United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 25, 2004.
DENISE COLLINS, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of RICKY COLLINS, Deceased, Plaintiff,
CAPT. SEEMAN, SGT. BEETHEM, CORRECTIONAL OFCR. STEVEN SCHUCK, CORRECTIONAL OFCR. SAM BUCALO, and any other correctional officers presently unknown responsible for RICKY COLLINS' supervision and care, jointly and severally, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendants
Deborah Seeman, Julie Beethem, Steven Schuck, and Sam Bucalo to dismiss
the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth
below, the motion is denied.
The factual background of this case was detailed in our prior opinion.
Collins v. Seeman, 2003 WL 23144867 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 29, 2003).
Familiarity with the facts
and the procedural history to date is assumed, and we recite here only
the developments in the case since the dismissal of the first amended
complaint. Pursuant to our prior opinion, Plaintiff Denise Collins
("Mrs. Collins") amended her complaint to allege exhaustion of remedies
as required by the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
The third amended complaint*fn1 differs from the first by alleging
that, after her son Ricky committed suicide while an inmate at Sheridan
Correctional Center ("Sheridan"), Mrs. Collins requested that Sheridan
conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ricky's
death. She was informed that Sheridan had no procedures for investigating
inmate suicide. Her counsel later confirmed that Sheridan provided no
administrative remedies in situations such as this one. Defendants have
again moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the PLRA
exhaustion requirement has not been satisfied.
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is used to test the legal sufficiency
of a complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir.
1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the
plaintiff, construe allegations of a complaint in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and
allegations in the complaint. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l. Bank of Cicero,
998 F.2d 459.461 (7th Cir. 1993): Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463,
466 (7th Cir. 1991). The allegations of a complaint "should not be
dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt
that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
(1957). With these principles in mind, we turn to the motion at hand.
The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act provides that
[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison
conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any
other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any
jail, prison, or other correctional facility until
such administrative remedies as are available are
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The threshold question under this statutory
provision is "whether any `remedies' are `available'" for the injury
allegedly caused by the conditions of confinement Perez v. Wisconsin
Dept. of Corrections, 182 F.3d 532
, 537 (7th Cir. 1999) (emphasis in
original); see also, e.g., McDonald v. Snyder, 2003 WL 22427797, at *3
(N.D. Ill. Oct. 23, 2003). If the answer is yes, the administrative
route must be exhausted before any suit can proceed. See Porter v.
Nussle, 122 S. Ct 983, 992 (2002).
Defendants' argument that the complaint is still legally deficient
centers on Ricky. They contend that his individual failure to file an
administrative grievance means that this suit is barred by the PLRA.
Although Defendants do not expressly say so, their argument necessarily
contains two independent parts: first, only Ricky can bring the instant
suit; second, because Ricky did not personally pursue any administrative
remedies, the PLRA's bar is triggered.
Defendants' argument is legally and logically flawed. In cases of
prisoner suicide, § 1983 claims are regularly brought on behalf of the
deceased by an estate representative. See, e.g., Matos ex rel. Matos v.
O'Sullivan, 335 F.3d 553 (7th Cir. 2003); Sanville v. McCaughtry,
266 F.3d 724 (7th Cir. 2001). It is entirely proper for us to consider
actions taken on Ricky's behalf in addition to those he took himself.
Furthermore, it goes without saying that it would be nonsensical to read
the PLRA as requiring a prisoner to pursue administrative remedies with
respect to his imminent suicide either before or after its occurrence.
The injury that is the basis of the alleged constitutional violation is
the deprivation of Ricky's right to life. There could be no remedy for
this injury under the circumstances of this case until Ricky could no
longer take action on his own behalf. Once the alleged injury occurred,
Mrs. Collins avers
that she explored the potential for a remedy with Sheridan to no avail.
Taking all her allegations as true, as we must, this court concludes that
Mrs. Collins did what she could to resolve her dispute through
administrative channels, but Sheridan provided her with no remedies to
pursue. The PLRA requires no less and no more. See Perez, 182 F.3d at
537. She is now free to bring a § 1983 claim in federal court on Ricky's
behalf The third amended complaint states a cognizable claim, and the
motion to dismiss is correspondingly denied.
Based on the foregoing analysis, Defendants' motion to dismiss is