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Cote v. Village of Broadview

August 11, 2009

JAMES G. COTE, SR., DAVID WORTH AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
VILLAGE OF BROADVIEW, AN ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Ronald A. GUZMÁN United States Judge

Judge Ronald A. Guzmán

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs James G. Cote, Sr. and David Worth on behalf of all others similarly situated have sued their former municipal employer, the Village of Broadview ("Broadview") for violations of their procedural due process rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts II, IV and VI) and also seek administrative review of Broadview's denial of benefits pursuant to state law breach of contract claims (Counts I, III and V). Before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion as to Counts II, IV and VI and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction as to Counts I, III and V pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).

Facts

The following facts are those alleged in the complaint, and for the purpose of the current motion, they are accepted as true. Broadview is and was at all times mentioned herein an Illinois municipal corporation. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiffs are retired firefighters/employees of Broadview and pensioners of Village of Broadview's Fire Fighters' Pension Fund as governed by 40 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/4 101 et seq. (Id. ¶ 11.)

On or about November 5, 1984, Broadview enacted and/or revised its "Policy on Health Care for Pensioners" (the "Health Care Policy") to affirm, inter alia, that Broadview would provide health care insurance coverage to Broadview retirees and their beneficiaries who were direct or indirect recipients of various pension funds (policemen, firemen and other full-time municipal employees) and to further provide that Broadview would pay the premiums for such insurance up to $267.00 per month per pensioner with any premium payment in excess of that amount being the responsibility of the pensioner. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) On May 1, 1988, Broadview revised the Health Care Policy to include additional Broadview officials to the definition of "pensioner." (Id. ¶ 10.) On July 7, 2008, Broadview amended the Health Care Policy ("2008 Amended Policy") such that it would only pay the $267.00 monthly contribution toward a pensioner's health insurance if he or she were ineligible for Medicare. (Id. ¶ 17.)

Plaintiffs James G. Cote, Sr., David Worth and all others similarly situated were retired employees and pensioners of Broadview within the meaning of the Health Care Policy during the time period from November 5, 1984 to July 7, 2008 [collectively "Broadview Pensioners"]. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff James G. Cote, Sr. was sixty-five years old on December 4, 1991, and plaintiff David Worth was sixty-five years old on September 4, 2007. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.)

Broadview did not make any contribution for health care insurance premiums for Broadview Pensioners age sixty-five and older for the months of July and August 2006 and May 2007 through April 2008. (Id. ¶ 28.) On October 6, 2008, plaintiffs sued Broadview for violation of their due process rights pursuant to section 1983 and for breach of contract.

Discussion

Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court shall dismiss a case for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Court will accept the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Travel All Over the World, Inc. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1429 (7th Cir. 1996). A claim will not be dismissed unless it appears that the plaintiffs can prove no set of facts entitling them to relief. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); see Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (requiring that a plaintiff's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level").

A. Motion To Dismiss Plaintiffs' Section 1983 Claim for Failure To State a Claim

Section 1983 "creates a federal cause of action for 'the deprivation, under color of [state] law, of a citizen's rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.'" Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994)). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. CONST. amend. XIV § 1. A plaintiff who presents a procedural due process claim seeking relief under section 1983 must establish: "(1) the offending conduct was committed by someone who acted under the color of state law; (2) the actions deprive the plaintiff of a constitutionally protected property interest; and (3) the alleged deprivation occurred without due process of law." Germano v. Winnebago County, Ill., 403 F.3d 926, 928 (7th Cir. 2005).

Broadview first argues that Counts II, IV and VI must be dismissed because plaintiffs have no constitutionally protected property interest and no additional process beyond post-deprivation state court remedies is due. The Court need not address whether the plaintiffs possess a constitutionally protected property interest within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to continued contractual benefits because the Court holds that any purported property interests were not taken away without due process.

In procedural due process claims, the deprivation by state action of a constitutionally protected property interest is not in itself unconstitutional; what is unconstitutional is the deprivation of such an interest without the requisite due process of law. Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125 (1990). "The fundamental requirement of due process is the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner." Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976) (quotation omitted). For cases solely involving a property interest, the state is not always required to provide a hearing prior to the initial deprivation, and the mere postponement of such hearing is not a denial of due process presuming the ...


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