United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
September 24, 2004.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHILIP REINHARD, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Latasha Robinson, filed a second amended complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants, Winnebago
County, Sheriff Richard Meyers, and a jail correctional officer,
Yvette Parker, claiming that she was denied her Fourteenth
Amendment rights as a pre-trial detainee when her foot was
injured by a closing cell door and when she received inadequate
medical care for her injured foot. All defendants moved for
summary judgment on all claims. Subsequent to the filing of the
motion for summary judgment, plaintiff orally moved to dismiss
Parker with prejudice, which motion was granted, and Parker is no
longer a party to this case.
Plaintiff contends that her claim related to her injured foot
is based on defendants' failure to take steps to alleviate the
overcrowding at the jail which, in turn, resulted in her having
to sleep on the floor which led to her foot getting caught in the
cell door when it was electronically closed. As for her lack of
adequate medical care claim, plaintiff contends that both
defendants were deliberately indifferent to her serious medical
need based upon their decision to provide inadequate medical
staff at the jail.
A pre-trial detainee's § 1983 claim is analyzed under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Butera v. Cottery, 285 F.3d 601, 605
(7th Cir. 2002). As such, a plaintiff is protected from a
defendant's deliberate indifference to her safety. Butera,
285 F.3d at 605. Such a finding requires a showing that a defendant
was aware of a substantial risk of serious injury to the
plaintiff but nonetheless failed to take appropriate action to
protect her from the danger. Butera, 285 F.3d at 605. A
defendant is not required, however, to ensure a plaintiff's
safety, and the existence or possibility of other better policies
which might have been used does not necessarily mean the
defendant was being deliberately indifferent. Butera,
285 F.3d at 605. In the case of a sheriff, the plaintiff must show that
the sheriff, and not just a jail employee, made a deliberate
choice among alternatives and that the chosen policy caused the
injury. Butera, 285 F.3d at 605.
In this case, plaintiff has come forth with no evidence that
either defendant was aware of any risk to plaintiff of having her
foot injured by a closing cell door while she slept on a mattress
on the floor. Nor has plaintiff shown that any policy decision by
either defendant caused her foot to be injured. Any relationship
between any policy decision that may have resulted in jail
overcrowding which in turn in some remote way may have led to
plaintiff's injury is simply to tenuous to support a finding of
causation. Thus, the County and the Sheriff (individual and
official capacities) are entitled to judgment as a matter of law
as to Count I.
As for plaintiff's claim of a denial of medical care, to the
extent it depends on a policy decision related to overcrowding,
it fails for lack of any evidence of causation as well. Further,
for a pre-trial detainee to establish a deprivation of her due
process right to medical care, she must demonstrate that a
government official acted with deliberate indifference to her
objectively serious medical need. Jackson v. Illinois Med-Car,
Inc., 300 F.3d 760, 764 (7th Cir. 2002). Even if the
plaintiff can show an objectively serious medical need, she must
also tender sufficient evidence that the relevant official had a
sufficiently culpable state of mind. Jackson, 300 F.3d at 765.
Evidence of negligence is insufficient, rather, the plaintiff
must proffer evidence demonstrating that the defendant was aware
of a serious medical need but failed to take steps to treat it.
Jackson, 300 F.3d at 765.
Here, assuming the seriousness of the medical need, there is no
evidence that either defendant knew of plaintiff's foot injury or
made any specific decision regarding the medical care related to
it. At most, plaintiff may have shown that her treatment was
negligent, but that does not satisfy the constitutional standard.
Further, plaintiff's attempt to bootstrap the adequacy of her
treatment to the relationship between the capacity of the jail
and the number of medical staff falls short of being evidence of
defendants' deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical need.
Therefore, the County and the Sheriff (individually and
officially) are entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to
For the foregoing reasons, the court grants defendants' motion
for summary judgment in its entirety.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.