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Bloyer v. St. Clair County Illinois

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 17, 2016

JOHN R. BLOYER, JR., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ST. CLAIR COUNTY ILLINOIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Barrett Rochman's Combined Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 76). Defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e) and to strike pursuant to Rule 12(f) and Local Rule 7.1(c). Defendants Kenneth Rochman, Sabre Group, LLC and SI Securities, LLC join in the motion (Doc. 77). Plaintiffs responded (Doc. 97). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 2) alleges that individuals who owned property located in St. Clair County and who redeemed that property at county tax auctions paid a “penalty” rate in excess of that which would have been required had they not been forced to participate in a “rigged tax sale.” Specifically, Defendants are alleged to have knowingly participated in a conspiracy with co-defendants St. Clair Co. and Suarez to diminish competitive bidding in order to ensure that lucrative properties were sold at the statutory maximum penalty percentage of 18% beginning at least as early as November 2006.

         Plaintiffs further allege that Defendant Barrett Rochman, both individually and in conjunction with co-defendants Kenneth Rochman, Sabre Group and SI Securities (collectively referred to as the “Rochman Defendants”), knowingly participated in the conspiracy as tax purchasers, with Sabre Group purchasing 180 properties at the 2006 tax sale and 205 properties at the 2007 tax sale, and SI Securities purchasing 115 properties at the 2006 tax sale and 141 properties at the 2007 tax sale - all at the conspiratorial maximum 18% interest rate. Doc. 2, p. 5-6, ¶¶ 22-26. Plaintiffs claim civil conspiracy against all Defendants (Count I), money had and received against all Defendants except Suarez (Count II), violations of the Sherman Act against all Defendants (Counts III and IV), violations of the Illinois Antitrust Act against all Defendants (Counts V-VII) and breach of fiduciary duty against Suarez (Count VIII).

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety as time-barred under the applicable statutes of limitations. Defendants further move to dismiss Counts III and IV for failure to state a claim under the Sherman Act; Counts V, VI and VII for failure to state a claim under the Illinois Antitrust Act; Count I as barred under Section 9 of the Illinois Antitrust Act; and Count II for failure to state a claim for money had and received. As an alternative to 12(b)(6) dismissal, Defendants move for a more definite statement as to the allegations regarding fraudulent concealment and also move to strike certain paragraphs as immaterial.

         DISCUSSION

         When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the Complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The federal system of notice pleading requires only that a plaintiff provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the allegations must be “more than labels and conclusions.” Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 699 (7th Cir. 2008). This requirement is satisfied if the Complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         Statute of Limitations

         As an initial matter, Defendants argue that all counts are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. They assert that antitrust and conspiracy actions must commence within four years of the accrual of the claim and that a claim for money had and received must commence within five years of accrual. Defendants further contend that Plaintiffs have failed to adequately allege a proper basis for tolling these statutes of limitations.

         Plaintiffs acknowledge the statutes of limitations but argue that the discovery rule tolled the statute of limitations, citing Clark v. City of Braidwood, 318 F.3d 764 (7th Cir. 2003). In Clark, the Seventh Circuit held that where a plaintiff relies on the discovery rule, a determination of timeliness is premature at the pleading stage. Clark, 318 F.3d at 768.

         The discovery rule “postpones the beginning of the limitations period… to the date when [a plaintiff] discovers he has been injured.” In re Copper Antitrust Litig., 436 F.3d 782, 789 (7th Cir. 2006), quoting Cada v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 920 F.2d 446, 450 (7th Cir.1990). Therefore, the appropriate inquiry in this case is whether the Complaint pleads sufficient facts that, if proven, would raise a reasonable inference that the limitations period was tolled until 2014 when Plaintiffs discovered the injury. Accepting all allegations of the Complaint as true, the Court finds they are sufficient to raise such an inference.

         The Complaint alleges that Defendants and tax purchaser Co-Defendants directed “contributions” to the Democrat Party instead of to Suarez, that Suarez seated Defendants at the front of the auction room to facilitate the conspiracy and that other bids were allowed on less lucrative properties in order to cover up the conspiracy. The Complaint further alleges that Defendants' conspiracy to rig tax auctions was inherently self-concealing so that Plaintiffs could not have discovered through reasonable diligence that they had been injured until 2014. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims as time barred is denied.

         Civil ...


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