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Ortiz v. City of Chicago

May 13, 2008

APRIL ORTIZ, ON HER OWN BEHALF AND AS ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF MAY MOLINA AND MICHAEL ORTIZ, DECEASED, AND SHANNON GUZMAN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS AVIS JAMISON, MARTHA GOMEZ, J. NELSON, M. RAMIREZ, DEBRA HOLMES, C. CONNOLLY, NICK SPENCER, DIANE YOST, BEVERLY GILCHRIST, RICHARD HALJEAN, THOMAS GAYNOR, R. BAEZA, NARI ISAKSON, G. ESPINOSA, STEPHEN NASSER, JOSE M. DEJESUS, FABIAN SALDANA, ROBERT STATSCH, NICK SPENCER, CATHERINE ZIEMBA, JOSE TORRES, GIORANGO, ARTHURINIE PRYOR, PATRICK MCKENNA, THOMAS BECKER, WILLIAM WALLACE, VINCENT DEFRANCO, AND AS-YET UNKNOWN CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS, AND DETENTION AIDES E. NICHOLS AND TAMARA LEMON-REDMOND. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John F. Grady, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The court has under the advisement the motion of the defendants for summary judgment as to the counts of the pending complaint that seek recovery for the pain and suffering and death of the decedent May Molina. The briefing on the motion was completed at a time when the Fourth Amended Complaint was pending, and the defendants' motion is directed to counts of that complaint. The parties differed as to whether Count I of that complaint, a civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, pleaded a claim based on "objectively unreasonable" conduct or was, instead, a claim alleging only "deliberate indifference." On May 7, 2008, pursuant to leave of court, the plaintiffs filed a Fifth Amended Complaint. Count I alleges "objectively unreasonable" conduct, and Count II alleges that the defendants were deliberately indifferent. The filing of the Fifth Amended Complaint moots some of the arguments in the parties' briefs, but the essence of the dispute -- whether there is a genuine issue of fact under either the objectively unreasonable or deliberately indifferent standard, remains. We will discuss the merits of the defendants' motion and then, at the conclusion of this opinion, apply our ruling to each of the counts of the Fifth Amended Complaint that involve the decedent May Molina.

A brief summary of the facts will facilitate the discussion. On the evening of May 24, 2004, various Chicago police officers of the 23rd District conducted a search of the premises at 3526 N. Halsted Street, occupied by May Molina and members of her family. In the apartment occupied by Ms. Molina, the police found a number of separate tin foil packages containing heroin. She was placed under arrest in the early morning hours of May 25 and taken to the 23rd District headquarters at Halsted and Addison Streets. That facility has no female lockup, so after a short time Ms. Molina was taken to the 19th District station located at Belmont and Western Avenues. She arrived there at 4:25 a.m. on May 25, 2004.

Ms. Molina was overweight and spent most of her time in a wheelchair. When she walked, she used a walker. At the time of her arrest, Ms. Molina informed the 23rd District officers that she took medications for diabetes and a thyroid condition. She asked whether she could take her medications with her and was told that prisoners were not allowed to bring medications into the lockup. (This was a Chicago Police Department policy based on safety considerations.) While Ms. Molina was still at the 23rd District, her daughter, April Ortiz, took Molina's medications for diabetes, thyroid and pain to the station and asked that they be given to Molina. The Desk Sergeant told her that the medications could not be accepted.

At the 19th District, the defendant Avis Jamison, a lockup keeper, questioned Ms. Molina and filled out a "Receiving Screening Record for Arrestee to Be Held in Lockup." (Pls.' Resp., Ex. R.) One of the questions on the form was "Are you presently taking any medication?" The "yes" box is checked, and the word "dibetes" [sic] is written in the space after the question asking "For what?". The question "Do you have any serious medical or mental problems? (If yes, specify problem under Remarks)" is answered "yes," and the question "Are you receiving any treatment?" (If yes, specify under Remarks) is answered "yes." In the "Remarks" section, Officer Jamison wrote, "Taking pain medication for swollen legs and diabetes (pills), thyroid meds."

During the evening of May 25, the defendant Maja Ramirez was answering the telephone at the 19th District. She received five to ten telephone calls, apparently from friends and family members of Ms. Molina, stating that Ms. Molina needed to take medications.

Ms. Molina did not take any medication while she was in police custody from May 25 to May 26, 2004. She died in the early morning hours of May 26, 2004 at the 19th District lockup.

The post-mortem examination of May Molina showed that there were three tin foil packets in her stomach. There was also a tin foil packet in her duodenum.

The foregoing facts are undisputed. The parties disagree as to whether there is a genuine dispute as to other facts, and that is what the motion for summary judgment is about. Each of the counts involved in the defendants' motion for summary judgment is based on the theory that the defendants' conduct in denying May Molina her necessary medications was a cause of her death and pain and suffering prior to her death.

What Law Applies

Under the Eighth Amendment "deliberate indifference" standard, liability attaches only if the defendants' conduct is "intentional or criminally reckless." Chapman v. Keltner, 241 F.3d 842, 845 (7th Cir. 2001). Applying this test to the facts as they see them, the defendants argue that the proof is insufficient as a matter of law to show a violation of this standard.

While arguing that the defendants' conduct did amount to deliberate indifference to May Molina's medical needs, the plaintiffs also rely on the Fourth Amendment "objectively unreasonable" standard applicable to pretrial detainees, citing Lopez v. City of Chicago, 464 F.3d 711, 718 (7th Cir. 2006). (Pls.' Resp. at 11.)

Which test to apply is, of course, a matter of substance, because deliberate indifference "requires a culpable state of mind such as ignoring a known risk of harm; 'it is more than negligence and approaches intentional wrongdoing,'" whereas the Fourth Amendment standard "requires only proof that the defendants' conduct was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances." Lopez, 464 F.3d at 718 (citations omitted). Our Court of Appeals has suggested "four factors that are relevant for ascertaining whether a defendant's conduct was objectively unreasonable." Williams v. Rodriguez, 509 F.3d 392, 403 (7th Cir. 2007). The four factors were gleaned by the Court from its earlier opinion in Sides v. City of Champaign, 496 F.3d 820 (7th Cir. 2007). The Williams Court described the first factor as follows:

The first is that the officer be given notice of the arrestee's medical need, whether by word as occurred in Sides, or through observation of the arrestee's physical symptoms.

The second and third factors were described as follows:

Second, the court in Sides considered that The seriousness of the medical need .... The severity of the medical condition under this standard need not, on its own, rise to the level of objective seriousness required under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, the Fourth Amendment's reasonable analysis operates on a sliding scale, balancing the seriousness of the medical need with the third factor -- the scope of the requested treatment.

The Court gave the following explanation of the fourth factor:

Finally, police interests also factor into the reasonableness determination. This factor is wide-ranging in scope and can include administrative, penological, ...


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