United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
June 4, 2004.
DELORES QUINN, Plaintiff,
VANESSA HARRIS, TEDDY WILLIAMS, UNKNOWN NAMES AGENTS, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, CITY OF CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT, COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS and CALLIE BAIRD, DIRECTOR, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Delores Quinn, has filed this action against defendants,
Vanessa Harris, Teddy Williams, Six "Unknown Name Agents," Illinois
Department of Children and Family Services, City of Chicago Police
Department, Cook County Department of Corrections, and Callie Baird,
Director. Liberally construing her pro se Complaint and Amended
Complaint, Quinn states that on November 27, 2000 she was interviewed by
Harris concerning allegations of child abuse. 0 December 3, 2000, after
conducting an investigation, Harris sent Quinn a letter informing her
that she had been "indicated" for child abuse.*fn1 Thereafter, on
December 17, 2000, Quinn was arrested by Williams, a Chicago Police
Officer. Williams is alleged to have acted in an "obnoxious and
unprofessional" manner during an interview with Quinn. Quinn was taken to
the Cook County Jail on December 18, 2000. She alleges that she had not
eaten for 30 to 40 hours and, because she is a diabetic, this denial of
food caused her suffering. She further complains of being called a
variety of names while in custody and being subjected to a strip search.
Quinn was released from the Cook County Department of Corrections on
December 20, 2000.
Harris, Williams, the Cook County Department of Corrections and Baird
have all moved for dismissal of Quinn's complaint on grounds that it is
barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Quinn's Complaint,
liberally construed, seeks redress for constitutional violations under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. To determine the statute of limitations applicable in
an action under § 1983, federal courts look to the forum state's statute
of limitations for personal injury claims. Mitchell v. Donchin,
286 F.3d 447, 450 n.1 (7th Cir. 2002); Ashafa v. City of Chicago,
146 F.3d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1998); Lucien v. Jockish, 133 F.3d 464, 466
(7th Cir. 1998). In Illinois, this time period is two years. 735 ILCS
5/13-202. Thus, Quinn's claims are time-barred only if the events giving
rise to the cause of action occurred more than two years prior to her
Complaint.*fn2 Section 1983 claims "accrue when the plaintiff knows or
should know that his or her constitutional rights have been violated."
Kelly v. City of Chicago, 4 F.3d 509, 511 (7th Cir. 1993).
Quinn either knew or should have known of the alleged constitutional
violations as they occurred in November and December 2000. Thus, she had
until December 20, 2002 to file her Complaint against the defendants. The
Complaint was not filed in this case, however, until May 27, 2003. Therefore, as is evident from the face of Quinn's
Complaint, absent some sort of tolling her claims are time-barred. See
Smith v. City of Chicago Heights, 951 F.2d 834, 840 (7th Cir. 1992)
(citing Suslick v. Rothschild Securities Corp., 741 F.2d 1000, 1004 (7th
Cir. 1984) ("`[T]he federal doctrine of equitable tolling is available,'
in addition to state tolling rules, when a federal court borrows a state
statute of limitations.")).
Equitable tolling "permits a plaintiff to avoid the bar of the statute
of limitations if despite all due diligence he is unable to obtain vital
information bearing on the existence of his claim." Smith, 951 F.2d at
839 (quoting Cada v. Baxter Health Care Corp., 920 F.2d 446, 451 (7th
Cir. 1990)). Under federal law, "mental illness tolls a statute of
limitations only if the illness in fact prevents the sufferer from
managing his affairs and thus from understanding his legal rights and
acting upon them." Miller v. Runyon 77 F.3d 189, 191-92 (7th Cir. 1996)
(emphasis in original).*fn3 Quinn states that after May 25, 2001 she was
in "shock" and in June, 2001 diagnosed with "Post partum Mental and
Dramatic Stress Syndrome" due to the permanent removal of her foster
child from her home. She also asserts that her "paramour" died on May 6,
2002. As it stands, the court is unable to say on this motion whether
Quinn's facts, liberally construed, would constitute grounds for
equitable tolling. Accordingly, defendants' motions to dismiss on this
ground are denied. The remaining arguments differ with respect to each of the defendants
and the court shall consider them in turn.
Harris argues she is entitled to qualified immunity. When qualified
immunity is raised as a defense, the court uses a two-step analysis; (1)
whether the conduct alleged sets out a constitutional violation; and (2)
whether the constitutional standards were clearly established at the time
of the violation. Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, Illinois,
110 F.3d 467, 472 (7th Cir. 1997). Qualified immunity may be raised in a
motion to dismiss but, as with all such motions, the court considers only
the facts alleged in the complaint. Id. at 471.
Even construing Quinn's claims against Harris liberally, her claim
fails at part (1) of the above test. Quinn's Amended Complaint fails to
even mention Harris. Moreover, even if the court still considers Quinn's
original Complaint, it does not allege any constitutional violation
involving Harris. Instead, Quinn alleges that Harris visited Quinn's home
and reported that Quinn's foster child, who was living with her, had
accused Quinn of beating him when the child soiled himself. (Compl. ¶
3(c).) Thereafter, Harris sent Quinn a notice that she was indicated for
child abuse and immediately revoked her DCFS foster parent license.
(Compl. ¶ 4.) None of this makes for a constitutional violation.
Because Quinn fails to allege that Harris personally deprived her of a
federal right, Harris' motion to dismiss the claims against her is
Quinn's Complaint as it relates to Williams is not entirely clear, but
she appears to raise a claim of false arrest. Once again, the document
Quinn has styled as her Amended Complaint contains no allegations against
Williams. Her original Complaint, which the court considers only because it liberally construes Quinn's claims, alleges that Williams
acted in an "obnoxious and unprofessional" manner. A defense to a false
arrest action, however, is the presence of probable cause. E.g., Williams
v. Jaglowski, 269 F.3d 778, 782 (7th Cir. 2001). Quinn's Complaint itself
alleges sufficient facts to establish that Williams had probable cause to
arrest Quinn. The Complaint states that her foster child's natural mother
called the police after she observed injuries on the child and the child
indicated that Quinn hit him when he soiled himself. (Compl. pp. 3-4.)
The Complaint further admits that the child was taken to the hospital and
that Officer Williams showed Quinn photographs of the child's injuries.
(Id. at 5-6.) Moreover, Quinn admits that Williams gave her an
opportunity to explain the child's injuries to him. (Id.) Thus, the very
facts that Quinn alleges establishes that Williams had probable cause to
arrest her. As such, Quinn's claims against Williams are dismissed.
C. CCDOC and Baird
The Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC") moves to be
dismissed from this action on grounds that it is a non-suable agency. The
court agrees. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(b), this court
looks to state law to determine if a particular defendant may be sued.
Illinois law allows a defendant to be sued only when it has a legal
existence. E.g., Jackson v. Village of Rosemont, 180 Ill. App.3d 932,
937-38, 536 N.E.2d 720, 723 (1988). The CCDOC is a department "created
within the office of the Sheriff [of Cook County]." 55 ILCS 5/3-15002.
Its powers are exercised only "under the direction of the Sheriff" and
its executive director serves "at the pleasure of the Sheriff." Id. at §§
3-15003 and 15012. Moreover, the CCDOC's appropriations are established
and provided by the Cook County Board. Id. at § 3-15015. Thus, this court
agrees with cases which have held that the CCDOC does not enjoy a separate legal existence apart from the County of Cook and the Sheriff of
Cook County and is, therefore, not a suable entity. E.g., Larsen v.
Leak, No. 90 C 7289, 1992 WL 5294, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 9, 1992); Mayes
v. Elrod, 470 F. Supp. 1188, 1192 (N.D. Ill. 1979).
As for Baird, she states that if she is being sued in her individual
capacity, she had no personal involvement in the actions against Quinn
and should be dismissed. She further explains that if she is sued in her
official capacity, which would be a suit against the government entity
she works for, see Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 (1985), Quinn
has failed to allege any injuries suffered as a result of an official
custom, policy or practice necessary to impose liability on a
governmental entity. E.g., Monell v. Department of Social Services of the
City of New York, 463 U.S. 658 (1978). Both arguments are true, but the
court infers that Baird was named as a defendant to identify the names of
the six unknown officers of the CCDOC, which Quinn describes in her
Amended Complaint. See, e.g., Funchess v. Doe, No. 96 C 4767, 1997 WL
12785, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 10, 1997) (stating that because plaintiff
names an unknown defendant, he "should also name a supervisory defendant
who, although not personally liable, will have access to records or will
otherwise be able to provide the name of the `John Doe' defendant.").
Because Baird may be able to provide the name of the six unknown
defendants, her motion to dismiss is denied.
For the reasons set forth above, the motion to dismiss of CCDOC and
Baird [#20] is granted in part and denied in part; Hams' motion to
dismiss is granted [#27]; and Williams* motion to dismiss is granted
[#30], Defendant Baird has 21 days from the entry of this order to identify the names of the unknown agents in lieu of an answer. This
case will be called for a status hearing on July 15, 2004 at 9:30 a.m.