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CHICO v. MILLER

October 19, 2005.

MANUEL CHICO, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER DAN MILLER, Oak Law Police Department; OFFICER J. RILEY, Alsip Police Department; OFFICER E. CASEY, Alsip Police Department; and VILLAGE OF ALSIP, a Municipal Corporation, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on two motions. The first, filed by Plaintiff Manuel Chico, seeks to alter or amend our August 31, 2005, dismissal of Count III of his complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 59(e). The second, filed by Defendant Dan Miller, requests that we dismiss Counts I, II, IV, V, VI and VII, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(b)(5) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, Chico's motion is denied and Miller's motion is granted. BACKGROUND

According to the allegations of the complaint, which we must accept as true at this stage of the proceedings, Chico went into a White Hen Pantry convenience store on May 27, 2003. When he returned to his car, a man had parked his car behind Chico's, blocking him from leaving the parking lot. The man showed a badge, refused to move his car, and allegedly struck Chico in the face with an unidentified object. Chico fell to the ground and lost consciousness.

  While Chico was unconscious, Defendants J. Riley and E. Casey, officers of the Alsip Police Department, arrived. After he awakened, they drove him home. At a hospital visit the following day, Chico learned that he had a broken jaw. He was hospitalized for approximately 10 days to treat his injury. Following his release, Chico went to the Alsip Police Department to file a report against the unidentified man. According to Chico, Officers Riley and Casey deliberately withheld the identity of the alleged assailant from him.

  In early June 2003, Chico filed a claim with the Illinois Attorney General's office for damages under the Crime Victim's Compensation Act. On June 9, 2004, during an Illinois Court of Claims hearing, Chico learned that the unidentified man at the White Hen Pantry was Miller, who is a police officer in nearby Oak Lawn, not Alsip. Approximately 10 months later, on April 6, 2005, Chico filed a seven-count civil rights complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County against Miller, Riley, Casey, and the Village of Alsip. The complaint alleges that the latter three defendants conspired to conceal the identity of Miller, thereby depriving Chico of access to the courts. Chico also asserts six counts against Miller. Four allege claims of false imprisonment and battery under state law; the remaining two seek redress for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

  Relying on the federal question jurisdiction arising out of the § 1983 claims, Alsip removed the case to federal court. Riley, Casey, and Alsip filed a motion to dismiss the conspiracy count, which we granted. Chico now asks that we alter or amend our dismissal of the conspiracy count pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 59(e).

  When the case was removed, Miller had not yet been served. On August 2, 2005, three days before the 120-day period for service was to expire, Chico's attorney left a copy of the complaint and a summons issuing from our court with a woman sitting behind a glass partition at the Oak Lawn police station. According to the return of service form that he executed the following day, he left the documents to be served at the Oak Lawn Police Department at 9446 S. Raymond with an Officer Everrit "per instructions." Miller now moves to dismiss the complaint as to him on the grounds that this manner of service is insufficient. As an alternative ground, he argues that the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim because the applicable statutes of limitation have expired.

  LEGAL STANDARDS

  A. Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment

  Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 59(e) permits parties to file, within 10 days of the entry of a judgment, a motion to alter or amend the judgment. Relief under Rule 59(e) is difficult to obtain. Kerr v. WGN Contl. Broadcasting Co., 229 F. Supp. 2d 880, 883 (N.D. Ill. 2002). Typically, a court only grants such a request only where there is newly discovered evidence, an intervening change in law, or a manifest error of law or fact. Cosgrove v. Bartolotta, 150 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir. 1998); Kerr, 229 F. Supp. 2d at 883. Rule 59(e) cannot be used to introduce legal theories that the movant could have addressed during the prior proceedings. Russel v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995). The decision to grant or deny a Rule 59(e) motion "is entrusted to the sound judgment of the district court." Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996).

  B. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(b)(5)

  For federal cases with Illinois defendants such as Miller, Rule 4(e) allows service to be made in one of three ways. First, a defendant can be personally given a copy of the complaint and summons. Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 4(e)(2); 735 ILCS 5/2-203(a)(1). Second, the copies can be left at the defendant's abode with a person of suitable age and discretion. Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 4(e)(2).*fn1 Third, if the defendant has an agent who is authorized by the defendant or by operation of law to receive service of process on the defendant's behalf, the complaint and summons can be personally given to that agent. Id. An agency of this kind does not typically arise through implication and is "intended to cover the situation where an individual actually appoints an agent for that purpose." Schultz v. Schultz, 436 F.2d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 1971).

  When a defendant challenges sufficiency of service, the burden is on the plaintiff to affirmatively demonstrate otherwise. Robinson, 223 F.3d at 453. The consequence of insufficient service within the requisite time period*fn2 is dismissal, usually without prejudice. Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 4(m). C. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(b)(6)

  When considering a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court evaluates the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint, not the merits. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). We must accept all well-pleaded allegations as true and will not dismiss a case for failure to state a claim unless the plaintiff cannot prove any facts sufficient to support his claim. Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46. All inferences are to be drawn in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jackson v. E.J. Branch Corp., 176 F.3d 971, 978 (7th Cir. 1999). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff need only provide a "short and plain statement" under Rule 8(a)(2); the particulars of the claim are not required. Midwest Gas Servs. v. Ind. Gas. Co., 317 F.3d 703, 710 (7th Cir. 2002). ...


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