The opinion of the court was delivered by: MILTON SHADUR, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
David Toma ("Toma") brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983")
action against Kane County Sheriff Kenneth Ramsey ("Ramsey"), Sergeant
Wayne Gordon ("Gordon") and Sergeant Wayne Carter ("Carter"), asserting a
violation of his constitutional rights.*fn1 Toma alleges that he was
attacked by fellow inmates when he was a pretrial detainee at the Kane
County Jail and that Ramsey, Gordon and Carter had been aware of the
threat to Toma's safety but did nothing to prevent the attack. Toma also
contends that Ramsey should be held responsible in his official capacity
as Sheriff because, according to Toma, it was Sheriff's Office policy to
deny all requests for transfer even where a prisoner's safety was in jeopardy because the jail was just too crowded to
accommodate such requests.
All defendants jointly moved for summary judgment and complied with
this Court's LR 56.1.*fn2 For the reasons stated in this memorandum
opinion and order, their motion is granted and this action is dismissed.
Summary Judgment Standards
Familiar Rule 56 principles impose on movants Ramsey, Gordon and Carter
the burden of establishing the lack of a genuine issue of material fact
(Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317
, 322-23 (1986)). For that purpose
this Court must "consider the evidentiary record in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party . . . and draw all reasonable
inferences in his favor" (Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467
471 (7th Cir. 2002)). Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619
, 625 (7th
Cir. 2001) has explained the test for summary judgment by echoing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242
, 248 (1986):
A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if
"the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
As with any summary judgment motion, this Court views all disputed
facts in Toma's favor and accepts his version of events, but only so long
as there is supporting evidence in the record. Because Toma has not
separately submitted any record evidence, what follows was culled from
the record as provided by defendants.
On August 15, 1999 Toma had an altercation with fellow inmate Robert
Moore ("Moore"), in consequence of which Toma was placed in a segregated
cell for a few days (Toma Dep. 8). When Toma was released from
segregation, prison officials assigned him to cell block 161 (id. 10).
Toma feared that other members of Moore's gang that occupied cell block
161 planned to beat him up, so he asked two corrections officers Gordon
and Carter to reassign him to a different cell block (Toma Dep. 6-7).
Every day for at least 20 days Toma told Gordon and Carter that other
inmates had threatened to beat him up because of gang affiliation (id.
7-8). But, because he was concerned that he would be in an even worse
situation if he were to rat on other inmates, he never gave Gordon or
Carter any specific information (such as who had threatened him or with which gang they were affiliated (id. 26). Neither
Gordon or Carter ever responded to Toma's requests, other than to say
that the jail was too crowded to move him to a different cell block (id.
On the early morning of September 23, 1999 Toma's fears came true
he was jumped by two fellow inmates of cell block 161 (Ex. 7 at
2). Not long after the incident Carter came around to pick up breakfast
trays and discovered a bloodied Toma, whom Carter immediately took to the
infirmary. Toma timely filed this Section 1983 action on September 18,
2001 to recover for the injuries he sustained that day back in September
All defendants recognize that Section 1983 prohibits jail officials
from acting with deliberate indifference toward a prisoner's safety
(Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835-39 (1994)).*fn3 But Gordon, Carter
and Ramsey correctly maintain that they cannot be found to be
deliberately indifferent unless they had actual knowledge of a specific
threat to Toma's safety: To survive summary judgment, Toma must point to
some evidence that raises a genuine issue as to whether Gordon, Carter or
Ramsey had "actual knowledge of impending harm easily preventable, so
that a conscious, culpable refusal to prevent the harm can be inferred from the
defendant's failure to prevent it" (McGill v. Duckworth, 944 F.2d 344,
348 (7th Cir. 1991); see also Butera v. Cottey, 285 P.3d 601, 605 (7th
Toma falls well short on that score. Although he may have told Gordon
and Carter every day about threats to his safety from unspecified "other
inmates," he admits that he never gave them the names of prisoners who
were threatening him, nor did he even identify a gang to which they
belonged (Ex. 1 at 7, 25). Instead he simply voiced generalized concerns
to Gordon and Carter, apparently expecting them to fill in the blanks.*fn4
Without their having received any such specific information, so that they
could have taken preventive measures to protect Toma against identified
perils, it cannot be said that Gordon or Carter acted with deliberate
indifference to Toma's safety.
Toma might perhaps argue that the guards should have removed him from
the general population when he voiced his nonspecific concerns for his
own safety. Indeed, it might be thought in hindsight that protective custody designation would have been a sensible
step to take under the circumstances.*fn5
But Gordon, Carter and Ramsey
may not be held liable for failing to choose that option. As Frake v.
City of Chicago, 210 F.3d 779
, 782 (7th Cir. 2000) explains:
A defendant is not, however, required to guarantee the
detainee's safety. The existence or possibility of
other better policies which might have been used does
not necessarily mean that the defendant was being
Without any evidence to show, or to raise a reasonable ...