Zinn et al v. Village of Sauk Village Ill., The et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Robert Blakey on 3/1/2017. Mailed notice(gel, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
SHEILA P. ZINN and
BIANCA S. GILMORE,
Case No. 16-cv-3542
Judge John Robert Blakey
THE VILLAGE OF SAUK VILLAGE
and Sauk Village Police Officer
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case involves a dispute between Plaintiffs Sheila Zinn (“Zinn”) and
Bianca Gilmore (“Gilmore”) and Defendants the Village of Sauk Village (“Sauk
Village”) and one of its police officers, Richard Aguayo (“Aguayo”), regarding the
impoundment of Zinn’s automobile on March 24, 2014. Plaintiffs bring five causes
of action in their Amended Complaint . Plaintiffs allege that Aguayo illegally
seized Gilmore (Count I); illegally searched and seized Zinn’s automobile (Count II);
and unlawfully retaliated against Plaintiffs’ exercise of their First Amendment
rights (Count III) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs further assert a § 1983
Monell claim against Sauk Village for its alleged widespread practice of
unconstitutionally seizing private property in order to raise revenue (Count IV).
Finally, Plaintiffs bring a state law indemnification claim against Sauk Village
under 745 ILCS 10/9-102 for Aguayo’s misconduct (Count V). On November 17,
2016, Defendants jointly moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to
dismiss Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim.
Dismiss . For the reasons explained below, Defendants’ motion is granted in
part and denied in part.
Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint  sets forth the following relevant facts,
which the Court accepts as true for the purposes of Defendants’ motion. On the
morning of March 24, 2014, Plaintiff Bianca Gilmore was involved in a traffic
accident while driving a vehicle owned by her mother, Plaintiff Sheila Zinn. Am.
Compl.  ¶ 7. Shortly thereafter, Defendant Richard Aguayo, a Village of Sauk
Village Police Officer, arrived on the scene and issued accident reports to Gilmore
and the other driver. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs allege that Aguayo then ordered Gilmore,
without probable cause, to follow him to the Sauk Village police station. Id. ¶¶ 8,
10. After requiring Gilmore to wait at the police station for an hour and a half,
Aguayo advised her to contact someone who could come to the station and pay a
$350 bond. Id. Gilmore contends that, at this point, she had not been issued a
ticket nor informed that charges were being brought against her. Id. ¶ 13.
Gilmore contacted her mother via telephone. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiffs allege that,
during the call, Aguayo notified Zinn that Gilmore had been arrested, but refused to
provide further information. Id. ¶ 15. Instead, Aguayo told Zinn that her daughter
would be “going into a cage” if Zinn did not pay the $350 bond, and hung up on her.
After Aguayo hung up the phone, Zinn called the Sauk Village Police
Department to obtain more information. Id. ¶ 16. A different Sauk Village police
officer assured her that, contrary to Aguayo’s claims, Gilmore had not been taken
into custody. Id. ¶ 18. Nevertheless, Gilmore remained at the Sauk Village Police
Later that day, Aguayo once again told Gilmore to contact her mother, this
time to determine why Zinn “was taking so long” to pay Gilmore’s bond. Id. Aguayo
again threatened to put Gilmore “in a cell” if Zinn did not show up with $350 in
cash. Id. ¶ 19. After Gilmore made contact with her mother, Zinn questioned the
legality of Aguayo’s actions. Id. ¶ 21. In response, Aguayo “got angry” and stated
that Zinn’s questioning had “made things bad for her.” Id. According to Plaintiffs,
Aguayo then “caused false charges to be made” against Gilmore, processed her, and
placed her in a cell. 1 Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiffs also allege that at this point, Aguayo
reached into Gilmore’s pocket and seized the car keys to Zinn’s automobile. Id. ¶
Eventually, Zinn travelled to the Sauk Village Police Station in person. Upon
arrival, she asked to speak with the Chief of Police in order to file a complaint. Id.
¶¶ 24-25. In response, Aguayo falsely told Zinn that he was the Chief of Police and
that Zinn should speak with him in his office about paying Gilmore’s bond. Id. ¶ 25.
Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint  does not specify the particular charges filed.
Aguayo finally released Gilmore later that day, 2 but retained possession of
Zinn’s automobile. Id. ¶¶ 23-26. Upon her release, Aguayo provided Gilmore with a
“Notification of Vehicle Impoundment” that identified “aiding and abetting the
commission of a crime” as justification for the vehicle’s seizure. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiffs
allege, however, that the notice did not specify the crime Gilmore had allegedly
aided and abetted, a date for an administrative hearing, or Gilmore’s right to such a
hearing. Id. ¶¶ 28-29.
Plaintiffs also allege that, while Zinn’s vehicle was impounded, the Sauk
Village Police Department rejected or obstructed multiple attempts to file official
complaints regarding Aguayo’s conduct. Id. ¶ 48. Specifically, Zinn tried to file a
notarized complaint against Aguayo three times on March 31, 2014, but was told
that no one was present to accept her grievance. Id. ¶ 49. Plaintiffs maintain that
when a complaint was finally submitted, it was never investigated by Sauk Village
and Aguayo was never punished for his actions. Id. ¶ 53.
On April 1, 2014, Plaintiffs requested a preliminary hearing regarding the
impoundment of Zinn’s vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Plaintiffs allege that, under the Sauk
Village Municipal Code, the owner of an impounded vehicle may request a
preliminary hearing within fifteen days of impoundment, and, once such a request
is made, a preliminary hearing must be held within forty-eight hours. Id. ¶ 31.
Nevertheless, Plaintiffs were not given a timely preliminary hearing.
Id. ¶ 32.
Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint  does not specify whether Zinn paid Gilmore’s bond prior to her
Instead, a final administrative hearing was held without notice on April 17, 2014, at
which time default judgment was entered against Plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.
Despite the default judgment, Plaintiffs were granted a preliminary hearing
in August 2014. Id. ¶ 58. Plaintiffs allege that when Gilmore appeared at the
hearing, however, a neutral arbiter was not present. Id. Instead, an attorney for
Sauk Village informed Gilmore that Zinn’s car would be released to her custody if
she signed a settlement agreement and a release of all potential claims against the
Village. Id. ¶ 59. Gilmore refused. Id. ¶ 60.
On October 1, 2015, Sauk Village’s Public Safety Administrator reviewed the
evidence that Plaintiffs initially provided in their April 1, 2014 request for a
After reviewing the evidence, the Public Safety
Administrator waived all fines and ordered that Zinn’s vehicle be released. Id. In
the end, Zinn’s vehicle was impounded for nineteen months, during which time
Plaintiffs incurred various expenses for rental cars, taxi services, and public
transportation. Id. ¶¶ 55, 57.
Plaintiffs claim that Zinn’s vehicle was initially seized pursuant to Sauk
Village’s Vehicle Impoundment Ordinance (“the Ordinance”).
Id. ¶¶ 35-36.
Plaintiffs allege that, since 2011, Sauk Village police officers have routinely seized
and impounded vehicles under the auspice of the Ordinance “without a warrant and
when no valid exception to the warrant requirement applies” in order to raise
revenue for the Village. Id. ¶¶ 35-37, 41, 46. Plaintiffs assert that, as a result of
this unlawful practice, tow release fees collected by the Village have substantially
increased in recent years. 3 Id. ¶¶ 42-44.
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Gen. Elec.
Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). A
motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint, not the merits of a case.
Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). To
survive a motion to dismiss, the claim must first comply with Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure by providing a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), such that the
defendant is given “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) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).
Second, the complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter” 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). That is, the allegations must raise the
possibility of relief above the “speculative level.”
E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health
Servs. Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). A claim has facial plausibility “when
the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
For example, Plaintiffs allege that during fiscal year 2012, Sauk Village collected $106,195 in tow
release funds. Am. Compl.  ¶ 44. For a six-month period of fiscal year 2013, Sauk Village raised
$76,670. Id. For the fiscal year ending on April 30, 2015, Sauk Village raised $170,675. Id.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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.” Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013). The
“amount of factual allegations required to state a plausible claim for relief depends
on the complexity of the legal theory alleged,” but “threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Vill. Of Lemont, 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008).
In evaluating the complaint, the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations as true
and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
The Court begins with two preliminary matters.
First, in response to
Defendants’ motion, Plaintiffs’ agree to voluntarily dismiss their claim for unlawful
seizure of Gilmore on March 24, 2014. Pls.’ Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss  n.1.
Therefore, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss  as it relates to Count I is granted.
Second, Defendants’ pleadings omit any discussion of Plaintiffs’ indemnification
claim. Therefore, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss  as it relates to Count V is
denied. Plaintiffs’ remaining claims (Counts II-IV) will be discussed in turn.
Count II: Illegal Search and Seizure of Zinn’s Automobile
The Fourth Amendment protects the right of individuals “to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. To state a § 1983 claim for a Fourth Amendment
violation, Plaintiffs must plausibly allege that: (1) there was a search or seizure;
and (2) the search or seizure was unreasonable. Angara v. City of Chicago, 897 F.
Supp. 355, 358 (N.D. Ill. 1995). Generally, searches and seizures are unreasonable
when conducted without a warrant and without satisfying one of the exceptions to
the warrant requirement. Ivy v. Powers, No. 08-cv-3826, 2009 WL 230542, at *3
(N.D. Ill. Jan. 30, 2009). Here, Plaintiffs claim that Aguayo initially seized Zinn’s
automobile without probable cause, after Aguayo “caused false charges to be made”
against Gilmore. Am. Compl.  ¶¶ 10, 22. This is sufficient to state a Fourth
Amendment claim under § 1983. 4
In response, Defendants assert that Aguayo’s initial seizure was supported by
probable cause because Zinn’s vehicle registration was suspended.
Supp. Mot. Dismiss  4-5. In support of their claim, Defendants submitted a
Sauk Village Police Department “Vehicle History Abstract” which indicates Zinn’s
registration expired on May 20, 2013.
Id. Ex. A.
At this preliminary stage,
however, the Court is generally confined to the facts alleged in Plaintiffs’ Amended
Complaint, which states that Aguayo seized Gilmore “without probable cause or any
other lawful basis.” Am. Compl.  ¶ 10; McCready v. eBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882,
891 (7th Cir. 2006). Of course, under Rule 10(c), a “copy of any written instrument
which is an exhibit to a pleading is a part thereof for all purposes,” including “a
limited class of attachments to
Travelbyus.com Ltd., 299 F.3d 657, 661 (7th Cir. 2002).
This “limited class,”
In their motion, Defendants attack Plaintiffs’ seizure claim by defending the facial constitutionality
of Sauk Village’s Vehicle Impoundment Ordinance. Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss  6-8. Given
the circumstances alleged in Plaintiffs’ specific case, however, this Defendants’ argument is
however, only includes documents that “are referred to” in Plaintiffs’ complaint and
“are central” to their claim, such as a contract. Id. Such an exception does not
apply here. Defendants’ argument, therefore, is premature.
Citing Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456 (7th Cir. 2003), Defendants also
argue that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to Sauk Village’s administrative
hearing process that followed Aguayo’s initial seizure of Zinn’s vehicle. Defs.’ Mem.
Supp. Mot. Dismiss  8.
In Lee, the Seventh Circuit held that the Fourth
Amendment is limited “to an individual’s interest in retaining his property.” 330
F.3d at 466 (emphasis in original).
Thus, once an individual “has been
meaningfully dispossessed,” the “seizure of the property is complete,” and the
Fourth Amendment “cannot be invoked by the dispossessed owner to regain his
Here, however, complaints about Sauk Village’s impoundment
practices notwithstanding, Plaintiffs claim that Aguayo’s initial seizure of Zinn’s
vehicle was unreasonable. Thus, even under Lee, Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment
claim remains viable.
Defendants’ further contend that, under Lee, Plaintiffs cannot bring a Fourth
Amendment claim due to their failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Defs.’
Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss  9. The Lee court required a showing that state-law
remedies were inadequate, however, because the plaintiff brought a substantive due
process claim that only implicated the deprivation of a property interest, not a
330 F.3d at 467.
Here, Plaintiffs allege an independent
constitutional violation under the Fourth Amendment. Under this theory, Plaintiffs
need not exhaust state remedies before filing in federal court. See Patsy v. Bd. of
Regents of State of Fla., 457 U.S. 496, 516 (1982) (“[W]e conclude that exhaustion of
state administrative remedies should not be required as a prerequisite to bringing
an action pursuant to § 1983.”).
Finally, Defendants argue that Aguayo is entitled to qualified immunity.
Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss  12.
Government officials performing
discretionary functions are protected from liability for civil damages if their conduct
does not violate “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818
(1982). When considering a qualified immunity defense, the Court contemplates: (1)
whether Plaintiffs’ allegations establish that Defendant violated a constitutional
right; and (2) whether that constitutional right was clearly established at the time
of Defendant’s conduct. Hernandez ex rel. Hernandez v. Foster, 657 F.3d 463, 473
(7th Cir. 2011) (citing Siliven v. Ind. Dep’t. of Child Servs., 635 F.3d 921, 925 (7th
Here, accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true, as we must, Defendants’
qualified immunity claim fails. Plaintiffs assert that Aguayo possessed neither a
warrant nor probable cause to seize Zinn’s vehicle. Am. Compl.  ¶ 55. Indeed,
Plaintiffs allege that Aguayo went so far as to falsify charges against Gilmore in
order to effectuate the vehicle’s impoundment. Am. Compl.  ¶ 22. Even under
the exacting standards for denial of qualified immunity, see White v. Pauly, 137 S.
Ct. 548, 552 (2017) (reiterating that “clearly established law” should not be defined
“at a high level of generality” and must be “particularized” to the facts of the case”),
freedom from seizure under such circumstances was clearly established at the time
of Aguayo’s conduct. See Washington v. Haupert, 481 F.3d 543, 551 (7th Cir. 2007)
(“According to the plaintiffs, the police officers fabricated a police report in order to
justify their arrests. A reasonable officer would have understood that what he was
doing violated their right to be free from unreasonable seizure.”); Garcia v. City of
Chicago, No. 09-cv-5598, 2012 WL 601844, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2012) (“It was
clearly established in December 2007 that the Fourth Amendment prohibits a law
enforcement officer from knowingly leveling false charges in a case report or
criminal complaint.”); Treece v. City of Naperville, No. 94-cv-5548, 1998 WL 142391,
at *11 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 25, 1998) (“[F]alsifying police reports and fabricating charges
violated Treece’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.”). Aguayo is therefore not
entitled to qualified immunity, at least at this stage of the proceedings.
For the reasons stated above, Defendants’ motion as it relates to Count II is
Count III: First Amendment Retaliation
In Count III, Plaintiffs claim that the seizure and extended impoundment of
Zinn’s automobile constituted punitive retaliation for Plaintiffs’ grievances against
Aguayo. Am. Compl.  ¶¶ 56, 71-73. To adequately plead a First Amendment
retaliation claim, Plaintiffs must allege that: (1) their speech was constitutionally
protected; (2) they suffered a deprivation likely to deter free speech; and (3) their
speech was at least a motivating factor in Defendants’ actions. Spalding v. City of
Chicago, 24 F. Supp. 3d 765, 775 (N.D. Ill. 2014).
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have “not suffered deprivation of a
constitutional right.” Defs.’ Reply  9. It is well settled, however, that the First
Amendment creates a right to petition the government—including state and local
government—for a redress of grievances. Ogurek v. Gabor, 827 F.3d 567, 568 (7th
Cir. 2016); Belk v. Town of Minocqua, 858 F.2d 1258, 1261 (7th Cir. 1988) (“[T]he
freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances is but one of several
fundamental freedoms protected by the [F]irst [A]mendment.”).
identifying the kind of deprivation that would deter speech, the test is “whether a
person of ‘ordinary firmness’ would be deterred from exercising his or her First
Amendment rights.” Sneed v. City of Harvey, 6 F. Supp. 3d 817, 840 (N.D. Ill.
2013), aff’d sub nom., 598 F. App’x 442 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Bart v. Telford, 677
F.2d 622, 625 (7th Cir. 1982)). The Court applies “an objective test to determine
whether an action is materially adverse,” but whether it meets that standard
“depends on the context and circumstances of the particular case.” Zitzka v. Vill. of
Westmont, 743 F. Supp. 2d 887, 916 (N.D. Ill. 2010). The extended impoundment of
Zinn’s automobile satisfies this standard. See DeGuiseppe v. Vill. of Bellwood, 68
F.3d 187, 192 (7th Cir. 1995) (“[R]etaliation need not be monstrous to be actionable
under the First Amendment[.]”); Kafka v. Grady, No. 12-cv-50123, 2014 WL
4725399, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 23, 2014) (citing this circuit’s “liberal interpretation
of what an actionable constitutional deprivation can be for First Amendment
retaliation claims under [§ 1983].”).
Defendants also argue that the impoundment of Plaintiffs’ vehicle “precede[d]
any speech made by Plaintiffs in opposition to [the] Village’s tow and impound
policy,” thus precluding a finding of retaliatory motive. Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot.
Dismiss  9 (“[I]t is not clear how there could be any relationship between the
Plaintiffs’ speech and the prior tow and impoundment of their vehicle.”); Defs.’
Reply  7 (“All of Plaintiff’s allegedly protected speech occurred after the tow and
impoundment of Plaintiff’s vehicle.”).
Defendants’ characterization of the alleged facts, however, is inaccurate.
According to Plaintiffs, Zinn first questioned the legality of Aguayo’s actions via
telephone, before Gilmore was falsely charged and placed in a cell. Am. Compl. 
¶¶ 19, 21-23. It was only after Zinn’s oral complaint that Aguayo told Gilmore that
Zinn’s challenge had “made things bad for her” and proceeded to seize Zinn’s vehicle
keys. Id. ¶¶ 21-23. Plaintiffs further allege that Aguayo provided Gilmore with a
Notification of Vehicle Impoundment after Zinn physically arrived at the Sauk
Village Police Station and requested to file a complaint with the Chief of Police. Id.
¶¶ 25, 28. Finally, Plaintiffs claim that they attempted to file multiple official
complaints regarding Aguayo’s conduct throughout 2014 and 2015.
Id. ¶ 48.
Despite—or perhaps because of—these complaints, Zinn’s vehicle remained
impounded for nineteen months, until its release in October 2015. Id. ¶ 55. With
these facts, it is plausible that both the initial seizure and continued impoundment
of Zinn’s vehicle were retaliation for Zinn’s repeated objections.
Defendants’ motion as it relates to Count III is denied. 5
Count IV: Monell Claim
In Count IV, Plaintiffs bring a municipal liability claim against Sauk Village
under Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). 6
Although Monell subjects local governmental units to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
respondeat superior will not suffice to impose liability. McTigue v. City of Chicago,
60 F.3d 381, 382 (7th Cir. 1995). The municipality’s policy, not employees, must be
the source of the discrimination. Id.; Auriemma v. Rice, 957 F.2d 397, 399 (7th Cir.
1992) (“Municipalities are answerable only for their own decisions and policies; they
are not vicariously liable for the constitutional torts of their agents.”).
Consequently, a § 1983 complaint against a municipality “must plead the existence
of a custom or policy that was the direct cause of the deprivation of a federal right.”
Caldwell v. City of Elmwood, Ind., 959 F.2d 670, 673 (7th Cir. 1992). Specifically,
Defendants additionally argue that Plaintiffs’ retaliation claim is flawed for the same reason as
Plaintiffs’ unlawful seizure claim: the tow and impoundment of Zinn’s vehicle was supported by
probable cause. Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss  10; Defs.’ Reply  7-8. The Court rejects this
argument for the same reasons discussed above.
Plaintiffs’ Monell claim is not without flaws as currently drafted. Plaintiffs devote inordinate focus
to Sauk Village’s Vehicle Impoundment Ordinance itself, claiming that it is “unconstitutional”
because it “authorizes” and “encourages” violations of the Fourth Amendment. Am. Compl.  ¶¶
76-81. From this, Defendants’ motion reasonably interpreted Count IV as a facial challenge to the
Ordinance’s constitutionality rather than a Monell claim against an implemented policy. See Defs.’
Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss  10-11. Plaintiffs’ response clarified, however, that they are not
mounting a facial challenge to the Ordinance. Pls.’ Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss  3. Rather,
Plaintiffs theorize that Sauk Village “encourages its officers”—under the auspice of the Ordinance—
to impound “lawfully parked cars that are not evidence of a crime” for the purpose of “offsetting the
Village’s massive budget shortfalls.” Id. 4-5. While the Amended Complaint  is imprecise, the
Court finds that this theory can nonetheless be reasonably inferred from the language of the
complaint. See Am. Compl.  ¶ 35 (stating that Sauk Village, “in an effort to raise money for the
Village,” engaged in a “widespread practice of illegally and unconstitutionally seizing private
property” and charging monetary fees for its return).
Plaintiffs must plead factual content that would allow the Court to plausibly infer
that: (1) they suffered the deprivation of a constitutional right; and (2) an official
custom or policy caused that deprivation. Barwicks v. Dart, No. 14-cv-8791, 2016
WL 3418570, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 22, 2016).
Regarding the second element,
Plaintiffs must plead that the constitutional violation was caused by: (1) an express
municipal policy; (2) a widespread, though unwritten, custom or practice; or (3) a
decision by a municipal agent with final policymaking authority. Milestone v. City
of Monroe, Wis., 665 F.3d 774, 780 (7th Cir. 2011).
A § 1983 municipal liability claim “need not meet any heightened pleading
standard, but rather must simply set forth sufficient allegations to place the court
and defendants on notice of the gravamen of the complaint.” Latuszkin v. City of
Chicago, 250 F.3d 502, 504 (7th Cir. 2001); Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics
Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993). In White v. City of
Chicago, the Seventh Circuit explored the limits of this principle. 829 F.3d 837, 839
(7th Cir. 2016), cert. denied sub nom., 137 S. Ct. 526 (2016). In White, following a
two-year narcotics investigation, the defendant police officer applied for dozens of
arrest warrants, including one for the plaintiff. Id. In a later civil suit, the plaintiff
claimed that the officer failed to present the judge who issued the warrant with
enough information to establish probable cause for the arrest. Id. The plaintiff also
alleged a Monell claim against the City of Chicago for its supposed widespread
practice of seeking arrest warrants upon the basis of conclusory complaint forms.
Id. at 841. The district court originally held that the plaintiff failed to state a
Monell claim because his complaint solely stated that the officer who arrested the
plaintiff “acted in accordance with a widespread practice of the police department of
the City of Chicago when seeking a warrant.” Id. at 843. According to the district
court, this conclusory statement was not enough “to draw the reasonable inference
that the City maintained a policy, custom, or practice that deprived [the plaintiff] of
his constitutional rights.” Id.
The Seventh Circuit found the district court’s ruling to be in error. Id. The
court stated that the plaintiff’s complaint cited his individual claim against the
officer, and further claimed that the officer’s conduct was “[i]n accordance with a
widespread practice of the police department of the City of Chicago.” Id. at 844.
Citing Leatherman, the court held that this “was enough to satisfy the ‘short and
plain statement of the claim’ requirement of Rule 8(a)(2).” Id. According to the
court, the plaintiff “was not required to identify every other or even one other
individual who had been arrested pursuant to a warrant obtained through the
complained-of process.” Id. (citing Jackson v. Marion County, 66 F.3d 151, 152-53
(7th Cir. 1995)) (emphasis added).
Here, Plaintiffs have sufficiently pled both Monell elements at this early
stage of the proceedings.
As discussed above, the Amended Complaint 
adequately alleges that Plaintiffs suffered a constitutional deprivation when
Aguayo unreasonably seized Gilmore’s vehicle in violation of the Fourth
The Amended Complaint further alleges that Aguayo’s seizure
occurred “pursuant to [Sauk Village’s] widespread practice of illegally and
unconstitutionally seizing private property” and charging monetary fees for its
return “in an effort to raise money for the Village.” Am. Compl.  ¶ 35. Under
White, this is sufficient for the purposes of Rule 12(b)(6).
At summary judgment, of course, Plaintiffs’ single incident would not give
rise to a Monell claim. See Wilson v. Cook Cty., 742 F.3d 775, 780 (7th Cir. 2014)
(stating that although the Seventh Circuit “has not adopted any bright-line rules for
establishing what constitutes a widespread custom or practice, it is clear that a
single incident—or even three incidents—do not suffice.”). At this stage, however,
Plaintiffs “need only allege a pattern or practice, not put forth the full panoply of
evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could conclude such a pattern exists.”
Barwicks, 2016 WL 3418570, at *4. In other words, Plaintiffs “need only plead that
the alleged incident is one of many” occurring in Sauk Village and “that a
widespread practice” gave rise to those incidents. Id. at *5. Plaintiffs have done so.
Although Plaintiffs’ claim, “like many § 1983 claims, may not have merit,” this does
not justify the Court “granting of a motion to dismiss in advance of giving
[Plaintiffs] a chance to prove [their] allegations.” Hampton v. City of Chicago, No.
96 C 3480, 1997 WL 790590, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 17, 1997). Therefore, Defendants’
motion as it relates to Count IV is denied.
For the reasons discussed above, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim  is granted as to Count I and denied as to Counts II-V. The status
hearing previously set for March 21, 2017 stands. At that time, the parties shall be
prepared to discuss additional case management dates.
Date: March 1, 2017
John Robert Blakey
United States District Judge
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