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Poindexter v. Ford

March 2, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conlon

Magistrate Judge Schenkier

OFFICER JASON FORD'S MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF HIS RENEWED RULE 50 MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW NOW COMES the defendant, Jason Ford, by and through his attorneys, Litchfield Cavo, LLP, and in support of his renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law directed to Poindexter's failure to provide medical attention claim, states as follows:


In his second amended complaint, Poindexter attempts to allege (1) claims for excessive force and (2) a failure to provide medical assistance. (See document 50 at page 5). Jason Ford has answered the second amended complaint and denied the material allegations contained therein. The evidence Poindexter presented, combined with all reasonable inferences reasonably drawn in his favor, is legally insufficient to support a verdict on his failure to provide medical assistance claim. Consequently, Ford is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Poindexter's failure to provide medical attention claim.


Rule 50(a) allows a court to render judgment as a matter of law when "a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for that party on that issue." See FRCP 50(a).

The standard for granting judgment as a matter of law "mirrors" that for the granting of summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097 (2000) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986)). As a result, in ruling on a motion for judgment as a matter of law a court must consider the record in its entirety and view the evidence in a light most favorable to the party against whom judgment is sought. Massey v. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois, 226 F.2d 922, 924 (7th Cir. 2000). Credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the evidence rest solely with the jury, not the trial court. Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150. If reasonable persons could not find that the evidence justifies the decision for a party on each essential element of his claim, the court should grant judgment as a matter of law -- before trial under Rule 56, later under Rule 50 and using the same federal standard each time. Diamer v. Cincinnati Sub-Zero Products, Inc., 58 F.3d 341, 343 (7th Cir. 1995).


A. Poindexter has Failed to Show that Ford was Deliberately Indifferent to Medical Needs

Poindexter alleges that Ford violated his 14th Amendment due process rights because he was deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need. Claims of pre-trial detainees, such as Poindexter, are brought pursuant to the 14th Amendment's due process clause, but are analyzed like claims brought by prisoners pursuant to the 8th Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. Estate of Moreland v. Dieter, 395 F.3d 747, 758 (7th Cir. 2005).

To establish a deprivation of his due process right to adequate medical care, a pre-trial detainee must demonstrate that a government official acted with deliberate indifference to his objectively serious medical needs. See Quian, 168 F.3d at 955. The objective aspect of this inquiry concerns the pre-trial detainee's medical condition. The condition must be an injury that is "objectively, sufficiently serious." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994); See also Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 1999). A serious medical need is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention. Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1371 (7th Cir. 1997). A plaintiff who satisfies this objective component must also tender sufficient evidence to meet the subjective prong of this inquiry. Toward that end, a plaintiff must establish that the relevant official had "a sufficiently culpable state of mind to the detainee's health or safety." See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970. Evidence that the official acted negligently is insufficient to prove deliberate indifference. See Payne, 161 F.3d at 1040. Instead, deliberate indifference is "simply a synonym for intentional reckless conduct, and that 'reckless' describes conduct so dangerous that the deliberate nature of the defendant's actions can be inferred." Quian, 168 F.3d at 955. Put differently, to establish deliberate indifference, the plaintiff must proffer evidence demonstrating that the official was aware of substantial risk of serious injury to the detainee, but nevertheless failed to take appropriate steps to protect him from a known danger. See Payne, 165 F.3d at 1041. In other words, the official "must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Higgins, 178 F.3d at 510. If the official recognizes a substantial risk, he is nonetheless free from liability if he "responded reasonably to the risk, and even if the harm ultimately was not averted." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 843, 114 S.Ct. 1970.

The testimony submitted during plaintiff's case in chief demonstrates Poindexter's inability to establish deprivation of his due process right to medical care. In particular, Poindexter failed to establish that Ford had or acted with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind."

See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. According to Poindexter, he was transported to the Orland Park police department in a squad car, and while inside the squad car, he did not request medical treatment. On arriving at the Orland Park police department, he was processed and placed in a holding cell. He claims that he told the "detainee aids" that he was in pain because he had been beaten by police officers. The "detainee aids" informed him that he could do nothing until the arresting officer came in. Ford then was placed in a holding cell and thereafter fell asleep. When he was awakened for breakfast, he informed the Orland Park personnel that he was still in pain and needed to go to the hospital. The "detainee aids" informed Poindexter that he would have to wait until the arresting officer came in. Poindexter did not eat breakfast, but instead fell back to sleep. Later that morning, Poindexter was awakened by Officer Ford, who asked him to sign a consent to search his vehicle, which Poindexter agreed to do. Poindexter testified that during this meeting he requested medical assistance from Officer Ford and Officer Ford told him that once everything was straightened out, he (Poindexter) would be taken to the hospital.

Poindexter's claim should fail because the conduct he attributes to Officer Ford does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference. Under no circumstance could a reasonable trier-of-fact conclude that Officer Ford's post-arrest alleged failure to provide assistance amounted to gross negligence, let alone intentional or criminal recklessness. Consequently, Officer Jason Ford is ...

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