United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 30, 2004.
CEDRIC M. NELSON, #2001-0015469, Plaintiff,
DETECTIVE D. STOVER, Detective #21337, DETECTIVE J. DOUGHERTY, Detective #20432, JEAN KIRIAZES, JOHN DOE STAFF, and JANE DOE STAFF, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MORTON DENLOW, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Cedric Nelson ("Plaintiff), currently a pretrial detainee
at the Cook County Jail ("the jail"), brings this pro se civil
rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Chicago Police
Detectives Danny Stover and John Dougherty, as well as Jean Kiriazes and
unknown individuals identified as John Doe Staff and Jane Doe Staff. On
June 6, 2002, Defendant Jean Kiriazes was dismissed from the case. The
unnamed John and Jane Does are also dismissed from the case because they
were never named or served. Defendants Stover and Dougherty (collectively
"Defendants") are the only remaining defendants. They are charged with
violating Plaintiffs constitutional rights by failing to provide him with
care at the time of his arrest and consequently causing him
substantial harm. Plaintiff now proceeds pro se because his
appointed counsel was given leave to withdraw from the case on January
This case is now before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary
judgment. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary
judgment is granted, and the complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
When considering a motion for summary judgment, the brief and
complaints of a pro se prisoner who is not skilled in legal
analysis must be liberally construed. Whittford v. Boglino,
63 F.3d 527, 535 n.10 (7th Cir. 1995) (liberally construing the brief of a
pro se prisoner to find that the prisoner had not waived an
issue within the summary judgment context); Woods v. Thieret,
903 F.2d 1080, 1082 (7th Cir. 1990) (liberally construing the complaints
of a pro se litigant in a civil rights case and finding a
genuine issue of material
fact on cross-motions for summary judgment). Therefore, the Court
has construed the facts put forth by Plaintiff in such a way as to
construct the most logical sequence of events and arguments possible.*fn2
This liberal construction, however, does not obviate the need for
Plaintiff to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) and Local
Rule 56.1 because experience has shown that the best guarantee of
evenhanded administration of the law is strict adherence to procedural
requirements. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113
(1993). Therefore, the Court considers only those statements and
allegations that Plaintiff supports with a sworn affidavit.
On February 21, 2001, Defendants went to Plaintiffs home at 6:30 p.m.
to arrest Plaintiff in connection with an aggravated criminal assault.
Def. Facts ¶¶ 6, 8. Plaintiff claims that at the time of his arrest he
was "injecting dope in [his] groin area and the hypodermic needle [he]
was using broken [sic] leaving 2 1/2 centimeters of needle in
[him]. While [he] was preparing to go to the hospital [Defendants]
knocked on [his] door." Cmplt. at 6; Pl. Ex. ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff claims
that when Defendants knocked on the door, he told
Defendants that he was planning to go to the hospital because of
the hypodermic needle embedded in his groin, that he was going through
heroin withdrawal, and that he was physically in pain. Id.; Pl.
Ex. A ¶¶ 13, 18. Defendants deny having knowledge of Plaintiffs
conditions, and there is no mention of Plaintiff's complaints in the case
supplementary report. Def. Exs. B-D.
Defendants transported Plaintiff to the Area Two police station,
interviewed him, and left Plaintiff there while they went to speak to
Plaintiff's alleged victim's doctor. Def. Facts ¶ 10. Defendants then
returned to the police station and re-interviewed Plaintiff regarding the
alleged crime. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff claims that he made
several requests for medical treatment and again told Defendants about
his injury and pain. Id. ¶ 18; Pl. Ex. A ¶ 18.
Additionally, Plaintiff claims that the next day, February 22, 2001,
Defendants asked to see Plaintiff's wound, which was "draining a clear
substance." Id. ¶¶ 18, 20; Pl. Ex. A ¶ 20. Defendants
claim that at no point did Plaintiff indicate that he was in physical
pain or in need of medical attention and that they never observed any
injuries to Plaintiff. Id. They also claim that if Plaintiff had
indicated that he was in physical pain or needed medical attention, they
would have arranged for Plaintiff's transportation to the nearest
hospital. Id. ¶ 19.
At 9:15 p.m. on February 22, 2001, in the presence of Detective
Dougherty and the assistant states attorney, Plaintiff signed a
statement, confessing to the crime for which he was arrested, Def. Ex. D,
but allegedly did so only because Defendants told him that he would not
get medical treatment for his injuries unless he signed the statement,
Pl. Ex. 1 ¶¶
14, 17. However, the signed confession includes statements by
Plaintiff that no threats or promises had been made in exchange for his
confession, that he was treated well by the police, that he was given
food, coffee, and cigarettes, and that he was not under the influence of
drugs or alcohol. Def. Ex. F.
After interrogating and detaining Plaintiff at the police station for
approximately thirty hours, Defendants brought Plaintiff to the lockup
facility in Area Two at approximately 12:05 a.m. on February 23, 2001.
`Def. Facts ¶ 21. From that point in time, Defendants did not see
Plaintiff again, outside of court proceedings. Id. ¶ 22.
At the lockup facility, Plaintiff was processed by Officer Warren
Hughes, who conducted a visual check of Plaintiff's physical condition
and interviewed him. Id. ¶ 23. Officer Hughes claims that he
did not see any injuries or physical problems suffered by Plaintiff and
did not call to have Plaintiff transported to a hospital. Id.
¶¶ 24, 26. Plaintiff claims that he informed Officer Hughes that there
was a hypodermic needle embedded in his groin area and that he was going
through heroin withdrawal. Id. ¶ 24; Pl. Ex. A ¶ 24.
Plaintiff spent the night in the lockup. See Def. Facts ¶
During the day of February 23, 2001, Plaintiff was transported to
Cermak Health Services of Cook County, the jail's medical facility, in
order to undergo a medical screening. Id. ¶ 27. The intake
officer completed a medical intake record, indicating that Plaintiff's
general appearance was good and that his chief complaint was "bad
health." Def. Ex. H. On a front-view diagram of the human body, there is
a notation that Plaintiff has a scar on his
face. Id. There is also a "D" shaped mark encompassing the
diagram's abdomen, right hip, and groin areas that may indicate bruising
in those general areas, but its true meaning is unclear. Id. The
accompanying right-side-view diagram has no markings on it. Id.
Additionally, the intake officer noted that Plaintiff stated that he
broke a needle off in his right hip area two months prior. Id.;
Def. Facts ¶ 28. Plaintiff disputes this statement, claiming that he
told the intake officer that the needle broke off two days prior. Def.
Facts ¶ 28.
On May 10, 2001, Plaintiff was x-rayed at Cermak Health Services and no
foreign bodies were noted in his groin. Id. ¶ 33; Def. Ex./.
On June 14, 2001, four months after his arrest, Plaintiff was x-rayed
again and a needle was seen embedded in soft tissue projecting over
Plaintiffs hip joint. Def. Facts ¶ 34; Def. Ex. J. Medical records
dated July 20, 2001, indicate that Plaintiff continued to complain that
he broke off a needle in his right groin area five months prior, but the
physician was unable to palpate the needle and diagnosed Plaintiff with a
needle in his right hip area only. Def. Ex. K. The physician referred
Plaintiff to a surgeon for removal of the needle. Id August 7,
2001 medical records indicate that Plaintiff complained of a hypodermic
needle broken off in his right groin in February 2001 and that the right
groin was tender to palpation. Pl. Ex. /. Medical records from November
27, 2001, and July 11, 2002, indicate that both of Plaintiffs testicles
demonstrated a normal sonographic appearance and that blood flow was
normal in Plaintiff's right leg. Def. Exs.
M, N. On June 4, 2003, Plaintiff underwent surgery for the
extraction of a hypodermic needle from his hip. Pl. Memo, at 18.
Nonetheless, Plaintiff claims that he has suffered nerve damage and
pain and numbness in his right leg. PI. Exs. J, 1 ¶ 14; PL Memo, at
18. He alleges constant pain and that he can not sit for a long period of
time. PL Ex. 2.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment will be granted when there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); O'Connor v. DePaul Univ., 123 F.3d 665, 669
(7th Cir. 1997). A court must take the facts and draw all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Bahl
v. Royal Indemnity Co., 115 F.3d 1283, 1289 (7th Cir. 1997);
Condo v. Sysco. Corp., 1 F.3d 599, 601 (7th Cir. 1993). To
defeat a motion for summary judgment, the party opposing the motion
must present evidence of a triable issue of material fact. See
Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 990 (7th Cir. 1996). A fact is
material when it would determine the outcome under the governing law.
Whetstine v. Gate Rubber Co., 895 F.2d 388, 392 (7th
Cir. 1990). A material fact is genuinely in dispute when "the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
The non-moving party is required to go beyond the pleadings and
designate specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Palmer
v. Marion County, 327 F.3d 588, 595 (7th
Cir. 2003); Bank-Leumi Le-Israel, B.M. v. Lee,
928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991). Proof presented in depositions, answers to
interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record
must be considered. Degenova v. Sheriff of DuPage County, No. 97
C 7208, 2001 WL 1345991, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 31, 2001). However, the
court is not required to "scour the record" to find an issue of fact.
Lee v. Brewer, No. 91 C 7819, 1994 WL 46683, at * 1 (N.D. Ill.
Feb. 14, 1994). If the non-moving party fails to show that there is a
genuine issue for trial, "then the court must enter summary
judgment against [that party]." Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp.,
24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994) (emphasis in the original).
Therefore, even if made by a pro se party, "bald assertions"
that are completely unsupported by evidence, are not sufficient to
overcome a motion for summary judgment. Rodriguez v. Mercado,
No. 00 CIV. 8588 JSRFM, 2002 WL 1997885, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 28, 2002).
Nonetheless, if the claim "turns on which of two conflicting stories best
captures what happened," the movant is not entitled to summary judgment.
Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 216 (2001) (Ginsburg, J.,
Defendants raise two issues. The first is whether they are entitled to
summary judgment on the issue of deliberate indifference. The second is
whether they are entitled to summary judgment on the issue of qualified
immunity. If Defendants are entitled to judgment on either issue, this
case will be dismissed.
For the following reasons, this Court finds that Plaintiff has failed
to raise genuine issues of material fact regarding the charge of
deliberate indifference, and that Defendants are entitled to judgment as
a matter of law on that charge. Furthermore, Defendants are protected
from trial by the doctrine of qualified immunity. The Court will discuss
each issue in turn.
A. DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE THROUGH DELAY OF MEDICAL CARE
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a
serious medical condition from which he suffered at the time of his
arrest by depriving him of medical care for an unreasonable amount of
time. The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from deliberate
indifference to a serious injury or medical need, which constitutes
"unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment extends that right to pretrial detainees because the state may
not punish an offense until after it has obtained a formal adjudication
of guilt pursuant to the strictures of legal due process. Palmer v.
Marion County, 327 F.3d 588, 592-93 (7th Cir. 2003). Similarly, a
pretrial detainee's claim of deprivation of medical care is governed by
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and in ruling on the
claim, a court applies the standard applicable to the Eighth Amendment
protections from deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.
See Chapman v. Keltner, 241 F.3d 842, 845 (7th Cir. 2001).
To prevail on a claim of deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must
establish that the defendant displayed deliberate indifference to his
serious medical needs. See, e.g., Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364,
1369 (7th Cir. 1997). Thus, two elements must be satisfied. Chapman,
241 F.3d at 845. First, the plaintiff must show that he suffered
from "an objectively serious injury or medical need." Id.
Second, the plaintiff must show that the defendant acted with a
"sufficiently culpable state of mind"; that is, the defendant exhibited
"deliberate indifference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834;
Gutierrez, 11 F.3d at 1369. Additionally, when a plaintiff
complains of the delay in receiving medical treatment, rather than the
treatment itself, he must also show that the delay caused him to suffer
"substantial harm." Langston v. Peters, 100 F.3d 1235 (7th Cir.
For the purposes of this motion only, the Court will assume that
Plaintiff can prevail on the first two elements of the deliberate
indifference claim. Plaintiff nonetheless can not survive summary
judgment because, even if Defendants knew of Plaintiff's serious injury
or medical need, Plaintiff can not show that the delay in medical
treatment allegedly caused by Defendants caused him the requisite
substantial harm needed to prevail.
Regardless of motives, a defendant officer's failure to obtain
immediate medical care for a plaintiff constitutes an Eighth Amendment
violation only if the delay was "objectively, sufficiently serious" to
constitute the "denial of the minimal civilized measures of life's
necessities." Langston v. Peters, 100 F.3d 1235, 1240
(7th Cir. 1996). Thus, something more than delay is needed to show
deliberate indifference. Bustamante v. City of Chi. Police
Dep't, No. 89 C 3471, 1993 WL 369325, at *2 (N.D. Ill.
Sept. 20, 1993). To succeed, a plaintiff who alleges that delay in
medical treatment rose to a constitutional violation must place verifying
medical evidence in the record to establish the detrimental effect, that
is the substantial harm, caused by delay in medical treatment.
Id. (citing Beyerbach v. Sears, 49 F.3d 1324, 1326
(8th Cir. 1995)).
In this case, regardless whether Defendants actually knew of any pain
or injury experienced by Plaintiff, Plaintiff can not show that he
sustained substantial harm as a result of the delay in medical treatment
he alleges was caused by Defendants. Defendants released Plaintiff from
their immediate custody in the early morning hours of February 23, 2001,
after taking custody of him for approximately thirty hours. From that
point on, Defendants had no further contact with Plaintiff. On that date,
Plaintiff was examined at Cermak Health Services, and his medical
treatment was out of Defendant's control because it was within the
control of the jail. The record is clear that there was no harm to
Plaintiff from the time of his arrest until he was turned over for
Plaintiff, through no fault of Defendants, did not receive an x-ray of
his groin until May 10, 2001, at which time the x-ray revealed no foreign
bodies in Plaintiff's groin area. In fact, the needle in Plaintiffs hip
was not found until June 14, 2001, four months after Defendants released
Plaintiff from their custody.
Despite this delay, which again was not caused by Defendants, there is
no indication that Plaintiff has suffered any substantial harm. Although
Plaintiff claims the delay has caused him to suffer constant pain, nerve
damage, pain and numbness in his right leg, and
the inability to sit for a long period of time, he presents no
verifying medical evidence to support these claims. Quite to the
contrary, Plaintiff's medical records indicate that his testicles appear
normal, as does the blood flow in his right leg. The records do not
indicate that Plaintiff complained of the symptoms he alleges. Moreover,
the only indication in the record verified by medical evidence is that
Plaintiff's condition at least stayed the same, if not improved, since
Defendants released him from their immediate custody on February 23,
Simply put, Plaintiff did not suffer any injury because of the delay in
treatment. As a result, despite the issue of fact regarding whether
Defendants had actual knowledge of the pain he was suffering at the time
of his arrest, Plaintiff has failed to survive summary judgment on his
claim that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious
medical need by depriving him of medical treatment for an unreasonable
period of time. Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
B. THE DOCTRINE OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY
Defendants claim that they are protected by qualified immunity.
Qualified or "good faith" immunity is an affirmative defense that
"shields the officers from suit `insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.' " Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800, 815 (1982); Shedd v. Lindsay, 102 F.3d 282, 287 (7th
Cir. 1996) (quoting Harlow, 457 U.S. at 818). The doctrine "gives public
officials the benefit of the doubt," Elliott v. Thomas,
937 F.2d 338, 341 (7th Cir. 1991), and entitles police officers who exercise
discretion to an
"accommodation for reasonable error . . . because officials
should not err always on the side of caution because they fear being
sued," Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224 (1991). "The entitlement
[to a qualified immunity] is an immunity from suit rather than a
mere defense to liability; and like an absolute immunity, it is
effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial."
Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985) (emphasis in
original). Its purpose is to protect all but the plainly incompetent or
those who knowingly violate the law. Malley v. Briggs,
475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986). It protects those officials who act within the "hazy
border" between the lawful and the unlawful. Riccardo v. Rausch,
359 F.3d 510, 515 (7th Cir. 2004).
Qualified immunity is a legal question properly determined by a court
and answered in reference to the particular facts of the case.
Rakovich v. Wade, 850 F.2d 1180, 1201-02 (7th Cir. 1987) (en
banc). When qualified immunity is considered within the context of
summary judgment, the usual summary judgment procedure (consider all the
undisputed facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party)
should be followed and all of the undisputed evidence in the record
should be examined. Id. at 1204.
The inquiry focuses on the objective legal reasonableness of the
action, not the state of mind or good faith of the officials in
question." Erwin v. Daley, 92 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 1996).
Such an objective analysis, which is less fact bound than a subjective
analysis, makes summary judgment a practical and effective means of
terminating unnecessary litigation. Rakovich, 850 F.2d at 1205.
The Supreme Court articulated the test:
If the law at the time was not clearly
established, an official could not reasonably be
expected to anticipate subsequent legal
developments, nor could he fairly be said to
"know" that the law forbade conduct not previously
identified as unlawful. Until this threshold
immunity question is resolved, discovery should
not be allowed. If the law was clearly
established, the immunity defense ordinarily
should fail, since a reasonably competent public
official should know the law governing his
conduct. Nevertheless, if the official pleading
the defense claims extraordinary circumstances and
can prove that he neither knew nor should have
known of the relevant legal standard, the defense
should be sustained. But again, the defense would
turn primarily on objective factors.
Harlow, 457 U.S. at 818-19. A court should ask whether the
defendant officer acted reasonably under the settled law, given the
circumstances, not whether another reasonable, or more reasonable,
interpretation of the events can be constructed several years after the
fact. Humphry v. Staszak, 148 F.3d 719
, 725 (7th Cir. 1998). The
Seventh Circuit employs a two-step analysis: "(1) Does the alleged
conduct set out a constitutional violation? and (2) Were the
constitutional standards clearly established at the time in question?"
Kernats v. O'Sullivan, 35 F.3d 1171
, 1176 (7th Cir. 1994). Under
part (1) of this approach, a plaintiff's supported allegations, including
intent, are assumed to be true. Rakovich, 850 F.2d at 1210. The
right under part (2) "should not be defined so intricately that
invariably guiding law never can be found." Id. at 1211.
"[P]laintiff bears the burden of showing that the officer violated a
clearly established constitutional right. . . ." Clash v. Bearry,
77 F.3d 1045, 1047 (7th Cir. 1996). "`Closely analogous cases,
those decided before the defendant acted or failed to act, are required
that a constitutional right is clearly established.'" Rice v.
Burks, 999 F.2d 1172, 1174 (7th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Rakovich, 850 F.2d at 1209). Previous case law, however, need
not contain facts that are "materially similar" to the facts contained in
the underlying action. Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002);
see also Riccardo, 359 F.3d at 522 (Williams, J., dissenting).
The focus is whether the prior case law would place defendant officers on
notice that their conduct is unlawful. Hope, 536 U.S. at 739.
Under the circumstances surrounding this case, the inquiries into
deliberate indifference and qualified immunity collapse into one because
this Court already has determined that Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on Plaintiffs claim of deliberate indifference. Walker v.
Benjamin, 293 F.3d 1030, 1037 (7th Cir. 2002);Delgado-Brunet v.
Clark, 93 F.3d 339, 345 (7th Cir. 1996). If there were genuine
issues of material fact concerning the elements of deliberate
indifference, then Defendants would not be able to avoid trial on
qualified immunity grounds. Walker, 293 F.3d at 1037 (finding
defendant prison doctors were not entitled to qualified immunity on a
deliberate indifference claim because there were issues of material fact
on the deliberate indifference claim and the general standard of
liability under the Eighth Amendment for refusal to treat a serious
medical condition was well-established at the time of the events). On the
other hand, if the uncontested facts reveal a fatal gap in Plaintiff's
case, then Defendants would win on the merits. Delgado-Brunet,
93 F.3d at 345 (affirming a district court's determination that a
defendant officer was entitled to summary judgment on grounds of
qualified immunity and the lack of any facts tending to show deliberate
In this case, there is a fatal gap in Plaintiffs case because Plaintiff
has not created a genuine issue of material fact supporting his claim
that he suffered substantial harm. Defendants, therefore, are entitled to
John Doe Staff and Jane Doe Staff are dismissed from this case.
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted. This case is
dismissed with prejudice in its entirety. Any pending motions are denied
If Plaintiff wishes to appeal this final judgment, he must file a
notice of appeal with this Court within thirty days of the entry of
judgment. Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(4). A motion for leave to appeal in
forma pauper is should set forth the issues Plaintiff plans to
present on appeal. See Fed.R.App.P. 24(a)(1)(C); Hyche v.
Christensen, 170 F.3d 769, 771 (7th Cir. 1999). If Plaintiff does
choose to appeal, he will be liable for the $105 appellate filing fee
irrespective of the outcome of the appeal. Evans v. III. Dep't of
Corrections, 150 F.3d 810, 812 (7th Cir. 1998). Furthermore, if the
appeal is found to be non-meritorious, Plaintiff may also accumulate a
"strike" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Plaintiff is warned
that if a prisoner has had a total of three federal cases or appeals
dismissed as frivolous, malicious,
or failing to state a claim, he may not file suit in federal court
without prepaying the filing fee, unless he is in imminent danger of
serious physical injury. SO ORDERED THIS 30th DAY OF MARCH,
JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
&UKC; Jury Verdict. This action came before the Court
for a trial by jury. The issues have been tried
and the jury rendered its verdict.
&UKC; Decision by Court. This action came to hearing
before the Court. The issues have been heard and
a decision has been rendered.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that John Doe Staff and Jane Doe
Staff are dismissed from this case. Defendants' motion for summary
judgment is granted This case is dismissed with prejudice in it entirety.