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Srail v. Village of Lisle

August 7, 2008

SUSAN SRAIL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
VILLAGE OF LISLE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge:

Susan Srail, Jeffrey Srail, Janeen Brzeczek, and Ronald Brzeczek have sued the Village of Lisle on behalf of themselves and a class of residents in Lisle's Oak View subdivision. They allege that Lisle violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution (Count 1) and Illinois common law (Count 2) in making decisions concerning the water system that supplies Oak View. On May 30, 2008, the Court certified a class consisting of residents of the Oak View subdivision. Lisle has moved for summary judgment on both of plaintiffs' claims. For the following reasons, the Court grants Lisle's motion as to plaintiffs' equal protection claim and dismisses their state law claim for lack of supplemental jurisdiction.

Facts

Because Lisle has moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiffs and draws reasonable inferences in their favor. See DeValk Lincoln Mercury, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 811 F.2d 326, 329 (7th Cir. 1987).

Although Lisle has a municipally-owned water system, that system does not serve the approximately 400 families who reside in Oak View. Instead, as part of a 1995 contract called the Wheeling Agreement, Illinois-American Water Company pays Lisle to "wheel" (i.e., transport) Lake Michigan water that IAWC purchases from the DuPage Water Commission through Lisle's own municipal system to IAWC's intake. IAWC then transmits and supplies that water to Oak View through IAWC's water mains.

In their fourth amended complaint, filed on June 11, 2008, plaintiffs allege that the IAWC system does not deliver adequate water pressure or volume to fight fires in their subdivision, endangering plaintiffs and the class. Plaintiffs contend that Lisle is and has been aware of these problems and that they and certain other class members have requested that Lisle extend its municipal water system into Oak View (or connect them to the Lisle system). In spite of these requests and in spite of Lisle's provision of sufficient fire protection to other citizens within and adjacent to Lisle, plaintiffs contend, Lisle has refused to extend its municipal water system into Oak View to protect residents against the threat of fire.

Plaintiffs also assert that without the 1995 Wheeling Agreement between Lisle and IAWC, IAWC would be unable to provide Lake Michigan water to Oak View. According to plaintiffs, the only source for Lake Michigan water is through Lisle, and by entering into the Wheeling Agreement, Lisle authorized IAWC to be the sole supplier of water to Oak View. Plaintiffs contend that IAWC, in failing to properly maintain the water system in Oak View and to comply with applicable legal standards, has breached certain terms of its Wheeling Agreement with Lisle, but that Lisle has not enforced the agreement's terms.

Plaintiffs claim that they and the class have been damaged by Lisle's refusal to extend the municipal water system into Oak View and to enforce the terms of the Wheeling Agreement with IAWC, in that IAWC has charged them water usage rates approximately three times the rates that Lisle charges residents for use of the municipal water system.

In Count 1, plaintiffs contend that Lisle's refusal to supply water to Oak View at adequate firefighting pressure and volume, despite supplying water to other, similarly situated persons and entities within Lisle and its unincorporated areas, deprived plaintiffs and other class members of their rights under the Equal Protection Clause. In Count 2, plaintiffs make a similar claim against Lisle for common law negligence. Plaintiffs allege that Lisle undertook a duty to ensure sufficient fire-fighting water for other Lisle residents and others living adjacent to Lisle, that Lisle is obligated to supply such water on a non-discriminatory basis, and that Lisle breached this duty and acted discriminatorily when it failed to make the municipal water system available to Oak View and to enforce the terms of the Wheeling Agreement.

Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw reasonable inferences in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

1. Equal Protection Claim

An equal protection violation sometimes involves discrimination based on membership in a suspect class or denial of a fundamental right. In such cases, a court examines the claim by applying the so-called strict scrutiny test. See Martin v. Schwano-Gresham Sch. Dist., 295 F.3d 701, 712 (7th Cir. 2002). In this case, neither of these factors is present; residents of Oak View are neither a suspect nor a quasi-suspect class, and water service and fire protection are not fundamental rights. See Magnuson v. City of Hickory Hills, 933 F.2d 562, 567 (7th Cir. 1991) ("We do not consider the right to continued municipal water ...


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