A plumber's harassment suit against Elk Grove Village has gone down the drain in Chicago federal court, with a judge saying no evidence was presented that a village inspector orchestrated a campaign by village employees to hassle the plumber for refusing to loan tools to the inspector.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel dismissed plaintiff Jason Roszkowiak's case Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois.
Roszkowiak filed a two-count lawsuit in June against Elk Grove Village and the village's plumbing inspector, Ray Bauer. Roszkowiak, who runs Awesome Design Contracting and Plumbing, alleged Bauer – while acting as plumbing inspector – repeatedly pressured him to loan him equipment. According to Roszkowiak, Bauer used the equipment in his private plumbing business. Specifically, Roszkowiak claimed Bauer’s “intimidating behavior and position of authority” caused him to feel “compelled” to go along.
Roszkowiak said he loaned tools for a few years, but in July 2013 refused to do so any longer. As a consequence, Bauer allegedly retaliated by dispatching municipal inspectors to visit Roszkowiak's business and hound him, in one instance allegedly burglarizing a storage locker. Roszkowiak said he suffered anguish and loss of income, as well as deprivation of his constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures, and his right guaranteeing equal protection.
The village responded in September with a motion to dismiss, arguing Roszkowiak failed to sufficiently state a claim.
Judge Zagel considered the motion and noted Roszkowiak's business seems to be a "highly regulated one," and as such, governmental inspections are to be expected and a warrant is not needed to enter the business. Given this condition, Zagel reasoned Roszkowiak did not demonstrate the village inspections were anything other than legitimate checks. Beyond this, Roszkowiak failed to state what role, if any, Bauer played in these inspections.
"The inspectors were possibly just doing their jobs rather than joining together in a conspiracy to intimidate and harass Plaintiff," Zagel observed.
Zagel said Roszkowiak further failed to show how he was treated differently than other similarly situated property owners in Elk Grove Village. In addition, Zagel said Roszkowiak did not present even the barest details of the alleged conspiracy, such as the names of the plotters and any dates associated with the conspiracy.
Zagel pointed out that for Roszkowiak to hold the village liable, he had to allege the village had a faulty training and supervision program in place for employees such as Bauer, and Bauer exhibited the results of this inadequate training and supervision in his interactions with Roszkowiak. However, Roszkowiak could only point to a few alleged incidents with Bauer, which did not, even if true, indicate the village’s overall arrangements for training and supervision were flawed. Rather, at best, these alleged incidents only suggested the training and supervision of Bauer were deficient.
Having shut down Roszkowiak’s suit, Zagel addressed the village’s request for sanctions against Roszkowiak’s counsel, John C. Vojta. The village argued the Palatine lawyer’s pleadings in the case exhibited a disregard for the truth. However, Zagel refused to sanction Vojta, saying that just because a “claim is not well-supported does not mean the attorney has pled false facts or legal theory.”
Elk Grove Village and Bauer were defended by attorneys Daniel S. Hefter, of Chicago, and Ronald G. Zamarin, of Sarasota, Fla.