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Davidson v. Evergreen Park Community High School District No. 231

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

August 18, 2016



          MARY M. ROWLAND United States Magistrate Judge

         Brad Davidson initiated this action against Evergreen Park Community High School District 231, alleging that it denied him leave or use of leave as provided for in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2917. Davidson also alleges that Evergreen Park fired him because of his use of FMLA leave and in doing so breached its agreement to accept his retirement date at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of the Amended Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.


         In December 2012, Davidson notified Evergreen Park of his intent to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, which was accepted by Evergreen Park in January 2013. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 3, 6). In August 2014, Davidson sought leave under the FMLA to care for his wife who was suffering from a serious health condition. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 17). Evergreen Park failed to make a determination as to whether Davidson’s wife’s illness was a FMLA-qualifying event. (Id. ¶ 19). Evergreen Park fired Davidson on April 1, 2015, at least in part because of his use of leave that was or would have been protected by the FMLA. (Id. ¶ 12).


         A. Legal Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide its merits. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss must be considered in light of the liberal pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2), which requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (internal citations and alterations omitted). Determination of the sufficiency of a claim must be made “on the assumption that all allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (emphasis omitted).

         B. Breach of Contract

         In Count III, Davidson alleges that Evergreen Park entered into an agreement with him when it accepted his offer to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. (Compl. ¶ 39). Davidson further alleges that despite performing all of his obligations under the agreement, Evergreen Park breached the agreement by terminating his employment in April 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 40-41). Evergreen Park contends that Davidson cannot state a claim for breach of contract “because no contract existed between the parties that prevented the School District from discharging him.” (Mot. 2).

         To maintain a breach of contract claim under Illinois law, [2] “a plaintiff must plead and prove the existence of a contract, the performance of its conditions by the plaintiff, a breach by the defendant, and damages as a result of the breach.” Kopley Grp. V., L.P. v. Sheridan Edgewater Properties, Ltd., 876 N.E.2d 218, 226 (Ill.App.Ct. 2007); accord Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat’l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 764 (7th Cir. 2010); Carpenter v. Sirva Relocation, LLC, No. 11 C 7623, 2013 WL 6454253, at *4 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 9, 2013).

         In support of its motion to dismiss, Evergreen Park attaches Davidson’s offer to retire and Evergreen Park’s approval of his request. (Mot. Exs. A, C). In Davidson’s offer to retire, he notified Evergreen Park of his “intention to retire effective on the last day of the 2016-17 school year.” (Id. Ex. A). In response, Evergreen Park stated that “the Board of Education [has] approved your request to retire at the end of the 2016-17 school year, in accordance with the provisions in the 2009-13 Education Association collective bargaining agreement.” (Id. Ex. C).

         As a preliminary matter and pursuant to Rule 12, if the court considers matters outside the pleadings presented in a motion to dismiss, the motion “must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, ” and “[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). However, “[d]ocuments are not ‘matters outside the pleadings’ within the meaning of Rule 12(d) if they are documents to which the Complaint had referred, that are concededly authentic, and that are central to the plaintiffs’ claim, and therefore the court may consider such documents when ruling on a 12(b) motion without converting the motion to a motion for summary judgment.” TCC Historic Tax Credit Fund VII, L.P. v. Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, No. 11 C 8556, 2012 WL 5949211, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 27, 2012) (alterations omitted) (citing Santana v. Cook County Bd. of Review, 679 F.3d 614, 619 (7th Cir. 2012)). Here, the offer to retire and Evergreen Park’s approval of the request is referred to in the Complaint and is central to Davidson’s breach of contract claim. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-3, 39). Further, Davidson acknowledges that the documents are authentic. (Resp. 2). Therefore, the Court will consider these two documents without converting Evergreen Park’s motion to a motion for summary judgment.[3]

         “A legally enforceable contract is an exchange, ” which includes “offer, acceptance, and consideration.” Sheller by Sheller v. Frank’s Nursery & Crafts, Inc., 957 F.Supp. 150, 154 (N.D. Ill. 1997). “It is a basic tenet of contract law that in order for a promise to be enforceable against the promisor, the promisee must have given some consideration for the promise.” Gibson v. Neighborhood Health Clinics, Inc., 121 F.3d 1126, 1130 (7th Cir. 1997); accord Vassilkovska v. Woodfield Nissan, Inc., 358 Ill.App.3d 20, 26 (2005); Zirp-Burnham, LLC v. E. Terrell Associates, Inc., 356 Ill.App.3d 590, 600 (2005) (consideration is a necessary element to the formation of any binding contract). “Consideration is defined as a bargained-for exchange, whereby the promisor . . . receives some benefit, or the promisee . . . suffers detriment.” Vassilkovska, 358 Ill.App.3d at 26. Thus, in order for Davidson’s offer to keep working through the 2016-2017 school year to constitute an enforceable contract, there must be some detriment to Evergreen Park, or some benefit to Davidson, that was bargained for in exchange.

         Davidson contends that the agreement required Evergreen Park “to pay additional money and employ Davidson, and Davidson agreed to work for four more years before-literally-ending his tenure.” (Resp. 4). In other words, Davidson argues that by agreeing to surrender his tenure, which gave Evergreen Park “the abil ity to engage in strategic planning around Davidson’s succession, [Evergreen Park] agreed to keep him employed for another four years, as well as provide him additional money.” (Id.). But the letters exchanged do not contain these terms. See Eichengreen v. Rollins, Inc., 325 Ill.App.3d 517, 521 (2001) (‚ÄúTraditional contract interpretation principles in Illinois require that: an agreement, when reduced to writing, must be presumed to speak the intention of the parties who signed it. It speaks for ...

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