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Walker v. County of Cook

July 28, 2006

FREDRICK LEE WALKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF COOK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan's ("Sheriff") and Defendant individual officers' ("Officers") motion to dismiss and motion in the alternative to transfer the case. This matter is also before the court on Defendant County of Cook's ("County") motion to dismiss and motion in the alternative to limit discovery. For the reasons stated below, we deny the Sheriff's and the Officers' motion to dismiss and motion to transfer in its entirety. We also grant in part and deny in part the County's motion to dismiss and deny the County's motion in the alternative to limit discovery.

BACKGROUND

On June 26, 2000, Plaintiff Frederic Lee Walker ("Walker") became a detainee with the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC"), which is a department within the Cook County Sheriff's Office ("Sheriff's Office"). Walker claims that during his detainment with the CCDOC, he resided at the Cook County Jail ("CCJ"). Walker alleges that during his detainment in the CCDOC, CCDOC guards regularly used excessive force against him and the other detainees, and that this practice was condoned through a "code of silence" that exists between the guards, the CCDOC, and the Sheriff's Office. Walker also alleges that the guards who administer these beatings are rarely disciplined, that it is common knowledge that guards are free to use excessive force against detainees with impunity, and that guards routinely retaliate against detainees who complain or file grievances. Walker alleges that the CCDOC guards attacked him using excessive force on seven different occasions, that he was denied adequate medical attention, and that he was prevented from filing official grievances in response to these incidents. Walker also alleges that he has been a victim of other assaults in addition to those detailed in his complaint, that the CCDOC officers have incited other detainees to attack Walker, and that the CCDOC officers have confiscated Walker's confidential legal materials.

On February 16, 2006, Walker filed his first amended complaint, alleging both individual claims and claims on behalf of a putative class consisting of "all persons who are currently, or will be in the future, incarcerated in the CCJ." (A. Compl. Par. 10). Walker's class allegations include a claim of excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") (Count I), a Section 1983 claim for failure to protect (Count II), and a Section 1983 claim for retaliation (Count III). Walker's individual claims include a Section 1983 claim for excessive force (Count IV), a Section 1983 claim for failure to protect (Count V), a claim of assault (Count VI), a claim of battery (Count VII), a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VIII), a Section 1983 claim for inadequate access to medical care (Count IX), a Section 1983 claim for retaliation (Count X), and a claim for statutory indemnification against the County (Count XI).

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for a failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege the "operative facts" upon which each claim is based. Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998). Under the current notice pleading standard in federal courts a plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each element of a 'cause of action . . . .'" Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)(stating also that "[a]t this stage the plaintiff receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint" and that "[m]atching facts against legal elements comes later"). The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead conclusions. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). However, any conclusions pled must "provide the defendant with at least minimal notice of the claim," Id., and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirements merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts which fail to outline the bases of [his] claims." Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67. The Seventh Circuit has explained that "[o]ne pleads a 'claim for relief' by briefly describing the events." Sanjuan, 40 F.3d at 251.

DISCUSSION

The Officers and the Sheriff have moved to dismiss Walker's amended complaint in its entirety. The County has moved to dismiss the amended complaint to the extent that it seeks to hold the County liable for the actions of the Officers and the Sheriff.

I. The Officers' and the Sheriff's Motion to Dismiss

A. Class Claims (Counts I-III)

The Officers and the Sheriff move to dismiss Walker's class claims in Counts I through III. Specifically, the Officers and the Sheriff argue that Walker's proposed class fails to meet the commonality and typicality requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. (D. Mot. 3-8). Such determinations, however, are premature at this point in the litigation, when there is no motion for class certification pending. See Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No. 130, U. A., 657 F.2d 890, 895 (7th Cir. 1981)(stating that "some degree of discovery may be appropriate in certain cases to aid making the necessary class determinations [and that] [t]he pleadings are expected to be of assistance, but more information may be needed"); Szabo v. Bridgeport Machines, Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 675-76 (7th Cir. 2001)(distinguishing between a district court's role at the motion to dismiss stage and the class certification stage).

The Officers and the Sheriff also argue that Walker has not properly plead facts supporting the class claims, and instead only alleges "various incidents concerning Walker alone." (D. Mot. 5). However, Walker states specifically in his amended complaint that "CCDOC personnel frequently use levels of force against CCJ detainees that are unnecessary, excessive, and in violation of detainees' rights" and that "CCDOC personnel have shown deliberate indifference to the safety of CCJ detainees." (A. Compl. Par. 124, 138). Such allegations are sufficient to state a claim under the notice pleading standard. See Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002)(stating that any conclusions pled must "provide the ...


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