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REESE v. MAY

November 19, 1996

LEO I. REESE, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER CHARLES MAY, Star No. 354, the Village of Glendale Heights, Illinois Police Department, sued in his individual capacity, and as an agent, servant and/or employee of the VILLAGE OF GLENDALE HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS, a municipal corporation, and DETECTIVE J. EAGENY, Star No. 348, of the Village of Glendale Heights, Illinois Police Department, sued in his individual capacity, and as an agent, servant and/or employee of the VILLAGE OF GLENDALE HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS, a municipal corporation, and the VILLAGE OF GLENDALE HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS, a municipal corporation, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MORAN

 Plaintiff Leo Reese (Reese) brought this action against defendants Officer Charles May (May), Detective J. Eageny (Eageny), and the Village of Glendale Heights, Illinois (Village), claiming that he was arrested and detained for the unlawful possession of an altered driver's license in violation of his rights under federal and state law. Count I of the complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the defendants' actions, which allegedly violated the plaintiff's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Counts II and III seek compensatory and punitive damages for the defendants' actions, which allegedly constituted the torts of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under Illinois state law. The defendants now move to strike plaintiff's prayer for punitive damages from Counts II and III of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Specifically, defendants claim that they are immune from liability for punitive damages under the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/2-102 and 10/2-213. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion is granted.

 FACTS

 In considering a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, we accept all well pled factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from these facts in favor of the plaintiff. Travel All Over the World, Inc. v. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1429 (7th Cir. 1996). Read in this light, the facts are as follows.

 On February 16, 1995, Reese was driving his car in the Village of Glendale Heights, Illinois. He was stopped by Officer May at the intersection of Glen Ellyn Road and Gregory Avenue and charged with the improper display of registration and the operation of an uninsured motor vehicle. In response to May's request, Reese produced his Illinois driver's license (No. R200-5295-6190), upon which appeared Reese's full name and photograph. May then seized Reese's driver's license, claiming that he suspected it had been altered. On March 14, 1995, May went to Reese's place of employment at the Carol Stream Postal Facility and confirmed that the seized license contained no false information concerning Reese's identity.

 Nevertheless, on March 16, 1995, Detective Eageny was assigned by the Village of Glendale Heights Police Department to conduct a followup investigation of Reese's allegedly altered driver's license. On May 5, 1995, Eageny appeared before the Honorable Cary B. Pierce of the Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit, DuPage County, Illinois, and under oath signed a written complaint (No. 95 TR 60314) alleging that Reese had committed the offense of unlawful possession of an altered driver's license in violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code, 625 ILCS 5/6- 301.1(b)(1). *fn1" Eageny did not inform the judge that May's investigation had revealed no indication that the license was "fictitious" or "unlawfully altered," as those terms are defined under the statute. *fn2" Judge Pierce, on the basis of the information provided by Eageny, issued an arrest warrant for Reese.

 On May 6, 1995, Officer Kedzie of the Broadview, Illinois Police Department arrested Reese pursuant to the warrant. Reese initially spent time in the custody of the Broadview Police Department and was then transported to the Village of Glendale Heights Police Department, where he was further detained. Reese was released on bond the same day he was arrested.

 On December 8, 1995, Reese's criminal case was dismissed by the State's Attorney of DuPage County, Illinois, after Reese filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state an offense. Reese then brought the instant action alleging that the acts of the defendants were done in violation of his rights under the United States Constitution and the common law of the State of Illinois. The defendants now move to dismiss the punitive damage claims from plaintiff's state law counts. *fn3"

 DISCUSSION

 I. Standard of Review

 A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint, not it merits. Triad Ass'n Inc. v. Chicago Housing Authority, 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 845, 112 L. Ed. 2d 97, 111 S. Ct. 129 (1990). The allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). In order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege facts sufficiently setting forth the essential elements of the cause of action. Gray v. County of Dane, 854 F.2d 179, 182 (7th Cir. 1988). A complaint need not set out any legal theory; an incorrect legal theory is not fatal. Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G., 953 F.2d 1073, 1078 (7th Cir. 1992).

 II. Punitive Damages Claims under the Tort Immunity Act

 In their motion to dismiss defendants argue that plaintiff's punitive damage claims in Counts II and III of the complaint must be stricken since they are barred by the Illinois Tort Immunity Act.

 As defendants correctly point out, because May and Eageny are both local government employees their tort liability is governed by the Act. West v. Kirkham, 147 Ill. 2d 1, 588 N.E.2d 1104, 1106, 167 Ill. Dec. 974 (Ill. 1992). *fn4" The purpose of the Act "is to protect local public entities and public employees from liability arising from the operation of government." 745 ILCS 10/1-101.1 However, the Act does not confer blanket immunity from all tort claims against local government entities. Under the Act, local government entities and their employees are liable in tort unless immunized based on specific governmental functions enumerated in the Act. Eck v. McHenry County Public Building Comm'n, 237 Ill. App. 3d 755, 604 N.E.2d 1109, 1114, 178 Ill. Dec. 586 (Ill.App.2d 1992). The Illinois Supreme Court has noted that the Act "is an attempt to create certain uniform rules of immunity as exceptions to the general rule of municipal liability." Aikens v. Morris, 145 Ill. 2d 273, 583 ...


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