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STRANDELL v. JACKSON COUNTY

May 9, 1986

ALEX STRANDELL, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS FATHER, AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF MICHAEL STRANDELL, DECEASED; MARGE STRANDELL, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS MOTHER OF MICHAEL STRANDELL, DECEASED; AND THE ESTATE OF MICHAEL STRANDELL, DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JACKSON COUNTY, ILLINOIS; WILLIAM KILQUIST, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF JACKSON COUNTY; GENE TRUITT, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS JAIL SUPERINTENDENT OF JACKSON COUNTY; STEVE MICHAELS, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A DEPUTY JAILER OF JACKSON COUNTY; ROBERT DAVENPORT, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A DEPUTY JAILER OF JACKSON COUNTY; JAMES STAFFEY, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A DEPUTY SHERIFF OF JACKSON COUNTY; HENRY PIERCE, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A DEPUTY JAILER OF JACKSON COUNTY; AND JOHN DOE AND RICHARD ROE, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF JACKSON COUNTY, THE IDENTITY AND NUMBER OF WHOM IS PRESENTLY UNKNOWN TO PLAINTIFFS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foreman, Chief Judge:

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on defendants' Motion to Dismiss and/or Strike the Complaint, and on plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification. The case arises from a March 17, 1984 incident in which Michael Strandell committed suicide by hanging himself in a cell at the Jackson County, Illinois Jail. Plaintiffs, Alex and Marge Strandell, bring the instant suit on their own behalf and as the parents of Michael Strandell. Alex Strandell also sues as administrator of his son's estate. Plaintiffs seek relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of their son's constitutional rights, and for violations of their own constitutional rights. In addition, plaintiffs seek injunctive relief on behalf of all pretrial detainees who have been and/or who will be confined at the Jackson County Jail. The complaint also sets forth pendent state law claims under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, the Illinois Survival Act and the Illinois Family Expense Act.

Factual Allegations

The Court initially notes that for purposes of defendants' motion to dismiss, all allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true. The complaint should not be dismissed unless "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King and Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 2233, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984).

Plaintiffs allege the following facts. On March 17, 1984 at approximately 5:00 a.m., Michael Strandell, the decedent, was a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident in DeSoto, Illinois. Steven Mowatt, the driver of the vehicle, was arrested for driving on a suspended license, and both Mowatt and the decedent were transported to the Jackson County Courthouse. The decedent, who was severely intoxicated, verbally protested the jailing of his companion, and upon doing so, was arrested by James Stafey, a Deputy Sheriff for Jackson County. The basis for the arrest was disorderly conduct.

Plaintiffs allege that defendant Stafey used unjustified and excessive force in effectuating the arrest and in moving plaintiff to a cell within the jail facility. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that Stafey hit the decedent, that he then dragged the decedent into an elevator where he continued to beat and strike him, and that upon arriving at the third floor, he pushed the decedent off the elevator and dragged him to the booking area. Stafey and Steve Michaels, a Deputy Jailor, continued to strike and push the decedent, and then forcefully stripped decedent of his clothing. Defendants Stafey and Michaels subsequently dragged the decedent (by holding his wrists and ankles) to the main cell block, and threw him into a cell naked and alone, and without a mattress, pillow or blanket.

After being thrown into this cell, the decedent began to scream and to beat his head and body against the bars and walls of the cell. Defendant Michaels yelled, "Shut up, or we'll beat your ass some more," but the decedent's screaming continued. Approximately one-half hour later, Michaels and Stafey forcefully removed the decedent from his cell, dragged him to one of the isolation cells, and forcefully threw him into such a cell naked and alone. The decedent continued to scream and to beat his head and body on the walls and bars of the isolation cell. According to the complaint, defendants Stafey, Michaels, Robert Davenport and Henry Pierce (also Deputy Jailors) ignored the decedent's screams, the beating of his head and body on the jail cell walls and bars, and his pleas to be seen by a doctor. These defendants also failed to monitor the condition of the decedent, despite their knowledge that in the past, jail inmates had used the bars at the top of the isolation cells to hang themselves. Sometime after noon on March 17, 1984, the decedent, using the overhead bars as an anchoring device, committed suicide by hanging himself with a noose that had been fashioned from a bed sheet.

Totality of Conditions at the Jackson County Jail

Plaintiffs allege that the totality of conditions at the Jackson County Jail violated the decedent's due process right to be free from punishment. Defendants have moved to strike all allegations pertaining to the physical conditions of the jail, as well as all allegations pertaining to the underfunding of the jail facility, on the basis that these allegations fail to state a cause of action under the fourth or fourteenth amendments.

The Court initially notes that motions to strike are disfavored "and are not granted unless the language in the pleading at issue has no possible relation to the controversy and is clearly prejudicial." Mitchell v. Bendix Corporation, 603 F. Supp. 920, 921 (N.D.Ind. 1985). Furthermore, a motion to strike is an improper method for procuring dismissal of all or part of the complaint. Pierson v. Dean, Witter, Reynolds, Inc., 551 F. Supp. 497, 504 (C.D.Ill. 1982).

In Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), the Supreme Court held that pretrial detainees have a right under the fourteenth amendment's due process clause to be free from punishment. Id. at 585 n. 16, 99 S.Ct. at 1872 n. 16. "The detainee's right to be free from punishment . . . includes the right not to be subjected to conditions imposed for the purpose of punishment." Matzker v. Herr, 748 F.2d 1142, 1146 (7th Cir. 1984).

Plaintiffs allege that the overcrowding and understaffing at the Jackson County Jail have resulted in a lack of adequate patrol procedures, and that because of these conditions, defendants were unable to properly monitor the decedent and to respond to his medical needs and suicide. They further allege that the physical condition of the jail facility and the lack of procedures for identifying and treating suicidal and emotionally disturbed detainees violated the decedent's liberty interest in bodily safety and physical security. Finally, plaintiffs allege that the above conditions are a direct result of inadequate funding.

  Other decisions have recognized that such conditions may
violate a detainee's right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment. For example, in Matzker v. Herr, the Seventh
Circuit recognized that "the right to be free from cruel and
unusual punishment is violated if the jailers fail to establish
adequate patrol procedures." Matzker, 748 F.2d at 1150.
Similarly, in Madden v. City of Meriden, 602 F. Supp. 1160
(D.Conn. 1985), the court held that a pretrial detainee's
"confine[ment] in a jail cell without adequate surveillance,
and without the removal of implements enabling him to take his
own life" violated his fourteenth amendment right to liberty.
Id. at 1164. See also Soto v. City of Sacramento, 567 F. Supp. 662
 (E.D.Cal. 1983) (placement of pretrial detainee in
isolation cell with dangerous condition violated his due
process rights when defendants knew that this condition had
previously resulted in suicides and attempted suicides).

The Court concludes that plaintiffs' allegations regarding the totality of conditions at the jail are relevant to plaintiffs' claim that the decedent was deprived of his due process right to be free from punishment. Defendants' motion to strike all allegations relating to the totality of conditions is therefore denied. The Court further finds that plaintiffs' allegations are sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.Applying the standard set forth in Hishon v. King andSpaulding, it is not clear that "no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon, 467 U.S. at 73, 104 S.Ct. at 2233. Therefore, to the extent defendants move to dismiss the allegations in question for failure to state a cause of action under the fourteenth amendment, the defendants' motion is denied.

Minimal Standards for Jails as Established by Illinois Statutes and Regulations

Plaintiffs allege that defendants violated the decedent's liberty interest in an expectation of certain minimal standards for the physical condition of the jail facility, and in an expectation of treatment that protects the safety, health and well-being of pretrial detainees. (Plaintiff's Complaint, ¶ 77(j)). Defendants move to strike all references in the complaint to "minimal standards for the physical condition of the jail" on the basis that a violation of the minimal standards, as established by Illinois regulations, fails to state a cause of action under the fourth or fourteenth amendments.

In Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091 (7th Cir. 1982), the court held that prison regulations and policies could give rise to a constitutionally protected liberty interest. Id. at 1099. Other courts have reached similar holdings. For example, in Williams v. Lane, 548 F. Supp. 927 (N.D.Ill. 1982), prisoners in protective custody alleged that defendants had violated an Illinois regulation requiring prison officials to provide "[h]ousing and programmatic accommodations . . . comparable to those provided for the general population." Id. at 932. The court held that the regulation established a limited liberty interest in "comparable accommodations" for prisoners placed in protective custody. Id. And in Matzker v. Herr, 748 F.2d 1142 (7th Cir. 1984), the court specifically referred to the Illinois County Jail Standards in determining whether a pretrial detainee's eighth amendment rights had been violated. Id. at 1147.

The Illinois County Jail Standards provide that detainees shall be assigned to suitable quarters, that emotionally disturbed detainees shall be kept under constant supervision, and that "suspected disturbed" detainees shall be immediately examined by a physician. Ill.Admin.Reg. ch. IV and VII (7/11/80). The Court concludes that the mandatory language of these regulations creates a protected liberty interest in an expectation of certain minimal standards and treatment. The Court further finds that plaintiffs' complaint sufficiently alleges a deprivation of that liberty interest in violation of the fourteenth amendment. Defendants' motion to strike all references to "minimal standards" at the Jackson County Jail is therefore denied.

Claims Against Specific Defendants

A. Jackson County Board Members

Defense counsel moves to dismiss as defendants all members of the Jackson County Board on the basis that 1) the allegations fail to show any personal involvement by the members of the Board, and 2) there are no allegations of any act by any member of the Board in an individual capacity. Since the plaintiffs have not yet identified or served any Board members, the court reserves its judgment until such time as those defendants have been identified.

B. Other Defendants

The defendants have moved to strike and/or dismiss various parts of the complaint on the basis that the allegations fail to demonstrate the personal involvement of certain defendants. Specifically, defendants first move to strike and/or dismiss paragraphs 77(a)-(f) as to all defendants except Stafey (and in some instances Michaels) since no facts are alleged to show the personal involvement, with respect to these allegations, of any other defendant. However, the Court agrees with plaintiffs that defendants have misconstrued paragraph 77 of the complaint. (See Plaintiffs' Reply, p. 2 n. 1). The allegations set forth in paragraphs 77(a)-(f) do not necessarily apply to each and every defendant. Rather, plaintiffs have set forth, in paragraphs 38-62 of the complaint, the basis of each constitutional violation, and have identified the particular defendant or defendants involved in each constitutional violation. The description of each defendant's "role" (as set forth in paragraphs 38-62) makes it clear that paragraphs 77(a)-(f) are not applicable to every defendant. Defendants' motion to strike and/or dismiss these paragraphs is therefore denied.

The Court notes that in their motion to dismiss and accompanying memorandum, defendants do not dispute that Stafey, Michaels, Davenport and other unknown deputies and jailors (presumably including Henry Pierce)*fn1 were personally involved, in varying manners, with the violation of decedent's rights during his arrest and detention. However, in moving to dismiss paragraphs 77(a)-(f) of the complaint as to all defendants except Stafey and Michaels, defendants appear to dispute the personal involvement of Kilquist, Truitt and Jackson County in the deprivation of decedent's right to be free from preconviction punishment and from unjustified intrusions upon his physical security. To the extent that defendants so move, their motion to dismiss is denied.

In Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), the Court held that municipalities cannot be liable for the acts of its employees under a theory of respondeat superior. Municipal liability may only be imposed for unconstitutional actions that are inflicted pursuant to a governmental "policy or custom." Id. at 694, 98 S.Ct. at 2087. Plaintiffs allege that various policies and customs of Jackson County caused the decedent to be deprived of his constitutional rights. According to plaintiffs, these policies include 1) operation of an overcrowded and understaffed jail facility, 2) placing suicidal and/or emotionally disturbed pretrial detainees in jail cells having known and obvious ...


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