Padula v. Leimbach

Decision Date29 August 2011
Docket NumberNo. 10–3395.,10–3395.
Citation656 F.3d 595
PartiesWilliam PADULA, Administrator of the Estate of Jerome Clement, Plaintiff–Appellant,v.Timothy LEIMBACH, et al., Defendants–Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Michael E. Polen, Jr., Adam John Sedia (argued), Kevin Chandler Smith, Attorneys, Rubino, Ruman, Crosmer, Smith, Sersic & Polen, Dyer, IN, for PlaintiffAppellant.Wanda E. Jones, Attorney, Jones Law Offices, David W. Weigle (argued), Attorney, Hammond, IN, for DefendantsAppellees.Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and FLAUM and SYKES, Circuit Judges.FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

Jerome Clement, a diabetic, was suffering from a hypoglycemic episode while driving when he veered off the road and into a parking lot. Officers called to the scene had reason to believe he was intoxicated. When he did not comply with their commands to step out of his car, they physically removed him, maced him two or three times, struck him four times with a baton to place handcuffs on him and prevent him from kicking his legs and flailing his arms, and kept him in the prone position until a paramedic arrived. The paramedic recognized Clement's condition and eventually got him to a hospital, where he died of natural causes roughly two weeks later. William Padula, the Administrator of Clement's estate, filed § 1983 claims against the responding officers, the City of East Chicago (“the City”), the City of East Chicago Police Department (“the Police Department), and Chief Angelo Machuca Jr. (“Chief Machuca”) for wrongful arrest, excessive force, failure to train the officers, and condoning the use of excessive force, in addition to claims under state law. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on Padula's federal claims and remanded his state law claims to state court. We affirm.

I. Background

Clement was an insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic. His blood sugar periodically dropped, which could cause him to phase out, fall to the floor, and flail his arms in a non-combative manner.

On August 24, 2006, while driving to work, Clement turned his vehicle into the parking lot at Metal Management and stopped on or near a truck scale. An employee approached and asked him to move, but he appeared not to hear what the employee said and responded in incomprehensible gibberish. Someone called 911 to report the incident and explained that an unresponsive person in a car was blocking the company's scale, but that she did not know whether the person was intoxicated. Before police arrived, Clement's car began moving towards a building, prompting someone at the scene to reach into the car, put it in park, and remove the keys. At around this time, a bystander observed Clement frustrated and talking to himself in an argumentative tone. He eventually passed out at the wheel.

Officers Jesus Arceo and Timothy Leimbach, responding to a dispatch shortly after 10 AM indicating that there was an intoxicated man in a car, were the first police officers at the scene. They initially observed Clement slouched over and tried to wake him by shaking him and asking if everything was all right. When they asked him to get out of the car, he spoke in an angry tone and did not comply. Officer Leimbach observed Clement's eyes roll back into his head as he remained unresponsive. Officer Arceo recalled that Clement was unkempt, his eyes were bloodshot, and his car smelled like stale beer. Officer Leimbach also smelled alcohol in the car. But neither observed any open alcohol in the car. Officer Nathaniel London, a canine handler, arrived at the scene at some point after Officers Arceo and Leimbach, also in response to a dispatch for an intoxicated person.

Clement eventually woke up and, upon seeing Officer Arceo, swung his arm in Officer Arceo's direction but made no contact. He did not cooperate with the officers' repeated requests to step out his car. So Officer Leimbach, leaning into the car from the front passenger side, unbuckled Clement and the officers tried to physically remove him from the car. Record evidence indicates that Clement was dead weight. When the officers pulled him out of the car, he fell to the ground, his legs partially under the car, and did not comply with the officers' demands to move away from the car. The officers then physically moved Clement out from under the car.

Next, while lying on his stomach, he ignored their commands to put his hands behind his back and physically resisted their attempts to handcuff him. A bystander observed Clement's eyes roll back in his head and that he was foaming at the mouth. Clement continued to kick, flail his arms, and move his head up and down, which caused him to hit his face against the pavement, resulting in scratches and some bleeding. An observer did not think Clement knew what was going on or was consciously fighting the officers, but rather that he was flailing around “like he was having ... a seizure of some sort maybe.” A police dog was released from the police car at some point, but it is unclear whether an officer ordered the dog to bite Clement; regardless, the dog did not attack Clement in any way.

The officers managed to cuff one of Clement's hands, but he did not obey commands to put his other arm behind his back. An officer then struck Clement's free arm with a baton while trying to place it in handcuffs. For what appears to be a fairly short period of time, one officer had his knee on Clement's head while the other officers held him in the prone position: Officer Arceo held the top of Clement's body, Officer Leimbach kept Clement's shoulders down, and Officer London held his torso. The officers eventually secured the second handcuff, all the while struggling to keep Clement down as he tried to stand up. During the struggle, Officer Leimbach struck Clement's leg with a baton three times because he was kicking Officer Leimbach and screaming. An observer described the baton strikes to Clement's arm and leg as “stern,” but not “severe.” Officer Leimbach eventually pinned Clement's leg against his buttocks. Officer Arceo, who did not smell alcohol on Clement's breath when near Clement's head, called for an ambulance at some point during the struggle when he saw blood on Clement's face.

The officers sprayed mace into Clement's face at least once and possibly twice in the process of moving him from his car to the ground and into handcuffs; the record is inconclusive. There is record evidence that someone maced Clement while he was still in the car, and also that Officer Leimbach maced him after he was removed from the car because he was resisting and swinging his arms close to Officer Leimbach, who testified that he believed Clement was trying to hit him. Officer Leimbach stopped macing Clement because it was having no effect; he continued resisting with his eyes closed.

At some point, Officer Harretos arrived and took over for Officer London, who returned the dog to the car. While helping to hold Clement down as he continued screaming and attempting to stand up, Officer Harretos sprayed mace in Clement's face—which was either the second or third time Clement was maced—but stopped when the two officers told him that their previous attempts to mace Clement had no effect. He testified that he had not seen the other officers mace Clement, and that he did not smell alcohol on Clement.

Clement's face was bleeding from hitting his head against the pavement and began turning blue while the officers held him down. Fortunately, paramedic Frank Torres was called to the scene by a dispatcher who indicated that Clement was possibly intoxicated. Torres arrived at about 10:22 AM, roughly twenty minutes after the officers were dispatched to the scene, and observed Clement in a semi-prone position, laying on his right shoulder, and “thrashing about.” Torres took Clement's vitals, checked his blood sugar, which was low, and then administrated a Dextrose injection at 10:27 AM and a second a minute later, after which Clement stopped breathing. Torres instructed the officers to remove the handcuffs so Clement could be placed in the ambulance. He regained a strong pulse on his way to the hospital. Torres did not smell alcohol on Clement's breath at any point.

At the hospital, Officer Leimbach received Clement's wallet, which had been in one of his pant pockets during the relevant events and contained a diabetic card. The emergency room doctor intubated Clement and later diagnosed him with acute cardiac and respiratory failure, severe hypoglycemia, and severe metabolic and respiratory acidosis. At the hospital, testing revealed that Clement had marijuana and a low presence of alcohol in his system.

When Clement's grandmother, Phyllis Jordon, retrieved Clement's vehicle, which had been towed from the scene, she found Frusion bottles on the front passenger seat and his diabetic kit pushed into the passenger seat but still visible. The record indicates that Clement was not wearing a diabetic necklace or bracelet during the relevant events. Clement died of natural causes on September 8, 2006, roughly two weeks after the relevant events.

His estate filed suit against the defendants in Indiana state court, and the defendants removed to federal court. Counts I and II assert state law causes of action for wrongful death, negligence, and intentional conduct, and for negligent training, hiring, and supervision, respectively. Count III is a § 1983 claim contending that the Officers used excessive force and wrongfully arrested Clement, in violation of the United States Constitution, in addition to an analogous state law claim. Counts IV and V, also claims under both state law and § 1983, allege that the City, the Police Department, and Chief Machuca failed to train and supervise the Officers, and that they condoned and ratified excessive force. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on Padula's federal claims...

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