United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
PAUL E. COX, Plaintiff,
DEANNA L. ZALAS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Wood, United States District Judge
2009, Plaintiff Paul Cox was injured while performing his
duties as a police officer for the Cook County Sheriff's
Police Department. Due to the injury, Cox was receiving
temporary benefits and also applied to the Cook County
Pension Fund (“Fund”) for permanent disability
benefits. But Cox's temporary benefits were
terminated in May 2014 and his request for permanent benefits
was not processed. Accordingly, Cox has filed this lawsuit
alleging violations of his rights under the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. Before this Court is Defendants' motion to
dismiss his Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”)
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 66.) For the reasons
explained below, the motion is granted in part and denied in
2009, Cox, an officer with the Sheriff's Police
Department, suffered an injury in the line of duty for which
he required surgery. (SAC ¶¶ 13, 14, Dkt. No. 43.)
He was on injured on-duty status for some time afterwards.
(Id. ¶ 15.) In 2012, Cox reached the maximum
point of his expected physical improvement from the surgery
and rehabilitation but still had a 25-pound restriction on
lifting with his right arm. (Id. ¶ 16.) He
returned to work on light-duty status but soon exhausted his
eligibility for such work. (Id. ¶¶ 19,
20.) Cox's status was then changed back to “injury
on duty” and his temporary benefits were reinstated.
(Id. ¶ 21.)
June 2013, Cox submitted an application to the Fund seeking
permanent disability benefits. He also filed a workers'
compensation claim; this was required to obtain permanent
disability benefits. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 24.) In
April 2014, the Sheriff's Police Department offered Cox
two positions that would accommodate his physical
restrictions. However, those positions were not with the
Sherriff's Police Department, so Cox refused them. As a
result, Cox's temporary benefits were terminated.
(Id. ¶¶ 25-27, 29.) At the end of 2014,
Cox provided the Fund with a copy of the settlement agreement
for his worker's compensation claim. And in 2015, Cox
received various letters from the Fund that made him believe
he was about to receive permanent benefits. As it turned out,
however, the Fund did not consider Cox to have an open
application for permanent benefits. (Id.
¶¶ 31, 33, 35.)
point Cox learned that his application for permanent benefits
was not open. He does not allege when he learned this, but it
is clear that he did because he subsequently filed a new
application for permanent benefits in 2016. (Id.
¶ 36.) In order to have the application processed, Cox
had to provide a document completed by an attending
physician-the document known as the Attending Physician
Statement. Cox acknowledges that he did not submit the
required document but contends that he needed a claim number
to submit the document and he was not provided with one.
(Id. ¶¶ 37, 38.)
brings the following claims-all based on the Due Process
Clause. Count I asserts a claim against Defendant Deanna
Zalas, in her official capacity as the Director of the Cook
County Department of Risk Management, alleging that Cox's
due process rights were violated because his temporary
benefits were paid late. Notably, Cox does not claim that he
did not receive the temporary benefits, just that the
payments were delayed. (Id. ¶¶ 40-47.)
Count II also asserts a claim against Zalas, but in her
individual capacity rather than her official capacity. It
alleges that Zalas terminated Cox's temporary benefits
without advising him of his right to notice and a hearing.
(Id. ¶¶ 48-52.) Finally, Count III asserts
a claim against Defendants Alexis Herrera, Patrick J.
McFadden, Diahann Goode, John E. Fitzgerald, Brent
Lewandowski, Patrick Nester, Lawrence L. Wilson, Joseph
Nevius, and Dennis White, in their official capacities as
Trustees of the Fund. Cox claims that the Trustees violated
his due process rights because his application for permanent
benefits was not processed in a timely manner. (Id.
¶¶ 53-60.)Defendants have moved to dismiss all of
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). A claim is facially plausible when the
plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Adams v. City of
Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In
analyzing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “must
construe [the complaint] in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, accept well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all
inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Carlson
v. CSX Transp., Inc., 758 F.3d 819, 826 (7th Cir. 2014)
(internal citations omitted).
considering the sufficiency of a due process claim under the
Fourteenth Amendment, the Court must determine: (1) whether
the plaintiff was deprived of a protected interest, and (2)
what process is due. Leavell v. Illinois Dep't of
Nat. Res., 600 F.3d 798, 804 (7th Cir. 2010).
Delay in Temporary Benefits Payments (Count I)
Count I of the SAC, Cox alleges that his temporary benefits
were delayed. He attributes those delays to Zalas, who was
the Director of the Cook County Department of Risk
Management. Cox claims that, as a policymaker for the
department, Zalas failed to ensure that his payments were
timely. In seeking dismissal of Count I, Defendants argue
that Cox did not have a protected interest in receiving
temporary benefits without delay.
disability benefit that is a matter of right, not of grace,
is a property right within the meaning of the due process
clause.” Schroeder v. City of Chicago, 927
F.2d 957, 959 (7th Cir. 1991). “If [a person] received
[a benefit] after he was entitled
to receive it, then he was deprived of an entitlement, and
entitlements are what the due process clause has been held to
protect in the name of ‘property.'”
Id. (emphasis in original). To use an example from
Schroeder, if a plaintiff is entitled to receive $1,
000 on May 1 but received it on May 2, there has been a
deprivation of an entitlement. “It is a limited,
temporary, and easily reparable ...