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Robert Ollie v. Darlene Bludworth

May 14, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge


This case comes before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants (Doc. 36).*fn1

Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 43). Although Plaintiff did not timely file his response in opposition, the delay may have been due to confusion over postage at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence") where Plaintiff resides (Doc. 44). Given this possible confusion, the Court still considered Plaintiff's response before arriving at its decision. Plaintiff's response, however, was unavailing and for the following reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss (Doc. 43) is GRANTED.


Plaintiff's first amended complaint, which is the operative complaint here, asserts four claims for relief that relate to an incident in June 2009 at the Jackson County Jail (Doc 27). The instant motion to dismiss only concerns count four of Plaintiff's amended complaint: a state law claim of civil conspiracy. Count four of the amended complaint asserts that Defendants along with other un-sued co-conspirators engaged in a course of conduct to intentionally inflict emotional distress on Plaintiff and maliciously prosecute him (Doc. 27). Defendants also conspired together to use excessive force on Plaintiff and then act with deliberate indifference toward Plaintiff by not providing him medical care (Doc. 27). Essentially, Plaintiff claims Defendants conspired to beat him, prevent him access to medical care, and cause him emotional distress.

Defendants contend that Plaintiff's conspiracy claim amounts to nothing more than a bare recitation of the elements of conspiracy, which fails to comply with the federal notice pleading requirements outlined in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2209). Accordingly, Defendants ask this Court to dismiss Plaintiff's conspiracy claim.


The United States Supreme Court has addressed federal pleading requirements in recent years, see generally Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), leading the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to issue additional guidance to the district courts.

Our system operates on a notice pleading standard; Twombly and its progeny do not change this fact. Cf. Smith v. Duffey, 576 F.3d 336, 339-40 (7th Cir. 2009) (noting courts' over reliance on Twombly). A defendant is owed "fair notice of what the . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957). Under Conley, just as under Twombly, it is not enough to give a threadbare recitation of the elements of a claim without factual support.

Bissessur v. Indiana Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is "plausible on its face" -- the now familiar phrase originally used in Twombly -- and "also must state sufficient facts to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above the speculative level." Bissessur, 581 F.3d at 602-03. A claim is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "This said, in examining the facts and matching them up with the stated legal claims, we give 'the plaintiff the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint.'" Bissessur, 581 F.3d at 602-03. The Court of Appeals, in an opinion by Circuit Judge Wood, summarized this analysis as follows:

So what do we take away from Twombly, Erickson, and Iqbal? First, a plaintiff must provide notice to defendants of her claims. Second, courts must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true, but some factual allegations will be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice to defendants of the plaintiff's claim. Third, in considering the plaintiff's factual allegations, courts should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.

Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). One month later, Circuit Judge Posner explained: "'[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.'" Cooney v. Rossiter, 583 F.3d 967, 971 (7th Cir. 2009), quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.

Under Illinois law, "[t]he elements of civil conspiracy are: (1) a combination of two or more persons, (2) for the purpose of accomplishing by some concerted action either an unlawful purpose or a lawful purpose by unlawful means, (3) in the furtherance of which one of the conspirators committed an overt tortious or unlawful act." Fritz v. Johnston, 807 N.E.2d 461, 470 (Ill. 2004). "The function of a conspiracy claim is to extend liability in tort beyond the active wrongdoer to those who have merely planned, assisted or encouraged the wrongdoer's act." Sain v. Nagel, 997 F.Supp. 1002, 1017 (N.D.Ill.1998) (quoting Adcock, 206 Ill.Dec. 636, 645 N.E.2d at 894).

The paragraphs pertinent to Plaintiff's conspiracy claim make general allegations against Defendants, but are devoid of any detailed or specific facts unique to the conspiracy claim. Plaintiff refers to previous paragraphs in the complaint that outline the events of June 12, 2009. In looking at the amended complaint as a whole, the Court discerns the following with regard to the conspiracy to inflict excessive force: Plaintiff and Deputy Cook exchanged words and an altercation between the two subsequently ensued. Deputy Lustig, who had been standing outside the cellblock where this occurred, entered and assaulted Plaintiff. Sergeant Bludworth ...

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