcuffs until [she] could not feel her hands.”
Id. The Seventh Circuit found this force
unreasonable in the face of a suspect that neither threatened
anyone, resisted arrest, nor attempted to flee. Id.
pre-existing injury on the suspect's part could render an
otherwise reasonable use of force unreasonable. See e.g.
Walton v. Southfield, 995 F.2d 1331, 1342 (6th Cir.
1993) (“An excessive use of force claim could be
premised on Officer Birberick's handcuffing Walton if he
knew that she had an injured arm and if he believed that she
posed no threat to him.”). Officers must
“consider [pre-existing injuries] in determining
whether it [is] appropriate to handcuff” a suspect, if
they knew of the injury. Stainback v. Dixon, 569
F.3d 767, 773 (7th Cir. 2009). On the other ...