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Alfano v. City of Spring Valley

February 25, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


Now before the Court is Defendant City of Spring Valley, Illinois's ("Spring Valley") and Defendant James Narczewski's ("Narczewski") Motion for Summary Judgment [#64]. For the reasons set forth below, Spring Valley's and Narczewski's Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343, as the claims asserted in the Complaint present federal questions under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the claims asserted under Illinois state law pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, as they are so related to the claims within the Court's federal question jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy.


Plaintiffs Maria Alfano and Frank Alfano (collectively "Alfanos") are husband and wife, and reside in Spring Valley, Illinois. In 2007, Maria Alfano was the owner of a building containing rental apartments located at 118 W. St. Paul Street, Spring Valley, Illinois. Frank Alfano assisted his wife in the management of her building. Frank Alfano's niece, Defendant Lena Mautino*fn1 ("Mautino"), owned the lot and building immediately next door, at 116 W. St. Paul Street. The Alfanos' and Mautino's buildings shared a common wall in one small area toward the back of the buildings. Mautino's property consisted of her building and adjacent empty lots. On April 23, 2007, James Clinard ("Clinard"), the engineer hired by Spring Valley, visited Mautino's building and issued a letter explaining that her building shared a common wall with the Alfanos' building, and that portions of her building were in danger of collapse.*fn2 On April 24, 2007, Mautino had her building torn down in order to operate a beer garden on her property. In the time leading up to the demolition, Mautino approached Narczewski, the mayor of Spring Valley and Liquor Commissioner for the city, to get a liquor license to operate the beer garden business once her building was torn down.*fn3

Mautino and John R. Widman d/b/a Widman Excavating*fn4 ("Widman") contracted for the latter to tear down Mautino's building and excavate the premises of the remains of the building. The excavation was not approved by Spring Valley's Building Commissioner, and Mautino never obtained a building permit as required by City ordinance. Following the demolition of Mautino's building, the wall supporting the Alfanos' building was damaged, making the building uninhabitable. Narczewski called the Alfanos' attorney, Thomas Tonozzi ("Tonozzi"), to inform Tonozzi that the Alfanos needed to repair their building and that they would have problems if they attempted to reoccupy it while in need of repair. The building was in a condition that required it to be repaired or demolished.

Mautino was issued a liquor license for operation of the intended beer garden at 116 W. St. Paul Street.*fn5 In the summer of 2007, Spring Valley commenced an ordinance violation action against the Alfanos. Spring Valley and Maria Alfano entered into a settlement agreement on July 8, 2008, which provided that the Alfanos had 60 days to repair or demolish the building to bring it up to code. Spring Valley filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement and Impose Penalties after the 60 days had expired and Maria Alfano had still not repaired or demolished the building. Her building was eventually demolished over a year after Mautino's building was demolished. On November 6, 2007, the Alfanos filed their Complaint. They allege, under Section 1983, a deprivation of their Fourth Amendment guaranty against unreasonable seizures, a deprivation of property without substantive due process of law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and a violation of Equal Protection based upon a "class of one" theory. They additionally allege that Narczewski is liable as a co-conspirator with Mautino, Spring Valley is liable based on respondeat superior for Narczewski's intentional/willful and wanton conduct while acting as mayor, and Spring Valley is responsible for payment of compensatory damages and attorney's fees for Narczewski acting in the scope of his employment pursuant to the Illinois Local Governmental Tort Immunity Act. Defendants Spring Valley and Narczewski have now moved for summary judgment. The matter is fully briefed, and this Order follows.*fn6


Summary judgment should be granted where the "pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court of portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988).

If the moving party meets its burden, the nonmoving party then has the burden of presenting specific facts to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586--87 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and produce evidence of a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. This Court must then determine whether there is a need for trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that can properly be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may be reasonably resolved in favor of either party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., Inc., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995). Finally, where a party bears the burden of proof on an issue, he or she must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial. Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 3 F.3d 1035, 1041 (7th Cir. 1993).

I. Plaintiffs' Section 1983 Claims

Section 1983 imposes liability where a defendant acts under color of a state law and the defendant's conduct violated the plaintiff's rights under the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Where Section 1983 liability is based upon a conspiracy theory, the plaintiff must show: 1) a state official and private individual(s) reached an understanding to deprive the plaintiff of his constitutional rights, and 2) those individual(s) were "willful participants in joint activity with the State or its agents." Williams v. Seniff, 342 F.3d 774, 785 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Fries v. Helsper, 146 F.3d 452, 457 (7th Cir. 1998)); Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 28 (1980); Spencer v. Ill. Cmty Action Ass'n, 51 F. App'x. 973, 975 (7th Cir. 2002).*fn7 Here, the Alfanos premise ...

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