Liebich v. Delguidice, 20-cv-2368

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtSteven C. Seeger United States District Judge
Docket Number20-cv-2368
PartiesRANDY LIEBICH, Plaintiff, v. JOSEPH DELGUIDICE, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date24 March 2022


JOSEPH DELGUIDICE, et al., Defendants.

No. 20-cv-2368

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 24, 2022


Steven C. Seeger United States District Judge

In 2002, Randy Liebich was convicted of murdering a two-year-old boy. The state had charged Liebich with abusing the child while his mother was at work, causing a fatal brain injury. He received a sentence of 65 years in prison.

In 2018, nearly 16 years later, a state court vacated the conviction. New medical experts testified about the cause of death. They concluded that the child had a preexisting abdominal injury or condition, and that condition - not physical trauma on the day of the hospitalization - caused the fatal brain injury. After the court vacated his conviction, the state elected not to pursue charges a second time.

Liebich filed suit less than two years later. He sued the individual police officers and investigators who worked on his case, and the municipalities who employed them. He also sued the doctors who allegedly conspired with the officers to misdiagnose the child's condition. Liebich brought 11 causes of action, including federal and state claims. The municipalities and the doctors filed motions to dismiss, which this Court previously granted in part and denied in part.


Liebich later filed an amended complaint. He alleged the same causes of action, and he added a negligence claim against the individual doctors. He also added a new defendant, Rush University Medical Center.

Since then, most of the parties have settled with Liebich. But the two doctors remain in the case, and so does Rush. The physicians and Rush later filed separate motions to dismiss.

For the reasons stated below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.


When deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court takes as true all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint and draws reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 468 (7th Cir. 2003); Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court “offer[s] no opinion on the ultimate merits because further development of the record may cast the facts in a light different from the complaint.” Savory v. Cannon, 947 F.3d 409, 412 (7th Cir. 2020).

The Court summarized the allegations of the original complaint in its prior Opinion. See 3/22/21 Mem. Opin. and Order, at 2-4 (Dckt. No. 115). The Court provides an abbreviated account here.

In early 2002, Randy Liebich lived with his girlfriend, Kenyatta Brown. See Am. Cplt., at ¶ 24 (Dckt. No. 131). Brown had recently given birth to the couple's daughter. Id. Brown also had a two-year-old son from a prior relationship, named Steven. Id. at ¶ 25. Liebich, Brown, and the children lived together as a family in February 2002. Id. at ¶ 28.

On the morning of February 8, 2002, Brown left for work, and Liebich stayed with the two children. Id. at ¶ 32. When Brown came home, she noticed that Steven wouldn't respond,


so the couple rushed him to the emergency room. Id. at ¶¶ 32-33. Hospital staff then transferred the child to Rush University Medical Center for specialized care. Id. at ¶ 34.

Since Liebich was at home with the boy when he became unresponsive, police suspected foul play. Id. at ¶ 40. Officers from DuPage County interrogated Liebich later that night. Id. at ¶ 47. Liebich denied any involvement in causing his condition. Id. at ¶ 67

While medical staff at Rush treated the child, two doctors - Defendants Dr. Paul Severin and Dr. Lorenzo Munoz - provided reports that the boy had suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by physical force. Id. at ¶ 44. Most importantly, the physicians concluded that the injury had occurred that day, meaning the day of his hospitalization. Id. Based on those reports, the police became more suspicious about Liebich. Id. at ¶ 142.

On February 11, 2002, Rush medical staff determined that the child was brain dead, and tragically, he soon passed away. Id. at ¶ 36. Two days later, on February 13, DuPage police officers went to Liebich's home and interrogated him a second time. Id. at ¶¶ 70-73. The next day, an officer with the Roselle Police Department questioned Liebich as well. Id. at ¶¶ 76-77. During both interrogations, Liebich denied any responsibility for the boy's injuries or death. Id. at ¶¶ 73, 81.

Like the original complaint, the amended complaint provides few details about what happened after the child's death. But the Court understands that Liebich was ultimately detained, tried, and convicted of murder. Id. at ¶ 69. A state court sentenced him to 65 years of imprisonment. Id. at ¶ 6.

In 2018, Liebich's conviction was vacated, and the prosecution moved to dismiss the charges. Id. at ¶ 91. The amended complaint does not explain the story behind Liebich's efforts to overturn his conviction. But apparently, independent medical experts challenged the reports


prepared by Dr. Severin and Dr. Munoz. The experts concluded that physical force on the day of hospitalization (February 8) did not cause the child's brain injury. See Id. at ¶¶ 45, 89. Instead, the boy died because of abdominal injuries or an infection that occurred days before February 8, 2002. Id. at ¶¶ 38, 45, 89.

Liebich spent 16 years in prison before his conviction was vacated. In April 2020, he filed this suit. See Cplt. (Dckt. No. 1). He brought 11 counts against a number of defendants: DuPage police officers, the County of DuPage, investigators in the DuPage County Children's Advocacy Center, a Roselle police officer, the Village of Roselle, Dr. Severin, and Dr. Munoz. Id. at ¶¶ 14-21. Liebich maintained, among other allegations, that the two doctors conspired with the officers and investigators to falsify medical evidence and thus incriminate him in February 2002. Id. at ¶ 40.

The County of DuPage and the individual doctors moved to dismiss. See Def. County of DuPage's Mtn. to Dismiss (Dckt. No. 20); Defs. Munoz and Severin's Mtn. to Dismiss (Dckt. No. 37). This Court granted in part and denied in part the County's motion to dismiss, and the Court denied the physician-defendants' motion to dismiss. See 3/22/21 Mem. Opin. and Order, at 10 (Dckt. No. 115).

In response to this Court's rulings, Liebich filed an amended complaint in April 2021. See Am. Cplt. (Dckt. No. 131). He added a new defendant, Rush University Medical Center, and a new claim of negligence against the individual doctors. Otherwise, the amended complaint follows the original complaint.

The physician-defendants moved to dismiss again. See Defs. Munoz and Severin's Mtn. to Dismiss Am. Cplt. (Dckt. No. 164). Defendant Rush University Medical Center also moved to dismiss the amended complaint. See Def. Rush's Mtn. to Dismiss Am. Cplt. (Dckt. No. 170).


In the meantime, the remaining defendants dropped out of the case. Liebich settled with the Village of Roselle and a Roselle police officer, so the Court dismissed them from the case. See 6/1/21 Order (Dckt. No. 154). Liebich then settled with the individual DuPage defendants and the County of DuPage, so the Court dismissed them too. See 3/3/22 Order (Dckt. No. 245); 3/14/22 Order (Dckt. No. 249).

As things stand, the case involves 10 claims against the two physicians and Rush. The amended complaint does not specify which counts are against which defendants, so the Court interprets the complaint broadly to bring all claims against all remaining defendants (except Count XI).

Some of the claims are constitutional claims. Count I is Fourteenth Amendment claim about an unfair trial. (Liebich dropped Count II.) Count III is a wrongful detention claim under the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. Count IV is a failure to intervene claim. Count V is a conspiracy claim about depriving Liebich of his constitutional rights.

The other claims arise under state law. The claims include malicious prosecution (Count VI), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VII), willful and wanton conduct (Count VIII), negligence (Count IX), and civil conspiracy (Count X). Finally, Count XI is a respondeat superior claim against Rush.

Legal Standards

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive, the complaint must


give the defendant fair notice of the basis for the claim, and it must be facially plausible. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Documents attached to a complaint “are considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim.” Mueller v. Apple Leisure Corp., 880 F.3d 890, 895 (7th Cir. 2018) (cleaned up).


There are two motions to dismiss: one by the two physicians, and the other by Rush. The Court will consider them one at a time.

I. Individual Physician Defendants

From a pleading standpoint, this motion to dismiss is the second lap around the track. Liebich filed the original complaint, Defendants moved to dismiss, and this Court ruled. Then, Liebich filed an amended complaint, and Defendants moved to dismiss a second time. But this time, Defendants made a few arguments that they didn't make on the first go-around.

Liebich responds that...

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