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Pitzer v. City of East Peoria

November 18, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States Senior District Judge


Before the Court is a Motion for Rule 54(b) Determination, filed by Defendant Stolz and Defendant City of Pekin ("Pekin Defendants") (Doc. 81). The Pekin Defendants seek the entry of a final judgment order with regards to this Court's April 21, 2010 Order and Opinion granting their motion to dismiss. (Doc. 81). Plaintiff has filed a Response in opposition. (Doc. 82). For the following reasons, the Pekin Defendant's Motion is DENIED.


This case arises out of the shooting death of Brian Pitzer by Officer Chad LaCost, a member of the Central Illinois Emergency Response Team.*fn1 Plaintiff is the Administrator of Pitzer's Estate. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint sought relief against five police officers and four governmental entities. (Doc. 49).*fn2 In addition to bringing claims against LaCost, Plaintiff sought relief from Lieutenant James Pearson, Officer Jeffrey Stolz, Deputy Todd Mutchler, and Deputy Chris McKinney. (Doc. 49). Plaintiff's claims against Pearson, Stolz, Mutchler, and McKinney arose out of the storming of Pitzer's home after Pitzer had left the premises. (Doc. 49 at 8). While Lieutenant Pearson gave the order to enter, Stolz, Mutchler, and McKinney actually entered the home. (Doc. 49 at 8).

On April 21, 2010, the Court ruled upon various motions to dismiss. (Doc. 70). The Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the Tazewell County Defendants because there was no connection between their alleged constitutional violations and Pitzer's death. (Doc. 70 at 11-13). It dismissed the claims against the Pekin Defendants for similar reasons, and also found that any claim for "failure to intervene" failed as a matter of law. (Doc. 70 at 17). The Peoria County Defendants and East Peoria Defendants also filed motions to dismiss claiming that Plaintiff could not recover certain types of damages under § 1983; these motions were denied. (Doc. 70 at 4-10). The Court noted that because neither the East Peoria Defendants or the Peoria County Defendants had raised an argument challenging the existence of a plausible claim having been pled against them, that issue would remain open and undecided. (Doc. 70 at 10).


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) provides that "[w]hen an action presents more than one claim for relief . . . or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. FED. R. CIV. PRO. 54(b). The Court must first determine that it is dealing with a final judgment. Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7 (1980). "It must be a 'judgment' in the sense that it is a decision upon a cognizable claim for relief, and it must be 'final' in the sense that it is 'an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.'" Id. quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co., v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 436 (1956). Here, the Pekin Defendants are seeking a certification on the Court's April 21, 2010 Order and Opinion, which granted their motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them. (Doc. 81). In that Order, the Court found that "Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to raise her claim that Stolz's actions contributed to Pitzer's injury to the level of plausibility, and, as a matter of law, cannot make out a claim that Stolz unconstitutionally failed to intervene to prevent Pitzer's injury." (Doc. 70 at 17). Accordingly, this was the ultimate disposition of Plaintiff's claims against the Pekin Defendants.

However, the Court must also examine "whether there is any just reason for delay." Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8. In doing so, it takes into account "judicial administrative interests as well as the equities involved," while keeping in mind "the historic federal policy against piecemail appeals." Id. Although the Court may grant a Rule 54(b) motion even if it will result in separate appeals, the Rule was intended to be reserved for "the infrequent harsh case." ADVISORY COMMITTEE NOTES TO FED. R. CIV. PRO. 54(b). Here, the Pekin Defendants argue that "it would be judicially expeditious, and it would benefit all parties" if the Court entered a final judgment on their behalf. (Doc. 81 at 3). They state that doing so would afford finality to their position and save judicial resources because the issues that would be raised on appeal would likely be different than any that would be raised based upon Plaintiff's remaining claims. (Doc. 81 at 3-4).

The Court does not agree that it would be in the interest of judicial economy to grant the Pekin Defendants' motion and allow for an appeal of the Court's decision dismissing Plaintiff's claims against them. The only parties seeking a 54(b) certification are the Pekin Defendants.*fn3 This means that Plaintiff's claims against the Tazewell County Defendants, which were dismissed based upon nearly identical bases, would remain to be appealed at a later date. Further, Plaintiff's claims against the East Peoria Defendants still remain in the lawsuit. As the allegations against Lieutenant Pearson are very similar to those against Officer Stolz, Deputy Mutchler, and Deputy McKinney, those claims too have the potential for a similar appeal at a later date.*fn4 As such, the Court finds that a 54(b) certification here would waste, rather than conserve judicial resources. Nor have the Pekin Defendants demonstrated any injustice that would be done to them if Plaintiff is not forced to immediately appeal their dismissal from the action, which would make this "an infrequent harsh case." See ADVISORY COMMITTEE NOTES TO FED. R. CIV. PRO. 54(b).

Because the entry of a Rule 54(b) certification of the portion of the April 21, 2010 Opinion and Order dismissing the Pekin Defendants may result in the piecemail appeal of similar claims, the Court finds that there is just reason for delay.


For the foregoing reasons, the Pekin Defendants' Motion for Rule 54(b) Determination (Doc. 81) is DENIED.


Entered this 17th day of ...

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