Honaker v. Smith
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
256 F.3d 477 (2001)
Fred Honaker (plaintiff) was renovating a house he owned in the Village of Lovington, Illinois (the Village). The house was in poor condition and the subject of frequent complaints to the city council. Honaker had a rancorous history with the Village, especially its mayor and fire chief, Gary Smith (defendant). In 1995, the Village settled a civil rights suit brought by Honaker. In 1996, Smith allegedly told Honaker that if Honaker did not leave town, Smith “would burn [him] out.” In 1997, Honaker’s house was intentionally set ablaze. Four fire trucks and 20 firefighters arrived within minutes. Because the house appeared to lack structural integrity, Smith did not allow firefighters to enter the building. The blaze took three hours to extinguish. When Honaker saw the property, he became distraught, screaming and crying, but he never sought medical treatment for his distress. Honaker’s house was not the first in the Village to burn under suspicious circumstances following discussion in city council meetings. Honaker sued Smith in federal court, alleging liability under: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for starting the fire and purposefully failing to extinguish it and (2) Illinois law for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). After the parties presented their evidence at trial, Smith moved for judgment as a matter of law. The court granted judgment to Smith on the IIED claim. After the jury rendered a verdict for Honaker on his § 1983 claim, the court granted judgment to Smith on that claim as well. Honaker appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Ripple, J.)
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