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Mehta v. Village of Bolingbrook

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

December 29, 2014

KIRTI MEHTA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE OF BOLINGBROOK, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

In their original complaint in this lawsuit, filed on August 7, 2012, plaintiffs Kirti, Keval, Kishan, and April Mehta alleged that the defendants, the Village of Bolingbrook and deputy chief of police Tom Ross, had engaged in a pattern of wrongful and discriminatory conduct directed at them, going back to 1996. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants had failed to investigate crimes committed against them; had framed certain plaintiffs on criminal charges; and had subjected them to stop and search on sight without cause. From 2006 on, plaintiffs alleged, defendants did all of this in order to drive plaintiffs out of their neighborhood in Bolingbrook, a housing development known as Beaconridge. Plaintiffs' complaint made specific reference to an incident on August 18-19, 2010, when gunshots were filed at plaintiffs' home. After they called 911, the police came but, after talking to the manager of the housing development, failed to investigate the shooting. A second similar shooting incident occurred on May 9, 2011, plaintiffs alleged, with a similar lack of action on the part of the police.

Plaintiffs further alleged that on August 5, 2011, Bolingbrook police officers instituted false felony charges against Keval and Kishan Mehta for a crime alleged to have occurred on February 18, 2011. This was done in part, plaintiffs allege, to retaliate for the reinstatement of an earlier lawsuit Kirti Mehta had filed against Bolingbrook.

The original complaint included four claims. Count 1 was a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the above-described misconduct and inaction was based on plaintiffs' race and national origin. Count 2 was a claim under the Fair Housing Act alleging a race and national origin-based attempt to drive plaintiffs out of their home in Bolingbrook. Count 3 was a claim of race-based housing discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1982. Count 4 was a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for retaliation; plaintiffs alleged that defendants had intimidated and harassed them to retaliate for the earlier lawsuit.

On November 20, 2012, the Court stayed the case, but only in part. Because the above-referenced criminal charges against Keval and Kishan Mehta were still pending in state court, the Court stayed any "claims relating to the allegedly false arrest and improper charging" of those two plaintiffs. The Court otherwise declined to enter a stay and directed defendants to answer the complaint.

The state court criminal charges against Keval and Kishan Mehta were ultimately concluded by way of a conviction of both of them. (They have since moved to vacate their convictions, but at present the convictions remain on the books.) Accordingly, on November 6, 2013, the Court lifted the previously-imposed stay. Defendants then moved to dismiss Keval and Kishan Mehta's claims arising from the August 2011 arrest, arguing that the claims were barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), because their convictions had not been overturned. The Court denied this motion in an oral ruling on January 29, 2014, concluding that Heck does not bar a claim of false arrest because such a claim does not necessarily imply the invalidity of a later conviction on the charge for which the plaintiff was arrested.

Plaintiffs later sought leave to file an amended complaint, adding one more plaintiff and several claims. After briefing and argument, the Court made an oral ruling on June 4, 2014, summarized in an order entered that same date. The Court gave plaintiffs leave to amend to include claims arising from incidents in March and April 2014, as well as the defendants claimed to have been involved in those incidents and the additional plaintiff-Ketan Mehta-involved in one of them. The Court declined leave to amend to include other, earlier incidents not referenced in the original complaint and the defendants involved in those incidents, finding that such claims were time-barred. Plaintiffs then moved for reconsideration. In an oral ruling on June 18, 2014 summarized in an order of the same date, the Court expanded its earlier ruling to permit Kishan and Keval Mehta to add claims and defendants arising from their August 2011 arrest that had been the subject of claims in their original complaint. The Court otherwise reaffirmed its June 4 ruling, again concluding that new claims and defendants relating to other, earlier incidents not referenced in the original complaint were time-barred.

Plaintiffs then filed, at the Court's direction, an amended complaint including only the claims the Court had allowed to proceed. Plaintiffs emphasize in their amended complaint that their claims involve events "from August 2010 to Current [sic] as to comply [with] Two years statue [sic] of limitation." Am. Compl. ¶ 4(c). The amended complaint includes eight claims. Count 1 is a claim of discrimination based on national origin and religion in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Count 2 is a claim of national origin and religion-based discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count 3 is a claim of housing discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 3617. Count 4 is a claim of housing discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1982. Count 5 is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for retaliation for filing and prosecuting an earlier lawsuit. Count 6 is a claim of false arrest and false imprisonment based on the August 9, 2011 arrest of Keval and Kishan Mehta. Count 7 is a claim by Keval and Kishan Mehta for emotional distress arising from the same incident. Count 8 is a claim by Keval and Kishan Mehta for willful and wanton misconduct arising from the same incident.

Defendants have moved to dismiss all of the claims in whole or in part. The Court deals with each claim in turn.

1. Count 1 - equal protection claim

The Court agrees with defendants that Counts 1 and 2 completely overlap. Count 1 is a claim of discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Count 2 is also a claim of discrimination, made under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 is the vehicle by which one asserts a claim for a violation of constitutional rights. There is no need, and no appropriate purpose, to have two separate claims that allege the same thing. Because Count 2 cites the statute that enables plaintiffs to sue, the Court dismisses Count 1 as duplicative of Count 2.

2. Count 2 - claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

a. Statute of limitations/relation back

Defendants' primary problem with Count 2 appears to be that they believe the claim is based on pre-June 19, 2012 incidents (June 19, 2012 is two years before the date plaintiffs filed the amended complaint). Indeed it is; plaintiffs base this claim in part on the August 2010 incident described earlier. And as the Court has noted, plaintiffs make clear in their amended complaint that they are basing their claim on matters that occurred from August 2010 to the present.

For purposes of Count 2, the law does not limit plaintiffs to events that occurred two years or less before they filed the amended complaint in June 2014. Plaintiffs' section 1983 discrimination claim has been in the complaint from day one. For this reason, the amended version, insofar as it involves the same defendants originally named, relates back to the date the lawsuit was filed, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(B), and the two-year limitations period runs back two years prior to that date, in other words, back to August 7, 2010. Count 2 is therefore timely as to the Village and Ross, who were named as defendants in the original complaint. See Defs.' Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss at 8 n.3 (declining to seek dismissal of Count 2 as to the Village and Ross on this basis). Plaintiffs' reference in Count 2 to incidents predating August 2010 is not a basis to dismiss the claim, given plaintiffs' express limitation of the claim to events occurring in August 2010 and later. Now is not the time to decide whether plaintiffs may introduce earlier incidents as evidence on Count 2 even though they cannot assert claims arising from those incidents.

The timeliness problem with Count 2 concerns any newly-named defendants whom plaintiffs intend to sue on this claim. The original defendants, as indicated above, were the Village and Ross. It is not crystal clear which other defendants are named in this claim in the amended complaint. But if one reviews the narrative description in the amended complaint of the incidents occurring in August 2010 and later, it appears that plaintiffs are naming the following police officer defendants. In this list, the Court has spelled the names as plaintiffs did in the cited portions of the amended complaint.

• August 18-19, 2010: Sergeant Champ Evans and Officers Christopher Kushenbach, Thomas McAlluf, and Robert Liazuk. Am. Compl., ¶ 5.
• April 2011 (no specific date): Officer Patrick Kinsella. Id. at p. 17 fn. 4.
• May 9, 2011: Detective Sean Talbot and Officers Steven Sinnott, Christopher Witt, Andrew Saga, and David Henzler. Id. ¶ 10.
• June 2011 (no specific date): Officer Vince Radaker. Id. at p. 16 fn. 3.
• August 5, 2011: Detective Sean Talbot, id. ¶ 13, as well as, possibly, Officers Andrew Sraga and Antonio Tucker. Id. ¶ 14.
• March 9, 2014: Officer Vince Redaker, Sergeant Brant Duvall, Officer Joseph Hilbruner, and Officer Davi. Id. ¶¶ 16 & 18.
• March 25, 2014 (mistakenly described in the complaint as March 19, 2014): Officers Joseph Poradyla ...

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