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WHITE v. COOPER
May 20, 1999
EUTES WHITE, PLAINTIFF,
KEITH COOPER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lindberg, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Defendants Keith Cooper, Paul Lee, Christopher Marry, Jeffrey
Patch, William Schriever, Nicholas Lamb and Christopher Campos
("state defendants"), and defendants Chuck James and Air Design
Systems, Inc. (ADS), have each moved to dismiss Plaintiff Eutes
White's second amended complaint. For the reasons set forth
below, the court denies both motions.
Plaintiff, who remains in the custody of the Illinois
Department of Corrections, brings this action against defendants
pursuant to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that defendants' acts and omissions subjected him to
cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Plaintiff also claims in his second amended complaint that ADS
negligently caused plaintiff to be injured.
As a result of the fire, plaintiff sustained severe burns over
a large part of his body and suffered from severe smoke
inhalation. After his hospitalization for his injuries, plaintiff
was transferred to the Menard prison for treatment of his mental
illness. The Department of Corrections was aware that plaintiff
was seriously mentally ill and posed a danger to himself. He had
a long history of mental illness and was taking prescription
psychotropic medication at the time the fire occurred. On October
4, 1996, the Menard Psychiatric Center reported plaintiff was on
suicide watch, "was eating feces and urine" and was "sticking his
head in the toilet and trying to flush it." Plaintiff's Exhibit
On July 5, 1996, plaintiff filed his original complaint, naming
Warden Cooper and Lt. Douglas Read as defendants, along with an
application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) in the district
court of the Southern District of Illinois. On August 15, 1996,
Judge Beatty, the assigned judge, transferred the case to the
Northern District of Illinois.*fn1 Plaintiff filed his first
motion for appointment of counsel on August 26, 1996. Plaintiff
also filed a motion for documents from the Department of
Corrections on September 17, 1996, and a request for a court
order for medical records on October 31, 1996. In the motion for
documents, plaintiff requested "all documents, medical reports,
summarys, [sic] witnesses, statements, etc. based on the incident
that took place on 3-19-96" (emphasis in original). He
additionally stated that on that date, he was in his cell 30 or
45 minutes before any officials arrived and that when prison
officials did arrive, they stood outside his cell for five
minutes watching him scream to be let out of the cell.
The court granted the IFP application on February 10, 1997, but
denied the two pending motions for appointment of counsel. On
July 14, 1997, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an
amended/supplemental complaint instanter and a response to
defendants' pending motion to dismiss. He stated that he was
asserting a claim of deliberate indifference to his health and
safety needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments
and that he was not seeking to hold Warden Cooper liable under a
theory of respondeat superior. He also alleged that Lt. Read had
provided false reports and statements that resulted in a loss of
plaintiff's good time credit.*fn2 In September 1997, the court
granted this motion but denied the motions for documents as
premature, indicating that plaintiff could renew these motions
after the defendants answered or otherwise pled to the complaint.
Plaintiff renewed his motion for appointment of counsel in April
1998 and twice in May 1998, and filed a motion for discovery on
May 27, 1998. The court appointed counsel on October 7, 1998,
denying plaintiff's discovery motions and indicating that his
counsel could refile such motions as necessary. On December 2,
1998, the state defendants answered in part the written discovery
requests that plaintiff's appointed counsel had served upon them.
Plaintiff alleges that the documents he received December 2,
1998, revealed the
names of additional prison workers, construction companies and
construction workers who may have played a role in causing
plaintiff's injuries. On December 22, 1998, plaintiff filed a
motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, which the
court granted on December 29, 1999. In his second amended
complaint, filed January 22, 1999, plaintiff added six new state
defendants as well as a number of construction companies and
workers. Defendants Cooper, Lee, Marry, Patch, Schriever, Lamb,
Campos, James and ADS have filed motions to dismiss plaintiff's
complaint, which are now before the court.
When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court does not test the merits
of a plaintiff's complaint, but decides whether a plaintiff has
properly stated a claim. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236,
94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). At this stage, the court
must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, accepting all well pleaded factual allegations as
true. Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d §
1363 at 460-461 (1990). When ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the
court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1427 (7th Cir.
1996). No claim will 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 &
Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984).
Nevertheless, the complaint must state direct or inferential
allegations pertaining to each necessary element of the
plaintiff's chosen legal theory. See Glatt v. Chicago Park
Dist., 847 F. Supp. 101, 103 (N.D.Ill. 1994).
In support of their motions to dismiss, both state defendants
and ADS argue that plaintiff's second amended complaint is barred
by the statute of limitations. If it is apparent from plaintiff's
complaint that his suit is barred by the statute of limitations,
the court may dismiss plaintiff's action pursuant to rule
12(b)(6). Whirlpool Fin. Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc.,
67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir.). The text of § 1983 does not provide a
federal statute of limitations. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994). The
Supreme Court has held that § 1983 civil rights actions are best
characterized as personal injury suits and that courts should
apply the personal injury statute of limitations of the state
where the alleged violation occurred to all § 1983 claims. See
Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 280, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 85 L.Ed.2d
254 (1985); Farrell v. McDonough, 966 F.2d 279, 280 (7th Cir.
1992). Thus, § 1983 claims arising in Illinois are governed by
735 ILCS 5/13-202, which provides for a personal injury
limitations period of two years. See Farrell v. McDonough, 966
F.2d at 280; Kalimara v. Illinois Department of Corrections,
879 F.2d 276, 277 (7th Cir. 1989).
Plaintiffs claims arise out of his injuries that resulted from
the fire in his cell on March 19, 1996, and therefore accrued on
this date. See Hill v. Godinez, 955 F. Supp. at 950; Wilson v.
Giesen, 956 F.2d 738, 740 (7th Cir. 1992). The two-year statute
of limitations therefore expired on March 19, 1998. Because
plaintiff filed his second amended complaint more than two years
after the date of accrual, the ...