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Johansen v. Haydysch

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

May 1, 2015



JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge.

An acrimonious severance of a landlord-tenant relationship gave rise to this civil rights suit against police officers of the Village of Hampshire ("the Village") and others alleged to have conspired with them to violate plaintiffs' civil rights. On July 1, 2014, Scott Johansen and Hytel Group, Inc. ("Hytel"), the tenants, filed suit against the Village, police officers Haydysch and Neblock, police sergeant Ferguson, the landlord C & L Farms, its principal William Burnidge, and C & L Farms' insurance carrier, Cincinnati Insurance Company ("Cincinnati"), alleging violations of their due process rights protected by the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as various state-law claims. (Dkts. 1, 46.) Before the court are three motions to dismiss: Cincinnati's motion to dismiss the conspiracy claim (dkt. 24); William Burnidge's and C & L Farms' motion to dismiss the conspiracy claim and first due process claim (dkt. 28); and the Village defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' second due process claim (dkt. 51). For the reasons stated below, defendants' motions are granted.[1]


I. Dispute with C & L Farms

In 1993, Hytel signed a lease for a property located at 290 Industrial Drive in Hampshire, Illinois. (Dkt. 46 ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 13.) Ownership of the leased premises was later transferred to C & L Farms, making C & L Farms Hytel's landlord. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Hytel operated successfully until 2011, when it could no longer afford to pay its monthly rent. ( Id. ¶ 17.) Hytel initiated a move to Elgin, Illinois before its lease with C & L Farms expired. ( See id. ) Relevant to this case, the lease had a specific article addressing trade fixtures:

Any trade fixtures belonging to and installed by the Tenant in the Leased Premises prior to or during the term of this Lease are to be and remain the property of the Tenant no matter how they may be attached to or incorporated in the Leased Premises, and Tenant shall have the duty to remove same at the termination of this Lease and to repair, at its own expense, any damage to the Leased Premises caused by the installation or removal of such fixtures.

( Id. ¶ 15.)

On February 8, 2011, C & L filed a forcible entry and detainer suit against Hytel. ( Id. ¶ 18.) In July, C & L Farms and Hytel executed a settlement agreement under which Hytel would pay C & L Farms $100, 000 in exchange for C & L Farms' termination of the lease. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Under the settlement agreement, Hytel had to vacate the leased premises by July 22, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 22.) Johansen, however, was unable to meet that deadline and, despite their strained relationship, persuaded Burnidge to give him more time. ( Id. ¶ 23.) Burnidge agreed to allow Hytel to occupy the building until the move was complete. ( Id. )

On September 27, 2011, C & L Farms changed the locks to the leased premises without notifying Hytel. ( Id. ¶ 24.) Burnidge contacted the Kane County Sheriff's Office, which sent a deputy to post an eviction notice on the premises. ( Id. ) Burnidge and the deputy inspected the premises and noted that most of the electrical fixtures were disconnected or had been removed. ( Id. ) Hytel began to vacate the premises soon after. ( Id. ) It continued to remove the electrical fixtures, as it had before the eviction notice. ( See id. ) Each time Hytel removed the fixtures, it had to ask Burnidge to unlock the premises to give it access. Burnidge always agreed, often staying at the building site and watching the removal. ( Id. ) On several occasions, the deputy sheriff who had posted the eviction notice was present as well. ( Id. )

In October 2011, Burnidge contacted Cincinnati and claimed that Johansen had stolen the trade fixtures. ( Id. ¶ 26.) A Cincinnati representative visited the premises and agreed that "theft or at least vandalism" had taken place. ( Id. ) Cincinnati processed Burnidge's claim on behalf of C & L Farms, paying C & L Farms more than $44, 000 in compensation. ( See id. ¶¶ 26, 29.)

II. Dispute with Hampshire Police Department

Around this same time (and apparently unrelated to the conflict between Burnidge and Johansen), Johansen reported a theft to the Hampshire Police Department ("the Police Department"). He claimed a former employee had forged documents in order to take a "substantial amount of money" from the company. ( Id. ¶ 30.) Johansen was not satisfied with the Police Department's response and at one point called the Police Department "demanding answers." ( Id. ¶ 31.) Sergeant Ferguson ordered a copy of the tape of this conversation to give to the Hampshire Chief of Police. ( Id. ¶ 32.) Ferguson later sent Johansen an email telling him that if he continued to complain about the investigation, either at the Village Hall or over the phone, Ferguson would have him arrested. ( Id. ¶ 33.)

III. Alleged Conspiracy

Plaintiffs allege that Burnidge, "a business leader in Hampshire, " conspired with Cincinnati, Ferguson, and Officers Haydysch[3] and Neblock "to frame Johansen for the alleged theft of the trade fixtures." ( Id. ¶ 34.) According to plaintiffs, Cincinnati told Burnidge that he should file criminal charges against Johansen "so that the loss claim on behalf of C & L Farms would be accepted." ...

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