United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ALBERT VAUGHN, SR., as administrator for the estate of Albert Vaughn, Jr., Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge.
Albert Vaughn, Sr. ("Plaintiff") has sued the City of Chicago and four of its police officers (collectively, "Defendants") under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his deceased son's substantive due process rights. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Alternatively, Defendants seek dismissal on qualified immunity grounds. I deny Defendants' motion for the reasons stated below.
At the motion to dismiss stage, I must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014).
On April 5, 2008, around 11:00 pm, Albert Vaughn, Jr. ("Vaughn") was in the vicinity of 7033 South Throop Street in Chicago, Illinois when an altercation between two groups started in the street. Vaughn left the area before the four police officers who are named as defendants in this suit arrived at the scene.
While the police officers stood between the two groups trying to disperse the crowd, Vaughn returned to the scene in search of his younger brother. Vaughn was carrying a stick to protect himself and joined one of the groups. Upon noticing Vaughn, Officer Robert Cummings drew his gun and pointed it at Vaughn. Meanwhile, the other officer defendants ordered Vaughn to drop the stick. Vaughn complied.
When a man in the opposing group began yelling obscenities at Vaughn, he picked up the stick he had brought to the scene for self-protection. The officer defendants, who were standing within a few feet of Vaughn, once again ordered him to drop the stick. Vaughn complied.
The man who had been shouting obscenities at Vaughn then made his way through the crowd carrying a metal baseball bat. The defendant officers did not order the man to halt or drop the bat as he approached Vaughn. Instead, the officers simply watched as the man clubbed Vaughn in the head with the bat and then fled from the scene. Vaughn was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Vaughn's father filed the present suit in his capacity as the administrator of his son's estate. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or, alternatively, on qualified immunity grounds.
Defendants argue that the complaint fails to state a plausible claim that they violated any of Vaughn's constitutional rights and should be dismissed with prejudice. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (in order to survive Rule 12(b)(6) motion, complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face"). Plaintiff counters that the complaint states a plausible claim that Defendants violated his son's due process rights by placing him in a more dangerous situation than he otherwise would have faced and then failing to protect him.
"As a general matter... a State's failure to protect an individual against private violence simply does not constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause." DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep't of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 197 (1989). " DeShaney, however, [left] the door open for liability in situations where the state creates a dangerous situation or renders citizens more vulnerable to danger." Reed v. Gardner, 986 F.2d 1122, 1125 (7th Cir. 1993). The so-called "state-created danger" doctrine has three elements:
First, in order for the Due Process Clause to impose upon a state the duty to protect its citizens, the state, by its affirmative acts, must create or increase a danger faced by an individual.
Second, the failure on the part of the state to protect an individual from such a danger must be the proximate cause ...