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McMackin v. Crawford

March 10, 2009

ZACHARY MCMACKIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER SCOTT CRAWFORD, POLICE CHIEF LARRY MASON, OFFICER KELLY GIVEN, AND THE CITY OF MARENGO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff has sued individual police officers and the City of Marengo under various theories arising from Plaintiff's arrest. Regarding the individual officers, Plaintiff alleges excessive force in violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Plaintiff also alleges battery under Illinois tort law. Regarding the City of Marengo, Plaintiff brings a Monell claim as to the city's customs, policies, and practice, and state tort claims alleging the reckless hiring and retention of Officer Crawford.

II. BACKGROUND

On July 24, 2008, Judge Kapala entered an order bifurcating and barring discovery and trial as to the second and third elements of Plaintiff's Monell claim. Also, Judge Kapala entered the following stipulation:

The City [of Marengo] agrees to entry of judgment against it for compensatory damages for an amount against an individual Defendant Officer if, and only if, the finder of fact in this case finds that the individual Defendant Officer violated any individual Plaintiff's constitutional rights as alleged in Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. For this purpose and in this case only, The City of Marengo specifically waives its rights under Monell, 436 U.S. 658, not to be held liable for damages under § 1983 without proof that The City, by its policy custom or practice, and with the requisite degree of culpability, caused the alleged constitutional violation. If such a constitutional violation is found, The City agrees to entry of a judgment against it for compensatory damages based on the constitutional violation alone, not upon any alleged "custom, policy or practice".

Gaughan et al. v. Crawford et al., No. 05-C4664, at 4 (N.D. Ill. July 24, 2008). Judge Kapala reasoned that bifurcating the Monell claims, and barring discovery and trial on the last two prongs of those claims, would "promote the goals of judicial economy, expediency, and convenience." Id. at 4.

In furtherance of the reckless hiring and retention state tort claims, on November 26, 2008, Plaintiff served subpoenas for depositions of individuals who were members of the Marengo Fire and Police Commission at the time Officer Crawford was hired. Defs.' Mot. to Stay at 2; Pl. Resp. at 1. Defendants object to the subpoenas, claiming that the discovery is the exact same as that barred by Judge Kapala's Order and the entered stipulation. Defs.' Mot. to Stay at 2. Defendants concede that the stipulation entered by Judge Kapala only addresses the Monell claims, and that failing to include a stipulation to the state claims of reckless hiring and retention was an "oversight by defense counsel." Id. To correct this oversight, Defendants have moved the court to bar the depositions sought by Plaintiff and any other depositions related to the Monell and pendant state tort claims against the City of Marengo, and to enter the Amended Stipulation, which adds the following paragraph as Paragraph Six to the otherwise identical stipulation entered by Judge Kapala:

In as much as the City has admitted that the officers were, at all times relevant, acting within the scope of their employment, in the event that a verdict for compensatory damages is entered against the officers on the pendant state claims, the City agrees and stipulates to a judgment being entered against it in the amount of the award of compensatory damages and in favor of the Plaintiffs. The City does not stipulate to an award of punitive damages against it as punitive damages may not be awarded against the City under state law.

Id. at 4.*fn1 Alternatively, Defendants seek leave to withdraw their Answer and Affirmative Defenses and to file a Motion to Dismiss the state law claims based upon 745 ILCS 10/2-201 immunity. Defs.' Mot. at 3.

II. DISCUSSION

Under Monell, a plaintiff may maintain an action against a municipality under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if he can show three elements: (1) the deprivation of a constitutional right, (2) that action that deprived the plaintiff of his constitutional right was taken pursuant to a custom, policy or practice of the local government unit, and (3) that such action was the cause of the deprivation. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. Of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978). To serve the goals of judicial economy, expediency, and convenience, Judge Kapala barred discovery related to the last two prongs of Plaintiff's Monell claim.

The state law claims operate in the same fashion. "An action for [reckless or] negligent hiring or retention of an employee requires the plaintiff to plead and prove (1) that the employer knew or should have known that the employee had a particular unfitness for the position so as to create a danger of harm to third persons; (2) that such particular unfitness was known or should have been known at the time of the employee's hiring or retention; and (3) that this particular unfitness proximately caused the plaintiff's injury." Van Horne v. Muller, 185 Ill. 2d 299, 311, 705 N.E.2d 898, 904 (Ill. 1998). Employers do not assume liability merely because an employee is unfit; rather, employers are subject to liability only if the employee has a particular unfitness that proximately caused a plaintiff's injury. Guillermo v. Brennan, 691 F. Supp. 1151, 1158 (N.D. Ill. 1988) (citing Fallon v. Indian Trail School, 148 Ill. App. 3d 931, 935, 500 N.E.2d 101, 103--04 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986)).

For the negligent hiring and retention claims, the City of Marengo proposes to stipulate to compensatory liability upon a finding that an individual police officer is liable of an underlying state tort, thereby eliminating the need for any discovery related to the City of Marengo. According to Defendants, the Amended Stipulation is appropriate because proof that the employee committed an underlying tort is required by law to establish a claim for reckless or negligent hiring or retention against the employer. Defs.' Mot. to Stay at 3. If this proposition is accurate, then Defendants' proposed Amended Stipulation limits discovery in ...


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