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KOZLOWSKI v. SHEAHAN

December 12, 2005.

ALICE KOZLOWSKI and RENEE WALKER, individually and on behalf of a class, Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHAEL SHEAHAN, Sheriff of Cook County in his official capacity, and COOK COUNTY Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Alice Kozlowski and Renee Walker, two former pretrial detainees at the Cook County Department of Corrections ("the county jail"), brings a putative class action against Cook County and its sheriff, Michael Sheahan, in his official capacity, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants jointly move to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

  The following facts are derived from the amended complaint. This case arises from the pretrial detention of Kozlowski and Walker in Division III of the county jail. They were held for several months in 2002; Kozlowski was released on July 24, 2002, and Walker, on September 19, 2002. Am. Compl. at ¶ 3. They were assigned to Division III because it was designated to house inmates who needed medical treatment; Kozlowski received treatment for drug addiction, and Walker, for asthma. Id. at ¶ 7. Division III, which occupied three floors, was divided into six tiers. Id. at ¶ 8. An interlocking area separated each floor into two tiers. Id. This area served as the only passageway to the tiers and a monitoring station for guards. Id. Inside each tier were cells, a common holding area, and shower stalls. Id. at ¶ 9. Each cell housed two inmates. Id. at ¶ 10. Secured by a steel door with a small opening, each cell had two bunk beds, a toilet, and a sink. Id. The common holding area, known as "the day room," had pay phones and a television. Id. at ¶ 9. If allowed in the day room, inmates could socialize with each other, use the pay phones, and shower. Id. From the monitoring station, guards could observe the day room, but not the cells. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. The monitoring station was supposed to be staffed by guards. Id. at ¶ 8. As a result, it was impossible for inmates to pass weapons or contraband from one tier to another. Id.

  The lockdowns, which usually lasted from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, were conducted to seize weapons and contraband from inmates. Id. at ¶ 11. Between March 11, 2001 and March 11, 2003 ("the class period"), lockdowns took place at least once a month. Id. at ¶¶ 2(c), 11. During each lockdown, teams of guards searched the tiers for weapons and contraband. Id. at ¶ 11. The searches of each tier took less than 40 minutes. Id. Because inmates could not pass weapons or contraband between the tiers without going through the monitoring stations, inmates would not burden the search effort by using the day room and shower stalls after their tiers were searched. Id. at ¶ 8. But inmates were confined in their cells during the entire lockdown. Id. at ¶ 11. As a result, they could not exercise, shower, use the pay phones, or watch television. Id. at ¶ 12.

  While they do not allege denial of food, medical care, or protection during the lockdowns, Kozlowski and Walker claim the lockdowns violated the Fourteenth Amendment by subjecting them to protracted detention in their cells. They seek to represent all female pretrial detainees held in Divisions III and IV during the class period. Defendants move to dismiss on two grounds: (1) this case is time-barred; and (2) plaintiffs fail to state a claim.

  DISCUSSION

  I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

  "A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, and dismissal of an action under the rule is warranted only if `no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'" Cler v. Ill. Educ. Ass'n, 423 F.3d 726, 729 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 612 (7th Cir. 2000)). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Cler, 423 F.3d at 729. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint "need not plead particular legal theories or particular facts." DeWalt, 224 F.3d at 612. All that is required is "a short and plain statement . . . that will give the defendant fair notice" of the nature and basis of the claim. Id. But a complaint must be dismissed if it "reveals that the plaintiff's claim is barred by a statute of limitations." Tregenza v. Great Am. Commc'ns Co., 12 F.3d 717, 719 (7th Cir. 1993).

  II. Statute of Limitations

  Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim is subject to Illinois' two-year limitations period for personal injury actions. Mitchell v. Donchin, 286 F.3d 447, 450 (7th Cir. 2002). Defendants argue the limitations period has run: Plaintiffs were released before September 19, 2002, but did not file this case until September 28, 2005 — more than three years after suffering the alleged injuries. In response, plaintiffs argue the limitations period is tolled by the timely commencement of Hart v. Sheahan, 03 C 1768 (N.D. Ill.), another putative class action filed by pretrial detainees.

  A. Hart v. Sheahan

  Genise Hart and five other pretrial detainees filed a putative class action against Sheriff Sheahan and Cook County on March 11, 2003. Defs. Exs. C (docket printout), F (second amended complaint). Hart claimed protracted detention identical to Kozlowski and Walker's allegations: "[D]uring the weekend lock down, the detainee is neither released from her cell nor permitted to shower, exercise or have access to a phone to communicate with their [sic] lawyer or family." Defs. Ex. F at ¶ 20. In addition, Hart alleged that because they were confined in their cells during the lockdowns, inmates could not communicate with guards if they needed protection against cellmates or medical attention. See, e.g., id. at ¶¶ 19, 39-41, 52(D)-(E).

  Judge Zagel initially dismissed Hart's second amended complaint. Hart, Dkt. No. 35 (Dec. 18, 2003). On appeal, the Seventh Circuit held that Hart sufficiently stated a claim based on the alleged lack of access to medical attention and guard protection:
[T]he heart of the plaintiffs' claim, with enough merit to withstand a motion to dismiss, is that the jail is subjecting them to a risk of serious harm by an unreasonably protracted detention of them out of sight and hearing of guards.
Hart v. Sheahan, 396 F.3d 887, 894 (7th Cir. 2005) (emphasis added). The Seventh Circuit instructed that on remand, Judge Zagel should "prun[e] the overlong complaint of untenable charges." Id. One of the untenable charges was Hart's claim based on protracted detention alone. Had the Seventh Circuit intended to allow the protracted detention claim to go forward, its holding would not have included the restricting language about the inmates' being "out of sight and hearing of guards." Id. Accordingly, Judge Zagel dismissed the protracted detention claim on remand. Hart, ...

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