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Briscoe v. Village of Vernon Hills

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

March 29, 2017

JOHN BRISCOE, Plaintiff,
VILLAGE OF VERNON HILLS, et. al., Defendants.


          JORGE L. ALONSO, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is plaintiff's motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), or in the alternative for leave to file an amended complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2) [19] and defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions [25]. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion is granted and defendants' motion is denied.


         In November 2015, plaintiff filed a seven-count complaint alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the First Amendment as well as a conspiracy claim and a Monell claim against his former employer, the Village of Vernon Hills, and individuals in Village leadership roles. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted in May 2016. Judgment was entered that same day. After filing his motion to alter judgment, plaintiff also filed a motion to disqualify the then-presiding judge, which was granted. The case was reassigned to this Court in November 2016.


         “Once judgment has been entered, there is a presumption that the case is finished, and the burden is on” the moving party “to show the court that there is good reason to set [the judgment] aside.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 591 (7th Cir. 2009). “To prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion to amend judgment, a party must clearly establish (1) that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence precluded entry of judgment.” Blue v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 698 F.3d 587, 598 (7th Cir. 2012). A manifest error is the ‘“wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.'” Oto v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (quoting Sedrak v. Callahan, 987 F.Supp. 1063, 1069 (N.D.Ill. 1997)). A motion to alter judgment should not be used to “advance arguments that could and should have been presented to the district court prior to the judgment.” Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 954 (7th Cir. 2013). “[A]fter a final judgment, a plaintiff may amend a complaint under Rule 15(a) only with leave of the court after a motion under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) has been made and the judgment has been set aside or vacated.” Figgie Int'l, Inc. v. Miller, 966 F.2d 1178, 1179 (7th Cir. 1992).

         A court may impose Rule 11 sanctions if a motion is ‘“not well grounded in fact and is not warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.'” Cuna Mut. Ins. Soc. v. Office and Prof'l Emps. Int'l Union, Local 39, 443 F.3d 556, 560 (7th Cir. 2006) (quoting Nat'l Wrecking Co. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Local 731, 990 F.2d 957, 963 (7th Cir. 1993)). The Court must “undertake an objective inquiry into whether the party or his counsel should have known that his position is groundless, ” id., and also “bear in mind that such sanctions are to be imposed sparingly, ” Hartmarx Corp. v. Abboud, 326 F.3d 862, 867 (7th Cir. 2003).


         Plaintiff's Rule 59(e) Motion

         Plaintiff asserts that the court wrongly decided the motion to dismiss because it drew inferences in favor of defendants and relied on factual assertions not contained in the record. (Pl.'s Mem. at 3-7.) Plaintiff asks to present additional factual allegations to support his retaliation claims[1] in an amended complaint and contends that he should have been given at least one opportunity to amend his complaint before the action was dismissed. (Id. at 7-8.) Defendants counter that the court did not rely on facts not contained in the record and that the allegations in the complaint support the court's dismissal. (Defs.' Resp. at 3.) Defendants argue that it is not proper for plaintiff to be allowed “to reshape the facts in an attempt to fit the law” and that he cannot point to a misapplication of the law or new evidence that would warrant revisiting the court's decision. (Id. at 3-4.) In his reply, plaintiff contends that defendants have failed to address the arguments made in his motion. (Pl.'s Reply at 1.)

         ADA Claims (Counts I-III)

         In dismissing plaintiff's ADA discrimination claim (Count I), the court noted that the allegations in plaintiff's “complaint make it clear that even after seeking treatment for his injuries, he was no longer able to perform the essential functions for a Commander position even with a reasonable accommodation.” Briscoe v. Vill. of Vernon Hills, No. 15 C 10761, 2016 WL 2997932, at *3 (N.D.Ill. May 25, 2016). (See Compl. ¶¶ 22, 25.) The court reasoned that plaintiff was required to show that he was qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations in order to state an ADA discrimination claim. Id. Because plaintiff's complaint specifically alleges that he could not perform the essential functions of the Commander position, the court properly dismissed plaintiff's ADA discrimination claim. See Roberts v. City of Chi., 817 F.3d 561, 565 (7th Cir. 2016) (to state an ADA discrimination claim, “a plaintiff must show that: (1) he is disabled; (2) he is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) the adverse job action was caused by his disability”). Even if the court made improper inferences about plaintiff's compliance with orders to return to work, that factor had no bearing on the determination of whether plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to state an ADA discrimination claim, which he did not. See Volling v. Kurtz Paramedic Serv., Inc., Case No. 14-cv-4423, 2015 WL 4197071, at *2 (N.D.Ill. July 10, 2015) (rejecting plaintiff's claim that the court made improper inferences in favor of the defendant and stating the “plaintiff still has the burden to plead all elements of her claims”).

         In dismissing plaintiff's disability retaliation claim (Count II), the court stated that plaintiff “specifically alleges in his complaint that he never asserted any ADA rights with the Village.” Briscoe, 2016 WL 2997932, at *4. (See Compl. ¶¶ 37, 107.) The court also noted that plaintiff filed his EEOC charge in January 2015, after the Village issued the disciplinary notice in December 2014. Id. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 66.) In order to state a claim for ADA retaliation, plaintiff “must have engaged in a statutorily protected activity-in other words, he must have asserted his rights under the ADA by either seeking an accommodation or raising a claim of discrimination due to his disability.” Preddie v. Bartholomew Consol. Sch. Corp., 799 F.3d 806, 814-15 (7th Cir. 2015). Based solely on allegations in the complaint, plaintiff did not engage in statutorily-protected activity required to state an ADA retaliation claim, so the court properly dismissed it. Plaintiff's allegation that the court assumed an incorrect fact when it stated that plaintiff was disciplined for violating the Village's sick-leave policy rather than failing to submit a form to police department does not change the fact that plaintiff failed to allege a claim for ADA retaliation. Similarly, plaintiff's assertion that he was retaliated against for filing “line-of-duty disability” and Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (“PSEBA”) claims do not affect his ADA retaliation claim because they are not protected activity under the ADA. See Andrews v. City of Chi., 836 F.Supp.2d 696, 700 (N.D.Ill. 2011) (dismissing ADA retaliation claim for failure to allege engagement in statutorily-protected activity).

         Plaintiff does not contest the court's dismissal of his unlawful medical examinations claim under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(4)(A) (Count III). ...

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