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Gay v. City of East Moline

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 25, 2013

DARIUS GAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF EAST MOLINE, East Moline Police Officers DOUG AVERILL and JOHN SHOWALTER, Defendants.

ORDER

SARA DARROW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Darius Gay alleges that on February 22, 2012, Defendants Averill and Showalter unlawfully seized, arrested, and battered him. Plaintiff sued the Defendant-Officers and their employer, the City of East Moline, on a number of grounds. The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343(a). The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

The Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's state law battery claim (Count VI), arguing that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 10. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages should be dismissed. The Court will first address whether Plaintiffs have stated a claim and then move onto whether Plaintiff's request for punitive damages stemming from the alleged battery is barred under Illinois's Tort Immunity Act. See id.

A battery occurs when a defendant intentionally causes harmful or offensive contact with the plaintiff. See Bakes v. St. Alexius Med. Ctr., 955 N.E.2d 78, 85 ( Ill. App. 2001). As to Defendant Averill, Plaintiff alleges that "Averill grabbed Plaintiff from behind and slammed Plaintiff onto the sidewalk" and "Averill elbowed Plaintiff in the head." Am. Compl. at ¶ 20, ECF No. 6. As to Defendant Showalter, Plaintiff alleges that "Showalter kicked Plaintiff in the back." Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiff also alleged that this contact was harmful: he allegedly received injuries on account of the Defendant-Officers' actions. Id. at ¶ 46. Defendants' sole argument is that the Court is obliged to ignore these allegations because under the heading "Count VI, " Plaintiff "merely realleges paragraphs 1 though [sic] 49." The Federal Rules encourage clear and concise pleading, see Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(d) and 10(b), and "verbosity does not make for clarity, " see Kainz v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 194 F.2d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 1952). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is not confusing and gives the Officer-Defendants fair notice that Plaintiff is accusing them of battery and also gives them fair notice of the grounds for the alleged battery. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's battery claim is DENIED.

I. The Tort Immunities Act

Plaintiff requests punitive damages against the individual officers for their alleged battery. Am. Compl. at ¶ 70(b). Defendants assert that the Illinois Tort Immunities Act shields them from being held liable for punitive damages as the result of any alleged battery. Illinois courts have not addressed the question of whether a Plaintiff can recover punitive damages against police officers sued in their individual capacities and district courts in this district have diverging views on the issue. See Campbell v. City of Johnston City, No. 05-cv-4072, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35617, at *7-9 (S.D. Ill.Dec. 14, 2005).

The Illinois Tort Immunities Act is comprised of multiple, more specific Acts. Of relevance here is the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, see 745 ILCS 10/1-101, et seq., which is further divided into ten Articles. Only Article II is relevant to this order. See 745 ILCS 10/2-101, et seq. Article II is further divided into three Parts but only Parts 1 and 2 need be discussed. Part 1 is entitled "Immunity of Local Public Entities." Part 2 is entitled "Immunity of Public Employees."

Defendants argue that Plaintiff is barred from recovering punitive damages against them for civil battery pursuant to 745 ILCS 10/2-102. Section 2-102 is found in Part 1 of Article II and states that a "public official" cannot be held liable for punitive damages in certain circumstances:

[A] local public entity is not liable to pay punitive or exemplary damages in any action brought directly or indirectly against it by the injured party or a third party. In addition, no public official is liable to pay punitive or exemplary damages in any action arising out of an act or omission made by the public official while serving in an official executive, legislative, quasi-legislative or quasi-judicial capacity, brought directly or indirectly against him by the injured party or a third party.

As the statute indicates, Section 2-102 shields Defendants Averill and Showalter from punitive damage liability if (1) they are "public officials" and (2) they allegedly battered Plaintiff "while serving in an official... capacity."

Plaintiff argues that the Defendants are not "public officials." The Illinois Tort Immunity Act does not define "public official." One district court analyzed the issue and concluded that "public official" means "a public employee who exercises discretion in the performance of uniquely governmental functions." Reese v. May, 955 F.Supp. 869, 875 (N.D. Ill. 1996). The court in Reese found that police officers are public officials and are therefore immune from punitive damages liability under Section 2-102. Plaintiff candidly argues that Reese was wrongly decided.

II. Reese's "Public Official" Analysis

The Court will first discuss how the court in Reese reached the conclusion that "public official" means "a public employee who exercises discretion in the performance of uniquely governmental functions." Reese, 955 F.Supp. at 875. The Court will then itself analyze whether police officers are "public officials" for the purposes of the Tort Immunity Act. To begin with, the court in Reese acknowledged that the section being analyzed-Section 2-102 (found in Part 1 of Article II)-uses language that substantially overlaps ...


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