United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
WILLIAM H. MILLER, JR., Plaintiff,
HARLAN WILLIAMS and LA PORTE COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE
Miller claims that excessive force was used against him when
he was injured falling from his bicycle while being pursued
by Sergeant Williams of the LaPorte County Sheriff's
Department. Miller has no memory of the precise moments of
his encounter with Williams. As a consequence, there is no
evidence that Williams used excessive force, and therefore,
summary judgment must be granted on the federal claims. But
Miller's state claims will be remanded to state court.
start with the facts conveyed in the light most favorable to
Miller. On November 5, 2015, Miller lived in a house at 1311
Monroe Street in La Porte, Indiana. [Miller Dep. at 32.]
Around 5:00 p.m., Miller rode his bicycle six or seven blocks
from his house or his sister's (which was two houses
down), over to his mother's house at 505 Maple Ave.
about 45 minutes, Miller came down the stairs of his
mother's house and prepared to ride back home when he
noticed a Pontiac Grand Prix sitting at a four way stop of a
nearby street. [Id. at 32, 38.] Miller got on his
bike and started pedaling home, and in the process he passed
the Grand Prix. [Id. at 38-41.] As he did this he
heard someone yell “Bill Miller” or “Bill
Miller, hold it right there.” [Id. at 41, 46.]
He looked back, and saw four people in an unmarked car and a
man with a long beard getting out of the car who began to
chase him on foot. [Id. at 41.] Miller didn't
know the people and was scared for his life, so he turned
left on Monroe Street and began riding faster, turning into
traffic as he rode toward his house. [Id. at 41,
taking a couple turns, Miller ended up on Clay Street about a
block from his house. [Id. at 52.] As he was
peddling on Clay Street, a dark colored SUV came alongside of
Miller's bicycle and Miller grabbed the passenger side
fender near the headlight with his left hand. [Id.
at 52-55, 91.] What ensued next was some type of accident.
Miller flew from his bicycle and suffered serious injuries to
his face and head, but he does not remember the details.
[Id. at 58-60; Williams Dep. at 31.] Miller has a
vague recollection of waking up on the steps or sidewalk of
his neighbor's house, and he next remembers waking up in
the hospital. [Miller Dep. at 55-60.]
is very clear that he does not recall any collision, or how
his injuries actually occurred. [Id. at 56-58,
85-86.] Based upon his observation that the rear wheel of his
bicycle was bent, Miller believes the driver of the SUV must
have hit the back tire of his bike. [Id. at 85-86;
Ex. E (photographs of the bicycle).] But he admits this is a
guess - the only thing he really remembers is having his hand
on the fender of the SUV, and then waking up in the hospital.
[Miller Dep. at 85-86, 89-90.] Miller does not have any
eyewitnesses to the event, there is no mention by the parties
of a dash camera, and there is not an expert witness to
support Miller's theory that the accident was caused by
Williams ramming Miller with the undercover police vehicle.
[Id. at 91-92.]
turn to the officers' point of view. At the time of the
incident, Harlan Williams was the commander and supervisor of
the La Porte County Metro Narcotics Unit. [Williams Dep. at
4-5.] He and La Porte County Sheriff's Detective Nathan
Battleday and La Porte County Deputy Don Hicks were
conducting surveillance on Miller's residence because he
had been identified by confidential informants and other
sources as being involved in dealing narcotics. [Id.
at 7.] Two unmarked vehicles were used - one was a blue GMC
Envoy SUV driven by Williams who was accompanied by Battleday
and Hicks. The other was a Pontiac Grand Prix driven by
Detective Esparza and accompanied by Detective Robert Allen
and state trooper Vicki Maxwell.
the surveillance of Miller's home, Williams, Battleday
and Hicks saw Miller come out of his house around 5:15 p.m.,
then they moved their vehicle and next saw Miller exit a
multi-unit housing structure located at 501 Maple Street
which was another house under investigation for drug dealing.
[Williams Dep. at 11-12; Battleday Dep. at 10-12; Hicks Dep.
at 10-12.] This address is very near Miller's
mother's house at 505 Maple, who Miller claimed he was
visiting. [Miller Dep. at 30-31, 37-38.] So while Miller says
he was leaving his Mom's house, the officers claim he was
seen leaving from the house under suspicion for drug dealing.
In either event, Williams radioed Detective Esparza (who was
in the other unmarked car) and ordered his unit to conduct a
Terry stop of Miller as he rode his bicycle toward
them. [Williams Dep. at 15.] Miller rode his bicycle past the
undercover Grand Prix containing Detective Esparza. Williams
then started pursuing Miller in his undercover SUV.
[Id. at 23, 25.]
officers have the following account of the chase. Detective
Esparza got out of the Grand Prix and ran after Miller,
saying “Police, stop.” [Battleday Dep. at 15.]
During the pursuit, the cars were not going very fast. [Hicks
Dep. at 24.] Williams stated, “we were going,
obviously, at very low speeds because he was riding a
bicycle.” [Williams Dep. at 25.] After Miller turned
onto Clay Street, Williams tried to pass and get in front of
Miller so that he could exit the vehicle to stop Miller - he
drove around Miller and angled the SUV to stop at the curb by
the intersection of Clay Street and Ludlow Street. [Williams
Dep. at 30-31.] According to Williams, he never drove close
enough to Miller for him to reach out and touch the SUV.
[Williams Dep. at 31.] As the SUV was passing Miller,
Detective Battleday, who was riding in the front passenger
seat, saw Miller steer his bicycle away from the vehicle to
cut across the corner lot instead of staying on the road.
[Battleday Dep. at 20-21.] According to Battleday,
Miller's bike hit the curb - the bike and Miller flew
into the air, then landed on the sidewalk. [Id. at
19-20, 23.] Deputy Hicks, who was in the backseat, also said
he saw Miller turn his bike right, hit the curb, and then
fall on his face on the sidewalk. [Hicks Dep. at 19, 23.]
Williams, Battleday, and Hicks all testified there was no
contact between Miller, his bike, and the SUV. [Williams Dep.
at 31, 49-50; Battleday Dep. at 23; Hicks Dep. at 23.]
up, Miller, on the one hand, has no recollection of how he
was thrown from his bike. The officers, on the other hand,
uniformly testified that what threw Miller from his bike was
his hitting the curb, not him being hit by the SUV.
case was originally filed in state court. On November 3,
2017, Defendants filed a notice of removal. Miller filed an
amended complaint asserting state law claims for assault and
negligence (Count I); constitutional violations for excessive
force in arresting him under section 1983 (Count II);
deliberate indifference by the La Porte County Sheriff's
Department (Count III); and requests attorneys fees (Count
IV). [DE 33.] Although the amended complaint contained claims
against other defendants, they were dismissed pursuant to
partial stipulations to dismiss. [DE 44-46.] Defendants La
Porte County Sheriff's Department and Sergeant Williams
(the driver of the SUV) are the only two remaining
defendants, and they have jointly moved for summary judgment
on all claims. [DE 54.]
judgment must be granted when “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). A
genuine dispute of material fact exists when “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Not every
dispute between the parties makes summary judgment
inappropriate; “[o]nly disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Id. To determine whether a genuine dispute of
material fact exists, the Court must construe all facts in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See
Ogden v. Atterholt,606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010).