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Petrovic v. City of Chicago

March 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzmán


Before the Court are the City of Chicago, Philip Cline and Tisa Morris' motions to dismiss. For the reasons provided in this Minute Order, the Court grants the motions.

Procedural History

Plaintiff Robin Petrovic sued the City of Chicago, Philip Cline, former superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Tisa Morris, former Chief Administrator of the Office of Professional Standards and Chicago Police Officers James Chevas, Margaret Birkenmayer, Officer Theodore Magno*fn1 for depriving her of her constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The parties engaged in discovery as to the defendant police officers, and the Court bifurcated discovery and trial as to Cline and Morris sued in their individual capacity and the Monell claims against the City. A jury found for plaintiff and against Chevas regarding plaintiff's excessive force claim, for plaintiff and against Chevas and the City regarding plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim, and for Chevas, Birkenmayer and Magno and against plaintiff on all other claims. The City has filed a "Certification of Entry of Judgment Against Defendant City of Chicago" that states the "entry of any judgment against the City... is accepted... only to the extent that the judgment is affirmed after any post-trial motions and/or an appeal, if an appeal is taken." (Def. City Chicago's Mot. Bar Monell Claim Lack Jurisdiction, Ex. A, Certification of Entry of J. Def. City of Chicago ¶¶ 1-3.)


On July 24, 2005, Petrovic asked someone to call the police stating that she was the victim of a battery. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) She was asked to sign a blank criminal complaint, and she requested that an officer complete the form prior to her signing it. (Id. ¶ 12.) When the officer refused, Petrovic asked officers at the scene for their names and badge numbers and used a stranger's phone to call and leave a message on her home phone with their information. (Id. ¶ 13.) She was handcuffed and put in the squadrol, and at some point before the squadrol reached the police station, defendant Chevas kicked and hit her and called her a derogatory name. (Id. ¶ 16.)

Morris and Cline knew that the City maintained a widespread and settled policy and practice of failing to adequately train, supervise, discipline and otherwise control Chevas. (Id. ¶ 41(a).) They also knew that the maintenance of these practices would result in preventable police abuse, including the type of unconstitutional abuse inflicted on Petrovic. (Id.)

Morris and Cline oversaw, acquiesced in, and even condoned the above-described policies and practices and refused to take steps to correct them. (Id. ¶ 41(b).) More specifically, Morris and Cline caused and participated in the denial of Petrovic's constitutional rights by, among other things, failing to: (1) monitor police officers and groups of officers who violate civilians' constitutional rights; (2) discipline police officers who violate civilians' constitutional rights; and (3) implement an effective early warning system to identify police officers and groups of officers who systematically violate civilians' constitutional rights. (Id. ¶ 41(c).)

Morris and Cline knew that Chevas committed misconduct similar to that alleged by Petrovic. (Id. ¶ 41(d).) However, they approved, assisted, condoned and/or purposely ignored Chevas' prior misconduct. (Id.) Petrovic alleges that because of this conduct, Morris and Cline were deliberately indifferent to the rights and safety of Petrovic. (Id. ¶ 41(e).) As a result of the excessive force used by Chevas, Morris and Cline's actions and inactions and the City's policy and practice, Petrovic has suffered pain, injury and emotional distress. (Id. ¶ 42.)


Morris and Cline's Motion to Dismiss

Morris and Cline have been sued in their individual capacity and move to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "to survive a motion to dismiss a complaint's request for relief must be plausible on its face." Brown v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, 334 Fed. Appx. 758, 759 (7th Cir. 2009) (quotations omitted). "A claim is facially plausible when the alleged facts allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (quotation omitted). "[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1953 (2009). "'[N]aked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement' will not do." Brown, 334 Fed. Appx. at 759 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

In a section 1983 action, "where masters do not answer for the torts of their servants-- the term 'supervisory liability' is a misnomer." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "An individual cannot be held liable in a § 1983 action unless he caused or participated in an alleged constitutional deprivation." Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983). "A causal connection, or an affirmative link, between the misconduct complained of and the official sued is necessary." Id. "Without a showing of direct responsibility for the improper action, liability will not lie against a supervisory official." Id. Indirect approval is insufficient. Cygnar v. City of Chi., 865 F.2d 827, 847 (7th Cir. 1989). Rather, "the official must actually have participated in the constitutional wrongdoing." Id.

This is because "[f]ailure to take corrective action cannot in and of itself violate § 1983. Otherwise the action of an inferior officer would automatically be attributed up the line to his highest superior." Soderbeck v. Burnett County, 752 F.2d 285, 293 (7th Cir. 1985). Thus, "a failure of a supervisory official to supervise, control, or train the offending individual officers is not actionable absent a showing that the official either encouraged the specific incident of misconduct or in some way directly participated in it." Lenard v. Argento, 699 F.2d 874, ...

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