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Williams v. County of Cook

August 19, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge

Hon. Blanche M. Manning


Plaintiff Gregory Williams, currently a state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claims that the defendants, officials at the Cook County Jail, violated his constitutional rights by failing to protect him from assaults by fellow detainees on two occasions, wrongfully placing him in disciplinary segregation, acting with deliberate indifference to his medical needs, and failing to respond to his grievances. This matter is before the court for ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is granted. However, the plaintiff will be given the opportunity to submit an amended complaint concerning his medical claim.


It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to " 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, (1957)). To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff must only state his basic legal claim and provide "some indication ... of time and place." Thompson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2004). While a complaint challenged by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts--as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom--in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000); Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 563 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)). Dismissal should be denied whenever it appears that a basis for federal jurisdiction in fact exists or may exist and can be stated by the plaintiff. Norfleet v. Vale, No. 05 C 0926, 2005 WL 3299375, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 5, 2005) (Zagel, J.). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556. Nevertheless, the factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id., 550 U.S. at 555. Furthermore, a plaintiff can plead himself or herself out of court by pleading facts that undermine the allegations set forth in the complaint. See, e.g., Kolupa v. Roselle Park Dist., 438 F.3d 713, 715 (7th Cir. 2006). The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits. Weiler v. Household Finance Corp., 101 F.3d 519, 524 n. 1 (7th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).


The plaintiff, currently a state prisoner, was a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Correctional Center at all times relevant to this lawsuit. Defendants Erica Queen, Joseph Giunta, Robert Forbes, Neal Urteaga, Darryl Howell, and Peter Giunta are correctional officers at the jail. Defendant Michael Miller is the Chief of Security at the jail. Defendants Stanley Janus and Tyree Currie were, respectively, the Superintendents of the jail's Divisions Five and Six. Defendant Salvador Godinez is the jail's director.

The plaintiff alleges the following facts, which must be accepted as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss: In May 2008, the plaintiff told his attorney and unnamed supervisors that his life was in danger because he had already been stabbed twice before and because gang members were forcing him to "hold knives" for them. The plaintiff also spoke to two physicians [who are not named as defendants] about his predicament.

The plaintiff was temporarily moved to Cermak Hospital's psychiatric unit; however, the next day he was returned to Division Ten, a maximum security unit. The plaintiff therefore signed himself into protective custody.

The plaintiff remained in protective custody for two weeks, until someone recognized him there. The other inmate warned the plaintiff that if he did not leave the unit, he would be "sent away in a stretcher." The plaintiff reported the threat to an unnamed supervisor, who told him that the only thing the plaintiff could do was to sign himself out of the protective custody unit. Accordingly, the plaintiff signed himself out of protective custody and returned to Division Ten.

Upon returning to the maximum security unit, the plaintiff became so terrified of being attacked that he barricaded himself in his cell on an unspecified date. While barricaded in his cell, the plaintiff went without his psychotropic medications. Consequently, he began to feel suicidal. The plaintiff spoke to a jail health care provider and to administrators, including defendant Godinez and an individual named Romero about his reasons for refusing to leave his cell. [Romero is not named as a defendant.]

Godinez vowed that if the plaintiff agreed to come out of his cell, he would be reclassified as a minimum security inmate and transferred to protective custody. The plaintiff evidently agreed, as he was thereafter sent to the health care unit for a psychological evaluation. Afterwards, as promised, the plaintiff was transferred to the minimum security protective custody unit, where he finally "felt safe."

On October 20, 2008, the plaintiff was transported to court along with general population inmates. The plaintiff contends that his security status dictated that he not commingle with general population inmates. One of the inmates (Hoskins) who accompanied the plaintiff to court attacked him. The plaintiff does not identify any of the officers present at the time the assault occurred.

The plaintiff went to the health care unit for treatment of his injuries. However, because he had an altercation with the nurse, he refused medical attention. Upon returning to his housing unit, he was issued a disciplinary report for assault (presumably in connection with the Hoskins incident) and placed in segregation for ten days. While in the segregation unit, the plaintiff went without his psychotropic medications and was exposed to general population inmates. The plaintiff does not allege that the general population inmates threatened or harmed him.

When Romero learned that the plaintiff was in segregation, he ordered defendant Currie to release him and to return him to the minimum security protective custody unit. Romero vouched that the plaintiff was not at fault for the fight with Hoskins. Currie failed to release the plaintiff as directed. The plaintiff continued to go without his medication during his ten days in the segregation unit.

On November 2, 2008, the plaintiff experienced a "schizophrenic episode" and attempted to hang himself. He was taken to the psychiatric unit for another evaluation, prescribed medication, and discharged. However, when he arrived at his housing unit, he received another disciplinary report and was sent back to segregation for destroying state property (apparently the sheets he had used in his suicide attempt). The plaintiff received no responses to his ensuing grievances.

The plaintiff left the segregation unit twenty-five days later. At that time, he was reclassified as a maximum security inmate and sent back to Division Ten. He was assigned a cellmate who belonged to a gang [but again does not indicate that he was harmed, or even threatened, by his cellmate.]

On January 12, 2009, the plaintiff had another court appearance. While at court, the plaintiff spotted Hoskins, the detainee who had previously attacked him. The plaintiff saw Hoskins speaking to the other ...

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