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Hoskins v. Dart

November 15, 2010


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


Plaintiff Joshua Hoskins alleges that the Cook County Sheriff's Department and several of its employees were deliberately indifferent to the risk that he would be beaten up when put in a holding cell with rival gang members. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants have moved to dismiss all of Hoskins' claims, which the court grants in part and denies in part.


For purposes of the motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true the allegations of Hoskins' amended complaint. See Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000). According to the complaint, Hoskins was a pre-trial detainee in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections. On two occasions when he was to appear before a judge, first on October 20, 2008, and then again on December 8, 2008, Hoskins was placed in a holding lock up area with members of a rival gang, who then proceeded to assault him. The December 8, 2008, beating was so severe that he was sent to the hospital for medical injuries and missed his court date. As a result, the judge assigned to Hoskins' case, Judge Joseph Claps, entered an order requiring that Hoskins be transported to and from court by the county's Emergency Response Team. The order was forwarded to the office of defendant Sheriff Thomas Dart.

Despite the court order, the Emergency Response Team did not escort Hoskins to and from court for appearance scheduled between April and June of 2009, and the unescorted Hoskins continued to be assaulted by rival gang members while in the holding lock up area. Hoskins filed a grievance based upon the Emergency Response Team's failure to escort him to court. Defendant Thomas Snooks, the superintendent of the sheriff's External Operations Department, personally acknowledged receiving Hoskins' grievance, but failed to make any arrangements for Hoskins to be safely escorted to court. Hoskins also discussed the continuing assaults with defendant Leroy Martiniak, the lieutenant of the External Operations Department. But even though Martiniak's job duties included arranging for court escorts, Martiniak did nothing to protect Hoskins.

Hoskins then filed the instant suit, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based upon the defendants' alleged failure to protect him from a known danger in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, he alleges the following two counts: (1) defendants Dart, Snooks, and Martiniak, along with defendants Salvador Godinez and Gilberto, both executives within the Department of Corrections, acted in their individual capacities with deliberate indifference to the risk that he would be assaulted, in violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution (Count I); and (2) while acting in their official capacities, the defendants maintained a custom or policy of indifference to the risk of cross-gang violence in the lock up holding area (Count II). The defendants have moved to dismiss all claims against all of the defendants.


I. Standard of Review

A complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The Seventh Circuit explained that this "[r]ule reflects a liberal notice pleading regime, which is intended to focus litigation on the merits of a claim rather than on technicalities that might keep plaintiffs out of court." Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations omitted); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 322-24 (7th Cir. 2000) (stating that claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are not subject to a heightened pleading standard, but are only required to set forth sufficient allegations to place the court and the defendants on notice of the gravamen of the complaint).

However, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" and also must state sufficient facts to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court stated that a claim has facial plausibility "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

The court is neither bound by the plaintiff's legal characterization of the facts, nor required to ignore facts set forth in the complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claims. Scott v. O'Grady, 975 F. 2d 366, 368 (7th Cir. 1992). Nevertheless, "in examining the facts and matching them up with the stated legal claims, we give 'the plaintiff the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint.'" Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F. 3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2009).

II. Individual Capacity Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I)

To succeed on an individual capacity claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Hoskins must show that the defendants, while acting under the color of state law, personally caused or participated in an alleged constitutional deprivation. Moore v. State of Indiana, 999 F.2d 1125, 1129 (7th Cir. 1993). To establish the requisite personal involvement, plaintiff must show that each defendant either had actual knowledge of the threat to plaintiff's safety or that the risk of violence was so substantial or pervasive that the defendants' knowledge could be inferred. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321 (1986); Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999).

The defendants argue that Hoskins has not sufficiently alleged that they personally participated in the alleged deprivation of his constitutional rights. However, the amended complaint includes allegations that Snooks reviewed the grievance filed by Hoskins yet did nothing to ensure that Hoskins was escorted to court as ordered by the state court judge. The amended complaint also includes allegations that Hoskins personally discussed the assaults with Martiniak-whose job it was to provide court escorts-but that, like Snooks, Martiak did nothing to protect Hoskins. Accordingly, Hoskins has ...

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