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Klein v. County of Lake

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

September 20, 2019

GERALYN KLEIN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF LAKE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES T. MOODY JUDGE

          This matter is before the court on defendant John Buncich's motion to dismiss (DE # 21) and defendants Larry Hunt, John Latta, Craig Philps, and Lakes of the Four Seasons Property Owners Association's motion to dismiss (DE # 40).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following factual allegations are taken from plaintiffs Geralyn Klein and Brandon Klein's complaint (DE # 1) and are accepted as true for the purpose of resolving the pending motions to dismiss. See Simpson v. Brown Cty., 860 F.3d 1001, 1009 (7th Cir. 2017).

         On September 18, 2016, Geralyn and her son Brandon lived in the Lakes of the Four Seasons gated community. (DE # 1 at 6.) That afternoon, Brandon came home, ran through the house, and ran out the back door. (Id.) Geralyn locked the door behind him, preventing defendant sheriff deputy Nicholas Medrano from entering the house. (Id.) A few minutes later, Geralyn left her house and asked Medrano what was going on. (Id.) Medrano told Geralyn that she was under arrest for interfering with police business, and placed her in handcuffs. (Id. at 6-7.) Medrano then slammed Geralyn on top of her car, picked her up, and slammed her on top of her car a second time. (Id.) Medrano picked Geralyn up again, walked her down the driveway, and slammed her into Brandon's car twice. (Id. at 7-8.) Shortly thereafter, two Lakes of the Four Seasons Security Officers, defendants Kenneth Green and John Latta arrived at the scene. (Id. at 9.) Green got out of the car, while Latta remained in the car. (Id.) A third Lakes of the Four Seasons Security Officer, defendant Larry Hunt, also arrived at the scene. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that it was clear at this time that Geralyn had been battered. (Id.)

         Next, Medrano kicked in the door to the Klein's home. (Id.) He and Green ransacked the home and destroyed a number of plaintiffs' possessions. (Id.)

         Some time later, all of the officers made a circle around Geralyn and taunted her when she told them that her arm was broken. (Id. at 10.) Someone eventually called her an ambulance and Geralyn was taken to a hospital. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs' present lawsuit alleges that defendants violated their constitutional rights and Indiana law. Defendant Buncich has filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that: (1) the suit against him in his official capacity as Lake County Sheriff is duplicative of the claims against the Lake County Sheriff's Department; and (2) plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a plausible claim for relief against Buncich. (DE ## 21, 22.) Defendants Latta, Hunt, Philp, and Lakes of the Four Seasons Property Owners Association, Inc. have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on the basis that: (1) plaintiffs' complaint fails to put them on notice of the claims against them; (2) plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a claim against them; and (3) they are immune from plaintiffs' state law claims under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. (DE ## 40, 41.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A judge reviewing a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must construe the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. United States ex rel. Berkowitz v. Automation Aids, Inc., 896 F.3d 834, 839 (7th Cir. 2018).

         Under the liberal notice-pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “While the federal pleading standard is quite forgiving, . . . the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 662-63 (7th Cir. 2011); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). To meet this standard, a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond providing “labels and conclusions” and “be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint must give “enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together.” Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). Even if the truth of the facts alleged appears doubtful, and recovery remote or unlikely, the court cannot dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if, when the facts pleaded are taken as true, a plaintiff has “nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendant Buncich's Motion to Dismiss

         Plaintiffs sued defendant Buncich, the former Lake County Sheriff, in his official capacity only, as well as separately naming the Lake County Sheriff's Department as a defendant. As Buncich correctly notes, the claims against him are redundant of the claims against the Lake County Sheriff's Department - the real party at interest. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985) (“[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity.”). Accordingly, because the Lake County Sheriff's Department is the real party at interest, the claims against Buncich will be dismissed as duplicative. See Mikulich v. Buncich, No. 2:18-CV-192, 2019 WL 1014784, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 4, 2019) (dismissing the claims against Sheriff Buncich in his official capacity as duplicative of the claims against the Lake County Sheriff's Department); Vargas v. Lake Cty. Police Dep't, No. 2:14-CV-288, ...


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