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Gurley v. Sheahan

July 21, 2009


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


Plaintiff Johnny Gurley, currently incarcerated in federal prison, resided in the Cook County Jail from August 2005 through July 2006. He claims that the conditions of his confinement at the jail violated the United States Constitution. In this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff claims that Defendant jail officials violated his rights by providing him with inadequate bedding and sanitation; denying him needed recreation; failing to provide appropriate heating and cooling; denying appropriate medical care; and exposing him to excessive noise, pest infestation, and second-hand tobacco smoke. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Defendants filed a statement of uncontested material facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1. Together with their summary judgment motion, Defendants provided Plaintiff with the notice required under Local Rule 56.2, explaining the requirements of the Local Rules and warning Plaintiff that his failure to respond with appropriate evidentiary support could result in entry of judgment against him. (Notice to Pro Se Litigant, Attach. to Defs.' 56.1.) Despite the warning, Plaintiff has not submitted a statement of contested facts; instead, he simply elaborates on certain facts in his opposing brief. The court has discretion in deciding how strictly to enforce Rule 56.1. Little v. Cox's Supermarkets, 71 F.3d 637, 641 (7th Cir. 1995). As Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court will consider the factual assertions he makes in his response brief only to the extent that Plaintiff could properly testify about the matters asserted at trial, and that Defendants had a fair chance to respond to those facts. Accordingly, where Plaintiff merely provides additional details for claims he made in his Complaint, the court will consider those details; but the court will ignore arguments or theories in support of any new claims that were not presented in the Complaint or explored in discovery. The following facts are thus drawn principally from Defendants' Rule 56.1 statement.

Plaintiff was admitted to the Cook County Jail on March 22, 2005, but released the next day.*fn1 (Janus Aff. ¶¶ 4(a), (b), Ex. 2 to Defs.' 56.1.) Plaintiff remained free on electronic monitoring/day reporting from March 23, 2005, until August 27, 2005. (Id. ¶ 4(b).) On August 27, 2005, Plaintiff was readmitted to the jail and remained incarcerated there until July 27, 2006. (Id. ¶ 4(c).) For most or all of Plaintiff's time in the jail, he was awaiting trial and had not yet been convicted of any offense. Defendants are all various jail officials: Michael Sheahan, former Sheriff of Cook County*fn2; Scott Kurtovich, acting executive director of the Cook County Jail at all times relevant to this action; Ardell Hall, Superintendent of the Jail's Division 5, where Plaintiff was housed; and Joseph Shaughnessy, former Inspector General of the Cook County Sheriff's Department.

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that a number of the living conditions at the jail violated his constitutional rights. First, Plaintiff complains that he was subjected to second-hand smoke while confined at the jail. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 3.) The Cook County Department of Corrections banned smoking on July 1, 2005, but Plaintiff contends that fellow prisoners flouted the rules, smoking contraband cigarettes, orange peels, and illegal drugs after the jail implemented the no-smoking policy.*fn3 (Pl.'s Dep. at 6-7, Ex. 1 to Defs.' 56.1 (hereinafter ("Pl.'s Dep."); Pl.'s Resp. at 1-2.) The smoke made it difficult for Plaintiff, who suffers from asthma and bronchitis, to breathe, and he alleges that his breathing was "heavy." (Pl.'s Dep. at 6, 11.) Plaintiff concedes, however, that he did not suffer an asthma attack while at the jail. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 3.) Plaintiff never complained about other inmates' alleged smoking violations, apparently because he feared reprisal from gang members. (Pl.'s Resp. at 2.)

Plaintiff next asserts that his housing unit was very cold. Plaintiff claims that he endured "below-freezing temperatures," causing him to become ill on August 29, 2005. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 4.) Even though it was summer*fn4, Plaintiff claims that it "probably was maybe five to ten degrees in the actual living area" and that he could see his breath. (Pl.'s Dep. at 9.) Plaintiff complained to correctional officers Baker, Moore, and Maggiore about the cold.*fn5 (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 4.) Inmates were promised blankets, but never received them. (Pl.'s Dep. at 18.)

Plaintiff next complains that the jail was excessively noisy. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 11.) In both his deposition and his response brief, Plaintiff detailed the "loud noise, banging on the doors, and rapping of music every night," with "guys screaming basically all night, and it makes it hard to sleep because . . . of the noise." (Pl.'s Resp. at 5; Pl.'s Dep. at 22.) Plaintiff claims that he got only two to three hours of sleep every night and often suffered from severe headaches as a result. (Pl.'s Resp. at 5.)

Plaintiff also identifies a number of unpleasant or dangerous conditions from which he conceded he suffered no physical injury:

* He contends that the jail was infested with rodents, cockroaches, gnats, and other flying insects. (Compl. at 6.) Plaintiff recalls mornings when he would find some fifty cockroaches crawling all over his belongings, and rats would sometimes crawl into his bed. (Id. at 8.) He acknowledged, however, that the bugs and rodents never bit or otherwise harmed him. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 5.)

* Plaintiff asserts that the light fixture in his cell posed a hazard, as exposed wires hung from it. (Compl. at 6; Pl.'s Dep. at 15.) Plaintiff was, however, able to change the bulb and was never shocked or cut by the light fixture. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 6.)

* Plaintiff also observed an air vent with a loose metal edge. (Id. ¶ 7.) According to Plaintiff, this condition was dangerous because an inmate could have used the metal to make a shank or weapon, although Plaintiff is unaware of anyone who actually did. (Id.)

* Whenever it rained or snowed, Plaintiff claims, water would seep through the walls and soak the floor of the day room. (Pl.'s Dep. at 20.) On one occasion, a plumbing problem in one of the cells flooded the tier for about three days. (Id. at 20-21.) The water did not seep into Plaintiff's own cell, however. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 8.)

* Plaintiff also alleges problems with the facility's ventilation and air circulation system. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff observed correctional officials, including Defendant Hall, work with the facility's engineers to try to fix the ventilation issues. (Id.) The windows in Plaintiff's living unit were secured so that they could not be opened. (Pl.'s Resp. at 1.)

* Plaintiff claims that he had to sleep on the floor for a month and a half due to overcrowding in the jail. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 10.) Plaintiff slept on the same type of mattress as used on the bunk beds and was moved to a bunk as soon as one became available.*fn6 (Id.)

* Inmates using the washrooms would urinate on the floor and spit in the sink. (Pl.'s Dep. at 23.) Plaintiff was provided with cleaning materials, including Ajax, a mop, and a broom, twice a day to clean the lavatories, between 2 and 3 p.m. and again between 9 and 10 p.m. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 12.)

* Though Plaintiff understood that detainees were entitled to an hour of exercise per day, he contends he received only one hour of recreation time per week. (Pl.'s Dep. at 24.) While incarcerated at the jail, Plaintiff was still able to engage in physical activities such as lifting weights and playing ball. ( Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 13.)

* Plaintiff was fed regularly, but breakfast and dinner were cold "90% of the time." (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 19.)

Finally, Plaintiff makes several complaints of medical negligence. First, Plaintiff was told that a fellow inmate on his tier had tuberculosis.*fn7 (Id. ΒΆ 15.) Plaintiff believes that the prisoner had not been screened properly and that breathing the same air as the infected inmate exposed Plaintiff to tuberculosis. (Id.) Plaintiff apparently ...

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