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Arreola v. Salvador-Godinez

October 14, 2008


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 03 C 2854-Matthew F. Kennelly, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, Circuit Judge.


Before BAUER, WOOD, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

While incarcerated at Hill Correctional Center ("Hill") in Galesburg, Illinois, Gilbert Arreola broke his ankle during a recreational soccer game. Five days later, he was transferred to Cook County Jail ("the Jail") for a temporary stay, so that he could testify in unrelated judicial proceedings at the Cook County Courthouse. Dissatisfied with the medical care and conditions of confinement at the Jail, Arreola filed a five-count complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The first two counts were the subject of a separate appeal, which we decided on July 14, 2008. See Arreola v. Choudry, 533 F.3d 601 (7th Cir. 2008). There, we rejected Arreola's contention that he was entitled to a new trial on his claim that the medical treatment he received at Hill from Dr. Mohammed Choudry violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

The present appeal comes to us under FED. R. CIV. P. 23(f), which permits courts of appeals to accept interlocu-tory appeals from decisions granting or denying class certification. Arreola wishes to serve as the class representative for a class of inmates who have been injured by the Jail's policy of denying crutches in certain areas of the Jail to the inmates who live there. Arreola argues that this "Crutch Policy" violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because it mandates deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of inmates and creates unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Because he is seeking, on behalf of the putative class, both injunctive relief and damages, Arreola sought certification under FED. R. CIV. P. 23(b)(2) and (b)(3). After he filed his motion for class certification, the district court bifurcated the proceedings, severing Arreola's individual claims against Dr. Choudry from his class claims against Cook County and the responsible officials at the Jail ("the County defendants" or "the County").

In an order dated January 30, 2007, the district court denied certification for the proposed Rule 23(b)(2) class for injunctive relief and denying without prejudice the proposed Rule 23(b)(3) class for damages. Arreola appealed under Rule 23(f), and in an order issued March 21, 2007, we agreed to accept his appeals. We conclude that the district court properly denied Arreola's motion for certification of a Rule 23(b)(2) class for injunctive relief, but we remand the case for further proceedings on his individual claims and his motion for certification under Rule 23(b)(3).


Arreola injured his ankle at Hill on April 22, 2001. The medical treatment he received in the immediate aftermath of his injury was the subject of his claim against Dr. Choudry, and so we do not discuss it further. What concerns us is the sequence of events that began on April 27, five days after Arreola's injury, when he was temporarily transferred to the Jail for purposes of testifying in post-convictions proceedings. While at the Jail, Arreola was housed in Division Nine. Like almost all housing areas in the facility, Division Nine was governed by an official Jail policy that prohibits inmates housed there from using crutches or canes whenever they are in the "living units." Instead, those medical devices-to which inmates can obtain access only if a doctor has prescribed their use-are "to be stored in the officer's control room" at all times when the inmate is in the living units. When inmates are "off of the living units," they may use their crutches and canes.

The "living units" include the inmates' cells, a dayroom, bathrooms, and a shower area. The inmates spend almost all of their time in these areas; they must receive authorization to leave if, for example, they wish to visit the law library or a courthouse. It is undisputed that under the Policy, any inmate who has been prescribed crutches or a cane for any reason (sprain, break, amputation, surgery, fracture, etc.) cannot use his devices while in the living units.

The Policy is only one page long. The copy in the record applies to "Division IX," but it is undisputed that the same "Divisional Policy" applied to all but two of the 11 divisions in the Jail. The version we have went into effect in January 1996 and was revised in November 2000. The text is divided into "GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES" and "SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES." The former provides:

Handicapped individuals are those who, by reason of their infirmities, may be unable to participate in typical institutional programs and who may require special medical care or physical assistance to function in the institutional setting. Because Division Nine is not handicapped accessible on the living units (i.e. bath-rooms, showers & water fountains)[,] the Department has designated Division Eight as the division where physically challenged inmates are housed in a manner that provides for the inmates safety and security. Division Nine is not designed for handicapped inmates use and the Division doesn't provide for integration of the handicapped with the inmates in general population.

(All caps omitted; original punctuation reproduced.) The "Specific Responsibilities" section adds the following guidelines for implementing the Policy:

1. Division nine only houses inmates who are ambulatory. However, the division Is handicap accessible foe staff and visitors.

2. Crutches/canes are permissible walking aids off of the living units.

3. Crutches/canes are not to be on the living units. Crutches/canes are to be stored In the officer's control room.

4. If an inmate is unable to use the divisions resources (cells, bathrooms, showers, Stairs, etc.) The watch commander shall be notified and a transfer to division Eight initiated.

(Original spelling and punctuation reproduced.)

Thus, the Policy specifies that the only way for inmates to obtain access to crutches or canes in the living units is to be transferred to Division Eight, the Handicapped Unit. There, the facilities are adapted for the handicapped, and inmates may keep their crutches and canes with them while in the living units. According to the testimony of two attending physicians, who are employed by Cermak Health Services to provide medical care to the Jail's prisoners, decisions about which inmates are "handicapped" (and thus should be transferred to Division Eight) are left to the discretion of the corrections officers at the Jail; medical professionals, the prison doctors stated, have no authority to change the inmates' housing assignments. Thus, Arreola is claiming, the Policy does not assure that inmates needing crutches are moved to the Division that can accommodate them.

The defendants dispute the accuracy of that testimony, contending that Cermak Health Services and its physicians have the responsibility and authority to determine where an inmate or detainee is placed-and that, in this case, Cermak sent Arreola to Division Nine, not to the infirmary or to Division Eight. (We are not told directly, but we presume that the infirmary is the other division of the Jail in which the Policy does not apply.) This factual dispute ultimately is not material to Arreola's appeal, but we note that the Policy itself does not resolve it, for its use of the passive voice in specific responsibility 4 obscures who determines that an inmate is not ambulatory and who notifies the watch commander to initiate a transfer.

While at the Jail and subject to the Policy, Arreola did not have access to his crutches at any time while in the living units. He continually asked to be given his crutches or to be transferred to another division where he could use them, but officers at the Jail denied his requests. Their only reason for refusing to let him use his crutches in Division Nine was the Policy; the record reveals no reason why they refused to send him to Division Eight. Arreola thus was forced to try to walk on his broken ankle, despite repeated orders from the Jail's physicians that the ankle should not bear any weight. As a result, he experienced extreme pain. His inability to use the crutches also hindered the proper healing of his injury and caused his cast to deteriorate as a result of the excess pressure he had to apply to it. When Arreola was taken to the Cook County Courthouse to testify in his judicial proceedings, he was permitted to use his crutches only after he left the living units. His complaint alleges that, at the conclusion of his hearing as he was being escorted back to the Jail, he slipped on a stairwell in the courthouse, further aggravating his injury and breaking apart his already-deteriorated cast. He believes that this fall was caused in part by the fact that he never learned properly to use his crutches, because he was denied access to them at the Jail.

Arreola's stay at the Jail lasted about one month; on May 21, 2001, he was moved to a facility in Joliet, Illinois; he then went back to Hill on May 23. He alleges that during his time at the Jail, he tried several times to file grievance forms or complaints about the Policy, but those efforts were thwarted. Once he was back at Hill, he was able to file the relevant grievances, but they were denied. Having exhausted his administrative remedies, he turned to the federal courts for relief.

Arreola began these proceedings pro se in April 2003. When he filed his complaint, he also asked the court to recruit counsel for him. The district court obliged, but after two years of minimal progress on Arreola's claims, the court granted counsel's motion to withdraw. Shortly thereafter, on March 29, 2005, the court recruited a new attorney, ...

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