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Monfils v. Taylor
165 F.3d 511, 7th Cir., WI, 12/23/1998
Category Victim v. Third Party 
Topic Government, General 
Filename Informants, Others Aiding Law Enforcement 
Crime Homicide 
Location Industrial park 
Prevailing Party Plaintiff 
Other Parties City of Green Bay, WI; Green Bay Police Department; Cities and Villages Mutual Insurance Company 
Holding

Statement of Facts: On November 21, 1992, Thomas Monfils was beaten to unconsciousness and thrown into a two-story pulp vat, where his body was found three days later. Monfils, an employee at the James River Paper Mill, had informed the Green Bay Police Department (GBPD) via anonymous tip that a fellow employee, Keith Kutska ("Kutska") was going to steal an electrical cord when he left work on November 10. Kutska was suspended from work as a result of the incident, and he made it no secret that he intended to retaliate against the informant. Kutska called GBPD to get a copy of Monfils' taped phone call, and he received one despite pleas from Monfils not to because of Kutska's violent nature. Several GBPD officers fielded Monfils' repeated calls, assuring him that the tape would not be released. However, Kutska got a copy of the tape on November 20, and Monfils was dead within 24 hours. Kutska and five other James River employees were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Monfils' widow, children and estate filed a Sec. 1983 suit, including a substantive due process claim against Deputy Chief of Detectives James Taylor ("Taylor") for providing false assurances and failing to prevent release of the tape and the city for ratifying Taylor's conduct, and an equal protection claim against the city for treating other anonymous informants differently from those who disclose their identity. Common law negligence claims were filed against various individual officers. Taylor moved for summary judgment, asserting qualified immunity. The U.S. District Court, D.Wisc., denied the motion, and Taylor appealed. During pendency of the appeal, the other issues went to trial. The jury found verdicts against Green Bay in the Sec. 1983 claims and the individual defendants for common-law negligence. Damages were set at approximately $2 million. The defendants appealed, and Taylor's pending appeal was consolidated. Holding: Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with directions. The United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, vacated the judgment of the district court as to the federal claims against Green Bay, directed a judgment against Taylor as to the Sec. 1983 claim against him, and affirmed the balance of the judgment as to the common-law negligence claims. The plaintiffs failed to show that Green Bay's policies or custom caused their loss, as failure to discipline a subordinate is insufficient to establish municipal liability. The Sec. 1983 claim against Taylor technically was not tried because an appeal on a denial of summary judgment was pending while the rest of the issues were tried. The court held that Taylor and Green Bay were in privity in this case, and that by statute, Green Bay must indemnify Taylor. Thus, the jury's verdict against Green Bay for the substantive due process claim was imputed to Taylor. The verdict on the equal protection claim against Green Bay was vacated because there was no evidence that city policies treated anonymous informants differently from identified informants. Finally, the individual defendants were not entitled to discretionary act immunity because they violated ministerial duty by releasing the tape without the police chief's approval. 


Damage Award $2 million + costs on appeal 
Victim's Counsel     
Plaintiff's Counsel Michael R. Fox, Madison; Bruce R. Bachhuber, Green Bay 
Plaintiff's Expert      
Defense Counsel Gregg J. Gunta, Milwaukee 
Defense Expert

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