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Weiss v. Logan County Cemetery Maintenance District

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

September 30, 2019

PHILLIP G. WEISS and MANLEY MONUMENTS, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
LOGAN COUNTY CEMETERY MAINTENANCE DISTRICT, an Illinois local body politic, Defendant.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (d/e 14) filed by Defendant Logan County Cemetery Maintenance District. Because the Amended Complaint states an equal protection and a tortious interference with prospective economic advantage claim, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. JURISDICTION

         This Court has federal question jurisdiction over Count I because that Count alleges a claim arising under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Count II, which alleges a state law claim arising from the same general set of facts. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Venue is proper because Defendant resides within the District and a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred within the District. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1), (b)2).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Christensen v. Cty. of Boone, Ill., 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007). To state a claim for relief, a plaintiff need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing he is entitled to relief and giving the defendant fair notice of the claims. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true and construing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Id. However, the complaint must set forth facts that plausibly demonstrate a claim for relief. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). A plausible claim is one that alleges factual content from which the Court can reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Merely reciting the elements of a cause of action or supporting claims with conclusory statements is insufficient to state a cause of action. Id.

         III. FACTS ALLEGED IN THE COMPLAINT

         The following facts come from the Amended Complaint and are accepted as true at the motion to dismiss stage. Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081.

         Plaintiff Philip G. Weiss is one of the owners of Weiss Monument Works, a family-owned business that has fabricated, sold, and installed cemetery monuments and grave markers in Illinois for over 85 years. Mr. Weiss has developed a substantial clientele and a profitable business and has a reputation as a competent, dependable, honest businessperson.

         In 2004, the Weiss family purchased Manley Monuments, Inc. (Manley) in Lincoln, Illinois, in an effort to expand their business. Manley operates a cemetery monument fabrication and sales business in Logan County.

         The operation and maintenance of public cemeteries in Logan County is carried out by Defendant Logan County Cemetery Maintenance District (District) and its governing body, the Board of Trustees, in accordance with the provisions of the Illinois Cemetery Maintenance District Act, 70 ILCS 105/1.1 et seq. Before Manley can place a monument on a grave site for one of its customers in Logan County, Manley must first construct a foundation at the grave site upon which the monument can sit. Permission to construct such a foundation must be obtained from the District before Manley or any of its similarly situated competitors in Logan County can construct such foundation in a Logan County public cemetery.

         The District's Board of Trustees has adopted and promulgated rules and regulations providing that the District will only approve foundation orders and mark out the designated location of the foundation at periodic intervals, no more than three or four times a year. Plaintiffs allege that the District has a custom and policy of enforcing the District's rules and regulations governing the processing and approval of foundation orders only against Manley and only approving Manley's foundation orders and marking out the approved foundation locations for Manley's monument and markers no more than two or three times a year. The same officers and employees of the District have waived this requirement for all of Manley's similarly situated competitors in Logan County by always approving the competitors' foundation orders and marking out the foundation locations on an “as submitted” basis at any time throughout the year. Plaintiffs allege that officers and/or employees with final policymaking authority, including Tim Skelton, Superintendent of Cemeteries for the District, adopted, maintained, and carried out this custom, policy, and/or practice solely for the improper and illegitimate purpose of driving Manley out of business and not for any legitimate object or purpose of the District.

         As a result of the District's custom or policy, Manley has been unable to obtain foundation order approvals and have the foundation locations marked out on the same “as submitted” basis as Manley's similarly situated competitors, thereby impairing ...


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