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HAMRICK v. LEWIS

May 13, 1981

ROY GERALD HAMRICK, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF STEVEN HAMRICK, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DENNIS LEWIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SERGEANT OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; RONALD OHLSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PATROLMAN OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; ROGER KNICELEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PATROLMAN OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; NORMAN HALL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DETECTIVE OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; SCOTT SCHROEDER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PATROLMAN OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; DONALD GROBL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PATROLMAN OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; WILLIAM KOHNKE, AS CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; JAMES GLENNON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PATROLMAN OF THE LOMBARD POLICE DEPARTMENT; MR. LAITSCH (FIRST NAME UNKNOWN), INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PATROLMAN OF THE LOMBARD POLICE DEPARTMENT; THE VILLAGE OF VILLA PARK, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; THE VILLAGE OF LOMBARD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; AND OTHER EMPLOYEES OF THE ABOVE-MENTIONED CORPORATIONS AS YET UNKNOWN TO PLAINTIFF AT THIS TIME; GREG SNYDER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE VILLA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aspen, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on the motion of both villages and Chief Kohnke for dismissal of the amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).*fn1 The guidelines to be used in considering a motion to dismiss are clear. A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to the relief requested. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). As the Seventh Circuit has noted:

  Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it is
  well established that, on a motion to dismiss, a
  complaint must be construed in the light most
  favorable to the plaintiff, the allegations
  thereof being taken as true; and if it appears
  reasonably conceivable that at trial the
  plaintiff can establish a set of facts entitling
  him to some relief, the complaint should not be
  dismissed.

Mathers Fund, Inc. v. Colwell Co., 564 F.2d 780, 783 (7th Cir. 1977).

MUNICIPAL LIABILITY UNDER MONELL

In Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), the Supreme Court held that municipalities and other local governmental entities are "persons" subject to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional deprivations occasioned by virtue of a governmental custom, policy, ordinance, regulation, or decision, whether or not such custom or policy has been formally adopted or approved through the governmental entity's official decision making channels.*fn2 Since Monell, the lower federal courts have struggled with the difficult task of determining just what is sufficient to state a claim for relief under the standard for municipal liability set forth in that case consistent with the liberal boundaries of federal notice pleading, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), and the fairly low threshold of Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), in the context of a motion to dismiss.

While it is unnecessary to show formal, documentary approval of a governmental custom or policy in order to state a claim under Monell, it is necessary to allege more than a single incident of illegality as evidence of a governmental policy, custom, or practice in order to state a claim for relief. Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-68, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1613-14, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); Turpin v. Mailet, 619 F.2d 196, 202 (2d Cir. 1980); Gomez v. City of West Chicago, 506 F. Supp. 1241, 1245 (N.D.Ill. 1981); Magayanes v. City of Chicago, 496 F. Supp. 812, 814 (N.D.Ill. 1980). In order to state a claim for relief against a municipality, a section 1983 plaintiff must do more than merely parrot the language of Monell or copy conclusory language from assorted decisions of other courts in which Monell-type claims have been upheld, at least at the pleading stage, as Hamrick has apparently done in the case at bar.*fn3 Cohen v. Illinois Institute of Technology, 581 F.2d 658, 663 (7th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1135, 99 S.Ct. 1058, 59 L.Ed.2d 97 (1979) ("a pleading is insufficient to state a claim under the Civil Rights Act if the allegations are mere conclusions."). Koch v. Yunich, 533 F.2d 80, 85 (2d Cir. 1976); Landesman v. City of New York, 501 F. Supp. 837, 839 (E.D.N.Y. 1980). There must be a factual basis asserted for the plaintiff's claim that he was a victim of acts undertaken pursuant to a pattern or practice equivalent to unofficial authorization.

Moreover, although the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has indicated in dicta on occasion that a Monell cause of action may be stated merely by pleading a particularly egregious act perpetrated by the police or other municipal employees, see Turpin v. Mailet, 619 F.2d 196, 202 (2d Cir. 1980); Owens v. Haas, 601 F.2d 1242, 1247 (2d Cir. 1979), neither the court of appeals for this circuit nor the district courts have recognized the sufficiency of such a complaint. A construction of Monell that would allow municipal liability to be predicated upon a single, isolated instance of illegality or misconduct, no matter how egregious the incident, would seem to broaden the impact of that decision in which the Court expressly stated that a governmental body could not be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior. Monell v. Department of Social Services, supra, 436 U.S. at 693-94, 98 S.Ct. 2037-38.

In the instant case, Hamrick has alleged a single, wrongful incident — the asserted unconstitutional search and arrest of Steven in his home that resulted in his death — allegedly perpetrated pursuant to an official policy, custom, or practice of the Villages of Villa Park and Lombard. Hamrick fails to allege the occurrence of similar incidents in these two municipalities so that, on the face of the amended complaint, it appears that Hamrick is attempting to state a claim against the villages solely on the basis of an isolated instance of police misconduct. As this Court and others have clearly stated, "a single instance of individual officers' misconduct . . . however reprehensible if true, does not indicate systematic, city-supported abuses of the nature to which Monell makes reference." Magayanes v. City of Chicago, supra, 496 F. Supp. at 814; Gomez v. City of West Chicago, supra, 506 F. Supp. at 1245.*fn4

Accordingly, the villages' motion to dismiss the amended complaint is granted. It is so ordered.

LIABILITY OF SUPERVISORY PERSONNEL

Chief Kohnke of the Villa Park Police Department moves to dismiss the amended complaint as to himself for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In order to establish liability against supervisory personnel under section 1983, there must be an affirmative link proven between their acts and omissions and the actions directly causing the alleged violation. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 96 S.Ct. 598, 46 L.Ed.2d 561 (1976); Jamison v. McCurrie, 565 F.2d 483 (7th Cir. 1977). Because the Seventh Circuit has held that a successful plaintiff under section 1983 must prove malicious or reckless misconduct, with negligence alone being insufficient, Jamison v. McCurrie, supra; Little v. Walker, 552 F.2d 193 (7th Cir. 1977), the affirmative link required for supervisory liability requires more than mere ...


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