April 11, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Central
District of Illinois. No. 11-CV-04078 - Sara Darrow, Judge.
Bauer and Williams, Circuit Judges, and Adelman, District
Adelman, District Judge.
Thomas Wilson and Randy Brown bring claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against private citizen defendants, Ronald
Hanson, Mark Johnson, and Douglas Reiners, as well as against
Warren County, Illinois and several of its officials
including Sheriff Martin Edwards, Deputy Thomas Carithers,
and State Attorney Albert Algren, referred to as the public
defendants. Wilson also brings a Fair Housing Act
("FHA") claim against the private defendants, and
plaintiffs assert supplemental state law claims. The claims
arise out of an incident in which the private defendants
seized items of plaintiffs' personal property. The
district court dismissed Wilson's FHA claim for failure
to state a claim, granted summary judgment on plaintiffs'
§ 1983 claims, and chose not to address the state law
claims. Plaintiffs appeal, and we affirm.
and Hanson were business partners who got into a dispute
about the ownership of property. On September 14, 2009,
Warren County issued a letter relating to real property
occupied by Wilson stating that it had to be cleaned up
within 30 days. The County, however, sent the letter to
Hanson. When he received the letter, Hanson, Hanson's
lawyer Johnson, and Reiners, photographed the items on
Wilson's property. This activity upset Wilson, who
suffers from various psychological disorders, causing him to
a friend of Wilson called Algren and expressed concern that
Hansen, Johnson, and Reiners would return and take personal
property belonging to Wilson. Algren assured him that they
could not do this without a court order and that, if they
returned, Wilson should call the sheriff. Hanson, represented
by Johnson, sought an order in state court authorizing him to
remove material from Wilson's property but was
unsuccessful because the judge was unavailable. Johnson told
Algren about the suit but did not disclose his failure to get
a court order or when he, Hanson, and Reiners planned to
remove material from Wilson's property. On September 26,
the private defendants began removing items from Wilson's
property. Wilson called the sheriff's department, which
dispatched Carithers to the property. Carithers, however,
believed that Hanson owned the property and thought that his
job was to stand by and observe.
Carithers arrived, Johnson told him that the private
defendants had a legal right to remove property and handed
him a stack of what he called court papers. Wilson objected
and encouraged Carithers to call Algren. Carithers did not
understand the court papers and called Algren, who advised
him that if Johnson had the proper papers the private
defendants were within their rights. It is unclear whether
Algren mistakenly understood Carithers to say that Johnson
had a valid court order or whether Carithers misunderstood
Algren on that point. In any case, Carithers believed that
the private defendants could legally remove items from the
property and he stood by as they did so. At this point,
Wilson suffered another anxiety attack. In addition to
removing Wilson's property, the private defendants
removed an item belonging to Brown.
FHA claim alleges that the private defendants committed
disability discrimination by intentionally attempting to
trigger his disability to prevent him from objecting to the
removal of property. We review the district court's
dismissal of the claim de novo, accepting all
well-pleaded facts as true and drawing all reasonable
inferences in plaintiffs' favor. Roberts v. City of
Chi., 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016). Dismissal is
appropriate where the complaint fails to set forth facts
which amount to a plausible claim.
makes it unlawful to make unavailable or deny a dwelling to
anyone because of a handicap, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1),
and to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with a
person's exercise or enjoyment of the rights granted by
the FHA, 42 U.S.C. § 3617. To adequately plead a
disability discrimination claim under § 3617 and §
3604, Wilson must allege facts suggesting that the private
defendants entered his real estate and removed personal
property because of his disability. Bloch v.
Frischholz, 587 F.3d 771, 784 (7th Cir.
complaint fails because it does not plausibly allege that the
private defendants acted because of his disability. It
alleges that Hanson blamed Wilson for the failure of their
business, that Wilson sold a piece of Hanson's machinery
for less than they had agreed, and that Hanson believed that
Wilson refused to return items that he had taken from him. R.
at 286–87. These allegations suggest that the private
defendants were motivated by Wilson's dealings with
Hanson rather than by his disability, and that they would
have behaved the same regardless of the disability. Wilson
argues that the private defendants exploited his disability
to prevent him from protesting their removal of his property.
But this is not enough to survive a motion to dismiss because
it does not raise the inference that the private defendants
would not have removed his property if he wasn't