United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
DANIEL J. HUMBERGER, Plaintiff,
LONNY FORESMAN, et al, Defendants.
OPINION and ORDER
T. MOODY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Daniel J. Humberger claims that in January of 2014, he was
injured by police officers who used excessive force,
including a choke hold, during their interaction with him.
(DE #1.) He has sued the officers involved and others for
violations of his federal constitutional rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and for violations of state tort law.
(Id.) Two of the named defendants, Michael Grzegorek
and Lonny Foresman, have moved for judgment on the pleadings
with regard to specific claims by plaintiff against them. (DE
# 16.) The motion has been briefed and is ripe for ruling.
reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), the court applies the
same standard that is applied when reviewing a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Pisciotta v. Old
Nat'l Bancorp., 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007).
That means that the court "take[s] the facts alleged in
the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff." Id. The complaint must
contain only "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
there is no need for detailed factual allegations, the
complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what
the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."
Pisciotta, 499 F.3d at 633 (citation omitted).
Factual allegations also must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the "speculative level" to the level
of "plausible." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). A claim has facial
plausibility "when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. In examining the facts and
matching them up with the stated legal claims, the court must
give "the plaintiff the benefit of imagination, so long
as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint."
Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psych. & Neur., Inc., 40
F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994).
Federal Claim Against Grzegorek
Grzegorek, Sheriff of St. Joseph County, argues that
plaintiff's Section 1983 claim against him in his
individual capacity should be dismissed. Notably,
plaintiff's complaint specifies that Grzegorek is sued in
his individual capacity "only." (DE # 1 at 2.)
Section 1983, individual liability must be premised upon
personal responsibility. Jones v. City of Chicago,
856 F.2d 985, 992 (7th Cir. 1988). "An indiviudal cannot
be held liable in a § 1983 action unless he caused or
participated in the alleged constitutional deprivation."
Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir.
1983). "Without a showing of direct responsibility for
the improper action, liability will not lie against a
supervisory official. A causal connection, or an affirmative
link, between the misconduct complained of and the official
sued is necessary." Id. While a supervisor may
be liable even when not directly involved in the
constitutional violation, see Wilks v. Young, 897
F.2d 896, 898 (7th Cir. 1990), the misconduct of the
subordinate must be affirmatively linked to the action or
inaction of the superior. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423
U.S. 362, 371 (1976).
admits that there is "very little, if any, causal
connection or affirmative link to the alleged deprivation
complained of by the Plaintiff and Defendant Grzegorek."
(DE # 19 at 3.) However, he argues in his response brief that
inadequate supervision and discipline of subordinate officers
led to the unnecessary and illegal use of force.
(Id.) Under Seventh Circuit precedent, a plaintiff
may allege additional facts in response to a motion to
dismiss. Early v. Bankers Life & Casualty Co.,
959 F.2d 75, 79 (7th Cir. 1992) ("[A] plaintiff is free,
in defending against a motion to dismiss, to allege without
evidentiary support any facts he pleases that are consistent
with the complaint, in order to show that there is a state of
facts within the scope of the complaint that if proved (a
matter for trial) would entitle him to judgment.");
see also Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G.
(Zurich), 953 F.2d 1073, 1078 (7th Cir. 1992) ("A
complaint under Rule 8 limns [illuminates] the claim; details
of both fact and law come later, in other documents.").
Accordingly, plaintiff's factual theory regarding
Grzegorek's alleged inadequate supervision and discipline
of subordinates will be considered.
plaintiff's brief also alludes to actions by Grzegorek in
his "representative capacity" through which he
allegedly employed a policy, practice, or custom regarding:
(1) supervision and discipline of officers, and (2)
intervention into and reporting of other officer's
behavior. (DE # 19 at 2-3.) These types of allegations are
appropriate when waged against a governmental entity itself,
and would have been appropriate had Grzegorek been sued in
his official or representative capacity. However,
plaintiff's complaint specifically states that Grzegorek
"is sued in his individual capacity on the federal claim
only" and that the office of the St. Joseph County
Sheriff is "sued with respect to state law claims
only." (DE # 1 at 2.) Accordingly, the aforementioned
allegations that plaintiff set forth in his brief regarding a
policy, practice, or custom claim against the governmental
entity that Grzegorek represents is inconsistent with his
complaint and will not be considered.
sole allegation remaining regarding Grzegorek personally,
then, is that he inadequately supervised and disciplined
subordinate officers, which led to the unnecessary and
illegal use of force. A supervisor can be personally liable
under Section 1983 if he or she "know[s] about the
conduct and facilitate[s] it, approve[s] it, condone[s] it,
or turn[s] a blind eye for fear of what they might see."
Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 992
(7th Cir. 1988). Although the Seventh Circuit has indicated
that the standards for supervisory liability are
"murky" after Iqbal, it has also commented
that Iqbal has not changed the rule that supervisors
can be individually liable for wrongs they direct or
authorize. Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 757 (7th
Cir. 2011). Plaintiff's allegations regarding
Grzegorek's failure to correct inappropriate behavior by
officers is sufficient under Jones to state a claim.
Johnson v. City of Hammond, No. 2:14 CV 281, 2016 WL
1244016, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 29, 2016) (plaintiff
sufficiently pleaded that police chief authorized and/or
turned a blind eye to officer's acts). Accordingly,
defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings
regarding plaintiff's claim against Grzegorek is denied.
State Law Claims ...