United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 18, 2004.
TERRY BELL, Plaintiff, CITY OF CHICAGO, CITY OF CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, FRED WOODS, and DONALD BECKER, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID COAR, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Defendant City of Chicago's motion to partially dismiss plaintiff's
first amended complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), is now
before this court. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is
I. Procedural Background
On April 25, 2003, plaintiff Terry Bell filed a four count first
amended complaint against defendants City of Chicago and City of Chicago
Department of Health. In it, she alleged claims for sexual harassment,
sex discrimination, and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, ef seq. On June
24, 2003, defendant City of Chicago filed a partial motion to dismiss,
seeking to dismiss City of Chicago Department of Health as a defendant
and to dismiss plaintiff's punitive damages claim against defendant City
of Chicago. The time designated by the court for plaintiff to file her
response came and went without any submission from plaintiff.
Thereafter, plaintiff sought and was granted leave to file a second
amended complaint, which she filed on August 12, 2003. In her second
amended complaint, plaintiff realleged counts I IV of her first
amended complaint (which asserted Title VII claims against defendants
City of Chicago and City of Chicago Department of Health). She also added
two defendants, Fred Woods and Donald Becker (both City of Chicago
employees), against whom she asserted two counts: (1) a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of her civil rights (Count V); and (2) a
claim for slander per se under Illinois common law (Count VI).
Defendants did not move to dismiss plaintiff's second amended
complaint. However, because the second amended complaint did not differ
from the first amended complaint in any respect relevant to defendant
City of Chicago's motion, the court will treat defendant's motion as one
to partially dismiss the second amended complaint.
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), a complaint need only set forth a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168,
113 S.Ct. 1160 (1993). "The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the
sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits." Triad Assocs.,
Inc. v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). In
reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court
accepts as true all well pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Ameritech Corp. v.
McCann, 297 F.3d 582, 585 (7th Cir. 2002). A complaint should be
dismissed only if there is no set of facts in support of the claim that
would entitle the plaintiff to relief. See Ledford v. Sullivan,
105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997).
A. Defendant City of Chicago Department of Health Is Not a Suable
Defendant City of Chicago contended in its opening brief that defendant
City of Chicago Department of Health is merely an "organizational
division" and "operating department" of the City, itself, and, as such,
is not a suable entity. See, e.g., Chan v. City of Chicago, 777 F. Supp.
1437, 1442 (N.D. Ill. 1991) (dismissing Chicago Police Department from
case on grounds that it had "no separate legal existence apart from the
City of Chicago, and the department [was] therefore not a suable
entity"). Plaintiff did not, in response, contend otherwise (or contend
anything at all, as she did not file a response) and, thereby,
effectively conceded the point. plaintiff's claims against defendant City
of Chicago Department of Health are therefore dismissed, with prejudice.
See Clay v. City of Chicago, No. 96 C 3684, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15626,
at *4-6 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 22, 1996) (dismissing claims against City of
Chicago Department of Health where the plaintiff conceded that the
Department of Health is merely a department of the City).
B. Plaintiff Cannot Maintain a Claim for Punitive Damages Against
Defendant City of Chicago.
Defendant City of Chicago is a municipality and, as such, cannot be
held liable for punitive damages under Title VII. See
42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(1); Bielicki v. City of Chicago, No. 97 C 1471, 1997
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6880, at *13 (N.D. Ill. May 8, 1997) ("municipalities
are expressly exempted from liability for punitive damages under Title
VII"); White v. City of Chicago, No. 96 C 3329, 1996U.S. Dist. LEXIS
16338, at *14 n.6 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 1, 1996) ("[m]unicipalities are immune
from punitive damages imposed under the civil rights laws"); see also
Adams v. City of Chicago, 865 F. Supp. 445, 447 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (noting
that Illinois has
reaffirmed its local governments' immunity from punitive damages).
plaintiff's claim for punitive damages against defendant City of Chicago
For the foregoing reasons, defendant City of Chicago's motion to
partially dismiss is granted. Specifically, plaintiff's claims against
defendant City of Chicago Department of Health, as well as her claim for
punitive damages against defendant City of Chicago, are dismissed, with
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