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Esparza v. Dart

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

November 4, 2014

BULMARO ESPARZA, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS DART, Sheriff of Cook County, COOK COUNTY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Bulmaro Esparza ("Esparza") filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Thomas Dart, the Sherriff of Cook County, ("Dart") and Cook County, Illinois ("Cook County"). Presently before us is Defendants' motion to dismiss Esparza's entire complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Esparza's claims stem from injuries that he incurred while at the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC") as a pretrial detainee from February 2010 through July 2012. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 2.)[1] In his complaint, Esparza alleges that on November 11, 2010 he suffered serious physical injuries while a detainee at Cook County Jail, including a fracture to his right hand. ( Id. ¶ 5.) He further alleges that he "made numerous unsuccessful written requests for medical care to his injured hand, " and that "[a]s part of a widespread practice at the Cook County Jail, [he] did not receive treatment to set the fracture in his hand, which is now permanently deformed." ( Id. ¶¶ 6-7.)

On October 2, 2012, Esparza filed a pro se § 1983 lawsuit regarding these injuries, naming various employees of CCDOC as defendants, and on November 27, 2012 he added Dart as a defendant. (Dkts. 1 & 5, Esparza v. Dart et al., No. 12 C 7909.) After Esparza secured counsel, we granted his voluntary motion to dismiss with leave to refile. (Dkt. 16, Esparza v. Dart et al., No. 12 C 7909.) On February 28, 2014, Esparza refiled his case naming Dart and Cook County as defendants. In that complaint, Esparza stated that "Defendant Cook County, Illinois is joined in this action pursuant to Carver v. Sheriff of LaSalle County, 324 F.3d 947 (7th Cir. 2003) and may be liable for the policies alleged herein." (Dkt. 1, Original Compl. ¶ 4.)

Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), alleging that: (1) Esparza's allegations against Cook County are time barred; (2) Esparza failed to allege sufficient facts to sustain a § 1983 claim against Cook County; and (3) Esparza is unlikely to prevail in his claim of deliberate indifference against Dart. In his response, Esparza clarified that he is not asserting substantive § 1983 claims against Cook County; rather, he simply seeks indemnification for any official capacity judgments entered against Dart. (Resp. at 3.) For that reason, we will not address Defendants' second argument. We consider the other two arguments in turn.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is meant to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Specifically, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 540 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). The plausibility standard "is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. Thus, while a complaint need not give "detailed factual allegations, " it must provide more than "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 540 U.S. at 545, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65; Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618-19 (7th Cir. 2007). The statement must be sufficient to provide the defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and its basis. Twombly, 540 U.S. at 545, 127 S.Ct. at 1964 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102 (1957)); Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, we must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Reg., 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002).

DISCUSSION

I. Indemnification Claim Against Cook County

Defendants argue that Esparza's claim against Cook County is time barred because he did not name Cook County as a defendant until after the statute of limitations for § 1983 claims expired. (Mot. at 3-4; Reply at 1.) "[A] statute of limitations defense is not normally part of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), [but] when the allegations of the complaint reveal that relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim." Logan v. Wilkins, 644 F.3d 577, 582 (7th Cir. 2011); U.S. Gypsum Co. v. Ind. Gas Co., Inc., 350 F.3d 623, 626 (7th Cir. 2003) ("[A] litigant may plead itself out of court by alleging (and thus admitting) the ingredients of a defense...").

Defendants' statute of limitations argument fails for two distinct reasons. First, Defendants' urge us to apply the wrong statute of limitations. When we apply the proper limitations period-that for indemnification claims, not § 1983 claims-Esparza's claim against Cook County is clearly not time barred. Second, even if we apply the § 1983 statute of limitations as Defendants propose, we find that Esparza's claim against Cook County relates back to his timely-filed complaint against Dart, and thus it should not be dismissed.

A. Statute of Limitations for Indemnification

In arguing that Esparza's claim against Cook County is time barred, Defendants apply the wrong statute of limitations. Defendants assert that Esparza's claim is precluded by the two-year statute of limitations for substantive § 1983 claims. (Mot. at 3-4.) Esparza is not, however, pursuing substantive § 1983 claims against Cook County. Rather, Esparza made clear in his response that he ...


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