happened, one of its representatives called defendant's store manager, vouched for plaintiff's integrity, stated that plaintiff had not intended to steal the item, and explained that the employer always reimbursed plaintiff for all purchases plaintiff made for repairs for the employer (thus negating any motive or intent by plaintiff to steal the nut).
After further calls and investigation, the vice president of plaintiff's employer told a manager at defendant's corporate headquarters that the store manager had decided that plaintiff had not intended to steal the nut. Defendant's corporate headquarters, however, told plaintiff's attorney that regardless of whether plaintiff intended to steal the nut, defendant still intended to prosecute plaintiff because it was defendant's company policy to prosecute every case. Despite defendant's repeated insistence on having plaintiff prosecuted for shoplifting, on the date set for plaintiff's criminal trial no one from defendant's company appeared, and the judge dismissed the charges.
After the trial date William Payne, defendant's "legal enforcement manager," sent plaintiff a letter dated April 10, 1995, making a "civil restitution settlement demand." In the April 10 letter Payne wrote that plaintiff had been apprehended for concealing and taking unpaid merchandise from the store on December 12, 1994. The letter further stated that under "Illinois Statutes" Chapter 38 Sections 16A-3 & 16A-7,
any person who commits retail theft (shoplifts) can be sued civilly by the owner of the property. The letter offered that to avoid additional time and expense to plaintiff of defending a law suit, defendant was "willing to settle the matter for [defendant's] actual costs in processing [plaintiff's] case." Defendant offered to settle all civil claims against plaintiff for $ 100. The letter noted that settlement of defendant's civil claim did not prevent local authorities from proceeding with a criminal prosecution.
Defendant, through Payne, then sent plaintiff a follow up letter dated May 16, 1995, giving plaintiff "final notice" to "amicably settle" the matter, stating that if defendant did not receive a $ 100 payment by May 30, 1995, defendant would file a lawsuit. Plaintiff filed the instant case against defendant on June 14, 1995. Defendant has not filed a counterclaim or otherwise made good on its "legal enforcement manager's" threat to sue plaintiff for the 70 cent nut.
A Rule 12(c) motion is governed by the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Rooding v. Peters, 876 F. Supp. 946, 947 (N.D.Ill. 1995); Craigs, Inc. v. General Elec. Capital Corp., 12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir., 1993). The motion should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief, and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id., National Fidelity Life Ins. Co. v. Karaganis, 811 F.2d 357, 358 (7th Cir., 1987). The court considers only the matters presented in the pleadings and must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. National Fidelity Life Ins., 811 F.2d at 358.
Defendant raises two arguments in support of its motion for judgment on the pleadings as to plaintiff's claim for false arrest/imprisonment. First, defendant asserts that it had probable cause to arrest and detain plaintiff. Under Illinois law, a claim for false arrest must allege the restraint of an individual's liberty without probable cause. Jones v. Village of Villa Park, 815 F. Supp. 249, 253 (N.D.Ill. 1993), citing, Meerbrey v. Marshall Field & Co., 139 Ill. 2d 455, 475, 151 Ill. Dec. 560, 564 N.E.2d 1222 (1990). Probable cause is an absolute defense to an action for false arrest and false imprisonment. Burghardt v. Remiyac, 207 Ill. App. 3d 402, 406, 152 Ill. Dec. 367, 565 N.E.2d 1049 (2nd Dist. 1991); Myatt v. City of Chicago, 816 F. Supp. 1259, 1266 (N.D.Ill. 1992).
The existence of probable cause is a question of law for the court to determine. Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 96, 13 L. Ed. 2d 142, 85 S. Ct. 223 (1964). Under Illinois law, probable cause is defined as "a state of facts that would lead a [person] of ordinary caution and prudence to believe, or to entertain an honest and strong suspicion, that the person arrested committed the offense charged." Burghardt, 207 Ill. App. 3d at 405. "It is the state of mind of the one commencing the [arrest or imprisonment], and not the actual facts of the case or the guilt or innocence of the accused which is at issue." Id, 207 Ill. App. 3d at 406.
In the instant case plaintiff was detained and turned over to the police for alleged retail theft actionable under § 16A-3 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS § 5/16A-3), which provides in part:
A person commits the offense of retail theft when he or she knowingly:
(a) Takes possession of,. . . any merchandise. . . offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of retaining such merchandise or with the intention of depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, . . . of such merchandise without paying the full retail value. . .