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Sroga v. Decero

November 9, 2010


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


Plaintiff has sued defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978), for violating and conspiring to violate his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and under state law for malicious prosecution, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, respondeat superior and indemnification. Defendants have filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss all of the claims in the first amended complaint. For the reasons below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motion.


On March 27, 2008, plaintiff filed a suit against the City of Chicago and Chicago police officers Vazquez, La Casa Caliz, Weiglen, Niedzwiecki, Blasz, Tarala, Johnson, Fico and Schilling under § 1983 for conspiring to and falsely arresting him on March 30, 2006, July 6, 2006 and September 22, 2007, and under state law for maliciously prosecuting him. (See Compl. ¶¶ 14-24, Sroga v. Weiglen, No. 08 C 1789 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 27, 2008).) On February 17, 2010, the Court entered summary judgment in defendants' favor on the § 1983 claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. (See id., 2/17/10 Judgment.)

On June 1, 2009, plaintiff filed this suit, and on February 2, 2010, he amended his complaint. The first amended complaint alleges: (1) § 1983 claims for conspiring to falsely arrest and falsely arresting and/or using excessive force on July 1, 2006, July 6, 2006, September 21, 2007, January 18, 2008, February 8, 2009 and April 16, 2009 and illegally seizing his property on October 23, 2006, May 30, 2007, July 9, 2007, September 21, 2007 and September 22, 2007; and (2) state law claims for malicious prosecution, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"), respondeat superior and indemnification against the City of Chicago and Chicago police officers Vazquez, La Casa Caliz, Decero, Ramos, Gomez, Helwink-Masters, Papke, Sherman, Willems, Carlquist, Reina, Deja and John Does. (First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 138-307.)


On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009). "[A] complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations" but must contain "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel

Under both federal and Illinois law, the doctrine of res judicata precludes a party from relitgating issues that were or could have been raised in a prior suit between the same parties that ended in a final judgment on the merits. Smith v. City of Chi., 820 F.2d 916, 917 (7th Cir. 1987); Rein v. David A. Noyes & Co., 665 N.E.2d 1199, 1204 (Ill. 2008). Vazquez, La Casa Caliz and the City were defendants in Sroga's first suit, which ended in a final decision on the merits of his § 1983 claims, and are defendants here. (See 2/17/10 J., Sroga v. Weiglen, No. 08 C 1789 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 17, 2010).) Thus, plaintiff did raise, or could have raised, in the first suit the § 1983 false arrest and excessive force claims he now asserts against La Casa Caliz in Counts II, XIV and XV and the state malicious prosecution claims he asserts against La Casa Caliz and the City in Counts III and XVI for the July 1, 2006 and January 18, 2008 arrests and any failure to intervene, Monell, IIED, respondeat superior or indemnification claim asserted in Counts XXIX-XXXIV that is based on the same conduct. Thus, the Court dismisses these claims with prejudice on the grounds of res judicata.*fn1

The doctrine of defensive collateral estoppel "forecloses a plaintiff from asserting a claim that [he] previously litigated and lost against another defendant." Wolverine Mut. Ins. v. Vance ex rel. Tinsley, 325 F.3d 939, 943 n.3 (7th Cir. 2003). The doctrine applies if: "(1) the issue sought to be precluded [is] the same as that involved in the prior litigation, (2) the issue [was] actually litigated, (3) the determination of the issue [was] essential to the final judgment, and (4) the party against whom estoppel is invoked [was] fully represented in the prior action. Meyer v. Rigdon, 36 F.3d 1375, 1379 (7th Cir. 1994). All four elements are met for the § 1983 claims for false arrest asserted against Ramos in Count IV for the July 6, 2006 arrest and the false arrest, conspiracy and due process claims asserted against Helwink-Masters, Sherman, Papke and John Does in Counts VII, VIII, XII and XXIII for the September 21, 2007 arrest. See Sroga v. Weiglen, No. 08 C 1879, 2010 WL 583912, at *4-7 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 17, 2010) (granting summary judgment to other officers on plaintiff's § 1983 claims that he was falsely arrested on July 6, 2006 and September 21, 2007). These claims and any failure to intervene or Monell claim based on the same conduct are dismissed with prejudice.


In Counts XXXI and XXXII, plaintiff alleges that the City is liable under § 1983 for the unlawful searches, arrests and conspiracies he alleges because it has de facto policies: (1) that require tactical officers to make at least one arrest each day; (2) that encourage racial profiling and the creation of false reports; (3) of failing to monitor, keep records of and investigate allegations of police misconduct and discipline officers for proven misconduct; and (4) of failing to train and supervise officers properly. (First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 291, 296); see Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 (holding that municipalities are liable under § 1983 only if the constitutional violation is caused by one of its policies or practices). Plaintiff does not, however, allege that he is a member of a group subject to racial profiling or that any defendant was a tactical officer when, or had been accused of or found to have engaged in misconduct before, he or she interacted with plaintiff or offer any facts beyond those interactions to support his claim that such policies exist. Absent these allegations, plaintiff has not stated viable Monell claims against the City. See Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (stating that the plausibility pleading standard set forth in Twombly requires plaintiff to allege "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully"); Thomas v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 604 F.3d 293, 306 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[T]he premise behind a § 1983 action against a government body is 'the allegation that official policy is responsible for the deprivation of rights.'" (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 690)). Accordingly the Court dismisses these claims without prejudice.

Section 1983

In Count I, plaintiff asserts a ยง 1983 claim for deprivation of due process against Decero for property seizures that occurred on May 30, 2007 and July 9, 2007. To state a viable claim, plaintiff must allege that Decero seized plaintiff's property pursuant to one of the City's established policies or that he did so in contravention of its policies and plaintiff has no adequate state remedies. Veteran's Legal Defense Fund v. Schwartz, 330 F.3d 938, 940-41 (7th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff has done neither. ...

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