Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, Ill.

Decision Date28 March 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96-1442,96-1442
PartiesJohn LANIGAN, Sr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. VILLAGE OF EAST HAZEL CREST, ILLINOIS, Officer Robert Wasek, Chief Ray Robertson, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

S. Ira Miller, Chicago, IL, argued for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Frank Calabrese (argued), Peter J. Magnani, and Thomas L. Buck, Magnani & Buck, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before BAUER, ROVNER, and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

BAUER, Circuit Judge.

John Lanigan filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated during a routine traffic stop. The complaint named Officer R. Wasek, Sergeant Charles A. Krane, and Chief Ray Robertson as defendants, both individually and in their official capacities. The complaint also named the Village of East Hazel Crest ("the Village") as a defendant, alleging that the Village has an inadequate policy relating to the conduct, supervision and training of police officers. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), finding that Lanigan had failed to set forth a violation of the Constitution or of federal laws and that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. We reverse in part and affirm in part.


For purposes of our review of the district court's dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of Lanigan. Zemke v. City of Chicago, 100 F.3d 511, 513 (7th Cir.1996) (citation omitted). The facts below are taken only from the allegations in Lanigan's complaint.

I. Facts

This case arises from an altercation between John Lanigan and three members of the Village of East Hazel Crest police force during a routine traffic stop of Lanigan's car. The complaint alleges that on March 4, 1994, at approximately 8:35 in the morning, 67-year-old John Lanigan turned left from a southbound street to an eastbound street in the Village immediately after a stoplight Officer Wasek consulted his officers' manual during the entire incident and while he was writing the ticket. The complaint alleges that he did this "apparently for instructions as to what to do." While Officer Wasek was writing the ticket, Lanigan turned his car around to facilitate a quick exit once the ticket was issued. While turning his car, the bumper of Lanigan's car hit the tire of Officer Wasek's squad car. Lanigan got out of his car. Officer Wasek, angry about the contact between the cars, got out of the squad car, advised Lanigan that he had "crashed" into the squad car, and called the dispatcher for back-up cars to assist him. Lanigan got back into his car, intending to use his car phone to call his workplace for help, but he was too frightened to turn on his engine to use the phone because he thought Officer Wasek might "shoot him."

                changed from red to green.  Lanigan did not wait for the intersection to clear before making the turn because he was waved on by an oncoming northbound driver who was also waiting for the light to change.  Officer Robert Wasek, a member of the Village police force, pulled Lanigan over into a parking lot, blocking Lanigan's car with his squad car.  Officer Wasek demanded Lanigan's driver's license, but Lanigan was unable to produce it.  Lanigan asked why Officer Wasek had pulled him over, but Officer Wasek would not engage in conversation until Lanigan produced his license.  Officer Wasek eventually told Lanigan that Lanigan had made an improper left turn.  Lanigan then "advised" Officer Wasek "that a more courteous professional manner of the presentation would have been to advise of the infraction first."   Officer Wasek did not appreciate the advice.  He "shouted" at Lanigan, "[D]on't tell me how to handle my job."   Lanigan replied that he had not made an improper left turn and that his wallet containing his license was at his workplace.  Lanigan asked to be allowed to leave to get his wallet and to use the restroom because he had recently had surgery for prostate cancer and he had a problem controlling his bladder.  Officer Wasek refused, and instead asked for information so he could check Lanigan's driver's license.  At some point during the encounter, Lanigan relieved himself into a bladder control pad he was wearing

Chief Robertson and Sergeant Krane arrived on the scene in two additional squad cars. Officer Wasek "shouted," "[H]e crashed into the side of my car." Lanigan asked who Officer Wasek's superior was, to which Chief Robertson answered, "I am officer Wasek's superior, I am the Chief of Police and you are the one with the problem." Sergeant Krane directed Lanigan to stay in his car while the three officers examined Officer Wasek's squad car for damage. Lanigan got out of his car and wiped the side of the squad car with his hand to show the officers that there was only salt discoloration and no damage to the squad car. Lanigan then advised the officers that they should either show him "some damage or lock him up."

The complaint alleges that Sergeant Krane "then violently poking and pushing the plaintiff stated 'we know what to do with you.' " Lanigan told Sergeant Krane, "[K]eep your hands off of me." According to the complaint, Lanigan "looked to the Chief for some assistance or some supervision of his apparently unsupervised employees and the Chief exhibited no desire to exert any supervision." Chief Robertson and Lanigan argued over whether there was any damage to the squad car, at which time, the complaint alleges, Lanigan was totally brow beaten and subdued.

Officer Wasek refused to set his pad containing the bonding documents on a car in order to make it easier for Lanigan to sign. He told Lanigan: "[Y]ou will do what you are told and sign it here the way I want it." The complaint further alleges that Officer Wasek moved the pad around as Lanigan was trying to fill it out, deliberately making it difficult for Lanigan to sign, and that Chief Robertson and Sergeant Krane "enjoyed Lanigan's discomfiture and said and did nothing." Lanigan eventually was ticketed for failing to yield while making a left turn. He was found not guilty of the offense.

II. Procedural History

On May 6, 1994, Lanigan filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging On May 18, 1994, before setting any discovery schedule, the district court asked the parties to brief the issue of the officers' qualified immunity. On July 6, 1994, Officer Wasek, Chief Robertson and the Village filed an answer to the complaint, but did not assert a qualified immunity defense. On November 14, 1994, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure asserting that Lanigan's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. 2 The motion to dismiss also contended that all three individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.

that his rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments had been violated during the traffic stop. Lanigan named Officer R. Wasek, Sergeant Charles A. Krane, 1 and Chief Ray Robertson as defendants, both individually and in their official capacities. The complaint alleges that Lanigan suffered bodily injury, his diaper leaked, suffered humiliation, physical and emotional distress and will continue to so suffer in the future. The complaint also named the Village of East Hazel Crest as a defendant as a result of its policies relating to the conduct of, supervision of and training of its policemen in enforcing traffic and related laws. Lanigan asks for $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney's fees and costs as a result of the incident.

The district court granted the motion to dismiss as to all the defendants on May 16, 1995. The district court found that, given the totality of the circumstances, the complaint did not state a claim against either Officer Wasek or Sergeant Krane, and that, therefore, Chief Robertson could not be liable under a supervision theory. 3 The district court further found that the Village could not be liable because Lanigan had failed to plead that the Village had a policy of infringing on civil rights. Finally, the district court found that all three individual defendants were shielded from liability by qualified immunity because their conduct was not unreasonable in light of clearly established law. The district court's decision was based solely on the

pleadings. The district court denied a motion to reconsider on January 1, 1996. On appeal, Lanigan argues that the district court jumped the gun by dismissing the complaint solely on the pleadings. Lanigan argues primarily that, without conducting more discovery, the district court could not have found as a matter of law that the officers did not use excessive force against him. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

I. Legal Principles Governing § 1983 Liability and Qualified Immunity

We review de novo both the district court's dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Flenner v. Sheahan, 107 F.3d 459, 461 (7th Cir.1997), and the district court's determination of whether a law enforcement officer is entitled to qualified immunity. Forman v. Richmond Police Dept., 104 F.3d 950, 956-57 (7th Cir.1997). As with dismissals pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we will affirm the district court's 12(c) dismissal only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no facts sufficient to support his claim for relief. Flenner, 107 F.3d at 461; Frey v. Bank One, 91 F.3d 45, 46 (7th Cir.1996) (citations omitted), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 117 S.Ct. 954, 136 L.Ed.2d 841 (1997).

Liability under § 1983 requires proof that the defendants were acting under color of state law and that the...

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