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Estate of Perre Loury v. City of Chicago

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

April 20, 2017

ESTATE OF PIERRE LOURY Deceased, by Tambrasha Hudson, Administrator, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO, Chicago Police Officers SEAN HITZ and JEFF J. RIORDAN, Defendant.



         On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff, who is the administrator of the Estate of Pierre Loury, filed a Second Amended Complaint alleging that Defendant Chicago Police Officers Hitz and Riordan (“the Officer Defendants”) violated decedent's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as several state law claims. Plaintiff also alleged a claim against Defendant City of Chicago (“the City”) under Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Before the Court is the City's motion to bifurcate and stay Plaintiff's Monell claim from the other claims in this lawsuit for discovery and trial purposes. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). For the following reasons, the Court, in its discretion, denies the City's motion to bifurcate without prejudice.


         On April 11, 2016, Pierre Loury was in an automobile on the 3400 block of West Grenshaw Street, Chicago, when Defendants Sean Hitz and Riordan approached the vehicle. (R. 8, Second Am. Compl. ¶ 10.) Loury got out of the vehicle and ran away from the Officer Defendants. (Id. ¶ 11.) The Officer Defendants chased Loury, and as Loury was climbing over a fence, Hitz discharged his service weapon and shot Loury. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff alleges that the Officer Defendants jointly agreed to prepare false and incomplete police reports to present a misleading version of events to their superiors and to the public and to cover up their misconduct by claiming Loury placed them in imminent fear of bodily harm. (Id. ¶ 15.)

         In her Monell claim, Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Officers' actions were taken under the authority of the City of Chicago, its police department (“CPD”), the Independent Police Review Authority (“IPRA”), and the CPD Internal Affairs Division (“IAD”), among other entities. (Id. ¶ 21.) According to Plaintiffs, these entities had interrelated policies, practices, and customs, which included failing to hire, train, and discipline police officers who commit acts of excessive force, maintaining a police code of silence, encouraging the use of excessive force, and failing to properly investigate police shootings of young black men or discipline the officers who were involved in those shootings. (Id. ¶ 22.) In 2015, in response to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that CPD has a history of allowing abusive police officers to escape accountability, partially due to the code of silence. (Id. ¶ 24.) Additionally, in April 2016, the Police Accountability Task Force found that CPD had systematically failed to hold police officers accountable for misconduct and excessive use of force. (Id. ¶¶ 25-28.) Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Officers would not have engaged in the conduct that resulted in the shooting of Loury but for the culture of silence and lack of accountability that was pervasive in CPD. (Id. ¶ 39.) Essentially, Plaintiff contends that the interrelated policies of CPD and the various related entities created a culture and a system that encouraged the Defendant Officers to act recklessly and caused them to shoot Loury. (Id. ¶¶ 40-42.)


         Rule 42(b) provides that “[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third-party claims.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b); see also Chlopek v. Federal Ins. Co., 499 F.3d 692, 700 (7th Cir. 2007). When determining whether to bifurcate discovery and trial, the Court “must balance considerations of convenience, economy, expedition, and prejudice, depending on the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case.” Houskins v. Sheahan, 549 F.3d 480, 495 (7th Cir. 2008). Whether to bifurcate is a decision committed to the district court's sound discretion and is made on a case-by-case basis. See Volkman v. Ryker, 736 F.3d. 1084, 1088-89 (7th Cir. 2013); Krocka v. City of Chicago, 203 F.3d 507, 516 (7th Cir. 2000).


         Defendants argue that bifurcation of Plaintiff's Monell claims is warranted for three primary reasons: (1) bifurcation is in the best interest of efficiency and judicial economy because it may allow the parties to avoid extensive discovery related to the City's policies and procedures, [1] (2) bifurcation will avoid the strong likelihood of undue prejudice to the City and the Officer Defendants, and (3) bifurcation will not prejudice Plaintiff because it will not affect her recovery of compensatory damages since it is undisputed that the Defendant Officers were acting within the scope of their employment at all times relevant to this litigation. Defendants note that, to the extent Plaintiff is also seeking non-monetary damages, it has already publicly agreed to work with the DOJ to reform CPD and asks the Court to take judicial notice of this fact. Additionally, the City has consented to a limited entry of judgment against it for the amount of damages caused by the violation, plus reasonable attorney fees, if bifurcation and stay of trial and discovery is granted and the Defendant Officers are found to have violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. According to the City, this concession means that trial and discovery on the Monell claim may not be necessary and benefits Plaintiff because she would not be required to prove the elements of Section 1983 municipal liability. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         I. Efficiency and Economy

         The parties strongly dispute whether bifurcation will best serve the interests of judicial economy and efficiency. As noted above, Defendants believe bifurcation will allow the parties to avoid unduly burdensome and potentially unnecessary discovery related to the City's policies and procedures. Plaintiff responds that judicial economy would not be served by bifurcation and stay of discovery on the Monell claim because bifurcation could require duplicative discovery and trials and will require the Court to resolve endless discovery disputes regarding whether discovery is Monell-related.

         In Estate of McIntosh v. City of Chicago, No. 15 C 1920, 2015 WL 5164080 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 2, 2015), in a nearly identical case, this Court addressed a similar argument for the bifurcation of Monell claims. In McIntosh, like here, the plaintiff was the estate of a black male Chicago police officers shot and killed after a chase. Id. at *1. The plaintiff, like here, brought both a § 1983 unconstitutional seizure claim, a claim against other officers for failing to intervene, and a Monell claim against the City due to its interrelated policies and practices that failed to adequately train and discipline officers, created a code of silence, and encouraged excessive and unjustified force, thus causing the defendant officers' actions. Id. at *8. Like here, the City moved for bifurcation of the plaintiff's Monell claims arguing that it would best serve the interest of judicial economy and would not affect the plaintiff's potential recovery of damages because the City, like here, consented to an entry of judgment if the officer defendants were found to have violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. McIntosh, 2015 WL 5164080, at *6. The focus of the City's argument was that bifurcating trial and discovery would save the court and the parties from engaging in excessively broad discovery on the Monell claims that would not even be necessary if the defendant officers were found not liable on the plaintiff's unconstitutional seizure claim. Id. at *6-7.

         In that case, this Court rejected the City's contention that bifurcation would be more efficient and prevent unnecessarily burdensome discovery because it was not clear that a Monell trial was a predicated on a finding that the officers had violated the decedent's constitutional rights. The Court explained that the Seventh Circuit has instructed district courts “to look at the factual relationship between the underlying constitutional violation and the Monell claim, as well as the relief requested, in order to determine when establishment of a Monell claim is necessarily predicated on proving the underlying liability of the individual officers.” McIntosh, 2015 WL 5164080, at *7 (citing Swanigan v. City of Chicago, 775 F.3d 953, 962 (7th Cir. 2015) (noting some cases “have remedial importance beyond the individual plaintiff's claim for monetary damages”)); see also Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff's Department, 604 F.3d 293, 305 (7th Cir. 2010). Applying the Seventh Circuit's guidance to the plaintiff's claims, the Court found that, especially prior to the completion of any substantive discovery, it was premature to decide “that there can be no municipal liability in the absence of underlying individual liability.” McIntosh, 2015 WL 5164080, at *7. The Court reasoned that the plaintiff's allegations referred to “constitutional violations that factually overlap with, but may still be distinct from, the Monell allegations.” Id. at *8. It was thus plausible, particularly in light of the officers' assertions of immunity, that separate trials against the officers individually and the City on the Monell allegations could result in different but compatible verdicts because the officers could be found immune, and the City could still be held liable in a second duplicative trial. Id. As a result, the Court reasoned that, given the factual overlap between the claims, rather than simplifying the discovery process, bifurcation could potentially “add unnecessary complexity and confusion, ” and accordingly, found that making a “clear determination of judicial economy favoring bifurcation [was] speculative at best.” Id. See also Marshbanks v. City of Calumet City, No. 13 C 2978, 2015 WL 1234930, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 16, 2015) (explaining that because defendant officers asserted qualified immunity, there was a possibility that holding the municipality liable “would not create an inconsistent verdict with a jury finding that [the officers] are not liable”).

         The Court's reasoning in McIntosh is directly applicable in this case. Here, like in McIntosh, the City has offered to consent to an entry of judgment and argues that bifurcation will potentially save substantial time and effort because addressing the liability of the individual officers first may prevent the need for discovery and a trial on the Monell claims. Like in McIntosh, however, the individual officers have asserted immunity defenses, (See R. 40, Defs.' Answer to Am. Compl. 10), [2] and thus, it is premature to assume “that there can be no municipal liability in the absence of underlying individual liability.” McIntosh, 2015 WL 5164080, at *7.It is possible that a jury could find the Defendant Officers immune and not individually liable, while also finding that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were indeed violated and that the City's policies caused the harm. If the Court were to grant bifurcation and this situation comes to fruition, where Plaintiff's Monell claim is ultimately addressed on the merits after the completion of discovery and a trial of the other claims, bifurcation would in fact “add unnecessary complexity and confusion, ” id. at *8, and “create additional costs and inefficiencies . . . without achieving any offsetting benefit.” Cadiz v. Kruger, No. 06 C 5463, 2007 WL 4293976, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2007) (denying motion for bifurcation in part because it did not serve the interests of judicial economy); see also Clarett v. Suroviak, No. ...

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