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Cazares v. Frugoli

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 11, 2014

JOSE ANDRES CAZARES, as Special Administrator of the Estate of ANDREW CAZARES, deceased and FAUSTO T. MANZERA, as Special Administrator of the Estate of FAUSTO A. MANZERA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JOSEPH FRUGOLI, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Andrew Cazares and Fausto A. Manzera were killed when the car they were riding in was struck by a car driven by an off-duty Chicago police officer, Joseph Frugoli. Jose Andres Cazeres and Fausto T. Manzera, as special administrators of the estates of Andrew Cazares and Fausto T. Manzera, respectively, sued the officer and the City of Chicago alleging that both violated the constitutional rights of the deceased in relation to that car accident on April 10, 2009. Specifically, in Count VIII of Cazares' Complaint and Count VI of Manzera's Complaint, the plaintiffs allege Monell claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2036 (1978) (local governments may be sued for constitutional deprivations caused by governmental custom). The Plaintiffs allege that the City violated their decedents' substantive due process right to bodily integrity based on the City's de facto policies of concealing or suppressing police officer misconduct, investigating complaints against off-duty officers differently than complaints against other citizens, failing to enforce its own rules codified in the Rules of Conduct of the Chicago Police Department, and failing to properly monitor or supervise its officers, along with allowing for a code of silence within the Chicago Police Department that permits these practices to occur. The City moved to dismiss the Monell claims for lack of a constitutional deprivation. Because a plausible set of facts exists indicating a constitutional deprivation occurred, and for the reasons discussed herein, the City's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

This Court takes the following allegations from the Manzera Complaint[1], which the Plaintiffs originally filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on July 12, 2013, and treats them as true for purposes of the City's motion.

April 10, 2009 Incident

On April 10, 2009, defendant Joseph Frugoli, a Chicago Police Officer, was off-duty drinking alcoholic beverages at "Dugan's on Halsted" (the "Tavern") with other off-duty officers and in the presence of on-duty officers. (Dkt. 1-1, Manzera Complaint P. 7 ¶ 4). Frugoli became intoxicated while at the Tavern. (Compl. P. 7, ¶ 5). Frugoli left the Tavern and got into his car, which he proceeded to operate while intoxicated. (Compl. P. 7, ¶ 6; P. 11 ¶ 7). Frugoli drove his car southbound on Interstate 94, where Plaintiffs' decedents were also driving. (Compl. P. 7, ¶ 8-9). Frugoli's car came into contact with and struck the decedents' stopped car on the road. (Compl. P. 7, ¶ 8; P. 8, ¶ 10). Both decedents sustained severe injuries and subsequently died. (Compl. P. 10, ¶ 21).

Previous Conduct

On January 16, 2005, Frugoli was involved in an auto accident where Chicago police investigators determined that the contributory causes were speeding and consumption of alcohol. (Compl. P. 11, ¶ 9). On January 21, 2008, Frugoli drove a police car into a concrete barrier. (Compl. P. 12, ¶ 10). On January 27, 2008, Frugoli was involved in an auto accident in which he failed to stop at a stop sign, struck a Chicago police car, and injured an on-duty Chicago police officer. (Compl. P. 12, ¶ 11). As with the January 16, 2005 accident, this incident was alcohol related. (Compl. P. 12, ¶ 11). According to the Plaintiffs, the City did not charge or prosecute Frugoli for the two alcohol-related violations because he was a Chicago policeman. (Compl. P. 11, ¶ 9; P. 12, ¶ 11). Furthermore, the City failed to discipline Frugoli for either of the incidents. (Compl. P. 15, ¶ 16).

LEGAL STANDARD

A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible on its face when the complaint contains factual content that supports a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the harm. Id. The complaint should be dismissed only if the plaintiffs would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. See Visitng Nurses Ass'n of Southwestern Indiana, Inc. v. Shalala, 213 F.3d 352, 354 (7th Cir. 2000). For purposes of this motion, this Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013). In this case, the allegations in the Plaintiffs' complaint properly outline the elements of a constitutional violation by the City.

DISCUSSION

In Count VI of the Complaint, the Plaintiffs allege that the City violated their decedents' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to security in bodily integrity. See Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, (1997) (the "liberty" specially protected by the Due Process Clause includes the right to bodily integrity); see also Alexander v. DeAngelo, 329 F.3d 912, 916 (7th Cir. 2003) (the due process liberty of bodily integrity is infringed by a serious, rather than nominal, battery). In particular, the Plaintiffs contend that the de facto policies of the City in concealing officer misconduct, investigating complaints against off-duty officers differently than complaints against other citizens, failing to enforce its own rules, failing to properly monitor its police officers, and maintaining a custom of a "code of silence" regarding officer misconduct internally deprived the decedents of their right to bodily integrity. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 692 (municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor, plaintiff must identify municipal "policy" or "custom" that caused plaintiff's injury).

Therefore, the Plaintiffs' Monell claim asserts that the City's de facto policies were the moving force behind the deprivation of the decedents' substantive due process right to be secure in their bodily integrity. See Board of County Com'rs of Bryan County, Okl. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997) ("[I]t is not enough for a § 1983 plaintiff merely to identify conduct properly attributable to the municipality. The plaintiff must also demonstrate that, through its deliberate conduct, the municipality was the "moving force" behind the injury alleged.); see also Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 604 F.3d 293, 306 (7th Cir. 2009) ("the premise behind a § 1983 action against a government body is the allegation that official policy is responsible for the deprivation of rights.'") (emphasis in original). The fact that Frugoli was off duty does not cripple the Plaintiffs' complaint because the allegation is that the City policy itself caused the deprivation of bodily integrity. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1519-20 (7th Cir. 1990) (where the City policy itself causes the injury, the municipality becomes the state actor and its action in maintaining the alleged policy at issue supplies the "color of law" requirement under § 1983).

To establish liability against the City under Monell, the Plaintiffs must show that: (1) they suffered a deprivation of a federal right; (2) as a result of either an express municipal policy, widespread custom, or deliberate act of a decision-maker; which (3) was the proximate cause of their injury. See Ovadal v. City of Madison, Wisconsin, 416 F.3d 531, 535 (7th Cir. 2005); see also Ienco v. City of Chicago, 286 F.3d 994, 998 (7th Cir. 2002). The City argues that the Plaintiffs fail to satisfy the first requirement of Monell by couching their state claim against Frugoli, individually, in negligence. See County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 849, (1998) (liability for negligently inflicted harm is categorically beneath the threshold of constitutional due process); see also Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328, (1986) (Due Process Clause is not implicated by a negligent act of an official causing unintended loss of or injury to life, liberty, or property). Without a constitutional ...


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