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COTTON v. CITY OF CHICAGO

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division


May 19, 2003

COTTON
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel, United States District Judge

In a three-count complaint against the City of Chicago and several known and unknown police officers, plaintiffs Consuella Cotton and her seven children allege the following claims: (1) illegal search and seizure pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) battery; and (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress, all pertaining to an allegedly illegal search of their apartment on February 14, 2002. The City of Chicago moves to dismiss itself pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the ground that insofar as plaintiffs seek to hold the City liable for an alleged policy of "failure to adequately train," they have failed to make sufficient allegations to support such a claim.

Although allegations of a policy of "failure to adequately train" may serve as the basis for § 1983 liability, see City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989), plaintiffs are required to plead more than conclusory, boilerplate allegations that a "policy" exists. See Doherty v. City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 326 (7th Cir. 1996) ("[S]omething more than a conclusory allegation is necessary. We are mindful of the Supreme Court's holding in Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163 (1993), that there is no heightened standard of pleading. . . . Still, there must be sufficient facts pleaded . . . to understand the gravamen of the plaintiff's complaint."); see also Bills by Bills v. Homer Consol. School Dist. No. 33-C, 967 F. Supp. 1063, 1068 (N.D.Ill. 1997); Copeland v. Northwestern Mem'l Hosp., 964 F. Supp. 1225, 1240-41 (N.D.Ill. 1997), Taylor v. City of Chicago, No. 96 C 1797, 1997 WL 51445 (N.D.Ill. Feb 3, 1997); Pope v. City of Chicago, No. 95 C 311, 1996 WL 392162 (N.D.Ill. Jul. 11, 1996); Munoz v. Livergood, No. 95 C 6563, 1996 WL 172294 (N.D.Ill. Apr. 11, 1996). Here, plaintiffs' sole complaint against the City is that the defendant officers' conduct in this case "evinces a custom, policy or practice" of failing to train, supervise and discipline its officers. No additional language addresses the Monell claim. This boilerplate allegation is entirely lacking in factual support and is thus insufficient under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). The allegation makes it impossible for the City to ascertain the gravamen of plaintiffs' complaint. More specifically, the complaint provides no details regarding the alleged deficiencies in the City's training and discipline regimes. I reject plaintiffs' assertion that the factual allegations in their complaint set forth a scenario involving an "unusually serious instance of misconduct that, on its face, raises doubts about a municipality's training policies." Atchinson v. District of Columbia, 73 F.3d 418, 422-23 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Unlike alleged instances of misconduct that can never be plausibly justified, the conduct about which plaintiffs complain here may, upon further inquiry, ultimately have been justified. In other words, it may be possible that the apartment and body searches at issue here were legally warranted. Finally, even assuming that plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a municipal policy of "failure to train," they have failed to demonstrate that the City's deliberate conduct was the moving force behind the alleged constitutional injuries. See Board of County Comm'rs v. Bryan County, Oklahoma v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397 (1997). Accordingly, dismissal of the claim against the City is proper. For the reasons above, the City of Chicago's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Monell Claim is GRANTED.

20030519

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