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Amin Ijbara Equity Corp. v. Village of Oak Lawn

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

July 27, 2015

AMIN IJBARA EQUITY CORP, an Illinois Corporation et. al, Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE OF OAK LAWN, a Municipal Corp., et al.; Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

REBECCA R. PALLMEYER, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Amin Ijbara Equity Corp. and its owner, Amin Ijbara (collectively, "Ijbara") filed their initial seven-count complaint [1] against the Village of Oak Lawn, the Village of Oak Lawn Department of Water, and various Village officials and private parties. ( See Orig. Compl. [1].) In the complaint, Ijbara alleged generally that Defendants discriminated against him and his business, but the pleading was deficient in a number of ways. See Amin Ijbara Equity Corp. v. Village of Oaklawn, No. 13-cv-9337, 2014 WL 6735446, *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 26, 2014) (noting that the original complaint "failed to identify the dates or even time frames when alleged events took placed, named improper parties, and otherwise failed to state claims for relief"). Defendants moved to dismiss [15], and Ijbara filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion, but then sought leave to file an amended complaint [27]. The court flagged the possibility of a timeliness challenge to the new action, see Ijbara Equity Corp., 2014 WL 6735446 at *3, but found the amended complaint contained enough additional allegations and information to require a new responsive pleading. Id. The court therefore granted Ijbara's motion and struck Defendant's motion to dismiss without prejudice. See generally Amin Ijbara Equity Corp., No. 13-cv-9337, 2014 WL 6735446.

Defendants now move to dismiss [49] the amended complaint, arguing that all of Ijbara's claims are barred on statute of limitations grounds. For the reasons discussed below, the court agrees and dismisses the amended complaint, with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are laid out in the court's previous opinion, see generally Amin Ijbara Equity Corp. v. Village of Oak Lawn, No. 13-cv-9337, 2014 WL 6735446 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 26, 2014), but the court revisits them in some detail here because the timing and sequence of events is important to resolve Defendant's statute of limitations arguments.

Amin Ijbara once owned a retail shopping center (the "Plaza") in the Village of Oak Lawn, but disputes with certain Plaza tenants and later with Village of Oak Lawn officials caused his business to fail. (First Am. Compl. [34], ¶¶ 1-2.) Owners of a liquor store in the Plaza, Defendants James Baker and Gregory Haraf, approached Ijbara in March 2010, seeking a lease renewal for their store, which was set to expire on November 30, 2010. ( See id. ¶ 19.) Ijbara refused to renew the lease: He asserts that he did not want liquor sold at the Plaza because kids from a nearby high school "cause[d] a great deal of trouble for the Plaza by leaving alcohol and beer bottles in the parking lot and around the Plaza." ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 19, 22.) Ijbara offered to renew Baker and Haraf's lease for the sale of groceries only, but this did not improve relations: at one point, Ijbara alleges that Haraf threatened to kill him. ( Id. ¶ 24.)

In any event, Ijbara alleges that "[a]bout a week" after Baker and Haraf approached Ijbara to discuss the lease renewal, Village Manager Larry Deetjen sent "inspectors" to the Plaza, who required Ijbara to install new sprinkler and fire systems, at a total cost of more than $60, 000. (First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 27-28.) According to Ijbara, "Defendants' implication was that if [Ijbara] renewed the Lease for the sale of liquor, then he would not have to change his sprinkler system and his fire system." ( Id. ¶ 20.) Deetjen allegedly made comments to some of Ijbara's tenants to the effect that it wasn't fair for Ijbara "to kick out the liquor store." ( Id. ) Deetjen, Ijbara maintains, used this tactic of sending inspectors to the Plaza to jostle him at least one more time: in January 2011, Deetjen arrived at the Plaza with more than five inspectors who proceeded to "issu[e] various Code violations against the Plaza, which were based on frivolous inspections and bogus violations." ( Id. ¶ 25.) Later that same January, Deetjen requested a meeting of Ijbara, the Village's Chief of Police and Fire Chief, and eight other Village officials. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 26.) At that meeting, Deetjen "charge[d] [Ijbara] with numerous Code violations in the Plaza." ( Id. )

Ijbara did eventually install new sprinkler and fire systems at some point in 2010 or 2011, but Deetjen claimed the repairs for both systems were inadequate and ordered that more work be done. ( Id. ¶¶ 5, 27-28.) Even then, Ijbara alleges, the Village "was not satisfied with the repairs" and "continued to cancel and delay inspections" of the fire system. ( Id . ¶ 28.) Deetjen further required Ijbara to replace the Plaza's water pipes at a cost of $12, 600, even though "the existing water pipes were functioning normally and... were in compliance with both the Village of Oak Lawn and the City of Chicago Codes." (First Am. Compl. ¶ 29.) None of the repairs Ijbara paid for were ever approved by the Village. ( Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) Deetjen also claimed that Ijbara owed $10, 000 on a water bill, Ijbara alleges, when in fact the bill had been incurred by a prior tenant. ( Id. ¶¶ 33-35.) Though the complaint cites dates only sporadically, the allegations reflect that all of this conduct occurred sometime between 2009 and 2011: the Plaza went into receivership in early February 2011, as discussed below.

According to Ijbara, Deetjen used his power as Village Manager to refuse to allow new tenants to move into the Plaza. One prospective tenant invested $10, 000 in a Hershey Ice Cream shop in anticipation of opening a store, but Deetjen "refused to process [that tenant's] business license or forward it to the Village Board of Trustees for a vote." ( Id. ¶ 37.) Deetjen then told the would-be tenant to get his $10, 000 investment back from Ijbara. ( Id. ) Deetjen allegedly rejected two other prospective tenants by failing to process their business license applications: Ghassan Balote, who wanted to open a banquet hall; and Amjed Ramahi, who sought to open a day care center. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 40.)

Deetjen's campaign to put Ijbara of business succeeded. Because of Deetjen and the other Defendants' actions, Ijbara asserts,

there was a reduction of the Plaza's average monthly rent roll from $38, 000.00 in 2010, to $7, 000.00 in 2011, as a result of not being able to obtain a business license for any of the Plaza's prospective tenants. This fact, together with Amin spending $67, 600.00 for alleged Code violations, resulted in Amin not being able to pay the monthly mortgage payments, which in turn resulted in the Bank obtaining a judgment of foreclosure and sale, entered on July 23, 2012. ( Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., v. Amin Ijbara Equity Corp., et al., Case No. 11 CH 06459).

(First Am. Compl. ¶ 42.) Athough the court does not generally consider matters outside the pleadings in resolving a motion to dismiss, see Williams v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013), it may consider "documents that are central to the complaint and are referred to it in it, and information that is properly subject to judicial notice." Id. Because Ijbara mentioned the foreclosure proceedings in his amended complaint, the court will review certain documents from those proceedings that Defendants have included as exhibits to their memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss the amended complaint.

The foreclosure action was originally filed on February 22, 2011. ( See Docket, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Amin Ijbara Equity Corp., et al., No. 2011-CH-06459, Ex. 1 [50-1] to Def. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss [50].) Plaintiffs were served on March 9, 2011, and on April 22, 2011, an attorney for Ijbara filed an appearance. ( Id. ) On April 22, 2011, the state court appointed a receiver to manage the property. (Order Appointing Receiver, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Amin Ijbara Equity Corp., et al., Ex. 2 [50-2] to Def. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss.) The court's order directed the receiver to collect rents and otherwise act to preserve the value of the estate. ( Id. )

A Village official, Hasan Keshta, told Ijbara at some point prior to the foreclosure action "that [Ijbara's] prospective tenants' business applications in the Plaza were never processed and were never submitted to the Board of Trustees for a vote." (First Am. Compl. ¶ 30.) Also, according to Ijbara, at unknown times, but presumably preceding the reduction in rent rolls he mentions elsewhere, "existing tenants... were forced to make repairs based on many bogus Code violations." ( Id. ) The drop in rent collection, coupled with expenses associated with making repairs for purported code violations, eventually resulted in ...


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