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Murphy v. Village of Plainfield

March 31, 2009

MARK E. MURPHY AND PAMELA S. MURPHY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
VILLAGE OF PLAINFIELD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, PLAINFIELD PARK DISTRICT, GREG BOTT AND JOAN MEYERS, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan Humphrey Lefkow United States District Judge

Judge Joan H. Lefkow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, Mark E. Murphy and Pamela S. Murphy (collectively, "the Murphys"), filed an eight-count complaint in which they named five defendants: the Village of Plainfield, Plainfield Township, Plainfield Park District, Greg Bott, and Joan Meyers. Count I is a claim against the Village of Plainfield and Plainfield Township for negligent trespass. Count II is a claim against the Village of Plainfield for willful and wanton conduct. Count III is a claim against the Village of Plainfield and Plainfield Township for intentional trespass. Counts IV and V allege that the Village of Plainfield and Plainfield Township have committed unconstitutional takings in violation of article 1, section 15 of the Illinois State Constitution and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Count VI is a state law claim against the Village of Plainfield, Plainfield Park District, Greg Bott, and Joan Meyers for malicious prosecution. Count VII is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim alleging that the Village of Plainfield, Plainfield Park District, Greg Bott, and Joan Meyers deprived the Murphys of "their inalienable right to be free from governmental harassment and intimidation." Am. Compl. at 16. Count VIII is a Monell claim against the Village of Plainfield, Plainfield Park District, Greg Bott, and Joan Meyers.*fn1

The court, having previously decided in part the defendants' motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), now addresses the remaining portions of those motions: (1) the Village of Plainfield and Joan Meyers's motion to dismiss [#20], insofar as it deals with issues of immunity and unconstitutional takings; (2) Plainfield Park District and Greg Bott's motion to dismiss [#22], insofar as it deals with the timeliness of plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claim; and (3) Plainfield Township's motion to dismiss [#53], insofar as it deals with the issue of immunity.*fn2 For the reasons stated below, the remaining portions of the motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. General Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). In a ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint and draws reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Dixon v. Page,291 F.3d 485, 586 (7th Cir. 2002). In order to survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must provide the defendant with "fair notice of what the . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776--77 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). The allegations in the complaint must also be "enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative level." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

BACKGROUND

I. Damage to the Murphys' Property

The Murphys allege the following facts, which provide the foundation for Counts I--V of their Amended Complaint ("the complaint"). The Murphys have lived at 16141 Farmingdale Road ("the Murphys' property") in unincorporated Plainfield Township since 1989. Prior to 1989, the plaintiffs' sister lived at the property for 10 years. The Murphys' property is surrounded by the Village of Plainfield, which is a municipal corporation formed under the Illinois Municipal Code.

During the period spanning from 1979 to the present, the Village of Plainfield (the "Village") and Plainfield Township (the "Township") approved multiple developments in and around the Murphys' property. The developments have caused an "abnormal surcharge" of groundwater and aboveground flooding to their property. Am. Compl. at 2. Village and Township officials ignored preliminary engineering reports indicating that the developments raised problems relative to stormwater management.

Additional decisions made by the Village and Township have compounded water damage to their property. For example, the Village and Township allowed retention ponds that fail to drain due to high groundwater levels. The authorization of these ponds led to the adoption of a custom and policy of pumping out retention ponds as a stormwater drainage method, which has caused damage to their property. Additionally, the Village and Township have allowed neighboring subdivisions to release water from detention ponds, which has led to water flowing onto, across, and through the Murphys' property.

In 1993, a three-inch rain event would result in standing water on their property and that by 2004, a one-inch rain event would lead to "a small lake" on their property. Am. Compl. at 4. Also of note, the water table on the Murphys' property has risen and remains between 18 and 34 inches. Prior to 2004, the water table level had no effect on the foundation of the Murphys' home. Since 2004, the increased water table is above the Murphys' foundation, and improvements on the Murphys' property have been damaged and are under constant pressure.

The Village and Township were aware of the flooding and increased water table and attempted to remediate the water damage to the Murphys' property. According to the complaint, the Village and Township retained engineers and investigated the flooding and saturation issues on the Murphys' property. One of the Village and Township's attempts to remediate the problem was to place stormwater infrastructure on and under the Murphys' property, which they did without written permission from the Murphys. To install the stormwater infrastructure, the Village and Township excavated a portion of the Murphys' land. The Murphys allege that despite notifying the Township that the land remains partially excavated, repairs have yet to be completed.

The complaint alleges that a variety of additional harms have resulted from the flooding and other damage to the Murphys' property: the Murphys have missed a substantial amount of work in order to limit the damage to their residence; they have been forced to remove their pool and deck; their septic system intermittently rises to the surface, contaminating their property as well as downstream neighbors with fecal coliform bacteria. Also, on January 23, 2008, the Will County Board of Review allegedly reassessed the Murphys' property and decreased the value by 75%.

Based on these allegations, the Murphys have asserted claims for negligent trespass (Count I), willful and wanton conduct (Count II), intentional trespass (Count III), and unconstitutional takings (Counts IV and V).

II. Prosecution of the Murphys

The Murphys allege the following additional facts which provide the foundation for Counts VI, VII, and VIII. On June 15, 2006, the Murphys were operating a utility vehicle near their property in Plainfield Township. The Murphys and their son, Jacob Murphy, were approached by Officer Koch of the Village of Plainfield. Officer Koch acknowledged the Murphys' flooding problem but told them that utility vehicles were not permitted on Plainfield Park District*fn3 property. The Murphys insisted that they were not operating the off-road vehicle on Park District property. Officer Koch informed the Murphys that he would talk to his supervisors and inform the Murphys of their decision on June 16, 2006.

On June 16, 2006, Officer Koch saw the Murphys at a baseball game and told them that he thought "a decision to prosecute [would] be made." Am. Compl. at 12. A decision to prosecute was made, and the Murphys appeared in court on August 4, 2006, at which time they pled not guilty to the charges.

According to the complaint, the Murphys later contacted Com Ed representative Craig Dixon, who they believed could verify that the land on which they had been operating the utility vehicle was not Plainfield Park District property. Dixon contacted Joan Meyers, the prosecuting attorney for the Village, on behalf of the Murphys. Meyers told Dixon that the Plainfield Park District had exclusive jurisdiction over the property behind the Murphy residence, which is where the Murphys had been operating the vehicle. Dixon told Meyers' that she was incorrect and that the property was in fact owned by Com Ed, who had not signed or authorized the complaint against the Murphys. In August 2006, Dixon delivered to Meyers a copy of the lease agreement between Com Ed and the Park District and pointed out that Com Ed owned the property in question. Meyers nevertheless refused to drop the charges against the Murphys.

On September 1, 2006, a bench trial commenced but was continued for further evidentiary matters. Just before the case was continued, defendant Greg Bott, an employee of the Plainfield Park District, testified that he was unaware of any flooding on or near the Murphy property. According to plaintiffs, however, Bott had previously addressed the flooding issue with representatives of Will County in 2005. Bott's 2005 ...


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