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Rizzo v. Wheaton Police Dep't

May 17, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall


Joseph M. Rizzo brought this action against Maximilian Wilson, Neil Weldschmidt, Richard Janske, and William Cooley (collectively, "the Officers"), all of whom are police officers employed by the City of Wheaton. Rizzo alleges that the Officers violated his civil rights in connection with an arrest and several incidents of "harassment." Liberally construed, Rizzo's complaint states causes of action for false arrest, unlawful seizure of personal property, and malicious prosecution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois state law. This matter comes before the court on the Officers' motion for summary judgment.


On June 30, 2003, Rizzo filed a pro se*fn1 complaint against the "Wheaton Police Department." A summons and copy of the complaint was served on "Officer Miller," an "Officer in Charge" at the City of Wheaton Police Department. Rizzo did not identify the Officers anywhere in his complaint, either as named defendants or in the descriptive factual allegations section. The court did not issue, nor did Rizzo request, summons to be served on the Officers.

On February 13, 2004, Rizzo filed an amended complaint, this time against "Wheaton Police Officers." (Doc. No. 13.) The Officers are identified in the body of the amended complaint as the individuals responsible for violating Rizzo's civil rights. (Id.) Rizzo alleges that he was wrongfully arrested by the Officers and falsely charged with aggravated battery, of which Rizzo was ultimately acquitted at trial. (Id.) Rizzo also describes various incidents of "harassment" by the Wheaton police, including the unlawful seizure of Rizzo's bicycle. (Id.)

The Officers filed a motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations*fn2 , seeking dismissal of Rizzo's false arrest, unlawful seizure, and malicious prosecution claims. (Doc. No. 61.) Rizzo opposes summary judgment, but agrees with the Officers as to all facts relating to the motion.

It is undisputed that Rizzo was arrested for aggravated battery on July 16, 2001. It is likewise undisputed that Rizzo was acquitted of the aggravated battery charge on September 12, 2001.*fn3 The Parties also agree that the Wheaton police seized Rizzo's bicycle in connection with his July 16, 2001 arrest (Doc. Nos. 103 Ex. J, 64 ¶ 16), and that the bicycle was returned to Rizzo on October 3, 2001. Rizzo has not been arrested, prosecuted, nor had any property seized by the Wheaton police since October 3, 2001.


Summary judgment is warranted 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 moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2); see also Brengettcy v. Horton, 423 F.3d 674, 680 (7th Cir. 2005).All facts, and any reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Wis. Cent., Ltd. v. Shannon, 539 F.3d 751, 756 (7th Cir. 2008). Normal burdens of proof remain, however. A plaintiff must set forth facts establishing genuine issues of fact regarding each of the elements essential to its claim, or summary judgment will be entered in favor of the defendant. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 529-30 (2006); see also Johnson v. ExxonMobil Corp., 426 F.3d 887, 892 (7th Cir. 2005).


The Officers argue that the complaint against the Officers was filed after the statute of limitations had run on Rizzo's claims. Rizzo does not seriously dispute this, but argues that his complaint against the Officers relates back to his initial complaint against the Wheaton Police Department.

A. Statute of Limitations

As a threshold matter, the Officers are correct that Rizzo's claims against them were filed after the applicable statutes of limitation had run.

"The statute of limitations applicable to claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Illinois is the same two-year provision which governs personal injury actions in the state." Evans v. City of Chi., 434 F.3d 916, 934 (7th Cir. 2006). "While state law determines the length of the limitations period, federal law determines the date of accrual of the cause of action." Behavioral Inst. of Ind., LLC v. Hobart City of Common Council, 406 F.3d 926, 929 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Kelly v. City of Chi., 4 F.3d 509, 511 (7th Cir.1993)). "[A] claim for false arrest under ยง 1983 accrues at the time of the arrest." Foryoh v. Triton Coll., 197 Fed. Appx. 500, 501 (7th Cir. 2006). Likewise, a claim for unlawful seizure of property accrues when the property is seized. See Hameed v. Lambert, No. 94 C 7570, 1996 WL 65996, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 12, 1996). A claim for malicious prosecution may accrue as early as the date of plaintiff's arrest, but no later than plaintiff's acquittal, depending on the particulars of the case. Compare Prince v. Campbell, 314 F. Supp. 2d 793, 795 (N.D. Ill. 2004) (holding that statute of ...

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