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Issacs v. St. Clair County Jail

May 27, 2009


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


I. Introduction and Background

Pending before the Court is the County of St. Clair's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 29). Specifically, St. Clair argues that Isaacs has insufficient evidence to meet any of the three "custom and policy" bases upon which liability may be found against it. Isaacs opposes the motion arguing that genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment (Doc. 30).*fn2 Based on the pleadings, the applicable law and the following, the Court grants the 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.*fn3

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).

On January 29, 2009, the Court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims except for his Section 1983 claim contained in Count 6 against St. Clair County (Doc. 22).

Thereafter, St. Clair County moved for summary judgment (Doc. 29).

III. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary Judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 56(c).

To defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving party must do more than raise a metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Instead, he "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Keri v. Board of Trustees of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1210 (2007)(citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). "Conclusory allegations and self-serving affidavits, if not supported by the record, will not preclude summary judgment." Haywood v. North American Van Lines, Inc., 121 F.3d 1066, 1071 (7th Cir. 1997); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)("an opposing party may not rely on allegations or denials in its own pleading").

This Court can find a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment "only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party." Argyropoulos v. City of Alton, 539 F.3d 724, 731 (7th Cir. 2008)( quoting Sides v. City of Champaign, 496 F.3d 820, 826 (7th Cir. 2007)). In ruling on a summary judgment motion, this Court views the evidence and all inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Isaacs). TAS Distributing Co., Inc. v. Cummins Engine Co., Inc., 491 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2007); Reynolds v. Jamison, 488 F.3d 756, 764 (7th Cir. 2007). Bearing these principles in mind, the Court assesses the record before it, having carefully reviewed all the materials submitted with the summary judgment briefs.

IV. Analysis

In Monell v. N.Y. City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), the Supreme Court established both the fact that "municipalities and other local government units [were] included among those persons to whom § 1983 applies," id. at 690, 98 S.Ct. 2018, and the limits of such actions. Most importantly, Monellheld that "a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory." Id. at 691, 98 S.Ct. 2018. Instead, municipal liability exists only "when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury." Id. at 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018. The Seventh Circuit has identified three different ways in which a municipality or other local governmental unit might violate § 1983:(1) through an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) through a "wide-spread practice" that although not authorized by written law and express policy, is so permanent and well-settled as to constitute a "custom ...

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