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Hairston v. McCain

February 27, 2009

SHAUNTEZ HAIRSTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KENNETH MCCAIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the St. Clair County Jail, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his amended complaint (Doc. 23), Plaintiff states that he swallowed approximately 33 psychotropic pills, which he had been hoarding. He was taken to the hospital; he believes he was there for two days. After his return to the jail, he was placed in the "quiet room." He remained that cell for 42 days, 24 hours a day, during which he was denied access to toilet paper, hot running water, legal and personal mail, reading material, and personal hygiene items. He also states that this cell was overrun with vermin, yet he was required to sleep on a filthy mattress on the floor, completely naked except for a sleeveless gown. He alleges that Defendant McCain, the staff psychologist, should have talked with him on a daily basis, but he once went for 10 consecutive days without a visit from any mental health personnel.

During his 42 days in the quiet room, Plaintiff states that at one point, he was strapped into a full restraint chair for 30 consecutive hours without release. Due to his anxiety caused by this confinement, Plaintiff began banging his head against the brick wall and steel door. At one point, Plaintiff spoke with Defendant Reddy, the mental health director at the jail. Plaintiff alleges that Reddy told him that he would have to stay in the quiet room for 90 days, apparently the result of a confrontation between them; thus, he believes his confinement was punitive, rather than for therapeutic reasons. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants Justus and Knapp were well aware of this treatment, and he claims that some jail employees told him he was being kept in the quiet room solely to break him down.

CLAIMS MADE

Based on the above facts, Plaintiff alleges that all defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

[F]or a pretrial detainee to establish a deprivation of his due process right to adequate medical care, he must demonstrate that a government official acted with deliberate indifference to his objectively serious medical needs. See Qian, 168 F.3d at 955. This inquiry includes an objective and subjective component. The objective aspect of the inquiry concerns the pretrial detainee's medical condition; it must be an injury that is, "objectively, sufficiently serious." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994) (internal quotations omitted); see also Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 1999). "A 'serious' medical need is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1371 (7th Cir. 1997).

Even if the plaintiff satisfies this objective component, he also must tender sufficient evidence to meet the subjective prong of this inquiry. In particular, the plaintiff must establish that the relevant official had "a sufficiently culpable state of mind[,] ... deliberate indifference to [the detainee's] health or safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970. Evidence that the official acted negligently is insufficient to prove deliberate indifference. See Payne, 161 F.3d at 1040. Rather, as we have noted, " 'deliberate indifference' is simply a synonym for intentional or reckless conduct, and that 'reckless' describes conduct so dangerous that the deliberate nature of the defendant's actions can be inferred." Qian, 168 F.3d at 955. Consequently, to establish deliberate indifference, the plaintiff must proffer evidence "demonstrating that the defendants were aware of a substantial risk of serious injury to the detainee but nevertheless failed to take appropriate steps to protect him from a known danger." Payne, 161 F.3d at 1041. Simply put, an official "must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Higgins, 178 F.3d at 510. Even if he recognizes the substantial risk, an official is free from liability if he "responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 843, 114 S.Ct. 1970.

Jackson v. Illinois Medi-Car, Inc., 300 F.3d 760, 764-65 (7th Cir. 2002). Applying these standards to the allegations in the complaint, the Court is unable to dismiss Plaintiff's medical care claims against any of the individual defendants.

Plaintiff also asserts that he was subjected to inhumane conditions of confinement, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. A detainee has no constitutional right to confinement in comfort. See Martin v. Tyson, 845 F.2d 1451, 1457 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 US 863 (1988) (detainee has no right to a pillow, new tennis shoes, or frequent laundry service). Cf. Caldwell v. Miller, 790 F.2d 589, 601 (7th Cir.1986). However, he does possess a right to adequate heat and shelter. Henderson v. DeRobertis, 940 F.2d 1055, 1059 (7th Cir.1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 966 (1992). Plaintiff's contention that he was confined to a cold, vermin-infested cell without sufficient clothing is a sufficient allegation of inadequate heat and shelter. Therefore, the Court is unable to dismiss Plaintiff's claims regarding conditions of his confinement.

Plaintiff has also included St. Clair County Jail as a defendant in this action, which cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional acts of their employees unless those acts were carried out pursuant to an official custom or policy. Pourghoraishi v. Flying J, Inc., 449 F.3d 751, 765 (7th Cir. 2006). See also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). "The 'official policy' requirement for liability under § 1983 is to 'distinguish acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, and thereby make clear that municipal liability is limited to action for which the municipality is actually responsible.' " Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. County of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 515 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479, 106 S.Ct. 1292, 89 L.Ed.2d 452 (1986)). See also Lewis v. City of Chicago, 496 F.3d 645, 656 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Misbehaving employees are responsible for their own conduct, 'units of local government are responsible only for their policies rather than misconduct by their workers.' "(quoting Fairley v. Fermaint, 482 F.3d 897, 904 (7th Cir. 2007))).

Plaintiff alleges just that -- the individual defendants were acting in concert with an official policy advocated by St. Clair County to confine inmates in the quiet room for an inordinate amount of time, and that they will not release inmates from the restraint chair until a mental health official orders that release. Therefore, at this time, the Court is unable to dismiss any of the named defendants from this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

DISPOSITION

The Clerk is DIRECTED to prepare Form 1A (Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons) and Form 1B (Waiver of Service of Summons) for Defendants JUSTUS, KNAPP, McCAIN, REDDY, and ST. CLAIR COUNTY JAIL. The Clerk shall forward those forms, USM-285 forms submitted by the Plaintiff, and sufficient copies of the complaint to the United States Marshal for service.

The United States Marshal is DIRECTED, pursuant to Rule 4(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to serve process on Defendants JUSTUS, KNAPP, McCAIN, REDDY, and ST. CLAIR COUNTY JAIL in the manner specified by Rule 4(d)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Process in this case shall consist of the complaint, applicable forms 1A and 1B, and this Memorandum and Order. For purposes of computing the passage of time under Rule 4(d)(2), ...


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