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Parish v. Sheriff of Cook County

October 24, 2008

MICHAEL PARISH, CURTIS L. OATS, LEILA KHOURY, SEAN DRISCOLL, CARLA LOFTON, ROY CLEAVES, LISA BROWN, DAN TAYLOR, DEAN MILLER, KEVIN SANDERS, STACEY CLARK, AND CARLOTTE WATSON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY AND COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Michael Parish and eleven other plaintiffs have sued the Sheriff of Cook County and Cook County for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs allege that the defendants maintained a policy or practice of deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs and thus violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights while they were confined at the Cook County Jail (CCJ). Plaintiffs have moved to certify a class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants plaintiffs' motion

Facts

The Court takes the following facts from plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs allege that the defendants have implemented a policy of denying or delaying necessary prescription medication to detainees at CCJ. The policy allows medical technicians to deny various kinds of necessary prescribed medication solely on the basis of a "brief and cursory interview," without inquiring into a detainee's medical history and without consulting a physician. 2nd Am. Compl., ¶¶ A.c., B.c.

Plaintiffs divide their allegations into two general categories: psychotropic medication and non-psychotropic medication. Specifically, plaintiffs contend that the defendants' policy allows medical technicians to deny prescribed psychotropic medication to detainees after a short interview. Instead, these detainees are routinely given anti-depressants, which are less costly than the psychotropic medications. Several of the plaintiffs reported suffering behavioral problems while on anti-depressants that they had not experienced while taking their prescribed psychotropic medication.

With respect to detainees who have been prescribed non-psychotropic medication, plaintiffs allege that medical histories are taken in overcrowded areas with little privacy. They also allege that the defendants' policy allows medical technicians to discontinue prescribed medications required to prevent serious injury or death. The policy also prohibits physicians at the jail from prescribing medication for chronic pain. Finally, plaintiffs allege that there is no speedy or efficient procedure that allows a detainee to see a physician after a medical technician has denied any form of medication.

Parish alleges that he was transferred to the jail on September 27, 2005 from the Illinois Department of Corrections, where he had received psychotropic medication on a regular basis. Although he arrived at the jail with the medication, the medical technician concluded that Parish should no longer receive the psychotropic medication. Parish tried to obtain the medication for nine months. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Parish was finally prescribed the medication. Parish was released in 2006 but returned to the CCJ in 2007. Although Parish informed the medical technician of his need for psychotropic mediation, the medical technician again denied him the medication. Parish tried repeatedly to see a physician. Only after another unsuccessful suicide attempt was he finally permitted to see a physician who prescribed psychotropic medication.

The remaining plaintiffs all allege that at their intake interviews , they informed medical technicians of their condition and their prescribed medications. Nevertheless, the medical technicians denied them medications prescribed for conditions including mental illness, severe chronic pain, enlarged prostate, heart disease, acid reflux, congestive heart failure, asthma, hepatitis C, and a surgical wound. As a result, the plaintiffs suffered a variety of adverse consequences, including behavioral problems, severe pain, and an infection requiring hospitalization.

Plaintiffs filed suit in August 2007. They contend that defendants implemented a policy or practice at the CCJ of denying necessary prescribed medication in a manner that constitutes deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs, in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiffs have moved the Court to certify, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), a class of "all persons confined at the Cook County Jail on and after August 3, 2005 who provided notice that he or she had been taking prescription medication for a serious health need and who was not provided with appropriate medication within 24 hours thereafter."

Discussion

The Court may certify a case as a class action if the party seeking certification demonstrates that it has met all the requirements of Rule 23(a) and one of the requirements of 23(b). Under Rule 23(a), the party must prove that the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; there are questions of law or fact common to the proposed class; the class representatives' claims are typical of the claims of the class; and the representatives will fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(1)-(4). In this case, plaintiffs seek certification under Rule 23(b)(3). To succeed, they must show that "questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting individual members, and a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3).

Plaintiffs bear "the burden of demonstrating that certification is appropriate." Retired Chicago Police Ass'n v. City of Chicago, 7 F.3d 584, 596 (7th Cir. 1993). The Court need not rely solely on the allegations in plaintiffs' complaint in assessing whether to certify a class, but instead "should make whatever factual and legal inquiries are required under Rule 23." Szabo v. Bridgeport Machines, Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 675-76 (7th Cir. 2001).

A. Numerosity

Rule 23(a)(1) requires that a class be so numerous that joinder of all its members is impracticable. Courts may not rely on conclusory allegations as to the size of a class or the impracticability of joinder, Marcial v. Coronet Ins. Co., 880 F.2d 954, 957 (7th Cir. 1989), and may require that a plaintiff prove class size through affidavits or other evidence. Szabo, 249 F.3d at 676. The ...


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