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Priddle v. Malanis

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

January 25, 2017



          JOHN W. DARRAH, United States District Court Judge

         Magistrate Judge Weisman issued a Report and Recommendation, concluding that Plaintiff Soma Getty Priddle cannot meet the requirements for diversity jurisdiction against Defendants Dean Malanis and Great Lakes Service II, Inc. Plaintiff filed Objections to Judge Weisman's Report and Recommendation of 9/14/16 [205]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Objections [205] are overruled, and the Court adopts Magistrate Judge Weisman's Report and Recommendation.


         Plaintiff lives in Norwalk, Wisconsin, but works as an airline pilot at O'Hare Airport. (12-cv-5831, Dkt. 158, ¶¶ 1, 9.) Defendants reside or are incorporated in Illinois. (Id. ¶¶ 2-4) Plaintiff was driving to work at O'Hare Airport at approximately 5:30 a.m. on July 24, 2010. (Id. at ¶ 10.) That morning there were heavy rains and areas of localized flash flooding. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Due to a police barricade on Thomas Drive, Plaintiff was directed into a parking lot. (Id. at ¶ 19.) While stopped in the parking lot, a surge of water swept Plaintiff's vehicle into a drainage canal. (Id. at ¶ 21.) The items in Plaintiff's vehicle, a Dodge Ram truck, included: farm equipment, emergency equipment, personal supplies, pet supplies, law school materials, and materials containing Security Sensitive Information (“SSI”). (Id. at ¶¶ 24, 26-27). Plaintiff escaped the vehicle by breaking through a metal safety barrier and a rear sliding window but could still see her belongings in the vehicle after it was carried some distance. (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 29.) Plaintiff attempted to retrieve her belongings that day, but she was informed by the Bensenville Police the water was still too dangerous and told to return after at least twenty-four hours. (Id. at ¶¶ 31-32.)

         Plaintiff came back to retrieve her vehicle the next day, but she could not find it and reported the truck as missing. (Id. at ¶¶ 35, 37.) The Bensenville Police Department located Plaintiff's vehicle in the possession of Defendants. (Id. at ¶ 37.) Malanis refused to return Plaintiff's truck that day. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-39.) On July 26, 2014, Plaintiff went to Malanis's lot and saw that most of the contents within the vehicle were missing. (Id. at ¶ 45.) Malanis denied any knowledge of how the items in the truck went missing. (Id. at ¶¶ 47-49.) Malanis then asked Plaintiff for $2, 400.00 to release her vehicle but, after Plaintiff had paid, refused to release the vehicle until the next day. (Id. at ¶¶ 50, 53-54, 56.) Malanis finally released Plaintiff's vehicle on July 27, 2014, after demanding an additional $150.00 in cash. (Id. at ¶ 60.)

         When asked by Bensenville Police who authorized the tow of Priddle's vehicle, Malanis initially stated that he could not remember. (Id. at ¶ 61.) After further investigation, Malanis told police that he was authorized by a person named “George” at an address near the final location of Plaintiff's vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 62.) But the address did not correspond to a building, and no one named “George” was located at the nearby building. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed two pro se Complaints, 12-cv-5831 and 15-cv-5833, against Dean Malanis (“Malanis”) and Great Lakes Service II, Inc. (“Great Lakes”) (collectively, the “Malanis defendants”) and Darwin Asset Management (“Darwin”), Thomas Drive Partnership, and the owner of record of 705-715 Thomas Drive, Bensenville, Illinois, (collectively, the “Darwin defendants”) on July 24, 2012. On February 6, 2013, the Honorable John Nordberg consolidated the two cases. Judge Nordberg then dismissed both Complaints without prejudice. The cases were transferred to this Court on April 18, 2014; and Plaintiff's Amended Complaints were dismissed without prejudice on June 26, 2014. Plaintiff filed Second Amended Complaints on July 17, 2014, which were dismissed without prejudice on February 4, 2015.

         Plaintiff filed two Third Amended Complaints on February 25, 2015. The first, 12-cv-5833, against the Malanis defendants, alleged one count of “Violation of Illinois Tow Law, ” one count of violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 505/1 et seq., conversion, and replevin. The second, 12-cv-5831, against the Darwin defendants, alleged one count of conspiracy to violate Illinois tow law and one count of premises liability. Defendants filed a Joint Motion to Strike and Dismiss both Third Amended Complaints. (12-cv-5831, Dkt. 171.) Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint against the Darwin defendants (12-cv-5833, Dkt. 88) was dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint, against the Malanis defendants (12-cv-5831, Dkt. 158) was referred to the magistrate judge for a final jurisdictional hearing. Magistrate Judge Weisman found that Plaintiff properly alleged only $49, 571.52 in damages.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), a magistrate judge's disposition of a dispositive issue is reviewed de novo by the district court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). If the district court is satisfied with the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations after a review of the record, the district court may “treat those findings and recommendations as its own.” Goffman v. Gross, 59 F.3d 668, 671 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980).


         Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint asserts one count alleging a violation of Illinois Tow Law, one count alleging a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (“ICFA”), one count of conversion, and one count of replevin.

         Magistrate Judge Weisman's Report and Recommendation which was extraordinarily comprehensive and thorough and very well researched and reasoned, held that Plaintiff does not meet the $75, 000 amount in controversy required for diversity jurisdiction. Federal district courts have original jurisdiction of civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00 and is between citizens of two different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The party asserting federal jurisdiction has the burden of proving jurisdiction is proper. Travelers Prop. Cas. v. Good, 689 F.3d 714, 722 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 289 U.S. 178, 189 (1936)). Citizenship and the amount in controversy must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence. Lewis v. Weiss, 631 F.Supp.2d 1063, 1065 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (citing Meridian Ins. Sec. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 543 (7th Cir. 2006)). When the amount in controversy is challenged, a plaintiff is required to support her jurisdictional assertion with competent proof. McMillan v. Sheraton Chi. Hotel & Towers, 567 F.3d 839, 844 (7th Cir. 2009) (quotations and citations omitted). Such proof requires more than “point[ing] to the theoretical availability of certain categories of proof.” Id. (citations omitted).

         Consequential ...

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