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DeAngelo v. Village of Rosemont

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

July 26, 2017




         Plaintiff Matthew DeAngelo filed this action seeking damages pursuant to state law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff's complaint stems from an altercation in which he alleges Defendants forcibly removed him from a Rosemont, Illinois restaurant, physically assaulted him, and then falsely charged him with an ordinance violation for refusing to leave to the restaurant. Plaintiff asserts claims against the restaurant, the restaurant manager, the Village of Rosemont, the arresting officers, Monterrey Security Consultants, Inc., and several of its security guards. Presently before us is a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim against Adobe Gila's, the restaurant, and Spiro Theodoropoulos, its facility manager. For the reasons set forth below, we grant Defendants' motion, without prejudice.


         For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, we accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Katz-Crank v. Haskett, 843 F.3d 641, 646 (7th Cir. 2016). During the early morning hours of August 7, 2016, Plaintiff was a patron of Adobe Gila's restaurant and bar in Rosemont, Illinois. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Around 1:00 a.m., Village of Rosemont police officers Daniel Veach and Joseph Albandia were dispatched to Adobe Gila's. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff was “swarmed” by Veach, Albandia, and unknown security guards and law enforcement officers, who forcibly removed him from Adobe Gila's and took him to a private security office. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that at some point thereafter, as he stood near the exit of the restaurant waiting for friends to leave with him, the defendants “struck and kicked plaintiff about the face and body resulting in bruising and a concussion.” (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff further alleges that in “order to conceal their tortious use of excessive force and batteries upon the plaintiff, defendants maliciously and without probable cause charged plaintiff Matthew DeAngelo with a municipal ordinance violation of trespass, asserting that plaintiff had ‘entered 5455 Park PL [sic] (Adobe Gila's) after being told to leave.'” (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff contends that to the contrary, he “at no time entered (or re-entered) the premises after being told to leave.” (Id. ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that at the time Officers Veach and Albandia entered the restaurant, they spoke with Theodoropoulos.[1] (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff states that during that conversation, “Theodoropoulos falsely and maliciously created a story about the actions of plaintiff DeAngelo having ‘entered' the restaurant after being told to leave.” (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff further asserts that “[a]s a result of that conversation, an ordinance violation complaint was executed by . . . Theodoropoulos on behalf of his employer, thereby directly and proximately causing . . . DeAngelo to be falsely charged with an ordinance violation.” (Id. ¶ 42.)

         Plaintiff posted bond and was released from custody, after which he sought treatment for his injuries. (Id. ¶ 21.) On October 6, 2016, following a proceeding before a municipal hearing officer employed by Defendant Village of Rosemont, Plaintiff was found not guilty of violating the ordinance. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff asserts he was falsely charged and the municipal trespass complaint was fully resolved in his favor. (Id. ¶ 43.)

         Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on April 4, 2017. Count I asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C §1983 against Officers Veach and Albandia, as well as other unknown law enforcement officers, alleging violations of Plaintiff's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable seizures and excessive force. (Id. ¶ 28.) Count II asserts a state law battery claim against the Village of Rosemont and Monterrey Security Consultants, Inc. on a respondeat superior theory, alleging they are responsible for the actions of the arresting officers and various unknown law enforcement officers and security guard employees. (Id. ¶ 32.) Finally, Count III alleges a state law malicious prosecution claim against Adobe Gila's and Theodoropoulos. (Id. ¶¶ 39-43.) On May 5, 2017, Adobe Gila's and Theodoropoulos filed a motion to dismiss Count III of the complaint. (Dkt. No. 15.)


         Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts “the allegations in the complaint as true unless they are ‘threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements.'” Katz-Crank, 843 F.3d at 646 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). The complaint must state a claim that is plausible on its face. St. John v. Cach, LLC, 822 F.3d 388, 389 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Vinson v. Vermilion Cnty., Ill., 776 F.3d 924, 928 (7th Cir. 2015)). “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, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The plausibility standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65). That is, while the plaintiff need not plead “detailed factual allegations, ” the complaint must allege facts sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65.


         In order to state a claim for malicious prosecution under Illinois law, a plaintiff must allege: “(1) the commencement or continuance of an original criminal or civil judicial proceeding by the defendant; (2) the termination of the proceeding in favor of the plaintiff; (3) the absence of probable cause for such proceeding; (4) malice; and (5) damages.” Cairel v. Alderden, 821 F.3d 823, 834 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Sang Ken Kim v. City of Chi., 368 Ill.App.3d 648, 653, 858 N.E.2d 569, 574 (Ill. 2006)); Szczesniak v. CJC Auto Parts, Inc., 2014 IL App (2d) 130636, ¶ 10, 21 N.E.3d 486, 490. “The absence of any one of these elements bars a plaintiff from pursuing the claim.” Swick v. Liautaud, 169 Ill.2d 504, 511, 662 N.E.2d 1238, 1242 (Ill. 1996) (citing Joiner v. Benton Cmty. Bank, 82 Ill.2d 40, 45, 411 N.E.2d 229, 232 (Ill. 1980)). A municipal ordinance violation may serve as the basis for a malicious prosecution claim. See, e.g., Intl. Aerobatics Club Ch. 1 v. City of Morris, 76 F.Supp.3d 767, 787-88 (N.D. Ill. 2014) (refusing to dismiss a malicious prosecution claim based on a municipal ordinance violation). However, “the law does not look with favor upon malicious prosecution suits, because of the general principle that the courts should be open for litigants to settle their rights without fearing prosecution for doing so.” Indep. Plus, Inc. v. Walter, 2012 IL App (1st) 111877, ¶ 19, 982 N.E.2d 860, 866; accord. Joiner, 82 Ill.2d at 44, 411 N.E.2d at 231 (“This court and others have indicated that suits for malicious prosecution are not favored in law.”); Logan v. Caterpillar, Inc., 246 F.3d 912, 921 (7th Cir. 2001) (“At the outset, we note that malicious prosecution suits are disfavored by law because of the potential deterrent effect on the reporting of crime.”). “Public policy encourages the exposure of crimes and citizen cooperation, and these interests are furthered by narrowly circumscribing the instances in which malicious prosecution actions may be brought, ” and therefore, individual citizens “acting in good faith who have probable cause to believe that crimes have been committed should not be deterred from reporting them out of fear of unfounded suits by those they have accused.” Allen v. Berger, 336 Ill.App.3d 675, 678, 784 N.E.2d 367, 369-70 (1st Dist. 2002).

         Defendants' substantively spare motion only challenges the first and second elements of Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim, arguing the complaint fails to sufficiently plead the commencement of a proceeding or that it was terminated in Plaintiff's favor. (Mem. ISO Mot. to Dismiss (“Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 16) ¶¶ 6-7.) As Theodoropoulos and Adobe Gila's have not addressed whether the complaint sufficiently alleges the other elements of Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim against them, we do not address the plausibility of Plaintiff's allegations as to those elements. G & S Holdings LLC v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 697 F.3d 534, 538 (7th Cir. 2012) (“We have repeatedly held that a party waives an argument by failing to make it before the district court. That is true whether it is an affirmative argument in support of a motion to dismiss or an argument establishing that dismissal is inappropriate.” (internal citations omitted)).

         A criminal proceeding is commenced when a complaint, an information, or an indictment is filed. Szczesniak, 2014 IL App (2d) 130636, ¶ 11, 21 N.E.3d at 491 (citing 725 ILCS 5/111-1). “Illinois law requires that, in order to commence or continue a criminal proceeding, the defendant must have initiated the criminal proceeding or ‘his participation in it must have been of so active and positive a character as to amount to advice and cooperation.'” Logan, 246 F.3d at 922 (quoting Denton v. Allstate Ins. Co., 152 Ill.App.3d 578, 584, 504 N.E.2d 756, 760 (1st Dist. 1986)). “Thus, a private citizen does not commence a criminal action merely by reporting information to the police-even if the information later turns out to be incorrect.” Id. (citing Randall v. Lemke, 311 Ill.App.3d 848, 850, 726 N.E.2d 183, 185 (2d Dist. 2000)); accord. Allen, 336 Ill.App.3d at 678, 784 N.E.2d at 369-70 (explaining “a person who unwittingly gives a prosecuting officer false information of another person's alleged crime is not liable for malicious prosecution, unless the person takes an active part in instituting criminal proceedings, by requesting, directing, or pressuring the prosecuting officer into instituting the proceedings”).

         Rather, legal causation exists with respect to a private citizen if the defendant knowingly made false statements to a police officer, who then swears out a complaint. Logan, 246 F.3d at 922; Denton, 152 Ill.App.3d at 584, 504 N.E.2d at 760 (“[T]he attribution of police action to a defendant requires that the defendant requested, directed or pressured an officer into swearing out a complaint for plaintiff's arrest, or that defendants knowingly gave false information to the police.”). But even if an informer knowingly provides false information, “he or she is not liable for ‘commencing' a criminal proceeding if the prosecution is based upon separate or independently developed information.” Szczesniak, 2014 IL App (2d) 130636, ¶ 11, 21 N.E.3d at 491; Randall, 311 Ill.App.3d at 851, 726 N.E.2d at 186 (“[W]hen an informer knowingly gives false information to a prosecuting officer, he commences the prosecution only if the prosecution is ‘based upon' the false information.”). Alternatively, a plaintiff may show that the “the defendant continued the proceeding by actively encouraging the prosecution despite knowing that no probable cause existed.” Szczesniak, 2014 IL App (2d) 130636, ¶ 11, 21 N.E.3d at 491; accord. Denton, 152 Ill.App.3d at 584, 504 N.E.2d ...

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