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Muhammad v. Village of South Holland

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 28, 2014

FELICIA MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF SOUTH HOLLAND; OFFICER B. BURKE, individually and as an agent of THE VILLAGE OF SOUTH HOLLAND POLICE; OFFICER P. WILLIAMS, individually and as an agent of THE VILLAGE OF SOUTH HOLLAND POLICE; ADOLPH CLARK; and ROGER BOWEN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Felicia Muhammad ("Muhammad") filed her Second Amended Complaint on May 24, 2013, against the Village of South Holland ("South Holland"); Officers B. Burke and P. Williams (collectively, "Defendant Officers"); Adolph Clark; and Roger Bowen. Defendants South Holland, Defendant Officers, and Clark move to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Muhammad submitted her original Complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1982, 1983, and 1985, against thirteen defendants, comprising municipalities, businesses, and individuals. The Complaint meandered through fifteen counts, all but one asking combined punitive and compensatory damages in excess of one million dollars. Concurrently, Muhammad moved to proceed in forma pauperis and for appointment of counsel, both of which were granted. Before counsel was appointed, Muhammad properly filed her Complaint. Most Defendants then filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted.

Before these motions could be briefed, Muhammad's appointed counsel moved the court for leave to withdraw.[1] Replacement counsel was appointed immediately and each of Defendants' motions was withdrawn without prejudice, with leave to refile. Although granted leave to file an amended complaint with the assistance of appointed counsel, Muhammad was unable to do so before her replacement counsel was granted leave to withdraw.[2] No further replacement counsel was appointed, and Muhammad filed an Amended Complaint that was almost indistinguishable from the original. The primary differences in the Amended Complaint were a reduction of two pages and an addition of one count, bringing the total to sixteen.

Again Defendants filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The motions were fully briefed and each was granted by this Court on April 25, 2013, with respect to all sixteen counts. Muhammad was once more given leave to file this Second Amended Complaint.

Count I alleges excessive force and illegal search and seizure against Defendant Officers. Count II alleges civil conspiracy against Clark and Defendant Officers. Count III alleges trespass to chattel against Bowen, South Holland, and Officer P. Williams. Count IV alleges negligence against South Holland and Defendant Officers. Count V alleges a Monell claim against South Holland. Finally, Count VI alleges an indemnification claim for the Local Government Tort Immunity Act against South Holland.

Muhammad alleges she possessed on all dates relevant to this Complaint a valid lease of the property located at 84 Woodland Drive in South Holland, Illinois. (2d Am. Compl. Introduction, ¶ 24.) On August 22, 2010, Adolph Clark filed a police report to have occupants of the Woodland property removed. ( Id. ¶ 12.) South Holland Police accompanied Clark to the property and arrested Muhammad and two others. ( Id. ¶ 6.) While handcuffing Muhammad, police allegedly twisted Muhammad's arms behind her back, put the handcuffs on tightly, and forgot to double lock the handcuffs so they grew tighter on Muhammad's wrists. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) At some point during the arrest, officers allegedly seized Muhammad's purse, keys, and a 2003 Mercury Marquis. ( Id. ¶¶ 13, 16.)

The Circuit Court of Cook County issued Muhammad an order to retrieve her property from the residence. ( Id. ¶ 22.) Before Muhammad could enter the residence to retrieve her belongings, she alleges Bowen entered the residence, then seized and destroyed her property. ( Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) South Holland (including Defendant Officers) and Clark have moved to dismiss.

LEGAL STANDARD

To properly assert a claim in a complaint, the plaintiff must present "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and a demand for the relief sought...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. Rule 8 "does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) ( Iqbal ) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) ( Twombly )).

If pleadings do not conform to these guidelines, a defendant may move to dismiss, asserting that the plaintiff failed "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Alleged facts are presumed true, and pleadings must contain facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 572. Certain pleadings, though, may require more factual support than others to achieve plausibility. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 670. "Deference is afforded to pro se litigants with regards to pleading standards." Triplett v. Donahoe, No. 12-cv-5719, 2013 WL 1787497, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 25, 2013) (citing Duncan v. Duckworth, 644 F.2d 653, 655 (7th Cir. 1981). Nevertheless, presenting legal conclusions as factual allegations does not afford them the same presumption of truth in pleading. Twombly at 678.

ANALYSIS

Count I - Excessive Force and Illegal Search ...

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