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Steinbach v. Village of Forest Park

July 14, 2009

THERESA STEINBACH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF FOREST PARK, AN ILLINOIS JUDGE JAMES B. ZAGEL MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, CRAIG LUNDT, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, ANTHONY CALDERONE, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND JOHN DOE 3, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Theresa Steinbach ("Steinbach") is suing Defendant Anthony Calderone ("Calderone"), Mayor of the Village of Forest Park, Craig Lundt, a city employee, and the Village of Forest Park itself ("Forest Park"). Steinbach is the Commissioner of Forest Park and also a city employee. She alleges that Defendants violated her privacy, and in the process, violated federal and state laws, by reading and forwarding emails from her professional email account to Calderone's account without authorization. Steinbach alleges a total of fourteen counts against Defendants. Defendants Calderone and Forest Park move to dismiss the complaint, in its entirety, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) requires that I analyze the legal sufficiency of the complaint, and not the factual merits of the case. Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). I must take all facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the Plaintiff. Caldwell v. City of Elmwood, 959 F.2d 670, 671 (7th Cir. 1992). Plaintiff, for her part, must do more than solely recite the elements for a violation; she must plead with sufficient particularity so that her right to relief is more than a mere conjecture. Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must plead her facts so that, when accepted as true, they show the plausibility of her claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Plaintiff must do more than plead facts that are "consistent with Defendants' liability" because that only shows the possibility, not the plausibility,of her entitlement to relief. Id. (internal quotations omitted).

III. STATEMENT OF RELEVANT FACTS

Steinbach was elected to the position of Commissioner of Forest Park in 2003, while Defendant Anthony Calderone was the elected Mayor of Forest Park. Upon her election, Forest Park provided her with an email account. Steinbach contacted Defendant Craig Lundt, an IT technician employed by Forest Park, to configure her Forest Park email to be forwarded to her personal email account, which was not associated with Forest Park.

In 2006, Steinbach ran for mayor against Calderone, but lost the election. Around May, 2006, Steinbach contacted Lundt because she was not receiving all of her Forest Park email in her personal account. To resolve the problem, Lundt gave Steinbach direct access to her Forest Park email account through Hostway Corporation ("Hostway"), a third party webmail server. To use Hostway, Lundt gave Steinbach a username and password.

On July 7, 2006, Steinbach accessed her Forest Park email via Hostway for the first time. She was surprised to notice that her "sent" folder contained emails from her Forest Park account which were forwarded to Calderone. These forwarded emails included private emails from Steinbach's constituents. There were a total of eleven emails forwarded from Steinbach's account to Calderone's account. When news of the scandal broke, local papers interviewed Calderone. His official comment was that he was not involved.

On August 4, 2006, Steinbach filed her original complaint. After filing two amended complaints, she filed her final Verified Third Amended Complaint on March 26, 2009 containing fourteen counts against Calderone, Lundt, and the Village of Forest Park. Counts 1,*fn1 3 and 4 are brought against Forest Park and Calderone, alleging violations of the federal Wiretap Act. Count 2 is brought against Lundt and Forest Park for a violation of the federal Wiretap Act.*fn2 Counts 5, 6, and 7 alleging violations of 720 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/14, the Illinois eavesdropping statute, and brought against all Defendants have been voluntarily dismissed. Count 8, against all Defendants, alleges a violation of the tort of intrusion upon seclusion. Count 9, also against all Defendants, alleges a violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Count 10 holds Forest Park liable for the actions of its employees through the doctrine of respondeat superior.*fn3 Counts 12, 13 and 14,*fn4 brought against the Defendants individually, each allege a violation of the Stored Communications Act.

For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part, and denied in part.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Counts 3 and 4 - Violations of the Federal Wiretap Act

The statute of limitations for the Federal Wiretap Act is two years. 18 USC ยง 2520(e) (2006). Steinbach first discovered the alleged violation on July 7, 2006 when she opened her Forest Park email account through Hostway. While Steinbach filed her original complaint on August 4, 2006, within the statute of limitations, she did not file the Verified Third Amended Complaint until March 26, 2009, more than two years after she first discovered the violation. For an amended complaint to be considered filed within the two-year limitations period, it must relate back to the original complaint or the clock must be tolled by either ...


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