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Champion v. Dart

July 6, 2009

GREGORY CHAMPION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS J. DART, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Gregory Champion filed this pro se action against Defendants, Cook County Officials Sheriff Thomas Dart, Executive Director Salvador Godinez, Superintendent Andrews ,and Correctional Officers King and Parks, alleging a violation of his constitutional rights following an assault on Plaintiff by another inmate at Cook County Jail. Defendants seek summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and that his claims lack merit. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." FED R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986). All of the evidence and the reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Miller v. American Family Mutual Ins., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000). Summary judgment may be granted when no "reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "[M]ere disagreement with the movant's asserted facts is inadequate" to defeat summary judgment; at this stage, the plaintiff must do more than simply rest on his complaint. Montano v. City of Chicago, 535 F.3d 558, 569 (7th Cir. 2008), quoting Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003); see also Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996). Instead, the party that bears the burden of proof on an issue must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that a genuine issue of material fact exists that requires a trial.

FACTS

On December 4, 2007, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at Cook County Jail. (Def.s' 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 1.) On that day, Plaintiff was on his bunk, reading, when he attempted to give instructions to another inmate who was attempting to use the television remote control. (Id. ¶ 2; Gurley Deposition, Exhibit A to Def.'s 56.1 (a)(3) Statement, at 17.) Floyd King, another pretrial detainee, replied to Plaintiff, "Be quiet, you have no voice in nothing." (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff responded, "Don't tell me to be quiet, like I'm some little kid. I'm older than you." (Id. ¶ 4.) Floyd King approached Plaintiff's bunk and said, "Motherfucker, if I tell you to shut up, that's what I mean." (Id. ¶ 5.) As Floyd King came closer to Plaintiff, Plaintiff said, "I'm not a motherfucker." (Id. ¶ 6.) Floyd King came up to Plaintiff and "out of nowhere" hit Plaintiff in the face with his left hand. Plaintiff "didn't even see it coming." (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.)

At the time Floyd King struck Plaintiff, there were no correctional officers in the tier. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 8.) Correctional Officers King and Parks were in the tier vestibule. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff ran to the door of the dorm and banged on the door. (Id. ¶ 9.) After speaking to Plaintiff, Officer King immediately allowed him to leave the tier, placed him on a bench outside of the dorm, and told him not to return to the tier. (Id. ¶ ¶ 11, 28.) Officer King then told Floyd King to pack his stuff and took him out of the tier. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) Plaintiff was taken to the dispensary for medical treatment. (Id. ¶ 14.) Floyd King received a written disciplinary citation for striking Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Division 2, where Plaintiff and Floyd King were housed, is a living unit for detainees who have been classified at intake and through regular classification review intervals as being medium or minimum security risks. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 22.) Plaintiff and Floyd King are classified as minimum security risk detainees. (Id. ¶¶ 23-25.) It is undisputed that Floyd King had never threatened to hit Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 15.) The blow was a "sucker punch" that came without any warning; indeed, Plaintiff himself had "absolutely no idea" that Floyd King might punch him as he approached the dorm. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 17.)

Plaintiff never made Officers King or Parks or Director Godinez or Superintendent Andrews aware that Floyd King had ever threatened him. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 18.) Plaintiff asserts that when Floyd King was assigned to his tier, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Superintendent Andrews to inform him that Floyd King was a gang leader. (Id. ¶ 20.) Superintendent Andrews never received the letter, however, and Plaintiff himself does not have a copy of it. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 26.) Superintendent Andrews had no knowledge of a specific threat to Plaintiff's safety by Floyd King prior to the incident. (Id. ¶ 27; Plaintiff's Response ¶ 27.) Nor did Officer King have any prior knowledge that Floyd King might pose a danger to Plaintiff's safety. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 31.) Officer King did not see Floyd King punch Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 32.)

Plaintiff was familiar with the detainee grievance procedure at Cook County Jail. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 33.) Plaintiff had filed several grievances regarding other complaints he had regarding the jail. (Id. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff never wrote any grievance or made any complaints to jail officials about any of the Defendants' conduct during the incident with Floyd King. (Id. ¶ 35.) The first time that Plaintiff made a written complaint against the Defendants failing to protect him was this lawsuit. (Id. ¶ 36.)

DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and that his claim fails on the merits. The court addresses both arguments below.

Exhaustion

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 contains a comprehensive administrative exhaustion requirement. Under that statute, "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions . . . by a prisoner . . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted."

42 U.S.C. ยง 1997e(a). "[I]f a prison has an internal administrative grievance system through which a prisoner can seek to correct a problem, then the prisoner must utilize that administrative system before filing a ...


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