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NEGRON v. RAMSEY

July 7, 2004.

JOHN NEGRON, Plaintiff
v.
KENNETH RAMSEY, Sheriff of Kane County, NEIL COLLINS, Star #428, M. GERDES, Star #478, and ALBERT JACKSON, Star #426, in their individual capacities as Kane County Sheriff Deputies, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN GOTTSCHALL, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff John Negron ("Negron"), a pretrial detainee at Kane County Adult Correctional Facility ("Kane County Jail") at the time of his complaint, has sued several Sheriff Deputies employed at Kane County Jail — Neil Collins ("Collins"), M. Gerdes ("Gerdes"), and Albert Jackson ("Jackson") — based on Gerdes's alleged beating of Negron during an August 7, 1999 confrontation in Negron's cell. Negron alleges that (1) Gerdes used unlawful force against Negron in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and (2) Collins and Jackson are liable under Section 1983 for failing to intervene in the altercation.*fn1 Before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Defendants argue that Negron's complaint fails as a matter of law because the undisputed facts demonstrate that (a) Gerdes used a permissible, minimum amount of force in response to a physical threat from Negron and (b) Collins and Jackson did not have an opportunity to intervene in the incident. For the reasons below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part. The court denies summary judgment as to defendants Gerdes and Jackson and grants summary judgment as to defendant Collins.

BACKGROUND

  On August 7, 1999, Negron was housed at Kane County Jail as a pretrial detainee. It is undisputed that, at that time, Negron had a history of assaults on corrections officers. Negron was housed in the risk unit and placed on suicide watch. Prisoners assigned to this area of the facility were locked in their respective cells and were not free to wander about the unit.

  At the time of the incident, defendants Collins, Gerdes, and Jackson were all Sheriff Deputies serving as corrections officers at Kane County Jail.

  Gerdes was the only officer on duty at the risk unit at the time covered by Negron's complaint. As part of his regular duties, Gerdes exchanged blankets and linens for each cell. On the day of the alleged incident, Gerdes performed the exchange for the cells, including Negron's. Gerdes has testified that at approximately 9:45 a.m., he became aware that Negron was flooding his cell. Gerdes does not explain how Negron flooded his cell. While Negron does not dispute that the cell was flooding, he claims that the blanket given to him by Gerdes was wet and thus caused the problem. At some point after becoming aware of the flooding, Gerdes radioed for assistance.*fn2

  To address the problem, Gerdes entered Negron's cell and instructed Negron to turn around so that he could be handcuffed. Negron complied and proceeded to sit down on his bed as instructed by Gerdes. Gerdes turned his back away from the bed in order to attend to the flooding in the cell. It is undisputed that, at this point, Negron slipped his hands, still handcuffed, under his feet, moving his hands to the front of his body. Gerdes turned around, noticed that Negron's hands were now in front of his body and then confronted Negron.

  The facts regarding what happened next are in dispute. Gerdes contends that he instructed Negron to return his hands to behind his back. Gerdes testified at his deposition that Negron did not comply and that, consequently, Gerdes was compelled to use physical force in order to meet the threat posed by Negron's potential use of his hands. A struggle ensued between Gerdes and Negron, at the end of which Negron was on the floor of his cell. Gerdes has testified that he used a "minimal" amount of force during the struggle.

  Negron's version of events is significantly different. Negron contends that he returned his hands to behind his back at Gerdes's request, but that Gerdes immediately approached him and "struck him in the face with his fist repeatedly." Then, according to Negron, Gerdes grabbed Negron's hair and struck him with his fist again. Gerdes grabbed Negron's legs and dragged him from his bed to the floor, kicked Negron in the ribs and head, and slammed Negron's head into the concrete floor.

  Deputy Jackson arrived in Negron's cell at some point during altercation between Gerdes and Negron. Defendants claim that Jackson had no opportunity to see the second part of the altercation because his back was turned. However, Negron testified that Jackson had ample opportunity to witness the altercation between himself and Gerdes, and Jackson testified to seeing "Officer Gerdes, M., No. 478, punch inmate (Negron, J) in the back twice and push his face into the mattress." (Jackson Dep. 45).

  It is undisputed that Deputy Collins arrived when Negron was on the floor of his cell, after the altercation had ended. It is also undisputed that Sheriff Ramsey was not present during the altercation and was not personally involved in the incident in any way. After the struggle was over, defendants placed Negron in a restraint chair in his cell. A nurse arrived to examine Negron.

  Negron was diagnosed with a nasal fracture, with no notations as to the cause. Gerdes contends that his altercation with Negron was not necessarily the cause of Negron's nasal injury. Negron does not dispute that possibility. He concedes that on May 19, 1999 he was attacked by another inmate, that his nose was broken in this physical exchange as well and that the injuries to his nose discovered after his struggle with Gerdes could have arisen from either altercation. No x-rays were taken following either the May 19 attack or the August 7 incident.

  Although there are no medical records regarding the functionality of Negron's nose subsequent to either attack, Negron alleges that he has difficulty breathing out of the left side of his nose. However, he has not requested or received any medical ...


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