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Case Law Update: Qualified Immunity in Section 1983 Action

Catlin v. City of Wheaton, No. 07-3903 (7/21/09) affirmed that the district court did not err in granting on grounds of qualified immunity defendants’ motion for summary judgment in section 1983 action alleging false arrest and excessive force in connection with incident in which defendants mistook plaintiff for alleged drug ringleader and arrested plaintiff after physical confrontation. As to false arrest claim, defendants had reasonable basis for thinking plaintiff was dangerous ringleader where plaintiff had physical resemblance to said ringleader and where plaintiff was observed in precise area where defendants expected ringleader to be. As to excessive force claim, defendants’ use of knee to plaintiff’s back as restraint mechanism was not unreasonable given defendants’ perception of ringleader’s threat to police. Fact that defendant had failed to identify themselves as police officers until after they had subdued him did not require different result where case law was split as to whether police officers are required to identify themselves when making arrest in public place. This seventh circuit case will have a great effect on federal tort acts.