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Sheeley v. City of Austin

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 5, 2015

Janet F. Sheeley and Peter J. Lilja-Sheeley, Plaintiffs,
City of Austin, Chad Norman, and Kevin Sederquest, Defendants.

Leslie Lienemann, Esq., Culberth & Lienemann LLP, St. Paul, MN, on behalf of Plaintiffs.

Anna Yunker, Everett & VanderWiel, PLLP, Rosemount, MN on behalf of Defendants.


ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.

This matter came before the undersigned United States District Court Judge on March 19, 2015 on Defendants City of Austin, Chad Norman, and Kevin Sederquest's ("the City Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 77]. At the hearing, Plaintiffs requested permission to file a supplemental brief in support of their motion and that request was granted [Docket No. 93]. After review of the parties' initial and supplemental briefing, the City Defendants' motion is granted.


A. November 16, 2011 Emergency Call

On November 16, 2011, Austin City Police Officers Chad Norman and Kevin Sederquest and Gold Cross Ambulance paramedics Jessica Bird and Emily Anderson were dispatched on a 911 call to a home in Austin, Minnesota. Yunker Aff. [Docket No. 80] Ex. 4 ("Norman Dep.") 13-14; Yunker Aff. Ex. 5 ("Sederquest Dep.") 10-11. The caller, later identified as Dustin Sheeley ("Dustin"), reported that his brother, Scott Sheeley ("Scott"), was having a seizure. Norman Dep. 14-16; Sederquest Dep. 10:3-11:25; May Aff. [Docket No. 81] Ex. 1 ("Police Report") 3. Descriptions of the events at the home differ somewhat.

The City Defendants maintain that Officers Norman and Sederquest and the paramedics arrived at the house at approximately the same time. Norman Dep. 16:21-25; Sederquest Dep. 11:11-25; Yunker Aff. Ex. 6 ("Bird Dep.") 16:10-12. Officer Norman heard noises coming from the basement and was the first to proceed downstairs, immediately followed by Officer Sederquest and the paramedics. Norman Dep. 18:21-19:13; Sederquest Dep. 13:18-14:12. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, the group observed Scott, naked from the waist down, swinging a pair of pants at his brother Dustin. Norman Dep. 20:1-10; Sederquest Dep. 14:4-24. Scott then dropped the pants and swung his fist in Dustin's direction. Norman Dep. 20:14-20; Sederquest Dep. 14:20-15:6, 16:11-22; Bird. Dep. 19:5-10 ("Scott was attempting to hit his brother, his brother was attempting to restrain him. He appeared very out of control and his brother was having a hard time."). According to Officer Norman, Scott's punch made contact with Dustin's shoulder. Norman Dep. 20:14-20.

The Officers instructed Scott to get down on the ground, but he did not comply. Sederquest Dep. 20:6-21:3. A struggle ensued and the Officers attempted to bring Scott to the ground to place him in handcuffs. Norman Dep. 24:1-26:10; Sederquest Dep. 20:6-21:20. The Officers eventually forced Scott into a kneeling position facing a cushioned chair, with his thighs and stomach touching the chair. Norman Dep. 25:1-26:19; Sederquest Dep. 16:23-18:16. Scott continued to struggle and disregard the Officers' commands to put his hands behind his back. Norman Dep. 26:25-27:22; Sederquest Dep. 20:20-2121:3. While Scott was kneeling in front of the chair, Officer Norman grabbed hold of Scott's left arm and Officer Sederquest held Scott's right arm in an attempt to handcuff him. Norman Dep. 28:4-8; Sederquest Dep. 18:20-19:3. However, the Officers could not sufficiently control Scott to get his arms behind his back. Norman Dep. 28:9-25; Sederquest Dep. 19: 4-20:15. The struggle continued for several minutes, causing Officer Norman to call for backup assistance. Norman Dep. 32:5-25. While attempting to restrain Scott with his left arm, Officer Norman removed his taser from his duty belt. Norman Dep. 35:7-15, 36:25-37:4. Paramedic Anderson removed the cartridge from the end of the taser so that the taser could be utilized in drive-stun mode. Police Report 3; Norman Dep. 38:9-13; Yunker Aff. Ex. 7 ("Anderson Dep.") 85:3-5. Officer Norman warned Scott that "[y]ou need to put your hands behind your back or you're going to be tased." Norman Dep. 39:6-11. When Scott did not comply, Officer Norman applied the taser to Scott's upper back. Norman Dep. 43:4-44:4. Scott appeared to have no response to the taser and continued to struggle. Id. Officer Norman then tased Scott a second time, again with no immediate effect.[1] Id. 43:25-47:21. Paramedics Anderson and Bird did not believe that Scott was experiencing a seizure during the struggle. Bird Dep. 51:7-11 ("I did not believe that he was having a seizure... He was not presenting in the normal fashion of seizure activity."); Anderson Dep. 124:17-125:18 ("I did not believe [Scott] was in a seizure.").

Shortly after Officer Norman tased Scott, Officer Ryan Lief arrived to provide backup assistance. Norman Dep. 52:11-21. With Officer Lief's help, Officers Norman and Sederquest were able to get Scott's arms close enough together behind his back so that he could be handcuffed. Id. 52:11-21; Sederquest Dep. 32:14-23. Despite being handcuffed, Scott continued to struggle. Norman Dep. 53:3-55:2; Sederquest Dep. 34:4-20. The paramedics then injected Scott with Haldol and Ativan in an attempt to sedate him. Bird Dep. 36:23-38:12; Norman Dep. 55:3-12; Sederquest Dep. 36:5-9. Approximately one minute later, Scott stopped struggling. Norman Dep. 56:22-57:14. Paramedic Anderson continued to monitor Scott's breathing after he was sedated. Id. 57:22-58:5. A few minutes later, Anderson reported that Scott had stopped breathing and no longer had a pulse. Id. 57:22-58:2. The Officers immediately removed Scott's handcuffs and commenced CPR while the paramedics called for backup assistance. Id. 58:19-59:20. Shortly thereafter, two additional paramedics arrived. Bird Dep. 54:17-56:10. The paramedics revived Scott, and he was transported to the hospital. Sederquest Dep. 38:11-39:4. Scott later reported having no memory of the events of November 16, 2011. Yunker Aff. Ex. 12 at 14.

B. Dustin Sheeley's Account of the November 2011 Incident

On May 17, 2012, Dustin completed an affidavit in connection with this action. Lienemann Decl. [Docket No. 87] Ex. 1 ("D. Sheeley Aff."). Dustin's recitation of the events varies slightly from that of the officers and paramedics. See generally id. Dustin reported that, after hearing a loud crash in the basement, he found Scott passed out on his back with his eyes rolled to the back of his head. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. Dustin called 911 to report his brother was having a seizure. Id. ¶ 8. While his brother was making the emergency call, Scott got up and started to move around. Id. ¶ 9. Dustin stated that Scott was agitated and "kept banging into things, like he was trying to get out of [a] box." Id. Dustin assisted Scott in removing his pants, as Scott had urinated on himself several times. Id. ¶ 10.

After the police officers and paramedics arrived, Scott swung his pants at Dustin. Id. ¶ 11. The Officers then intervened, attempting to restrain Scott and shoving him face down into a chair. Id. ¶ 11. According to Dustin, at this point the Officers were able to handcuff Scott, but they additionally continued to push him face down into the chair by pressing their knees into his back. Id. Throughout this struggle, Scott was convulsing and Dustin repeatedly yelled at the Officers that Scott was having a seizure. Id. ¶¶ 12-13. A third police officer restrained Dustin against the wall. Id. ¶ 12. Despite Dustin's repeated pleas that his brother was having a seizure, an officer tased Scott "at least four times after he was restrained in the chair and after he was handcuffed." Id. ¶ 14. The paramedics then administered a shot to Scott, at which point he stopped moving. Id. ¶ 15. An officer pushed Dustin into another room and eventually moved him upstairs. Id. ¶¶ 16, 19. After a few minutes, Scott was removed from the basement, unconscious and unresponsive. Id. ¶ 21. Later, Dustin returned to the basement to clean up and noted that "Scott had shaken so violently and so much that he skinned both knees while seizing in the chair leaving blood stains on the carpet." Id. ¶ 22.

C. Procedural Background

Scott filed this lawsuit in October 2012 and asserted six claims against four named Defendants: (1) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Officers Norman and Sederquest for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Officers Norman and Sederquest for deliberate indifference of Scott's medical needs in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a failure to claim train against the City of Austin pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); (4) an Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") claim against the City of Austin; (5) a common law battery claim against Officers Norman and Sederquest; and (6) a negligence claim against Gold Cross Ambulance Service ("Gold Cross"). See Compl. [Docket No. 1].

In December 2013, two years after the incident and a year after the filing of this action, Scott died. Mem. in Supp. of the City Def.s' Mot. for Summ. J. [Docket No. 62] 3. The cause of Scott's death was declared "undetermined." Id. In March 2014, Janet Sheeley and Peter Lilja-Sheeley, Scott's mother and son, were approved by the Court as "co-personal representatives of the estate of Scott Raymond Sheeley." Order [Docket ...

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