are all supervisory officials in high posts, it is unlikely that they personally would have any reason to know of plaintiff's particular insect and rodent problem, Washington, 1992 U.S. Dist. Lexis 6081, at *6.
Plaintiff suggests that regardless of whether defendants were involved personally in the alleged constitutional violations, they should be held liable as supervisors for the acts and omissions of those employees in the Cook County Jail who were directly involved in the deprivations. However the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to constitutional tort actions brought under § 1983. Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 992 (7th Cir. 1988). A supervisor may be held liable under § 1983 for the conduct of subordinates only if the supervisor knew about the conduct and facilitated it, approved it, condoned it, or purposefully turned a blind eye to it. Id. There are no such allegations here.
We recognize that "'keeping vermin under control in jails, prisons and other large institutions is a monumental task,'" Chavis v. Fairman, No. 92 C 7490, 1994 U.S. Dist. Lexis 1850, at *12 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 15, 1994) (citation omitted), and failure to do so without any suggestion that the failure is a reflection of defendants' deliberate indifference is not a constitutional violation. Id. Thus, plaintiff's complaint against the defendants must be dismissed for failure to state an essential element of the claim. R.J.R. Services, Inc. v. Aetna Cas. and Sur. Co., 895 F.2d 279, 281 (7th Cir. 1989). However, the dismissal is without prejudice, and plaintiff will be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint setting forth facts that would support a claim of deliberate indifference.
To the extent that plaintiff brings suit against defendants not merely as individuals, but in their official capacities, his complaint also fails to state an essential element of the cause of action. A suit against a government employee in his official capacity is equivalent to a suit against the governmental entity itself, and damages are recoverable only to the extent that they would be recoverable against the governmental entity. Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 870 (7th Cir. 1983) (citing Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978)). A local governmental entity is liable for damages under § 1983 only if plaintiff can show that the alleged constitutional deprivation occurred as a result of official policy or custom. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.
The Supreme Court in Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Unit, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517, 113 S. Ct. 1160 (1993), recently rejected a heightened pleading standard for complaints alleging liability of governmental entities under § 1983. Thus, plaintiff is not required to plead with particularity the facts upon which he bases his claim of official policy or custom resulting in constitutional deprivation, but need only provide a "'"short and plain statement of the claim" that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Id. at 1163 (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2))). However, plaintiff's complaint lacks any allegation whatsoever of official custom or policy, and thus fails to meet even this liberal pleading standard. Plaintiff states only that defendants, as supervisors, were responsible for the acts of their staff. This is nothing more than a claim of respondeat superior liability, which does not apply in this context. See discussion, supra pp. 4-5, and Leatherman, 113 S. Ct. at 1162. A governmental entity is not liable under § 1983 for violations caused by individual acts of its employees, only for violations caused by its policies and customs. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. In order to give defendants fair notice of his official capacities claim, we believe that even under the generous rule of Leatherman, plaintiff must allege that a policy-maker had knowledge of the rat and roach problem, yet, as a matter of policy, failed to make any effort to remedy the situation. In other words, plaintiff must allege some fact to link the Cook County Jail's failure to cure the alleged constitutional deprivation to some official policy.
Because plaintiff has failed to meet even this minimal pleading requirement, his complaint against defendants in their official capacities also must be dismissed. Plaintiff will be given leave to amend his complaint to cure this defect.
Assuming that plaintiff will be able to amend his complaint to satisfy the subjective intent requirement, so as to implicate the defendants in either their individual or official capacities, or both, we must also consider whether the complaint satisfies the objective component of punishment by alleging serious deprivation. Although penal conditions may not "deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 69 L. Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct. 2392 (1981), "the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons," id. at 349, and "extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim." Hudson v. McMillian, 117 L. Ed. 2d 156, 112 S. Ct. 995, 1000 (1992). Prisoners "cannot expect the amenities, conveniences and services of a good hotel." Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1235 (7th Cir. 1988). However, at the same time, the Seventh Circuit has recognized that prisons must provide some basic level of sanitation so as to achieve a minimum "threshold of decency." Johnson v. Pelker, 891 F.2d 136, 139 (7th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted).
We concur with our colleagues in this district that requiring an inmate to sleep on a mattress on the floor does not in itself rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See, e.g., Chavis v. Fairman, No. 92 C 7490, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1850; Williams v. Sheahan, No. 92 C 3738, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13187 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 16, 1993); Brown v. Fairman, No. 93 C 2671, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10480 (N.D. Ill. July 28, 1993). Thus, we must consider whether the resulting contact with rats and roaches alleged here is enough to implicate the Constitution. In Harris v. Fleming, a prison inmate claimed that confinement in a "filthy, roach-infested cell" without adequate toilet paper, soap, toothpaste or a toothbrush violated the Constitution. Harris, 839 F.2d at 1234. One of the factors that influenced the Seventh Circuit's decision that the challenged conditions did not offend the Constitution was that the plaintiff had suffered no physical harm. Id. at 1235. Likewise, in dismissing the complaints in Brown v. Fairman and Chavis v. Fairman, our colleagues noted that the plaintiffs in both cases failed to allege that the challenged conditions (sleeping on the floor, odors, lack of warm water for showers, infrequency of clothing changes, sharing a shower with many other inmates, and roaches in one's cot) caused them any injury. Brown, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10480, at *3; Chavis, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1850, at *15. In light of this injury requirement, plaintiff's amended complaint should state in detail whether and how he was harmed by the contact with rats and roaches.
Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted. Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint by April 29, 1994, curing the defects noted above. Specifically, plaintiff must allege facts showing (1) personal involvement of the defendants, or the existence of a custom or policy of deliberate indifference on the part of the County Jail Administration, or both; and (2) facts indicating what harm he suffered as a result of the conditions of which he complains.
DATED: March 10, 1994
ENTER: John F. Grady, United States District Judge