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Lara v. Chicago Transit Authority

May 17, 2007

ADONAY LARA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY ("CTA"), CARLOS FELICIANO, AND ROSCOE L. TRAVIS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING CTA DEFENDANTS' COMBINED MOTIONS TO DISMISS

Plaintiff Adonay Lara ("Lara") filed a Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 64) on January 17, 2007 against the City of Chicago, several Chicago Police Officers, the Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA"), CTA bus driver Carlos Feliciano ("Feliciano") and CTA supervisor Roscoe L. Travis ("Travis"), alleging 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims of false arrest and retaliation based on Lara's First Amendment rights, conspiracy, and several state law claims. Defendants Feliciano, Travis, and the CTA (collectively "CTA defendants") file the present motion to dismiss Lara's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. Nos. 71, 72.) For the reasons stated below, the court denies the motion in part and grants the motion in part.

BACKGROUND

The court recites the relevant facts, accepting as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 64) and drawing all inferences in favor of Lara.

Hernandez v. City of Goshen, 324 F.3d 535, 537 (7th Cir. 2003). On April 26, 2004, Lara was standing at a designated CTA bus stop, and saw a CTA bus driven by Feliciano. Lara waved to Feliciano to flag down the bus, but Feliciano-smirking at Lara as he drove by-did not stop at the designated bus stop. While Feliciano passed by Lara, Lara reached out and knocked once or twice on the bus doors to try to get Feliciano's attention. When Feliciano stopped at a nearby stoplight a short distance from the designated bus stop, Lara approached and boarded the bus after Feliciano opened the bus door.

Lara questioned whether Feliciano had seen Lara at the designated bus stop, to which Feliciano responded, "'What, do you have a problem?'" and raised his hands to his sides in an aggravated manner. (Dkt. No. 64 at ¶ 19.) After Lara paid his fare, Lara answered that he "had a problem with Feliciano's unprofessional conduct and planned to make a formal customer service complaint about Feliciano to the CTA." (Id.) Lara sat down at a seat and used his cell phone to call the CTA's customer service number and report his complaint about Feliciano's conduct. When Feliciano heard Lara mention Feliciano's badge number to an individual who answered CTA customer service phone number, Feliciano "jumped out of his seat, got off the bus and placed a call on his cell phone." (Id.) Upon Lara's "information and belief, Feliciano called the CTA controller and falsely and maliciously complained that plaintiff [Lara] was disturbing the peace." (Id. at ¶ 20.) According to Lara, Feliciano "made those false statements in retaliation for plaintiff's exercise of his First Amendment rights." (Id.)

Lara believes that the CTA controller called the Chicago Police Department ("CPD") and informed the police that the plaintiff was disturbing the peace. Responding to the alleged call, Chicago police officer Densey Cole arrived at the scene and boarded the bus, ordering Lara to come with him. Lara "immediately stood up to comply with Cole's order but asked Cole on what grounds was he being ordered off the bus." (Dkt. No. 64 at ¶ 22.) Officer Cole responded by "slapping and grabbing plaintiff's forearm and roughly pulling plaintiff by the arm." (Id. at ¶ 23.) Lara then followed Officer Cole off the bus allegedly without resistence, but while calling 911 on his cell phone, with the phone set on speakerphone. When Lara again asked the reason for his detention, Officer Cole said, "'I don't need any grounds, you Yuppie!'" (Id. at ¶ 24.) After Lara had stepped off the bus, one of two other officers also n the scene, Officers Helson Grannes, took Lara's cell phone and disconnected the phone call to 911 as well as removed the battery from the cell phone. One of these two officers also asked Cole the charge for Lara and Cole responded, "'Resisting arrest.'" (Id. at 27.)

Lara was brought down to the police station, where Lara overheard Officer Cole and other police officers discussing what charges could be brought against Lara and "demonstrat[ing] an obvious willingness to invent facts and allegations to support the claims that they were considering." (Dkt. No. 64 at 30.) Lara heard the officers rejecting the charge of resisting arrest over concerns about the "911 recording and any CTA surveillance tapes" from the bus. (Id.) The officer also decided against charging Lara with trespass because he had a valid farecard before "fabricat[ing] [a] charge for disorderly conduct." (Id.) Lara was booked on a disorderly conduct charge, supported by false allegations in a misdemeanor complaint, which identified Feliciano as the complainant and Travis, a CTA supervisor, as the signee. In the complaint, Lara notes that Travis was not present at the time of Lara's arrest.

After judicial proceedings on the disorderly conduct charge, Lara was found not guilty on October 28, 2004. Over a year later, on December 9, 2005, Lara filed his initial complaint against the defendants in this litigation, alleging several federal and state law counts. As relevant here, Lara alleges in Count I that Feliciano and Travis along with the CPD officer defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by falsely arresting and imprisoning him, maliciously prosecuting him, and retaliating against his right to free speech. Lara also alleges in Count II that Feliciano and Travis engaged in a conspiracy with the individual CPD officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with regard to the violations of his constitutional rights. Lara then brings state law claims of malicious prosecution (Count III) and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") (Count IV) against Feliciano and Travis along with a claim of indemnification in Count VII and respondeat superior in Count IX against the CTA.

LEGAL STANDARD

Dismissal of a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper only when it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45 (1957). Unless a plaintiff is alleging fraud, a plaintiff need only plead "the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). But a plaintiff may still plead himself out of court. Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 613-14 (7th Cir. 2005). "The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case." Pleasant v. Risk Mgmt. Alternatives, No. 02 C 6886, 2003 WL 164227, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 23, 2003).

ANALYSIS

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims

The CTA defendants first argue that Lara failed to state a § 1983 claim against the individual CTA defendants, asserting that they are private actors, or alternatively, were state actors but were not acting under color of state law during Lara's arrest. The court determines that CTA employees have been previously held by other courts to be state actors and addresses the remaining issue of whether the CTA employees were acting under color of law. See Mainor v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 03 C 9102, 2005 WL 3050604, *5 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 15, 2005); Murphy v. Chicago Transit Authority, 638 F.Supp. 464, 467 (N.D. Ill. 1986); see also People v. Chicago Transit Authority, 64 N.E.2d 4 (Ill. 1945); Arpin v. Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 924 (9th Cir. 2001). For an action to be taken under color of state law, the action must be related to the state authority conferred on the actor, even if not actually permitted, in that the conduct bears similarity to the nature of the defendant's assigned power and duties. See Mainor, 2005 WL 3050604. Merely lying to police is insufficient to establish ยง 1983 liability for false arrest. Berry v. Lindemann, No. 00 C 5540, 2006 WL 2536683, *3 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 31, 2006). Furthermore, courts have typically held that, even where a state actor is acting within his or her official capacity, the signing of a criminal complaint does not in-andof-itself constitute participation in an arrest. See Meesig v. Bresnahan, No. 95 C 4918, ...


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