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Thomas v. City of Chicago

May 21, 2009

LARRY THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, WILLIAM R. MASSOLLE, #19045, AND KAREN E. WOJCIKOWSKI, # 9786, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Larry Thomas ("Thomas"), filed a pro se complaint [1, 10] on September 4, 2007, against the City of Chicago ("the City"), Two Unknown Named Chicago Police Detectives, and One Unknown Named Police Investigator. Subsequently, with the aid of counsel, Plaintiff amended his complaint [21] on July 15, 2008, replacing the unknown defendants with William R. Massolle ("Massolle") and Karen E. Wojcikowski ("Wojcikowski") (together "the Individual Defendants") and omitting the unknown police investigator. Plaintiff alleges that the Individual Defendants deprived him of his civil rights when they arrested him on August 1, 2005, and seeks recovery pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also alleges a Fourteenth Amendment due process violation. Finally, he invokes the Court' s supplemental jurisdiction, seeking recovery against all of the Defendants for the Illinois state law tort of malicious prosecution.

Currently before the Court is Defendants'motion to dismiss [28]*fn1 Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, that motion is denied.

I. Background*fn2

On or about August 1, 2005, Plaintiff was arrested by Massolle and Wojcikowski.

(Compl. ¶ 5.) They did not have probable cause to effect the arrest and "instead fabricated evidence to implicate [P]laintiff in criminal wrongdoing." (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff was arraigned on August 25, 2005 (id. ¶ 7), and brought to trial in January 2007 (id. ¶ 8), at which time he learned that Massolle and Wojcikowski had fabricated evidence (id.). He was found not guilty. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Plaintiff's complaint comprises three counts. Count I alleges that Massolle and Wojcikowski falsely arrested Plaintiff in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.*fn3 Count II alleges that Massolle and Wojcikowski violated the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment due process clause "by fabricating evidence and concealing their wrongdoing, [which] caused [P]laintiff to be wrongfully held in custody for seventeen months." Count III names only the City, seeking to impose liability on a respondeat superior theory for the state law tort of malicious prosecution.

II. Analysis

Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They argue that Counts I and III are time-barred and that Count II fails "to give Defendants notice of the facts that form a basis for his second count." (Def. Mem. at 4-5.)

A. Legal standard on motion to dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Svcs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1973 n.14). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1969. The Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

B. Count I

A plaintiff's failure to adhere to a statute of limitations is an affirmative defense and therefore generally is not amenable to dismissal at the complaint stage. United States v. Lewis, 411 F.3d 838, 842 (7th Cir. 2005). However, dismissal is appropriate where a plaintiff pleads herself out of court by establishing that a defendant is entitled to a limitation' s defense. Cancer Found., Inc. v. Cerberus Capital Mgmt., LP, 559 F.3d 671, 675 (7th Cir. 2009) (dismissal appropriate where it is "clear from the face of the amended complaint that it [was] hopelessly time-barred"); U.S. Gypsum Co. v. Ind. Gas Co., Inc., 350 F.2d 623, 626 (7th Cir. 2003) ("A litigant may plead itself out of court by alleging (and thus admitting) the ingredients of a defense"). As explained below, the Court concludes that although the statute of limitations began to run when Plaintiff was arraigned, it is not clear from his complaint that any claims are "hopelessly time-barred" because the limitations period may be tolled under Illinois law.

In Defendants'estimation, Plaintiff pled himself out of court as to his claims against the Individual Defendants by including certain calendarial facts in his amended complaint: (i) Plaintiff was arrested on August 1, 2005; (ii) Plaintiff was arraigned on August 25, 2005; and (iii) Plaintiff filed his amended complaint naming Massolle and Wojcikowski on July 15, 2008 (nearly three years after his arrest and arraignment). The length of the limitations period for a Section 1983 action is determined by reference to state law personal injury torts. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 240-41, 249-50 (1989) (quoting and clarifying Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 280 (1985)). In Illinois, the pertinent limitations ...


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