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Sommerfield v. City of Chicago

February 26, 2009

DETLEF SOMMERFIELD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO AND SERGEANT KNASIAK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Detlef Sommerfield ("Sommerfield") has sued the City of Chicago (the "City") and Sergeant Knasiak ("Knasiak") bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1983. Before the court are the City's motion to dismiss the complaint and Knasiak's motion to dismiss the complaint. For the reasons stated below, the City's motion is granted and the City is dismissed from the case. Knasiak's motion is granted in part and denied in part; defendant Knasiak shall answer the complaint within 21 days.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Sommerfield is a German Jew who immigrated to the United States. He has worked at the Chicago Police Department ("CPD") since 1994. In January 2000, CPD transferred Sergeant Knasiak ("Knasiak") into Sommerfield's department. Knasiak, now Sommerfield's supervisor, repeatedly made unwelcome comments about Sommerfield's Jewish and German heritage.

Sommerfield complained. Thereafter, Knasiak treated Sommerfield less favorably than other officers. For example, he assigned Sommerfield to high crime areas without a partner and disciplined him more harshly. Sommerfield filed a complaint with the CPD Internal Affairs Division in March 2004. Despite Sommerfield's complaints to the City, Knasiak's behavior continued unabated. After Sommerfield complained, he was suspended three times and was denied positions for which he was qualified.

In June 2006, Sommerfield filed a lawsuit, case number 06 C 3132. See Complaint, Sommerfield v. City of Chicago, No. 06 C 3132 (N.D. Ill. June 7, 2006) (doc. no. 1) (hereinafter "Sommerfield I"). In the four-count complaint, Sommerfield's sole count against Knasiak was for intentional infliction of emotional distress. On February 14, 2007, Judge Filip dismissed the count as barred by the applicable statute of limitations, thereby eliminating Knasiak from the suit. See Minute Entry, Sommerfield I, No. 06 C 3132 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 14, 2007) (doc. no. 38).

On August 16, 2007, Judge Filip denied Sommerfield's motion to amend the complaint to bring constitutional claims against Knasiak because it would be prejudicial in light of the impending close of discovery. See Minute Entry, Sommerfield I, No. 06 C 3132 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 16, 2007) (doc. no. 66). After the close of discovery was extended, Sommerfield again sought leave to add the claims, this time against both Knasiak and the City. This court, having been assigned the case by the Executive Committee, sustained, in part, Sommerfield's objections to Magistrate Judge Cole's denial of his motion to amend and allowed Sommerfield to add constitutional claims against the City as long as Sommerfield did not attempt to propound additional discovery. See Mem. Opinion & Order, Sommerfield I, No. 06 C 3132 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 29, 2008) (doc. no. 180). However, it upheld Magistrate Judge Cole's determination that adding Knasiak back into the case at such a late juncture would expand discovery considerably, thereby prejudicing the City. Id. at 4-5. Sommerfield then filed the instant suit. See Complaint, Sommerfield v. City of Chicago, No. 08 C 3025 (N.D. Ill. May 23, 2008) (doc. no. 1) (hereinafter "Sommerfield II").

In Sommerfield I, Sommerfield brings claims under Title VII against the City for discriminating against him on the basis of his religion and national origin and for retaliating against him for complaining about Knasiak. 2d Am. Compl. at 4-12, Sommerfield I, No. 06 C 3132 (N.D. Ill. May 10, 2008) (doc. no. 190). He also brings Monell*fn2 claims under § 1981 and § 1983 regarding the City's alleged policies of inadequate training on non-discrimination and inadequate investigation of complaints. Id. at 12-24. In Sommerfield II, Sommerfield brings a § 1983 claim against Knasiak for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and a § 1981 claim against Knasiak for racial discrimination as well as Monell claims against the City under § 1981 and § 1983.*fn3 See Complaint at 10-14, Sommerfield II, No. 08 C 3025 (N.D. Ill. May 23, 2008) (doc. no. 1).

II. ANALYSIS

The City has moved to dismiss Sommerfield II pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) as duplicative of Sommerfield I. It also argues that the complaint should be dismissed because it violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and is a flagrant attempt to circumvent the court's orders in Sommerfield I. Knasiak moves to dismiss Sommerfield II for similar reasons.

A. The City's Motion To Dismiss

The City argues that Sommerfield II should be dismissed because it is duplicative of Sommerfield I and is an attempt to circumvent the bar on further discovery in Sommerfield I. Sommerfield argues that the court did not bar the filing of a new complaint and the City has not met its burden to show that the complaint should be stricken.

A district court has "'a great deal of latitude and discretion' in determining whether one action is duplicative of another . . . ." Serlin v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 3 F.3d 221, 223 (7th Cir. 1993) (quoting Ridge Gold Standard Liquors v. Joseph E. Seagram, 572 F. Supp. 1210, 1213 (N.D. Ill. 1983)). As a general rule, "a suit is duplicative if the 'claims, parties, and available relief do not significantly differ between the two actions.'" Id. (quoting Ridge Gold Standard Liquors, 572 F. Supp. at 1213).

Even a cursory review of the pleadings reveals that Sommerfield is the plaintiff and the City is a defendant in both Sommerfield I and Sommerfield II.*fn4 In both cases, Sommerfield's prayer for relief for his constitutional claims is identical. However, contrary to the City's protestations of identity of claims in the two suits, the Monell claims in Sommerfield I relate to the City's alleged failure to train and failure to investigate whereas in Sommerfield II they relate to the City's failure to intervene or stop Knasiak's allegedly discriminatory actions. Of course, such an observation begs the question of whether this difference is significant enough to save the litigation from being deemed duplicative where the operative facts underlying the Monell claim in Sommerfield II are identical to those ...


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