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Isaacs v. St. Clair County Jail

January 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction and Background

Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 5). Plaintiff opposes the motion (Doc. 6). Based on the following, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion.

On June 10, 2008, Defendants removed this case from the St. Clair County, Illinois Circuit Court to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction (Doc. 2). Originally, Plaintiff sued Defendants in state court on November 9, 2005 based on state law. Thereafter on June 9, 2008, Plaintiff filed a Fourth Amended Complaint against the St. Clair County Jail, St. Clair County, and the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department (Doc. 2-3). The Fourth Amended Complaint contains nine counts in which three counts (Counts 3, 6 and 9) are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the remaining counts are brought pursuant to state common law - negligence and willful and wanton conduct.*fn2

Plaintiff alleges that on November 14, 2004 around 5:00 p.m., while he was incarcerated at the St. Clair County Jail, he was attacked by his cell mate, Warren Rogers. Isaacs alleges that he informed the jail personnel of the dangerous conditions of the cell; that jail personnel ignored Isaacs and allowed Rogers to remain in the cell with him and that Rogers attacked him a second time severely injuring him. (Doc. 2-3 p. 1). The Fourth Amended Complaint also alleges that the jail employees "had documentation of Rogers's violent propensities toward others" and that previously "St. Clair County Jail even placed Rogers in segregation for his violent acts." (Doc. 2-3 p. 2). Counts 1, 4 and 7 allege that "[a]s a result of the jail personnel's negligence in failing to keep the jail in a reasonable safe condition, ..., Isaacs then and there sustained severe, permanent and progressive injuries, both externally and internally." (Doc. 2-3 p. 3). Counts 2, 5 and 8 allege that the jail personnel's conduct was willful and wanton in failing to keep the jail in a reasonably safe condition.

II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must look to the complaint to determine whether it satisfies the threshold pleading requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Rule 8 states that a complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. " FED. R.CIV.P.8(a)(2). In 2007, the Supreme Court held that Rule 8 requires that a complaint allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). In other words, the Supreme Court explained it was "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief'" by providing "more than labels and conclusions," because "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do ...." Id. at 1964-65 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)). The Seventh Circuit has read the Bell Atlantic decision to impose "two easy-to-clear hurdles":

First, the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant 'fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' Second, its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level'; if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court.

E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).

In Tamayo v. Blagojevich, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that even though Bell Atlantic"retooled federal pleading standards" and "retired the oft-quoted Conley formulation," notice pleading is still all that is required. 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008). "A plaintiff still must provide only enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief." Id.; Accord Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 699 (7th Cir.2008)( "surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires more than labels and conclusions"; the allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level").

In making this assessment, the District Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Tricontinental Industries, Inc., Ltd. v. Price WaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 128 S.Ct. 357, 169 L.Ed.2d 34 (2007); Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 969 (7th Cir. 2006); Corcoran v. Chicago Park District, 875 F.2d 609, 611 (7th Cir. 1989).

III. Analysis

State Common Law Claims -- Counts 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7 and 8

As stated previously, Counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are state common law claims based on negligence and willful and wanton conduct. These counts allege either that Defendants negligently (Counts 1, 4, & 7) or that Defendants willfully and wantonly (Counts 2, 5 and 8) failed to keep the jail in a safe and reasonable condition by failing to enforce the Department's rules and regulations. Defendants argue that they are immune from suit under 745 ILCS 10/4-03. In response, Isaacs contends that this case is not about supervision, but that the Defendants are liable for the failure to protect inmates and to separate inmates according classification according to certain criteria. Specifically, Isaacs argues that Defendants are liable for ...

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