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Smith v. Sangamon County Sheriff's Dep't

August 20, 2009

JIMMY E. SMITH, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, NEIL WILLIAMSON, TERRY DURR, WILLIAM STRAYER, LT. ENOS BRENTS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (d/e 36). Plaintiff Jimmy E. Smith filed a Memorandum in Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (d/e 39). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is allowed in part and denied in part.

FACTS

In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Smith brings claims against the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department; the Sheriff of Sangamon County, Neil Williamson; the Superintendent of the Sangamon County Detention Facility (the Detention Facility), Terry Durr; the Assistant Superintendent of the Detention Facility, William Strayer; and Lieutenant Brents, an officer with the Sanagamon County Sheriff's Department. He alleges that these Defendants violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free of cruel and unusual punishment and to be afforded the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States.

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Hager v. City of West Peoria, 84 F.3d 865, 868-69 (7th Cir. 1996); Covington Court, Ltd. v. Village of Oak Brook, 77 F.3d 177, 178 (7th Cir. 1996). Here, for the purpose of ruling on the pending Motion, the Court accepts as true the allegations in Smith's Third Amended Complaint (d/e 35).

According to the Third Amended Complaint, Smith suffered a severe beating from a fellow inmate on June 8, 2005. Smith was incarcerated at the Detention Facility for a nonviolent crime and had no known history of violence. He was housed in a cellblock with Jason Newell, an inmate whom Defendants knew to be violent. On June 8, 2005, without provocation, Newell attacked Smith. He threw Smith on his head, stomped on his back, and knocked him unconscious. Smith suffered multiple fractures, herniated discs, nerve damage, post traumatic stress disorder, and brain swelling and bleeding.

After the attack, at least two correctional officers found Smith unconscious on the floor. Despite Smith's obvious head, neck, and back injuries, the two officers tried to make him walk; when they were unsuccessful, they dragged him to a wheelchair and placed him upright on the seat. They then wheeled him to a police car and drove him to the hospital. When Smith returned from the hospital, Detention Facility nursing staff denied him adequate pain medication and bedding.

According to Smith, the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department failed to adequately train its correctional officers and nursing staff. Because the correctional officers and nursing staff lacked proper training, they failed to administer proper medical treatment immediately following the altercation and on Smith's return from the hospital.

Additionally, Smith alleges that the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department's practices and policies harmed him in this instance. He claims that the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department, per policy and custom, approves, facilitates, and condones its employees' turning a blind eye toward the conduct that caused his suffering. He also claims that the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department maintains a well-settled practice of denying inmates items vital to their physical health, including medication and proper bedding. As examples, Smith alleges that in 2003, inmate Larry A. Hudson died in the Detention Facility because the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department failed to administer proper medication to treat his diabetes. Additionally, Smith alleges that at some other time, inmate Daniel Imlay was denied a blanket for more than 24 hours, and he resorted to sleeping inside his mattress to stay warm.

Following the attack and his return from the hospital, Smith attempted to contact his attorney, and he filed grievances with the Detention Facility. He alleges that in return, all of the Defendants retaliated against him. Specifically, he alleges that unnamed correctional officers and jail employees verbally and physically harassed him, confiscated his personal property, and denied him pain medication. He claims that Defendants Williamson, Durr, Strayer, and Brents refused to provide information regarding his attack. Further, he alleges that his return to housing in cellblocks with other known violent persons constituted retaliation. According to Smith, this retaliation occurred per Sangamon County Sheriff's Department policy and custom.

On June 8, 2007, Smith filed this action. His Third Amended Complaint raises five claims. In Count I, Smith alleges that the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department failed to protect him from attack. In Count II, he claims that the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department demonstrated deliberate indifference to his health, safety, and constitutional rights in its handling of him immediately following the attack and when he returned from the hospital. In Count III, Smith alleges that the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department failed to train its correctional officers and nursing staff in recognizing medical need and thereby demonstrated deliberate indifference to his health and safety. In Count IV, Smith claims that all of the Defendants approved of, facilitated, condoned, and turned a blind eye toward the conduct that harmed him, and thus they acted with reckless disregard for his rights. In Count V, Smith brings a retaliation claim against all of the Defendants.

ANALYSIS

Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss all of Smith's claims under Rule 12(b)(6). This rule provides that dismissal is proper where a complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When a complaint's allegations do not "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level,'" the Court must dismiss. EEOC v. Concentra Health Svs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 777 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that Bell Atlantic "retired the Conley no-set-of-facts test" that prohibited dismissal unless the complaint established that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts entitling him to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1944 (2009).*fn1 Now, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1949 (internal quotation marks omitted). According to the Seventh Circuit, a claim that is plausible on its face provides the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Moore v. FBI, 283 Fed.Appx. 397, 399 (7th Cir. 2008).

Defendants have raised numerous arguments in support of their Motion. They assert that a statute of limitations bars all of Smith's claims against the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department. On Count I, they also argue that Smith did not adequately allege incarceration under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and deliberate indifference to that risk and therefore failed to state a claim for failure to protect. On Count III, they contend that Smith's claim includes no allegations of notice, and therefore he did not state a claim for failure to train. Defendants also argue that Smith's Counts IV and V claims against Defendants Williamson, Durr, Strayer, and Brents include no allegations of personal involvement. On Count IV, they assert that Smith failed to plead supervisory authority, and on Count V, they argue that Defendants Williamson, Durr, Strayer, and Brents are ...


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