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Jaroscak v. Times of Northwest Indiana

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

October 23, 2017

DAVID A. JAROSCAK, Plaintiff,
v.
The Times of Northwest Indiana, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on six motions to dismiss: (1) the Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendant, Aaron Ridgway, on April 13, 2017 (DE #25); (2) the Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendants Town of Merrillville Police Department and Police Chief Joseph Petruch, on April 17, 2017 (DE #27); (3) the Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendants Crown Point Police Department, Officer Stanko Gligic, Officer Robert Ballas, Officer Mille Knezevic, Officer D. Wilkins, Officer J. Burkholder, and Police Chief Pete Land, on April 24, 2017 (DE #30); (4) the Motion to Dismiss filed by Lee Publication, Inc. d/b/a The Times Media Company (improperly Named as “The Times of Northwest Indiana”) and Reginald Edwards, on April 24, 2017 (DE #33); (5) the Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendants Officers John Doe, on April 27, 2017 (DE #38); and (6) the Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendants Lake County Sheriff's Department and Sheriff John Buncich, on May 3, 2017 (DE #43).

         For the reasons set forth below: the Motions to Dismiss (DE ## 25, 27, 30, 33, 38, and 43) are GRANTED as follows: the federal claims (Counts V, VI, VII, VIII, X, and XI) are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE and the state claims (Counts I, II, III, IV, and IX) are dismissed WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, David A. Jaroscak, filed a complaint against numerous plaintiffs on February 27, 2017 (DE #1), all stemming from an occurrence at Jaroscak's house on March 1, 2015, when defendant, Theresa Ridgway, was delivering newspapers for the Times of Northwest Indiana, and got her vehicle stuck in the snow in Jaroscak's driveway. Theresa's husband, Aaron Ridgway (a police officer for the Town of Merrillville), got into a verbal confrontation with Jaroscak, Aaron Ridgway called the police, and Jaroscak was ultimately arrested by the Lake County Police two days later. Defendants have moved to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.[1] Each of the motions has been fully briefed and is ready for adjudication. Because the motions share the same nucleus of facts, for the sake of judicial economy, this Court has consolidated these motions into one order.

         DISCUSSION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a complaint to be dismissed if it fails to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Allegations other than fraud and mistake are governed by the pleading standard outlined in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement” that the pleader is entitled to relief. Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011).

         In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). All well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences from those facts must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2008). However, pleadings consisting of no more than mere conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. This includes legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, as well as “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Facts

         On March 1, 2015, around 6:00 a.m. in the morning, Jaroscak was in his home watching the news when he heard a thud on his front porch. (Compl. ¶ 24.) Thinking that the noise was simply the snow and cold he stayed in his home and continued watching the news. Id. About forty-five minutes later he took his dog outside when he noticed a car stuck in his driveway, with about half the car in his yard. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff's driveway is approximately 350 feet long, none of which was plowed, and the stuck car was approximately 100 feet from the street. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.) The vehicle belonged to Theresa Ridgway, a co-defendant and the wife of Defendant, Aaron Ridgway. (Id. ¶ 27.) Theresa was delivering newspapers for The Times of Northwest Indiana (“The Times”) the morning of the incident. (Id. ¶ 5.)

         After seeing Theresa's stuck vehicle, Jaroscak noticed a SUV pull into his driveway. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) The SUV belonged to Reginald Edwards, a co-worker of Theresa's from The Times. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 33.) Edwards ended up getting his vehicle stuck as well. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff watched Theresa and Edwards attempt to free their vehicles for about twenty minutes, at which point he decided to put his dog back inside the house and approach the drivers to ask why they were at his home. (Id. ¶ 29.) Theresa told Jaroscak that she was delivering his newspaper, to which he responded that he doesn't get the paper and that she was trespassing. (Id. ¶ 30.) Jaroscak asked Theresa and Edwards to both leave, and they responded by ignoring him. (Id. ¶ 32.) He then told the two of them “I can go get my shotgun or call the police.” Id. Theresa responded by saying she would call the police. Id.

         After telling Theresa that he could go get his shotgun or call the police, Jaroscak began walking back towards his front porch. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.) He picked up the newspaper which Theresa delivered earlier that morning, walked back and placed the paper in Theresa's vehicle, and then went back inside his home. Id.

         Sometime after 8:00 a.m., about an hour after Jaroscak first noticed that Theresa was stuck in his driveway, he heard a knock at his door and the doorbell. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 34.) He went to the door and saw a man in plain clothes, defendant Aaron Ridgway, who identified himself as the husband of the woman stuck in the driveway, to which Jaroscak responded “O.K.” (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) According to the complaint, Ridgway then “accused the Plaintiff of threatening his wife, ” “said he was a Crown Point Police Officer, ” and “proceeded to verbal[ly] threaten, scream, spit and yell[] at the Plaintiff through the Plaintiff's storm door.” (Id. ¶ 37.) During this time, Plaintiff's storm door remained closed between them, and it was locked. (Id. ¶¶ 35-37.) Although the complaint alleges that Ridgway identified himself as a Crown Point Police Officer, he is actually a Police Officer of the Town of Merrillville, Indiana. (Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) This conversation occurred on Jaroscak's porch, which was approximately 200 feet from Theresa and Reginald's stuck vehicles. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 38.) After exchanging words with Plaintiff, the complaint alleges Ridgway then called the police on his cell phone while standing on the Plaintiff's porch. (Id. ¶ 38.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that at 8:30 a.m., he received a telephone call from the Crown Point Police Department, requesting that he go outside of his home because police officers were there. (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff did not see any police officers at that time, and he did not go outside - instead, he requested the caller to send a supervisor to the door. (Id.) He received a second phone call at 8:39 a.m. from the Crown Point Police Department, requesting him to go outside of his home. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff saw officers standing by the woods, approximately 80 feet from his front porch. (Id. ¶ 42.) He proceeded to walk out onto his front porch and yell to the officers “where is the supervisor.” (Id.) According to Plaintiff, the officers then drew their weapons, pointed them at Plaintiff, and yelled at him, so he retreated into his house. (Id.) Plaintiff then observed from inside the removal of the two stuck vehicles. (Id. ¶ 43.)

         Plaintiff alleges he was arrested by Lake County Police officers two days later, on March 3, 2015. (Id. ¶ 50.) He was released after he posted bond in the amount of $500 to the City of Crown Point on the charge of Intimidation and another $500 at the Lake County Jail for the charge of Resisting Law Enforcement. (Id. ¶ 54.) The charge of Resisting Law Enforcement was never filed against Jaroscak, and the charge of Intimidation was dismissed by the State on February 16, 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 54-55.)

         In his complaint filed on February 27, 2017, Plaintiff alleges the following claims: (1) trespass against Lee Publication, Inc. d/b/a The Times Media Company (improperly Named as “The Times of Northwest Indiana”) (hereinafter “the Times Defendants”), Theresa Ridgway, and Reginald Edwards (Count I); (2) slander against the Times Defendants, Theresa Ridgway, and Reginald Edwards (Count II); (3) trespass against Aaron Ridgway (Count III); (4) slander against Aaron Ridgway (Count IV); (5) violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983: failure to train, refusing or neglecting to prevent, against the Town of Merrillville Police Department and Chief of Police Joseph Petruch (Count V); (6) violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983: false arrest, against the Crown Point Police Department (Count VI); (7) violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983: detention and confinement, against the Crown Point Police Department (Count VII); (8) violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983: failure to train, refusing or neglecting to prevent, against the Crown Point Police Department and Chief of Police, Pete Land as Chief for the Crown Point Police Department (Count VIII); (9) trespass against the Crown Point ...


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