United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge.
Townsend was driving to the Julian Center when a police
officer signaled for her to pull over. Instead of stopping,
she drove the rest of the way to the Julian Center and got
out of her car. As she quickly walked to the Julian
Center's entrance, several Indianapolis Metropolitan
Police Department officers and Marion County Sheriff's
Office deputies took her to the ground and arrested her. Ms.
Townsend alleges that they used excessive force. Defendants
have filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they
are entitled to qualified immunity. Dkt. . For the
reasons that follow, that motion is GRANTED in part
and DENIED in part.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment under Rule 56(a),
the Court views and recites the evidence “in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”
Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citation omitted). The Court notes some factual disputes.
work on January 6, 2016, Ms. Townsend stopped at a gas
station before driving back to the Julian Center where she
lived. Dkt. 78-6 at 18 (Townsend Dep. at 71-72). The
parties' accounts of what happened during that drive are
completely different. Defendants claim that Ms. Townsend led
seven officers-in marked police vehicles-on a miles-long
chase, speeding down streets and through construction zones,
darting between cars, running stoplights and stop signs,
striking a construction-zone barrel, and driving on a
sidewalk to avoid a school bus. Dkt. 79 at 3-4, 14-15. Ms.
Townsend claims she realized that at least one police car was
following her, but she did not speed, run a red light, or
drive on a sidewalk. Dkt. 93 at 2.
happened on the drive, Ms. Townsend parked at the Julian
center and got out of her car. Dkt. 78-6 at 24 (Townsend Dep.
at 93). She noticed a police car behind her and was
“scared to death” so she walked quickly to the
door to get help from an advocate at the Julian Center. Dkt.
78-6 at 25, 32 (Townsend Dep. at 97, 99-100, 128).
parties also dispute what happened at the Julian Center's
door, even though it was captured on video. See dkt.
78-9. According to Ms. Townsend, Officer Christopher Cooper
grabbed her hair, pushed her face into the door, hurled her
into the ground by her hair, and tackled her. Dkt. 93 at 3.
Then, officers kicked, punched, stepped on, and beat her
before she was handcuffed. Id. And after she was
handcuffed, officers kicked her in the head, dragged her by
the handcuffs, and hoisted her up by lifting her arms and
shoulders past their limits, causing shoulder injuries.
Id. Defendants argue that the video of the incident
contradicts Ms. Townsend's allegations and instead shows
that Officer Cooper “ran into” Ms. Townsend, who
struck the door and stumbled to the ground. Dkt. 77 at 6.
Then, they used only reasonable force to place Ms. Townsend
in handcuffs. Dkt. 101 at 12-14.
Townsend suffered serious injuries from this encounter,
including shoulder injuries requiring surgery. Dkt. 78-6 at
46 (Townsend Dep. at 181- 83).
Townsend brought this action on August 28, 2017, alleging
that “John Doe officers” and five named
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers and
Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies used excessive
force against her. Dkt. 1. She also sued the City of
Indianapolis, alleging that it is required to indemnify the
officers for any damages. Id. Ms. Townsend amended
her complaint on March 26, 2018, adding Officers Derek
Jackson and Justin Gough as defendants. Dkt. 38. Defendants
have moved for summary judgment. Dkt. 77.
judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows 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). The moving party must inform the court
“of the basis for its motion” and specify
evidence demonstrating “the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party meets this
burden, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the
pleadings” and identify “specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the
evidence “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
immunity shields officials from civil liability so long as
their conduct ‘does not violate clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known.'” Mullenix v.
Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (quoting Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009)). This “clearly
established” standard ensures “that officials can
‘reasonably . . . anticipate when their conduct may
give rise to liability for damages.'” Reichle
v. Howards, 566 U.S. 658, 664 (2012) (quoting
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 646 (1987)).
Qualified immunity thus “balances two important
interests- the need to hold public officials accountable when
they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield
officers from harassment, distraction, and liability when
they perform their duties reasonably.''
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231.
“difficult part” of the qualified-immunity test
is “identifying the level of generality at which the
constitutional right must be clearly established.”
Volkman v. Ryker, 736 F.3d 1084, 1090 (7th Cir.
2013). A “high level of generality” is not
appropriate; instead, the question is “whether the law
was clear in relation to the specific facts confronting the
public official when he acted.” Id.“Such
specificity is especially important in the Fourth Amendment
context, ” because “it is sometimes difficult for
an officer to determine how the relevant legal doctrine, here
excessive force, will apply to the factual situation the
officer confronts.'' Mullenix, 136 S.Ct. at
308 (quotation and citation omitted).
excessive force cases, “the result depends very much on
the facts of each case, '' so officers are entitled
to qualified immunity unless precedent
‘‘squarely governs” the case at
hand. Id. at 309 (quoting Brosseau v.
Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 201 (2004)). While a case directly
on point is not required, “existing precedent must have
placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate.” Id. at 308.
Qualified immunity on the excessive force
Townsend contends that officers used excessive force several
times as they arrested her outside the Julian Center. To
overcome qualified immunity, she “must show both (1)
that the facts make out a constitutional violation, and (2)
that the constitutional right was ‘clearly
established' at the time of the official's alleged
misconduct.” Abbott v. Sangamon Cty., 705 F.3d
706, 713 (7th Cir. 2013). Defendants argue that they are
entitled to qualified immunity under the second prong because
they did not violate Ms. Townsend's clearly established
rights. Dkt. 79 at 13-24. The Court thus exercises its
discretion to begin with that prong of the test. See
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236.
Court “carve[s] up the incident into segments and
judge[s] each on its own terms, ” evaluating whether
each officer is entitled to qualified immunity on each use of
force. Deering v. Reich, 183 F.3d 645, 652 (7th Cir.
1999); see Dockery v. Blackburn, 911 F.3d 458, 465
(7th Cir. 2018); Estate of Williams by Rose v.
Cline, 902 F.3d 643, 651 (7th Cir. 2018).
Officer Cooper taking Ms. ...