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Gogan v. Siler

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 17, 2017

EDWARD B. GOGAN, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY SILER, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition and the issues are fully briefed.

         On March 20, 2012, plaintiff Edward Gogan was taken to the St. Louis County Justice Center after he was arrested in Clayton on an outstanding warrant. In this action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff alleges that St. Louis County corrections officers Jeffrey Siler, Cranston Jones, and James Lively severely beat him while he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. He was transported by ambulance to the emergency room at SSM St. Mary's Health Center, where he was admitted for treatment of two broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a perforated eardrum. He asserts a § 1983 claim of excessive force in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment and a state law claim of assault and battery.

         I. Background

         The parties present widely divergent versions of the facts, beginning before plaintiff arrived at the Justice Center. The Court sets out abbreviated statements of the parties' versions of events. In doing so, the Court expresses no opinion regarding the credibility of the testimony.

         A. Plaintiff's Version

         Plaintiff Edward Gogan spent the evening of March 19, 2012, drinking beer at a bar in Clayton, Missouri. Plaintiff's Deposition [Doc. # 56-1 at 9]. After the bar closed, he began walking toward home. A Clayton police officer in a patrol car stopped him and asked for identification. After checking his state ID, the officer informed plaintiff that there was an outstanding warrant from Jefferson County for failure to pay child support and that he was under arrest. Plaintiff was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and placed in the back of the patrol car. Id. at 10.

         The Clayton police officer transported plaintiff to the St. Louis County Justice Center to be processed and held for transfer to Jefferson County. Once inside the Justice Center, the officer directed plaintiff to take a seat in the booking hallway. Plaintiff complied. Id. at 13. Approximately five minutes later, a Justice Center guard escorted plaintiff to a bench in front of the nurse's station and told him to wait for the nurse to call his name. Plaintiff testified that the guard stood to the right of him, at a distance of a few feet. Plaintiff described the guard as a white man in his late fifties or early sixties, with graying hair. Id. at 13, 15. When pressed for further details, plaintiff stated that he had not been paying much attention to him but he thought that the guard was under 6 feet tall and weighed about 180 or 190 pounds. In any event, he “seemed like a bigger fellow” than plaintiff. Id. at 15.

         Plaintiff subsequently identified defendant Jeffrey Siler as the guard in question and the Court will refer to him as Siler.[1]

         Plaintiff stood up when he heard his name called. He testified that Siler hauled him to his feet and told him to “move his ass.” Plaintiff swore at him. Plaintiff testified that he took a half step before he was knocked unconscious by a blow to his left ear from behind him. When he regained consciousness he was in the hospital. Id. at 16. He was unable to describe what happened to him after he lost consciousness. Id. at 16, 17. He had no memories of interacting with defendants Jones and Lively. Id.

         Plaintiff presented to the emergency department with a collapsed lung, fractured ribs on both the left and right, and a punctured ear drum. [Doc. # 61-2]. He rated his pain at level 10 on a 10-point scale. He was described as intoxicated, spitting, and screaming profanities. Id.

         B. Defendants' Version

         Defendant Jeffrey Siler held the rank of captain and was the intake supervisor on March 20, 2012. Siler Deposition [Doc. # 56-2 at 4]. He testified that he was present when two Clayton police officers brought plaintiff to the Justice Center booking area in handcuffs, holding him by both arms. He described plaintiff as “very drunk, very belligerent” and “acting out verbally.” Defendant Siler asked the Clayton police officers to bring plaintiff to the counter where nurse Gerard Kearney was ready to complete an intake evaluation. Plaintiff responded to Kearney's questions with profanities. Nurse Kearney determined that plaintiff was fit for confinement. Id. at 6-7. Defendant Siler testified that he attempted to replace the handcuffs the Clayton police officers had used to restrain plaintiff with Justice Center restraints. Id. at 8. Plaintiff struggled during the switch so defendant Siler “gave the instruction to place [him] in the prone position to limit his ability to pull away from us or cause harm to us or anyone else.” Id. at 10. Once plaintiff was on the floor, he kicked defendant Siler in the stomach “near the private area.” Id. Defendant Siler grabbed plaintiff's foot and leg, put it back on the ground, and put his knees on plaintiff's back to hold him down. Defendants Lively and Jones pinned plaintiff's legs and defendant Siler was able to complete the exchange of the handcuffs. Id. at 11; 13. Plaintiff was then placed in a restraint chair. Id. at 8; 12. Nurse Kearney examined plaintiff, who was moaning and had blood coming from one ear.[2] Kearney Deposition [Doc. # 56-5 at 7-8]. Kearney told the defendants that plaintiff needed to be transported to the emergency room. Id. When asked how he thought plaintiff sustained his injuries, defendant Siler noted that plaintiff had been found by the Clayton police at the side of the road and opined that plaintiff was injured before coming to the Justice Center. [Doc. # 56-2 at 10].

         On March 20, 2012, defendant Siler was 42 years old and weighed 375 pounds. Siler Affidavit [Doc. # 56-6]. Defendant Jones is an African-American male and was 28 years old at the time of this event. [Doc. # 56-7]. ...

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