United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
S. Shah United States District Judge
Leticia Villarreal and defendant Jonathan Arnold were engaged
to be married over a decade ago. Before this action
commenced, the parties litigated state-court actions in
California and Illinois and two federal-court actions in this
district-one of which was voluntarily dismissed, while the
other is currently awaiting a decision on appeal. Villarreal
believes that the amended complaint in that action (the one
on appeal) is frivolous and that Arnold only filed it to
extort and intimidate her. Accordingly, she brings this
lawsuit against Arnold for abuse of process and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Arnold moved to dismiss the
complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In
her response brief, Villarreal says she intends to withdraw
the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. That
claim is therefore voluntarily dismissed without prejudice
and the only claim that remains is for abuse of process. For
the reasons discussed below, Arnold's motion to dismiss
Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint may be dismissed for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On a 12(b)(6)
motion, courts accept as true all well-pleaded facts,
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, and draw all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc.,
722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013). Courts do not accept as
true statements of law that appear in the complaint.
Id. To survive Arnold's motion, the complaint
must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible
when the pleadings include factual content from which the
court can draw reasonable inferences that the defendant is
liable for the relevant conduct. Yeftich, 722 F.3d
at 915 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
and Arnold had a marriage ceremony in Dana Point, California,
in 2004. [1-1] at 2. The Los Angeles County recorder mailed
Villarreal and Arnold a letter, informing them that a
marriage license was never filed on their behalf and that
they should rectify this error “to protect [their]
marital and property rights.” [1-1] at 3-4. Several
months later, Arnold obtained a second marriage license, but
that license also was never filed and it ultimately expired.
[1-1] at 4. By 2006, the relationship between Villarreal and
Arnold had ended. Id. Villarreal petitioned to
dissolve the “marriage” in California and Arnold
filed for the same in Illinois. Id. Villarreal moved
the California court to require the parties to litigate the
dispute in California; in support of this motion she attached
a declaration that stated the parties were married in 2004.
[1-1] at 4-5. She also moved to dismiss Arnold's Illinois
petition because the parties were not legally
married, citing the failure to file the marriage certificate
with the Los Angeles County recorder. [1-1] at 5. After
reaching an agreement and stipulating that they were not
married, the parties dismissed their dissolution petitions in
California and Illinois. Id.
legal disputes grew more contentious. Arnold filed an action
in this district seeking to recover the value of the gifts he
gave Villarreal over the years, based on her
misrepresentations and/or omissions about the validity of
their marriage, which made Arnold believe Villarreal was his
wife. [1-1] at 5. In response, Villarreal moved the
California court to vacate the stipulation they had reached
as to the invalidity of the marriage. [1-1] at 6.
Arnold's federal-court action was stayed until the
California court issued a final ruling that refused to vacate
the parties' stipulation. Id. When the stay was
lifted, Villarreal filed a motion for summary judgment on all
of Arnold's claims in the pending lawsuit. Id.
Judge Grady granted Villarreal's motion, referring to one
of Arnold's arguments as “preposterous, ” and
noting more generally: “The federal courts are not a
proper venue for petty score-setting.” [1-1] at 9, 13;
Arnold v. Villarreal, No. 09 C 7399, 2014 WL
2922810, at *3, *5 (N.D. Ill. June 27, 2014). Arnold then
moved to vacate or amend the judgment. [1-2] at 1. Judge St.
Eve denied the motion, noting that his claims were
“frivolous.” [1-2] at 8; Arnold v.
Villarreal, No. 09 C 7399, 2014 WL 4434580, at *3 (N.D.
Ill. Sept. 9, 2014). That action is on appeal, awaiting a
ruling from the Seventh Circuit.
filed her own suit in this district, accusing Arnold of
malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. [17-3] ¶¶ 1-23.
Upon learning that Arnold intended to appeal Judge
Grady's grant of summary judgment against him, Villarreal
voluntarily dismissed her complaint without prejudice. [17-4]
at 1. On January 15, 2016, Villarreal filed a new complaint
that initiated this action, accusing Arnold of abuse of
process and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 
Choice of Law
diversity-jurisdiction case, the law of the forum state
applies. See Malone v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 553 F.3d
540, 542 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Guar. Trust Co. of N.Y.
v. York, 326 U.S. 99 (1945)). Illinois law applies to
choice-of-law determination is necessary only when a
difference in the law will result in a different outcome.
Townsend v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 227 Ill.2d
147, 155 (2007). The party seeking the choice-of-law
determination bears the burden of proving that a conflict of
law exists and that it will make a difference in the outcome
of the action. Bridgeview Health Care Ctr., Ltd. v. State
Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2014 IL 116389, ¶ 14
argues that California law should apply for four reasons:
“(1) Ms. Villarreal has always been domiciled in
California; (2) her injuries occurred in California; (3)
California is the place where the conduct which caused her
injuries occurred; and (4) California is the place where the
relationship between the parties is centered.”  at
4-5. To support her argument, she cites Illinois case law
that rejects the lex loci delicti approach to
deciding choice-of-law conflicts and instead applies the most
significant relationship test. See, e.g.,
Esser v. McIntyre, 169 Ill.2d 292, 297-98 (1996).
These factual and legal assertions are misplaced. They go to
the second part of the choice-of-law analysis, which a court
only considers when it has already been established that an
actual conflict exists. Villarreal has not made the threshold
showing that a conflict between California and Illinois law
exists as to the tort of abuse of process or that it would
result in different outcomes.
fact, California and Illinois law are similar and would lead
to the same outcomes with respect to both of the disputed
issues in this action. Abuse of process is an injury to the
person under both California and Illinois law. Cantu v.
Resolution Trust Corp., 4 Cal.App.4th 857, 886-87
(1992);Withall v. Capitol Fed. Sav. of
Am., 155 Ill.App.3d 537, 545 (1987). In both states, the
statute of limitations is two years. Cal.Civ.Proc.Code §
335.1; 735 ILCS 5/13-202. The limitations period begins to
run, in both states, from the date of the last act that gives
rise to the abuse of process claim. Cantu, 4
Cal.App.4th at 887; Whithall, 155 Ill.App.3d at 545.
With respect to proving liability for an abuse of process
claim, both California and Illinois law require two elements:
(1) an ulterior ...