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FREEMAN v. FAIRMAN

February 15, 1996

CAROLYN FREEMAN, Individually and as Special Administrator of the Estate of MEDDIE FREEMAN, deceased, CEDRIC FREEMAN, DIANE DEVITA, LYNETTE FREEMAN, MEDDIE FREEMAN, Jr., ERIC FREEMAN, and NICOLE FREEMAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
J.W. FAIRMAN, Jr., in his Official Capacity as Executive Director, Cook County Department of Corrections, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, and HOLMES, #201 and BOYLE, #640, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CASTILLO

 Plaintiffs, the children of Meddie Freeman and the special administrator of his estate, have filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Cook County, Illinois; James W. Fairman ("Fairman"), the Executive Director of the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC"); and officers Holmes and Boyle, who are employed by the Cook County Sheriff in the electronic monitoring unit. Fairman and Cook County have moved to dismiss the claims asserted against them, which stem from Meddie Freeman's death while in the custody of CCDOC. Plaintiffs allege that the decedent died "as the result of a policy of willful, wanton, and deliberate indifference of the Cook County Department of Corrections and of Cook County, Illinois to the serious medical needs of persons confined at the Cook County Department of Corrections." Am. Compl. at 15.

 RELEVANT FACTS *fn1"

 On September 24, 1993, the decedent pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to a period of two years conditional discharge and four months of home confinement on the Sheriff's Electronic Home Monitoring Program. On November 6, 1993, defendants Holmes and Boyle, who were assigned to the Home Monitoring unit, went to the decedent's home and, under circumstances not relevant here, reincarcerated the decedent.

 The decedent was immediately taken to the Cook County Jail, where he received a physical examination. The examination did not reveal any abnormality in the size of the decedent's liver. A few days later, on November 10, employees of the CCDOC administered tuberculosis medication to the decedent at several times the normal dosage. Between November 10 and December 30, 1993, the decedent's condition deteriorated considerably. The decedent was taken to the emergency room at Cook County Hospital on December 31, 1993. He remained at the hospital until his death on January 11, 1994.

 Count I, which is not the subject of the motions decided in this opinion, alleges § 1983 claims against defendants Holmes and Boyle for Fourth Amendment violations. Counts II through IV of the amended complaint are directed toward the movants. Count II is a federal civil rights claim for Eight and Fourteenth Amendment violations. Count III is a state common law wrongful death claim. Count IV consists of additional civil rights claims under the Fourteenth Amendment and state law claims. Defendants Fairman and Cook County have moved to dismiss Counts II, III, and IV of the plaintiffs' amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 ANALYSIS

 When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court views all facts alleged in the complaint -- as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom -- in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mosley v. Klincar, 947 F.2d 1338, 1339 (7th Cir. 1992). A motion to dismiss will be denied unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no facts which would entitle him or her to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957).

 Defendant Cook County first contends that it is not a proper defendant to this cause of action because it does not have statutory responsibility for the Cook County Department of Corrections. Second, both Fairman and Cook County contend that they cannot be liable under § 1983 because the plaintiffs have not shown that an official custom or policy caused the deprivation. Finally, both defendants contend that even if the plaintiffs could establish such a policy, plaintiffs have failed to allege the violation of interests protected under the Eighth Amendment.

 A. Cook County

 "[A] municipality can be found liable under § 1983 only where the municipality itself causes the constitutional violation at issue." City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385, 103 L. Ed. 2d 412, 109 S. Ct. 1197 (1989). The issue is "whether there is a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom, and the alleged constitutional deprivation." Id. Likewise, for negligence-based state law claims like those at issue here, there must be some causal link between the act complained of and the defendant, whether the defendant directly caused the injury, or supervised the agent who caused the injury, as in respondeat superior. Here, Cook County is an improper defendant because, as a matter of law, it has no authority to direct the CCDOC's actions and thus has no causal link to the harms alleged.

 Under Illinois law, the County has no authority to set policy for the CCDOC or direct the actions of CCDOC employees. The Seventh Circuit has found that "the Cook County Jail, and the Cook County Department of Corrections, are solely under the supervision and control of the Sheriff of Cook County." Thompson v. Duke, 882 F.2d 1180, 1187 (7th Cir. 1989); see also 55 ILCS §§ 5/3-15002, 3/15003 (1995). The Cook County Sheriff is an "independently-elected constitutional officer who answers only to the electorate, and not to the Cook County Board of Commissioners." Thompson, 882 F.2d at 1187.

 Although the Cook County Board of Commissioners makes the budgetary decisions that affect conditions at the CCDOC, id., the complaint does not allege that the overall conditions at the CCDOC are to blame for Freeman's death. Compare Wysinger v. Sheahan, No. 94 C 513, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9355, 1995 WL 399564 at *3. Consequently, the complaint does not establish a causal link between Cook ...


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