United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. Chang United States District Judge
Robert Oury is the former owner of Indian Hills Training
Center, a horse stable located in Kane County,
Illinois. R. 28, Am. Cmplt. ¶¶
10-11. Robert's son, James Oury (also a
plaintiff), rented a home on the Indian Hills land.
Id. ¶ 10. After a foreclosure, Ravenna became
the owner of the land, and eventually sold it to the Kane
County Forest Preserve. Id. ¶¶ 15-17, 64.
This case involves various state and federal claims arising
from the defendants' alleged efforts to (in
Plaintiffs' words) “pillage and conquer” the
Indian Hills property and James's home after the
foreclosure. R. 43, Pl. Cons. Resp. at 1. But the Amended
Complaint does not state a viable federal claim, as argued in
Defendants' respective dismissal motions, R. 31, 33, 35,
and without a federal claim in the case, the Court
relinquishes jurisdiction over the remaining state-law
purpose of deciding the dismissal motions, the Court accepts
the factual allegations in the Amended Complaint as true.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The
Indian Hills stable and horse training facility was located
on around 280 acres of land in Gilberts, Illinois. Am. Cmplt.
¶ 10. James Oury rented a house on 3.88 acres of the
Indian Hills property; he and his family lived in the house.
Id. The Oury family had operated the stable since
1986, but lost the land to a foreclosure in February 2014.
Id. ¶¶ 10, 15. In March 2014, Defendant
Ravenna purchased Indian Hills at a judicial sale.
Id. ¶¶ 15-17. Either before or shortly
after the judicial sale, the Forest Preserve of Kane County
contacted Ravenna about buying the property. Id.
this deal apparently was not finalized for a couple years.
During the intervening time, Ravenna hired Defendant Arnold
(a rival horse farmer) to manage Indian Hills. Am. Cmplt.
¶ 18. Arnold, acting either on his own or in cahoots
with Ravenna, allegedly concocted a scheme to pressure James
Oury into giving up the home he rented (which was located on
a portion of the Indian Hills property). See id.
¶¶ 21-23, 47-49. The alleged scheme comprised
Arnold engaging James Oury to supply horse-farm related
services and hay, id. ¶¶ 21-23, but then
not paying James in full after James had provided the
services and the hay, id. ¶¶ 47-49. This
allegedly painted James into a financial corner, giving
Arnold and Ravenna the leverage to demand that James agree to
an order of possession requiring him to vacate the home.
Id. ¶¶ 21, 51.
gist of James Oury's federal claim is that Ravenna and
the Forest Preserve destroyed personal property, without due
process, that James and his family had left inside the house
after their eviction. See Am. Cmplt. ¶¶
77-78. James alleges that he and his family were forced to
vacate their home at 8:00 a.m. on December 2, 2016.
Id. ¶ 51. The Kane County Sheriff directed
James and his family to remove their possessions from the
home on the day of the eviction. Id. ¶ 52. Four
hours later, Ravenna locked the home with many of James's
possessions still inside. Id. ¶ 53. James was
not allowed to remove any items after noon on December 2,
even though Arnold and a Ravenna representative were inside
the house and presumably could have allowed James to go
inside. Id. ¶ 54. According to James, Ravenna
never removed the remaining possessions from the home, and
never arranged for James or his family to retrieve the items.
Id. ¶ 55. James even asked Arnold to allow him
access to the house to remove his property, but Arnold never
responded. Id. ¶ 56.
December 8, 2016, Ravenna allowed Forest Preserve staff to
inspect the now-vacant home. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 57. James
alleges that his possessions were still inside the home when
the Forest Preserve representative inspected it. Id.
¶ 59. James further alleges that the Forest Preserve and
Ravenna had an “understanding” dating from Summer
2016 that the house would be demolished after James was
evicted. Id. ¶ 59. After the December 8th
inspection, the Forest Preserve confirmed to Ravenna that the
house should be demolished. Id. ¶ 60. Ravenna
coordinated the demolition of the home, which took place in
February 2017. Id. ¶ 61. James's
possessions were still inside the house when it was
demolished. Id. ¶ 62. After the demolition, the
Forest Preserve closed on its purchase of the land.
Id. ¶ 64.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint
generally need only include “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain
statement must “give the defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). The Seventh Circuit has
explained that this rule “reflects a liberal notice
pleading regime, which is intended to ‘focus litigation
on the merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities
that might keep plaintiffs out of court.” Brooks v.
Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514
motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of
Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).
“[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth
are those that are factual, rather than mere legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
sole federal claim in this case is that Ravenna and the
Forest Preserve violated James's Fourteenth Amendment
right to due process of law when Ravenna demolished the home
with James's possessions still inside. See Am.
Cmplt. ¶¶ 76-77. There is a problem with this
theory: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (the cause of action under
which the constitutional claim is brought) only provides a
claim for constitutional violations carried out “under
color of state law.” West v. Akins, 487 U.S.
42, 48 (1988). Ravenna-the entity that actually destroyed the
house and the property within-is a private company. The
Ourys, however, argue that the Forest Preserve's
involvement is enough to deem Ravenna's actions under
color of law, either because Ravenna and the Forest Preserve
acted together, or because the Forest Preserve
“coerced” Ravenna. See Pl. Cons. Resp.
well established that private conduct can be deemed state
action when state and private actors act jointly to deprive a
person of constitutional rights. See, e.g.,
Wilson v. Warren Cty., Ill., 830 F.3d 464, 468 (7th
Cir. 2016); Hallinan, 570 F.3d at 815. But it is
also well established that “a bare allegation of a
conspiracy between private and state entities is insufficient
to bring the private entity within the scope of §
1983.” Tom Beu Xiong v. Fischer, 787 F.3d 389,
398 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Messman v. Helmke, 133
F.3d 1042, 1045 (7th Cir. 1998)). In this case, there are no
well-pleaded facts-as distinct from
conclusions-to support a claim that Ravenna and the
Forest Preserve acted together to destroy James's
personal property. The closest the complaint comes is the
allegation that the Forest Preserve's agent inspected the
house in December 2016, saw the personal property inside, and
confirmed that Ravenna should demolish the house.
See Am. Cmplt. ¶¶ 57-60. But none of this
plausibly implies that the Forest Preserve sought to destroy
James's possessions without due process. The Forest
Preserve's agent would have no way of knowing, when he
inspected the home, that the possessions inside had not
simply been abandoned by James and his family when they moved
out. The Ourys do not allege that the Forest Preserve knew
that Ravenna locked James out of the house and prevented him
from retrieving his possessions on the day of the eviction.
What's more, there is no allegation that the Forest
Preserve knew that the property was still inside the home
when it was demolished around three months later: the Forest
Preserve inspected the dwelling in December 2016, but the
demolition occurred in late February 2017. Am. Cmplt.