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Zappa v. Gonzalez

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 18, 2016

MARY ZAPPA and RANDALL HAHN, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
CARLOS GONZALEZ, et al., Defendants-Appellees

         Argued November 3, 2015.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 13 C 6623 - Thomas M. Durkin, Judge.

         For MARY ZAPPA, RANDALL HAHN, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Lance A. Raphael, Attorney, CONSUMER ADVOCACY CENTER, Chicago, IL.

         For JEFFREY J. SMITH, GARRISON BENNETT, O.A.G. MOTORCYCLE VENTURES, INC., doing business as City Limits Harley Davidson, Defendants - Appellees: David G. Wix, Attorney, Kevin T. Mocogni, Attorney, TARPEY WIX LLC, Chicago, IL.

         For CARLOS GONZALEZ, individually and in his official capacity as a Palatine police officer, VILLAGE OF PALATINE, ILLINOIS, Defendants - Appellees: Michael E. Kujawa, Attorney, JUDGE, JAMES & KUJAWA, LLC, Park Ridge, IL.

         Before WOOD, Chief Judge, EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge, and BRUCE, District Judge.[*]


         WOOD, Chief Judge.

         This case involves a consumer dispute that blew up, unfortunately, into a federal case. Plaintiffs Randall Hahn and Mary Zappa thought that they had purchased a certain motorcycle, but it turned out that they had the wrong one. Conversations between them and the dealership degenerated into accusations of theft, which led to the involvement of the police. In the end, Hahn returned the motorcycle. Believing that their rights under the Fourth Amendment and state law had been violated, however, he and Zappa filed this lawsuit against the private entities involved, the municipality, and the police officer who was swept up in this dispute. The district court dismissed the federal claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state theories, and this appeal follows. We affirm.


         Matters began simply enough when, in early July 2013, Hahn spotted an internet advertisement for a black FLTHTC Harley-Davidson motorcycle (" the 1997 motorcycle" ), which was available at City Limits Harley Davidson (formally OAG Motorcycle Ventures, Inc.). City Limits is located in Palatine, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. Interested, Hahn and Zappa went on July 19 to the dealership and test-drove a different motorcycle (" the 2004 motorcycle" ). They examined the motorcycle they had tested and took a few pictures, and then let City Limits know that they wanted to buy it. That was where the confusion became serious: Hahn and Zappa thought that they were buying the 2004 motorcycle, but the bill of sale listed the VIN, the year, and the mileage for the 1997 motorcycle. There was a significant difference between the two motorcycles: the newer model had roughly half the mileage of the older one, and so presumably was worth more than the advertised one. Hahn and Zappa paid $6,500 (exclusive of taxes and fees) for the motorcycle they thought they were buying and made a down payment of $1,626.66; the remaining balance was $6,000. On July 22, they returned to City Limits, paid the rest of the money, and drove the 2004 motorcycle home. At no time did they spot the fact that the VIN and other identifying information on the paperwork did not correspond to the motorcycle they were given.

         The next day, they tried to arrange insurance for their new motorcycle. It was then that they discovered that the bill of sale had the wrong VIN. A little bit of detective work revealed that their bill of sale described the 1997 motorcycle, not the 2004 motorcycle. Hahn thought this was just a scrivener's error and called City Limits to ask it to provide the correct information for the 2004 motorcycle. Initially he was able only to leave a message; later, he spoke with Garrison Bennett, City Limits's sales manager. Bennett promised to call him back. Hahn received not one, but six phone calls from the dealership, and none was to his liking. In one, Bennett said that if Hahn and Zappa wanted to keep the 2004 motorcycle, they would need to pay an additional $1,000; in another, City Limits upped the ante and said it would redo the paperwork only for an additional $2,500. Hahn believed that he owed nothing more and rejected anything along these lines. Eventually, City Limits threatened a couple of times to report to the police that Hahn had stolen the 2004 motorcycle. (Illinois law states that " [a] person commits theft when he or she knowingly ... exerts unauthorized control over property of the owner." 720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(1). It thus does not appear to matter whether the original taking was or was not authorized.) Hahn said that he wanted to consult a lawyer about the whole situation.

         At 7:16 p.m. on July 24, Hahn received a call from Officer Carlos Gonzalez of the Palatine Police Department. Gonzalez told him that the police had a report that Hahn had stolen a motorcycle and unless he returned it that night, Gonzales would come to arrest Hahn and Zappa. Gonzalez was acting on information he had received from City Limits; he had been dispatched to the dealership and had been told that Hahn had bought a 1997 black Harley, but had somehow driven off in a 2004 model. The general manager told Gonzalez that " he just wanted the motorcycle returned, and [that] Randall could have the motorcycle he actually bought."

         Hahn and Zappa argue that this account of Gonzalez's visit to City Limits shows that he knew that at worst this was a civil matter that arose from a mistake-not a crime. Hahn said as much to Gonzalez over the telephone, and he accused City Limits of a bait-and-switch tactic. Gonzalez was unmoved by this explanation and threatened to come to Hahn and Zappa's house and arrest Hahn for grand theft if the motorcycle was not returned that night.

         More phone calls ensued, but eventually Hahn took action. He picked up the motorcycle from the place where he was storing it and took it to the Lake Zurich, Illinois, Police Department, which was near his home. He explained to the police there that he did not want to take it to Palatine, because he was afraid that he might be arrested there. The Lake Zurich police took the motorcycle, called Officer Gonzalez, and Gonzalez went to Lake Zurich with a City Limits employee and retrieved it. According to the Lake Zurich police, the motorcycle was never actually reported as stolen. This left one item of unfinished business: the refund of Hahn and Zappa's $7,626.66. They ...

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