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Pulliam v. City of Calumet City

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

February 12, 2018



          Ruben Castillo Chief Judge

         Michael Pulliam ("Plaintiff) brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 against the City of Calumet City ("Defendant" or "City") based on Defendant's seizure and demolition of his properties situated in Calumet City, Illinois. (R. 16, Am, Compl. at 1, 5-6.) Plaintiff also brings supplemental claims under Illinois law for "Replevin and/or Conversion" and intentional interference with business relationships and prospective advantages. (Id. at 6-7.) Defendant moves to dismiss all counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is granted.


         Plaintiff is a citizen of the State of Illinois and Defendant is an incorporated municipality located in Illinois. (R. 17, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.) On or about May 28, 1999, Plaintiff purchased three neighboring lots of property in Calumet City-Lots 14, 15, and 16-which consisted of residential buildings, storage space, a shed, a garage, private sidewalks, and land. (Id. ¶ 6.) Lots 14 and 15 included a one-and-a-half story, two-apartment building with a common street address of 545 Forsythe Avenue. (Id. ¶ 7.) Lot 16 included a two story, three-apartment building with a common street address of 543 Forsythe Avenue. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff alleges that he purchased the properties in compliance with all city codes and ordinances and that Defendant required a point-of-sale inspection of the properties prior to purchase. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) In 1999, shortly following the purchase, Plaintiff registered his business mailing address and phone number in Chicago with Defendant for purposes of contacting him or serving notices in relation to his Calumet City properties. (Id. ¶ 12.)

         Plaintiff occupied the property from 1999 to 2002, after which he rented all rentable space but would occupy vacant units from time to time. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff used a lawn service to maintain the lawns during the spring and summer and shoveled snow himself in the winter. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23, ) The complaint alleges that beginning in about 2007, a Calumet City "building department" employee named Gene informed Plaintiff at least five times that his properties were "grandfathered as legal non-conforming structures" and that Plaintiff would not be allowed to rebuild them if they were destroyed. (Id. ¶ 16.) The employee made these statements when Plaintiff visited the building department to schedule annual inspections of his properties. (Id.) However, at the time of the point-of-sale inspection in 1999, Defendant did not provide Plaintiff any documentation concerning rebuilding restrictions or his properties' putative non-conforming status. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         From 1999 to 2012, Plaintiff estimates that his properties were occupied 90% of the time. (Id. ¶ 25.) However, in mid-2012, Plaintiff became ill and underwent surgery. (Id. ¶ 20.) Following surgery, from about August 2012 until February 2014, Plaintiff stayed with caretakers in Chicago, Illinois. (Id.) Due to his illness, the properties in Calumet City became unoccupied. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant was aware at this time that he was incapacitated due to illness. (Id. ¶ 21.) When the properties were unoccupied, Plaintiff kept the apartments, shed, and garage locked and shut off all utilities. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 26.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant maintains a policy of demolishing open and vacant properties that it considers continuing and immediate hazards to the surrounding community. (Id. ¶ 27.) On August 2, 2013, Defendant identified Plaintiffs properties as open and vacant and a continuing hazard, and recorded a notice to remediate with the county Recorder of Deeds. (Id. ¶ 28.) The next month, Defendant filed a lien for $90 against Plaintiffs properties for remedial work that it allegedly performed on the properties. (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff alleges that the conditions which necessitated the remedial work performed by Defendant did not constitute an immediate hazard to the community. (Id. ¶ 30, ) Plaintiff alleges that, contrary to Defendant's notice of lien, there was no garbage, debris, excessive lawn or vegetation, or other nuisance in need of abatement at his properties, nor were his properties open and vacant and an immediate hazard to the community. (Id. ¶¶ 30-33.) In February 2014, approximately six months later, Defendant allegedly "seized, stripped and razed all of the buildings on the Lots without proper notice to the Plaintiff or the lender." (Id. ¶ 36.) On or about March 15, 2014, Plaintiff drove to his properties and "shockingly found each structure missing." (Id. ¶ 37.) He reported what he found to a Calumet City police officer, who directed him to the City's building department. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that from March 2014 through late 2016, he tried to obtain information from the City on more than ten occasions by visiting, emailing, calling, and submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the building department and other City officials. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant misled him and concealed or refused to provide the information he was seeking. (Id.) On two separate occasions in 2016, City employees did verbally inform Plaintiff that the City had demolished his properties. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 45.) However, the employees allegedly did not provide Plaintiff copies of any notices or documents related to the demolition. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he also met with, emailed, and phoned the City's Building Director, Sheryl Tillman. (Id. ¶ 46.) Plaintiff requested documents from her on at least five occasions in 2016 but never received the requested documents. (Id.)

         The demolition of Plaintiff s properties allegedly devalued the land to $500 and prevented Plaintiff from modifying the loan attached to his properties. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) In addition, Defendant imposed a demolition lien on the properties in 2015, which allegedly prevented Plaintiff from reclaiming the now-vacant lots. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant requires him to continue to pay annual fees for housing licenses even though his properties were destroyed. (Id. ¶ 49.)

         Plaintiff filed his initial pro se complaint on February 3, 2017. (R. 1, Compl.) On April 14, 2017, Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (R. 12, Mot.) On April 21, 2017, this Court granted Plaintiff leave to either file an amended complaint or respond to Defendant's motion to dismiss. (R. 16, Min. Entry.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on May 30, 2017. (R. 17, Am. Compl.) In Count I of the amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts a due process claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on Defendant's failure to follow the procedures set forth in 65 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/11-31-1 and City ordinance Section 14-42 before seizing and demolishing his properties. (Id. at 5.) In particular, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to: post a 2-foot by 2-foot notice at his properties prior to demolition, as allegedly required by 65 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/11-31-1(e); mail a certified notice to him, as also allegedly required by the statute; publish the required notice in a newspaper; "demolish Plaintiffs properties according to the statu[t]e"; and "impose the lien according to the statu[t]e." (Id. ¶¶ 54-58.)

         In Count II, Plaintiff asserts a claim for "replevin and/or conversion" under Illinois law. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that "[n]o Circuit Court records exist of an action ... by the City ... for an administrative search warrant to seize Plaintiffs properties." (Id. ¶ 60.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant "converted the appliances, boilers, copper pipes, furnaces, fixtures and radiators, " "imposed changes to the condition of the items and limited access to the items, " "wrongfully assumed control, dominion and/or ownership over the properties, " and "destroyed personal and business records, drawings, receipts and photographs." (Id. ¶¶ 61-62, 64, 66.)

         In Count III, Plaintiff asserts a claim under Illinois law for intentional interference with business relationships and prospective advantages. (Id. at 1, 7.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's seizure and demolition of his properties, and its "subsequent actions of concealment, economic coercion, intimidation and false statements, " disrupted his business relationships with third parties, including lenders, the federal government, and insurers. (Id. ¶¶ 68-80.)

         Defendant moves again to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (R. 18, Mot, ) First, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs Section 1983 claim is barred by a two-year statute of limitations. (Id. at 2-3.) Second, Defendant argues in the alternative that Plaintiffs Section 1983 claim is not viable because it seeks to impose respondeat superior liability on the City, which is impermissible under applicable law. (Id. at 4.) Third, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs state law claims are barred by a one-year statute of limitations. (Id. at 3.) Last, Defendant argues in the alternative that Plaintiff has failed to state a viable claim for replevin because real property is not subject to replevin. (Id. at 5.)

         LEGAL ...

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