Bentz v. City of Kendallville, No. 08-3324.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtKanne
Citation577 F.3d 776
PartiesSusan M. BENTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF KENDALLVILLE, Mike McCann, Lance Waters, L. Richardson, and Douglas M. Davis, Defendants-Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 08-3324.
Decision Date14 August 2009
577 F.3d 776
Susan M. BENTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF KENDALLVILLE, Mike McCann, Lance Waters, L. Richardson, and Douglas M. Davis, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 08-3324.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued May 11, 2009.
Decided August 14, 2009.

[577 F.3d 777]

Christopher C. Myers (argued), Christopher C. Myers & Associates, Fort Wayne, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Andrew S. Williams, Attorney, Linda A. Polley (argued), Hunt Suedhoff Kalamoros, Fort Wayne, IN, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before CUDAHY, POSNER, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

KANNE, Circuit Judge.


On May 3, 2006, officers of the Kendallville Police Department entered the home of Dr. Bernard Leonelli without a warrant, arrested him, and searched his home for potential domestic violence victims. Leonelli brought suit against the City of Kendallville and individual police officers1 alleging various Indiana tort claims and violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. While this appeal was pending, Leonelli passed away from causes unrelated to the lawsuit, and Susan Bentz became his personal representative.

577 F.3d 778

The city moved to dismiss the appeal, claiming that none of Leonelli's claims survived his death. Bentz, meanwhile, moved that we certify the question of survival to the Indiana Supreme Court. Because we find that Indiana law establishes that Leonelli's claims do not survive, we grant the city's motion to dismiss the appeal and deny Bentz's motion to certify questions of state law.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 3, 2006, in response to two 911 calls reporting a domestic dispute, the Kendallville Police Department dispatched officers to the home of Dr. Bernard Leonelli.2 Officer Douglas Davis approached the residence in his patrol car and observed a large fire on the lawn. As he got out of the patrol car, onlookers informed him that a fight was occurring in the residence.

Davis approached the house, where Leonelli was standing on the front porch. Davis identified himself and instructed Leonelli to come talk to him. Leonelli shook his head, turned, and walked into the house. Davis continued toward the door, but Leonelli kept walking away. Davis then observed Leonelli reach for something that Davis could not see, prompting him to enter the house and arrest Leonelli.

Other officers arrived at the scene and searched the residence for victims of domestic violence. Leonelli contended that the officers went through several drawers in his home and searched his computers, while the officers claimed that they searched only areas where they believed they might find a person.

Leonelli sued the city and the individual officers involved in his arrest and search. His complaint alleged that the defendants had violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Leonelli claimed that (1) his arrest was without probable cause and constituted an unreasonable seizure, and (2) the officers' entry and search of his home without a warrant was an unreasonable search and trespass. Leonelli also raised several state tort claims, including false arrest, malicious prosecution, and trespass.

The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, holding that they were immune from liability under both federal and state law. Leonelli filed a notice of appeal. He later died on September 28, 2008. Bentz, Leonelli's personal representative, continued to prosecute this appeal on his behalf.

II. ANALYSIS

The city filed a motion to dismiss Bentz's appeal, arguing that Leonelli's claims did not survive his death. After concessions by the appellant, the only claims before us are those brought under § 1983. That statute is silent on the issue of survival, so 42 U.S.C. § 1988 directs us to "look to the most closely analogous state law to determine survivability." Bass ex rel. Lewis v. Wallenstein, 769 F.2d 1173, 1188 (7th Cir.1985); see also Robertson v. Wegmann, 436 U.S. 584, 588-91, 98 S.Ct. 1991, 56 L.Ed.2d 554 (1978); Anderson v. Romero, 42 F.3d 1121, 1123 (7th Cir.1994). When analyzing the survivability of § 1983 claims, we therefore apply the state survival statute unless it is inconsistent with federal policy. Anderson, 42 F.3d at 1123. Bentz does not claim that the application of state law in this case is inhospitable to

577 F.3d 779

the purpose of § 1983 actions, so we apply Indiana law in deciding whether Leonelli's claims survived. Robertson, 436 U.S. at 594, 98 S.Ct. 1991.

In order to apply Indiana law, we must properly analogize Leonelli's § 1983 claims to the appropriate Indiana torts. In doing so, we begin with the federal claim at issue. Bass, 769 F.2d at 1188. We must first characterize that claim and then decide which Indiana tort is the most similar, without molding the constitutional claim to fit within the contours of state law. Id. After arriving at an appropriate analogy, we turn to the Indiana survival statute to determine whether that claim should survive. See Ind.Code § 34-9-3-1.

Bentz presents two Fourth Amendment claims on Leonelli's behalf. The first is an illegal seizure/false arrest claim arising from the warrantless arrest. The second is based on the allegedly unlawful entry and "trespass" into Leonelli's home. After considering the elements required to establish each federal cause of action, we hold that neither claim survives under Indiana law.

A. Illegal Seizure/False Arrest

In his complaint, Leonelli averred that the police lacked probable cause and that his arrest was therefore an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The city argues that this claim is analogous to the Indiana tort of false imprisonment, which does not survive death.3 Bentz, meanwhile, contends that Leonelli's claim was similar to the distinct tort of unlawful arrest, or that, in the alternative, Indiana law is unclear and we should certify the question to the Indiana Supreme Court. See 7th Cir. R. 52(a); Ind. R.App. P. 64 (providing that federal courts may certify a question of law to the Indiana Supreme Court when it appears that the case "presents an issue of state law that is determinative of the case and on which there is no clear controlling Indiana precedent").

We begin by discussing the requirements for Leonelli's federal cause of action. To prevail under § 1983 for this claim, Bentz must establish that the government's conduct constituted a seizure and that the seizure was unreasonable. Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 637 (7th Cir.2008). Under the Fourth Amendment, a person has been seized "`only if, in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.'" Tom v. Voida, 963 F.2d 952, 956-57 (7th Cir.1992) (quoting United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980)). We have also referred to a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes as "an intentional limitation of a person's freedom of movement." Bielanski, 550 F.3d at 637. Where an arrest occurs without probable cause, the plaintiff may bring a claim for unreasonable seizure. See A.M. v. Butler, 360 F.3d 787, 798 (7th Cir.2004).

The standards for false imprisonment in Indiana are remarkably similar. "Under Indiana law, false imprisonment is defined as the unlawful restraint upon one's freedom of movement or the deprivation of one's liberty without consent." Earles v. Perkins, 788 N.E.2d 1260, 1265 (Ind.Ct.App.2003). As with the Fourth Amendment, where the police arrest a suspect without probable cause, they can be

577 F.3d 780

held liable for false imprisonment. Miller v. City of Anderson, 777 N.E.2d 1100, 1104 (Ind.Ct.App.2002).

In other words, a plaintiff may establish both a § 1983 claim and an Indiana false imprisonment claim where his freedom of movement was limited or restrained in some way without probable cause. See Bielanski, 550 F.3d at 637; Earles, 788 N.E.2d at 1265 ("[B]oth Indiana and federal law require the court to determine if there was probable cause for arrest...."); Miller, 777 N.E.2d at 1104. The elements of the causes of action are nearly identical, and Leonelli could have framed his claim in terms of the Indiana tort of false imprisonment, federal law, or both.

Bentz relies in part on Row v. Holt, 834 N.E.2d 1074 (Ind.Ct.App.2005), vacated, 864 N.E.2d 1011 (Ind.2007), for her argument that false arrest and false imprisonment are distinct torts under Indiana law. She is correct that, as Row observed, distinctions exist between the two in certain cases. See id. at 1088-89. But further examination of Row reveals compelling support for the city's position. Although the court noted that the two torts are different insofar as an imprisonment can be made absent an arrest, it went on to emphasize that "[a] false arrest is one means of committing a false imprisonment, and every false arrest has, at its core, a false imprisonment." Id. at 1089 (emphasis added) (quotations omitted). The court therefore determined that because the plaintiff's false...

To continue reading

Request your trial
63 practice notes
  • Carlson v. Bukovic - ., No. 09-2578.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 2, 2010
    ...course, we have recognized false arrest as a valid basis for a section 1983 Fourth Amendment claim. See Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 779 (7th Cir.2009) (“Where an arrest occurs without probable cause, the plaintiff may bring a claim for unreasonable seizure.”). Such a claim ......
  • Gray v. CITY OF HAMMOND, INDIANA, Cause No.: 2:08-CV-114-TS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • March 4, 2010
    ...cause, the plaintiff may bring a claim for unreasonable seizure" under § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment. Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 779 (7th Cir.2009) (citing A.M. v. Butler, 360 F.3d 787, 798 (7th Cir.2004)); see also Ienco v. Angarone, 429 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir.2005) ("a......
  • Ocasio v. Turner, Cause No. 2:13–CV–303–PRC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 14, 2014
    ...673, 678 (7th Cir.1993) ; Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 626 (7th Cir.2010) )); Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 780 (7th Cir.2009) (recognizing the requirement of an absence of probable cause to establish a false imprisonment claim under § 1983 or Ind......
  • Ocasio v. Turner, Cause No. 2:13–CV–303–PRC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 14, 2014
    ...673, 678 (7th Cir.1993); Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 626 (7th Cir.2010))); Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 780 (7th Cir.2009) (recognizing the requirement of an absence of probable cause to establish a false imprisonment claim under § 1983 or India......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
63 cases
  • Carlson v. Bukovic - ., No. 09-2578.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 2, 2010
    ...course, we have recognized false arrest as a valid basis for a section 1983 Fourth Amendment claim. See Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 779 (7th Cir.2009) (“Where an arrest occurs without probable cause, the plaintiff may bring a claim for unreasonable seizure.”). Such a claim ......
  • Gray v. CITY OF HAMMOND, INDIANA, Cause No.: 2:08-CV-114-TS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • March 4, 2010
    ...cause, the plaintiff may bring a claim for unreasonable seizure" under § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment. Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 779 (7th Cir.2009) (citing A.M. v. Butler, 360 F.3d 787, 798 (7th Cir.2004)); see also Ienco v. Angarone, 429 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir.2005) ("a......
  • Ocasio v. Turner, Cause No. 2:13–CV–303–PRC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 14, 2014
    ...673, 678 (7th Cir.1993) ; Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 626 (7th Cir.2010) )); Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 780 (7th Cir.2009) (recognizing the requirement of an absence of probable cause to establish a false imprisonment claim under § 1983 or Ind......
  • Ocasio v. Turner, Cause No. 2:13–CV–303–PRC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 14, 2014
    ...673, 678 (7th Cir.1993); Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 626 (7th Cir.2010))); Bentz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 780 (7th Cir.2009) (recognizing the requirement of an absence of probable cause to establish a false imprisonment claim under § 1983 or India......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT