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Riley v. County of Cook

January 27, 2010

WILLIE ANNE RILEY, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ANTONIO HOPKINS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF COOK; COOK COUNTY SHERIFF THOMAS DART, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS SUPERINTENDENT DENNIS ANDREWS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; TAMARRE DONNER, A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; KENDEL MCVEY, A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; AND BRAD SANDEFUR, A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morton Denlow United States Magistrate Judge

Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Willie Anne Riley ("Plaintiff"), as the special administrator of the Estate of Antonio Hopkins ("Hopkins"), brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 against the County of Cook, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, Cook County Department of Corrections Superintendent Dennis Andrews, and correctional officers Tamarre Donner, Kendel McVey, and Brad Sandefur (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated Hopkins' civil rights while he was incarcerated at Cook County Jail in 2008, where he committed suicide. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages against all Defendants. Defendants now move to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

According to Plaintiff's Complaint, Hopkins was incarcerated at Cook County Jail on March 25, 2008 after being arrested in Iowa and subsequently extradited to Illinois. Pl.'s Comp. ¶ 14. On April 14, 2008, Hopkins was found in his cell hanging by his neck from a bed sheet. Id. at ¶ 15. Hopkins was pronounced dead by doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago later that day. Id. at ¶ 16.

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges eight counts. Counts I and II assert claims against the Cook County Department of Corrections Superintendent Dennis Andrews ("Andrews") and the Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart ("Dart"), in their official and individual capacities. Plaintiff asserts that both Andrews and Dart were responsible for the care and management of prisoners in Cook County Jail and for establishing and implementing policy and procedures to protect suicidal prisoners. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 28. Plaintiff alleges that it was the custom, practice, and policy of Andrews and Dart to operate Cook County Jail in a manner deliberately indifferent to the risks to prisoners, and that Hopkins' death was a direct result of that indifference. Id. at ¶¶ 20-21, 29-30. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that both Andrews and Dart "failed to institute suicide prevention practices pursuant to Constitutional required standards," including failing to provide: 1) appropriate suicide prevention policy/procedure; 2) suicide prevention education and training; 3) appropriate screening to assess suicide risk; 4) appropriate intervention procedures for suicides in progress; 5) appropriate notification, reporting, and review of suicides; and 6) appropriate cut-down tools to the staff for quick response to an attempted suicide by hanging. Id. at ¶¶ 23, 32. Plaintiff also alleges that both Andrews and Dart failed to adequately monitor the individual prisoners' cells. Id. at ¶¶ 24, 33.

Count III asserts a claim against the County of Cook ("County"). Plaintiff asserts that the County, through the Cook County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Corrections, is the policy maker with regard to Cook County Jail. Plaintiff asserts the County was responsible for the care and management of prisoners in Cook County Jail and for establishing and implementing policy and procedures to protect suicidal prisoners. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37. Plaintiff alleges that it was the County's custom, practice, and policy to operate Cook County Jail in a manner deliberately indifferent to Hopkins' needs, and that his death was a direct result of that indifference. Id. at ¶ 39. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the County "failed to institute suicide prevention practices pursuant to Constitutional required standards," including failing to provide: 1) appropriate suicide prevention policy/procedure; 2) suicide prevention education and training; 3) appropriate screening to assess suicide risk; 4) appropriate intervention procedures for suicides in progress; 5) appropriate notification, reporting, and review of suicides; and 6) appropriate cut-down tools to the staff for quick response to an attempted suicide by hanging. Id. at ¶ 41. Plaintiff also alleges that the County failed to adequately monitor the individual prisoners' cells as part of an obligation to keep them safe. Id. at ¶ 42.

In Counts IV, V, and VI, Plaintiff asserts claims respectively against corrections officers Tamarre Donner ("Donner"), Kendel McVey ("McVey"), and Brad Sandefur ("Sandefur"), in their official and individual capacities. Plaintiff alleges that Donner, McVey, and Sandefur acted alone and/or in concert to enable Hopkins to commit suicide in violation of his constitutional rights. Id. at ¶¶ 45, 48, 51.

In Counts I-VI, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages from each individual Defendant in an amount in excess of $75,000. In Count VII, Plaintiff claims similar allegations against John Doe, an unknown Corrections Officer, who was terminated from the case on November 3, 2009. Dkt. 29. In Count VIII, Plaintiff seeks punitive damages from each individual Defendant, alleging they acted with malice or willfulness or with careless and reckless indifference to Hopkins' rights and safety.

Plaintiff filed her Complaint on April 14, 2009. Dkt. 1. Defendants filed the current motion to dismiss on July 6, 2009. Dkt. 14. On July 14, 2009, Judge Matthew Kennelly issued a minute order providing as follows: "[t]he Court has reviewed the memorandum in support of defendants' motion to dismiss and overrules argument II.b, in which defendants contend that the complaint fails to state a claim against the defendants in their individual capacities. The complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a claim against each of these defendants that is plausible on its face." Dkt. 17. The parties subsequently consented to this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(a) (1). Dkt. 28. An oral argument on this motion was conducted on January 21, 2010.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive dismissal, the complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). In resolving a 12(b)(6) motion, a court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded facts as true and drawing all possible inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

Recent Supreme Court precedent has further clarified the requirements for a sufficiently-pled complaint. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The Seventh Circuit has synthesized these requirements as follows: 1) the complaint must provide the defendant fair notice of the claims and the grounds thereof; 2) the factual allegations must rise above the "speculative" level, that is, not be "so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice to defendants of the plaintiff's claim;" and 3) in considering the plaintiff's factual allegations, courts should not accept abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements as adequate. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580-81 (7th Cir.2009). A court should ...


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