United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
August 25, 2005.
DAVID DOGGETT, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF COOK and CYNTHIA PRZISLICKI, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff David Doggett ("Doggett") brings this three-count
Amended Complaint alleging a violation of his First Amendment
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, breach of contract, and promissory
estoppel against Defendants Cook County ("Cook County" or the
"County") and Cynthia Przislicki ("Przislicki"). Before the Court
is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the
following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part
From June 22, 1992 until February 7, 2005, the County employed
Doggett as an Emergency Room Technician ("ERT") at the John
Stroger Hospital (the "Hospital"). (R. 11-1; Pl.'s Am. Compl., ¶
5.) The County employs Przislicki as the Director of Nursing of
Emergency Medicine at the Hospital and Przislicki is Doggett's
supervisor. (Id. ¶ 4.) Cook County is a municipal corporation
organized and existing under the laws of the State of Illinois.
(Id. ¶ 3.)
On May 25 and June 25 of 2004, Doggett made several complaints
to Przislicki concerning practices at the Hospital that he
regarded as unsafe. (Id. ¶ 7.) On July 21, 2004, Przislicki banned flextime schedules for all ERTs. (Id. ¶ 8.)
Doggett was the only ERT who used flextime. (Id. ¶ 9.) On
September 7, 2004, Doggett filed suit against the County in state
court seeking injunctive relief from Defendants' prohibition of
flextime schedules for ERTs. (Id. ¶ 10.) On February 7, 2005,
Defendants terminated Doggett for an incident involving a
psychiatric patient admitted to the Hospital. (Id. ¶ 11.)
Doggett now sues Defendants on three counts. In Count I,
Doggett alleges that Defendants violated his First Amendment
right to comment on matters of public importance and prohibited
flextime schedules in retaliation for his comments. (Id. ¶¶
12-13.) In Count II, Doggett alleges that Defendants breached
their employment contract with him when they prohibited flextime
schedules. (Id. ¶¶ 15-17). In Count III, Doggett brings a
promissory estoppel claim. (Id. ¶¶ 14-25.)
The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to rule 12(b)(6) is
to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint, not the merits of
the case. Triad Assoc., Inc. v. Chicago Hous. Auth.,
892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). The Court will only grant a motion
to dismiss if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle
him to relief." Centers v. Mortgage, Inc., 398 F.3d 930, 933
(7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,
45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 102, 2 L. Ed.2d 80 (1957)). In making its
determination, the Court must assume the truth of the facts
alleged in the pleadings, construe the allegations liberally, and
view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Centers, 398 F.3d at 333. ANALYSIS
I. First Amendment Claim
In Count I of his Amended Complaint, Doggett alleges that both
the County and Przislicki violated his First Amendment right to
free speech. Defendants argue that Doggett's claim against the
County should be dismissed because he has failed to identify any
alleged wrong committed by Cook County or by Przislicki in her
official capacity.*fn1 Specifically, Defendants contend that
Doggett's Amended Complaint does not contain allegations of
policy, practice, or custom requisite to a suit against a
municipality. Further, Defendants argue that the Amended
Complaint is deficient because it fails to identify Przislicki as
a policymaking official.
To state a constitutional claim against the County, Doggett
must plead that an official custom or policy caused a deprivation
of his constitutional rights. Monell v. New York City Dep't of
Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 98 S.Ct. 2018,
56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). To properly plead that a municipal policy violated
his constitutional rights, Doggett must allege one of the
following scenarios: (1) the County had an express policy that,
when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) the
County has a widespread practice that, although not authorized by
written law or express municipal policy, is so permanent and
well-settled that it constitutes custom or usage within the force
of law; or (3) a person with final policymaking authority caused
the constitutional injury. McCormick v. City of Chicago,
230 F.3d 319, 324 (7th Cir. 2000); see also Palmer v. Marion
Cty., 327 F.3d 588, 594-95 (7th Cir. 2003). In McCormick,
the Seventh Circuit emphasized that federal courts do not apply
heightened pleading standards in constitutional claims based on municipal liability. Id. at
323-24 (citing Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics
Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164,
113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993)). Instead, plaintiffs are only
required to provide defendants with "fair notice of what the
plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."
Leatherman, 507 U.S. at 168.
Here, Doggett alleges that "Defendants under color of state law
and by custom and policy, violated Doggett's First Amendment
rights by altering his work schedule, terminating him in
retaliation for speaking out against a variety of unsafe
Emergency Room practices existing at John Stroger Hospital."
(See Am. Compl. ¶ 13.) Doggett's bare-boned allegation is short
of meeting the liberal pleading standards under McCormick and
Leatherman. More specifically, Doggett's allegation leaves out
facts that are necessary to give Defendants a complete
understanding of the "custom or policy" underlying his Monell
claim against them. See McCormick, 230 F.3d at 325; see also
McTigue v. City of Chicago, 60 F.3d 381, 382 (7th Cir.
1995). Accordingly, the Court grants Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss the Monell claim.
Defendants also argue that proof of a single allegation of
unconstitutional conduct does not show that a policy, practice,
or custom exists. Defendants' argument fails for two reasons.
First, under an express policy claim, "one application of the
offensive policy resulting in a constitutional violation is
sufficient to establish municipal liability." Calhoun v.
Ramsey, 408 F.3d 375, 379-80 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing
Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 822, 105 S.Ct. 2427,
85 L.Ed.2d 791 (1985). Second, at this procedural posture, the Court
does not examine the proof or evidence underlying Doggett's
claim, but simply determines whether Doggett has given Defendants
fair notice of what his claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests. See Leatherman, 507 U.S. at 168; see also Payton v.
Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Med. Ctr., 184 F.3d 623, 6264-27 (7th Cir. 1999) (plaintiff need not plead evidence). As
discussed above, because Doggett has failed to properly plead his
Monell claim, the Court grants Defendants' motion as to this
Next, the Court turns to whether Doggett has properly alleged a
First Amendment claim against Przislicki in her individual
capacity. For an individual to be liable under Section 1983, she
must have participated directly in the constitutional violation.
Palmer, 327 F.3d at 594. "Section 1983 creates a cause of
action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault;
thus, liability does not attach unless the individual defendant
caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation." Vance
v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991 (7th Cir. 1996). Here, Doggett
alleges that Przislicki banned flextime schedules for all ERTs
and that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights by
altering his work schedule. Based on the federal notice pleading
standards, Doggett has sufficiently alleged that Przislicki
directly participated in the violation of his First Amendment
rights. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Swierkiewicz v. Sorema,
534 U.S. 506, 512, 152 L. Ed. 2d 1, 122 S. Ct. 992 (2002).
II. Breach of Contract Claim
Next, Defendants assert that Doggett has failed to state a
claim for breach of contract because he has not attached the
necessary written contract to his pleading as required by
735 ILCS 5/2-606 (2005).
When determining state law claims brought in federal court
pursuant to supplemental jurisdiction, federal courts follow the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Houben v. Telular Corp.,
309 F.3d 1028, 1032-33 (7th Cir. 2002) ; see also Park v.
City of Chicago, 297 F.3d 606, 612 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing
Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 469-74, 85 S.Ct. 1136,
14 L.Ed.2d 8 (1965)). Because "federal courts, unlike Illinois state
courts, do not require that critical documents be attached to the
complaint," see Arnold v. Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. 215 F.Supp.2d 951, 962 (N.D. Ill. 2002), Defendants' argument fails.
Thus, the Court denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Doggett's
breach of contract claim.*fn2
III. Promissory Estoppel Claim
Last, Defendants contend that Doggett has failed to properly
allege a claim of promissory estoppel because he did not allege
any misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact. The
misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact, however, is
an element of an equitable estoppel defense not an element of a
promissory estoppel claim. See McInerney v. Charter Golf, Inc.,
176 Ill.2d 482, 485, 680 N.E.2d 1347, 223 Ill.Dec. 911 (1997)
("Equitable estoppel is available if one party has relied upon
another party's misrepresentation or concealment of a material
fact. Absent such misrepresentation or fraud, the defense is not
Instead, to properly plead a promissory estoppel claim, Doggett
must allege that (1) Defendants made an unambiguous promise to
him, (2) he relied on the promise, (3) his reliance was expected
and foreseeable by Defendants, and (4) he relied on Defendants'
promise to his detriment. Quake Constr. v. American Airlines,
Inc., 141 Ill.2d 281, 309-10, 152 Ill.Dec. 308, 565 N.E.2d 990
(1990). Here, Doggett has alleged that the County made an
unambiguous promise to him that he could work a flextime
schedule, he relied on the County's promise to his detriment, and
his reliance was expected and foreseeable. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶
19, 23, 24.) Under the liberal federal notice pleading standards,
Doggett has properly alleged a claim of promissory estoppel under
Illinois law. Therefore, the Court denies Defendants' motion as
to Doggett's promissory estoppel claim.
Based on these reasons, the Court grants in part without
prejudice and denies in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The
Court grants Plaintiff leave to re-plead the Monell claim
against the County.
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