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Moore v. Sheahan

February 8, 2007

TOM MOORE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL F. SHEAHAN, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendants Cook County Sheriff Michael F. Sheahan ("Sheahan") and the County of Cook ("Cook County") to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff Tom Moore ("Moore") for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Because this case comes to us in the context of a motion to dismiss, we take all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint as true. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). On February 10, 2005, Moore was an inmate at Super Max Security, Division XI, at the Cook County Department of Corrections. That morning, in preparation to be transported to Division V, Moore was strip searched by Cook County sheriffs in a "rec" room. Moore, along with approximately ten other inmates, was subsequently moved to a holding area by two sheriffs. In the holding area, a new shift of sheriffs engaged in a "shake down" procedure on Moore. The sheriffs then handcuffed Moore and placed him, along with the other inmates, on a transport.

On the transport, Moore was handcuffed and placed in a window seat approximately eight rows back from the front of the transport. The two sheriffs accompanying Moore and the inmates were seated in the front of the transport, across from the driver. While the transport was en route, Moore felt breathing on his neck and looked up. He was stabbed four to five times in the back and in the triceps with a shank.

Moore does not know who stabbed him, but knows that the stabber sat in the window seat across from Moore, one row behind him. According to Moore, the inmate who stabbed him handed the shank to another inmate, who threw it out the window. Moore walked to the front of the transport and communicated to the sheriffs that he had been stabbed. The sheriffs stopped the transport and called an ambulance, which took Moore to Mount Sinai Hospital for medical assistance.

On October 6, 2006, Moore filed this complaint against Sheahan, Cook County, and John Doe Sheriffs 1-4 ("John Doe Sheriffs"). He alleges that the defendants, under the color of law, deprived him of his rights under the United States Constitution by acting with deliberate indifference towards him. He seeks compensatory damages for his physical and emotional injuries. Defendants Sheahan and Cook County have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Although this Court set a briefing schedule with respect to Defendants' motion, Moore has not filed a response.

LEGAL STANDARD

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is used to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46.

A complaint alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, whether directed towards an individual or a municipality, is not subject to a heightened pleading standard of factual specificity. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 165, 170 (1993). Legal conclusions can suffice.

McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 324 (7th Cir. 2000). However, even under the Leatherman standard, a § 1983 complaint against a municipality must put the municipality on notice of the nature of the claim. Id. With these principles in mind, we consider the instant motion.

DISCUSSION

Every § 1983 action must contain at least two elements. First, the conduct complained of must be committed by a person acting under color of state law. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981). Second, the conduct must have deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Id.

In this case, Moore is complaining that Defendants failed to protect him from other inmates. Neither party has explained to this Court whether Moore was a prisoner or a pre-trial detainee at the time of his injury. Moore simply states he was an "inmate" at the Cook County Dept. of Corrections. For our purposes, however, the distinction is immaterial, as the standard for liability for prison officials for violating an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights is the same as the standard applicable as to pre-trial detainees under the Fourteenth Amendment. ...


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