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Laba v. Chicago Transit Authority

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

June 2, 2015

DUANE LABA, et al., Plaintiffs,


Charles P. Kocoras, United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Defendants Chicago Transit Authority (the “CTA”) and the individual defendants Sarah Guidone (“Guidone”), Hendrik “Hal” Woods (“Woods”), Kevin Loughnane (“Loughnane”) and Forrest Claypool (“Claypool”)[1] (the “Individual Defendants”) (collectively “Defendants”) to dismiss the amended complaint brought by Plaintiffs Duane Laba, Duffy McCann (“McCann”), Julia Berkowitz, Steve Affarano and Robert Schak (collectively “Plaintiffs”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.


For the purposes of the instant motion, the following well-pleaded allegations derived from Plaintiffs’ third amended complaint (the “Complaint”) are accepted as true. The Court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege that their former employer, the CTA, videotaped them from at least September 2013 to October 2013 in the Electrical Room at work, where they were permitted to change their clothes, without Plaintiffs’ knowledge or consent. Plaintiffs allege that over eighty hours of footage was secretly recorded of them. The Individual Defendants named in the Complaint were allegedly involved with the instruction and installation of the video cameras, and the review of the footage. Plaintiffs identify Bhayani, Loughnane and Claypool as supervisors. As a result of the video footage, Plaintiffs were terminated.

On January 16, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their six-count Complaint alleging: (i) the Individual Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) under their Fourth Amendment rights to privacy (Count I); (ii) the Individual Defendants violated state law for intrusion upon seclusion (Count II); (iii) Bhayani, Loughnane and Claypool violated Section 1983 in their supervisory capacity (Count III); (iv) a Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (a “Monell claim”) against the CTA for a violation of Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights (Count IV); (v) that the CTA is liable pursuant to state law indemnification principles under Section 9-102 of the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the “Tort Immunity Act”) for its employees’ violations while they acted within the scope of their employment (Count V); and (vi) that the CTA is liable for the actions of its agents, the Individual Defendants, under the doctrine of respondeat superior for the state law violations (Count VI). On March 31, 2015, Defendants moved to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6).


A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and not the merits of the case. McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 694 F.3d 873, 878 (7th Cir. 2012). The allegations in a complaint must set forth a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff need not provide detailed factual allegations but must provide enough factual support to raise her right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the pleadings must allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the purported misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The claims must be described “in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” EEOC v. Concentra Health Services, 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Id. at 678.


I. Federal Claims

A. Count IV: Monell Claim Against the CTA

Defendants move to dismiss Count IV, arguing that Plaintiffs have failed to establish a Monell claim against the CTA as there is no allegation that Claypool, the CTA President, has final policymaking authority. Plaintiffs allege that Claypool, as the CTA President, was an official policymaker for the CTA and he instructed and delegated the task to install the video cameras to other Individual Defendants. Defendants argue that the fact that Claypool has “decision-making” authority does not render that official a final policymaker. It is well settled that a municipality is not vicariously liable under Section 1983 for the actions of its employees unless the employee acted pursuant to a municipal policy or custom. Monell, 436 U.S. at 658. When a plaintiff brings a Monell claim, a municipal entity like the CTA is only responsible for “[its] own illegal acts.” Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1359 (2011). A plaintiff may establish an official policy or custom by showing: (i) an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (ii) a widespread practice that, although not authorized by written law or express municipal policy, is so permanent and well-settled as to constitute a “custom or usage” with the force of law; or (iii) the act of a person with final policy-making authority. Guzman v. Sheahan, 495 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2007). The determination of whether a person has policymaking authority is a question of state law, and is to be decided by the Court. Valentino v. Vill. of S. Chicago Heights, 575 F.3d 664, 675 (7th Cir. 2009).

Plaintiffs plead in their Complaint that a single decision by a municipal policy maker can give rise to liability under Section 1983 and do not allege that what occurred was an express policy or widespread practice. After review, the well-pleaded allegations in Count IV will stand. Plaintiffs have pleaded enough factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that Claypool, as the CTA President, may have possessed, or had been delegated, final policy-making authority that resulted in the violation of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. See Fabiano v. City of Palos Hills, 336 Ill.App.3d 635, 656 (2002). Discovery will show the relationship between the CTA Board and Claypool, including whether the Board delegated Claypool the power to install and use the video cameras or if the CTA Board conferred the final policy-making authority to someone else to establish official municipal policy. See Radic v. CTA, 73 F.3d 159, 161 (7th Cir. 1996) (finding that the plaintiff “needed to show that the Board somehow acted to confer policymaking authority on a particular official before his or her actions could be considered policy decisions); see also City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 126 (1988) (“If the mere exercise of discretion by an employee could give rise to a constitutional violation, the result would be indistinguishable from respondeat superior liability”). These facts will assist the Court in determining whether Claypool had final policymaking authority, but at this present posture, and based on the allegations in the Complaint, it is plausible that CTA President Claypool was delegated final policymaking authority. For this reason, the instant matter is distinguishable from the main case cited by Defendants, Ball v. City of Indianapolis, because Claypool served in such a high leadership position for the CTA. Ball, 760 F.3d 636, 643 (7th Cir. 2014) (where the Seventh Circuit held that the plaintiff’s Monell claim failed because he supplied no reason to believe that an ordinary police officer was a final policymaker when he drafted and signed a probable cause affidavit). Therefore, we deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss Count IV. The sufficiency of Plaintiffs’ alleged constitutional violations is discussed below.

B. Counts I: Section 1983 Claims Against the Individual Defendants

The Court will now address Defendants’ argument that Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead an unreasonable workplace search and seizure violation under the Fourth Amendment to support their Section 1983 claims. Defendants state that the Individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and ...

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