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Jones v. Hileman

September 30, 2008

ROBERT JONES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF MELVIN D. JONES, AND KAY JONES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DEPUTY SHERIFF BART HILEMAN, SERGEANT RON STAMP, DEPUTY SHERIFF ROBBIE MCGEE, OFFICER JOHN BARR, OFFICER JOHN WRIGHT OFFICER STEPHEN LAWRENCE, OFFICER DALE FOSTER, OFFICER BRYAN WATKINS, CITY OF ANNA, AND UNION COUNTY, ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

A. Introduction

On August 27, 2007, Plaintiffs Robert Jones, individually and as the personal representative of Melvin Jones, and Kay Jones brought this suit alleging deprivation of their Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U. S. C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and alleging a wrongful death claim under Illinois law (Doc. 2).

On October 10, 2007, Defendants Dale Foster, Bryan Watkins, and the City of Anna, Illinois (collectively "the Anna Defendants") moved for dismissal in accordance with FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6) (Doc. 24). On November 15, 2007, Jones submitted a response (Doc. 37).

Additionally, on November 2, 2007, Defendants Hileman, Stamp, McGee, and Union County, Illinois (collectively "the Union County Defendants") moved for dismissal in accordance with Rule 12(b)(6) (Doc. 31). The Union County Defendants' arguments are essentially the same as the Anna Defendants' arguments. Plaintiffs filed a response on December 5, 2007 (Doc. 39).

Having reviewed the parties' filings, this Court now GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the Defendants' motions to dismiss (Docs. 24 & 31).

B. Legal Standards

Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE if the complaint fails to set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."Bell Atlantic Corp. V. Twombly, --U.S.--, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007); EEOC v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007).

Stated another way, the question on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of what the suit is about and the grounds on which the suit rests. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Mosely v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, 434 F.3d 527, 533 (7th Cir. 2006). Additionally, although federal complaints need only plead claims, not facts, the pleading regime created by Bell Atlantic requires the complaint to allege a plausible theory of liability against the defendant. Sheridan v. Marathon Petroleum Co., LLC, 530 F.3d 590, 596 (7th Cir. 2008); see also Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Village of Lemont, Ill.,520 F.3d 797, 803-04 (7th Cir. 2008).

In Tamayo v. Blagojevich, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that even though Bell Atlantic "retooled federal pleading standards" and "retired the oft-quoted Conley formulation," notice pleading is still all that is required. 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008). "A plaintiff still must provide only enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief." Id.; Accord Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 699 (7th Cir. 2008) ("surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires more than labels and conclusions"; the allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level").

In making this assessment, the District Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Tricontinental Industries, Inc., Ltd. v. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 357 (2007); Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 969 (7th Cir. 2006); Corcoran v. Chicago Park District, 875 F.2d 609, 611 (7th Cir. 1989).

C. Factual Background

The compliant stems from events surrounding Melvin Jones's October 20, 2006 suicide. Construing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the following events occurred that afternoon. According to Plaintiffs, Melvin Jones went to his parents' backyard with a loaded .22 caliber rifle intending to engage in target practice. At around 2:15 p.m., Robert Jones, Melvin's father, went outside and learned that Melvin had called 911 to inform the emergency dispatcher of his suicidal intentions. Melvin requested an ambulance specifically because "Robert had heart trouble and Melvin did not want anything bad to happen to anyone else as a result of his conduct" (Doc. 2, ¶ 17). Robert then called Kay Jones, his wife and Melvin's mother, apprised her of the situation, and requested that she return home.

Sometime after the 911 call, local law enforcement officers arrived on the scene. The following Defendants were among those who responded to the emergency call: Bart Hileman, Ron Stamp, and Robbie McGee of the Union County Sheriff's Department; John Barr, John Wright, and Stephen Lawrence of the Illinois State Police; and Dale Foster and Bryan Watkins of the Anna Police Department. Many emergency vehicles arrived at the scene, which Plaintiffs say only raised the tension.

Defendant Barr, along with Robert, attempted to negotiate with Melvin while officers simultaneously attempted to gain control of the site. This included establishing "sniper positions," even though Melvin never pointed the gun at anyone and promised that he would not hurt them. The officers believed Melvin's assurances and did not feel threatened.

When Kay arrived on scene, Defendants refused to allow her access to Melvin. Defendants instructed her "not to come any closer" and threatened to use handcuffs and place her in a police vehicle if she violated their instructions. An officer was instructed to "guard Kay and prevent her from moving" (Doc. 2, ¶ 33).

Robert, on the other hand, was eventually asked to leave Melvin's side. Though he had not interfered with the officers in any way, he was handcuffed and placed under arrest for obstruction of justice. While the negotiator continued to ...


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