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Hawkins v. St. Clair County

March 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R Her|d|o Chief Judge United States District Court


HERNDON, Chief Judge

I. Introduction

Now before the Court is Defendants St. Clair County, Illinois, Ronald Schaefer, and James Beever's ["Defendants"]*fn1 Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 80). Plaintiffs Hawkins and Pepos have filed a response (Doc. 108). Defendants have filed a reply (Doc. 111).

II. Factual Background

Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants stem from the alleged sexual abuse of Plaintiffs by Defendant Richard Jenkins while Defendants were housed at the St. Clair County Detention Center between January 27, 2006 and May 9, 2009. Plaintiffs have also brought suit against St. Clair county and individuals allegedly employed by St. Clair County. On March 21, 2008, Plaintiffs filed a five count amended complaint (Doc. 54). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants James Beever, Superintendent of the Detention Center, and Ronald Schaefer, Director of Court Services, were employees, agents, and servants of St. Clair County and that St. Clair County controlled and supervised the detention center. (Doc. 54 ¶¶ 8, 9, 17). In Count I of the complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs for depriving the Plaintiffs of their rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment due to different action and non-actions stated in the Complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-35). Specifically, in Count I Plaintiffs allege that Defendants had customs and practices that violated the federal rights of U.S. citizens in that Defendants: a) sexually abused detainees, b) failed to hire and retain corrections officers, and create and execute policies to protect detainees, c) failed to train corrections officers and create policies and procedures to ensure Plaintiffs were protected, d) failed to supervise corrections officers, e) failed to create and enforce procedures and policies to prevent and deter sexual misconduct by employees, f) failed to report that they had reasonable cause to believe a child may be an abused child, and g) failed to protect Plaintiffs from harm from Defendant Jenkins. (Id. at ¶ 33). Count II alleges that Defendant Richard Jenkins, acting in his individual and official capacity, committed assault and battery against Plaintiffs. (Id. at 36-41). Count III against all Defendants alleges claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at 42-48). Count IV against all Defendants, in their individual and official capacity, alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at 49-52). Count V against Defendants, in their individual and official capacity, alleges negligence. (Id. at 53-54).

III. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P.56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of factual issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wollin v. Gondert, 192 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant. Schneiker v. Fortis Inc. Co., 200 F.3d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 337-38 (7th Cir. 1999). In response to a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant may not simply rest on the allegations as stated in the pleadings. Rather, the non-movant must show through specific evidence that an issue of fact remains on matters for which the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial. Walker v. Shansky, 28 F.3d 666, 670-71 (7th Cir. 1994), aff'd, 51 F.3d 276 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324).

No issue remains for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not sufficiently probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986) (citations omitted); accord Starzenski v. City of Elkhart, 87 F.3d 872, 880 (7th Cir. 1996); Tolle v. Carroll Touch, Inc., 23 F.3d 174, 178 (7th Cir. 1994).

"[P]laintiff's own uncorroborated testimony is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgmnet."Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 939 (7th Cir. 1997). In other words, summary judgment may not be averted merely by the non-moving party "baldly contesting his adversary's factual allegations," but instead the Plaintiff must come forth with probative evidence to substantiate the allegations of the complaint. Oates v. Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1165 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 290 (1968); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)).

IV. Analysis

A. St. Clair County

Defendant St. Clair County ("County") first argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims because the individual defendants were not employees or agents of the County. The County argues that Plaintiffs' theory of liability is based on allegations that the County controlled and supervised St. Clair County Detention Center, its employees and detainees and that each individual Defendants were employees or agents of the County. St. Clair County argues that the individual Defendants were not employees or agents of the County. However, Plaintiffs' complaint is partly brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arguing that St. Clair County instituted or failed to institute policies that caused Constitutional injuries to Plaintiffs. Under Section 1983, a municipality is not vicariously liable for the acts of its employees, but its constitutional deprivation is based on its policies or customs. Houskins v. Sheahan, 549 F.3d 480, 493 (7th Cir. 2008). Whether the individual defendants were agents of the County, as Plaintiffs point out, is not determinative of the County's liability under Section 1983.

Further, Plaintiffs have presented a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the individual Defendants were agents of Defendant St. Clair County. To determine whether an agency relationship exists (and liability attaches) the Court must determine "whether the alleged principal has the right to control the manner and method in which work is carried out by the alleged agent and whether the alleged agent can affect the legal relationships of the principal." Chemtool, Inc. v. Lubrication Technologies, Inc., 148 F.3d 742, 745 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v. Boy Scouts of Am., Inc., 226 Ill.App.3d 440, 168 Ill.Dec. 492, 589 N.E.2d 892, 894 (1992)). Furthermore, the "question of whether a principal-agency relationship existed is generally one of fact, but it becomes one of law where the evidence is not disputed." Valenti v. Qualex, Inc., 970 F.2d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 1992). St. Clair County argues that it has no authority or ability to direct and control the employees of the Juvenile Detention Center because the Chief Judge of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Illinois is the employer of detention officers and has control over the hiring and discipline of employees at the Detention Center. (Doc. 80, Ex. B pp. 27-28). See also 730 ILCS 110/13. However, Plaintiffs point to St. Clair County's Personnel Code, which applies specifically to the Probation Department for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, as evidence of the County's ability to control employees at the detention center. The Code defines an employee as a "person working...for...the Probation Department of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit." (Doc. 108, Ex. 14 at § 28-1-1). Further, Plaintiffs point to the County's right to discipline and terminate employees that violated that personnel code as evidence that detention center officers were agents of the County. (Doc. 108, Ex. 14 at § 28-3-1; Ex. 15 at § 28-19-1 to § 28-19-10). Further, Plaintiffs point to the fact that St. Clair County provided employees with tools, materials, and equipment as well as were responsible legally under 730 ILCS 110/14 for determining the amount of compensation for Detention Center employees as evidence of an agency relationship. See Amigo's Inn, Inc. v. License Appeal Comm'nof City of Chicago, 354 Ill.App.3d 959, 965, 822 N.E.2d 107, 113 (1st Dist. 2004) (right to control method of work, method of payment, and furnishing necessary tools, materials, and equipment factors in determining whether an individual is an agent); Hills v. Bridgeview Little League Association, 195 Ill.2d 210, 240, 745 N.E.2d 1166, 1185 (2000) (employer control's salary and has economic leverage and control over an employee). Therefore, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact as to the issue of whether an agency relationship exists between the individual defendants and St. Clair County. See Amigo's Inn, Inc., 354 Ill.App.3d at 965 (issue of whether an agency relationship existed is generally one of fact).

B. Section 1983 ...

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