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November 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER The plaintiff is a pre-trial detainee at Cook County Jail, and has been since February 2007. His amended complaint, brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983, charges the Sheriff of Cook County, Cook County, and several individual defendants with various civil rights violations stemming from his being attacked by a fellow detainee on October 20, 2009. In Counts I, II, and III, the plaintiff seeks to hold the Sheriff and the County liable under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Counts IV through VIII are brought against the individual defendants. Count IX alleges state law claims against the Sheriff and the County, as well as the individual defendants. Count X is a claim for indemnification against the individual defendants and the County, and Count XI asks for injunctive relief against all defendants. The Sheriff and the County ask that (1) Counts I, II, and III against them be dismissed; (2) the County be dismissed from all claims; and (3) the claims for punitive damages against the Sheriff and the County be dismissed.


PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS On October 20, 2009, the plaintiff was sitting at a table on tier 2B of Division Ten at Cook County Jail, when he was attacked by a fellow detainee. Plaintiff's attacker was being escorted, without handcuffs, by two officers. Without provocation, the detainee threatened to kill plaintiff, and struck him on the face, head, and upper body at least ten times with his fist. The attack forced the plaintiff to the ground, and two officers, one of whom plaintiff knows as "Officer Zriny," responded and stopped the assault. Shortly thereafter, approximately ten more officers arrived on tier 2B to intervene. Plaintiff claims, upon information and belief, that the officers on duty were aware that the unrestrained detainee was likely to attack him in retaliation for his reporting that the detainee had stolen personal property from other inmates. Plaintiff charges that these unknown officers failed to take adequate precautions to prevent this attack.

By the time the guards responded to the attack, plaintiff had sustained injuries to his head, spine, and back. He was in so much pain that he could not walk, and officers assisted him up off the ground and helped him into a wheelchair. Then, plaintiff began to experience chest pains. He was taken to see a nurse, whom plaintiff knows as "Nurse Jacky." The nurse checked his vital signs, but then instructed an officer, whom plaintiff identifies as "Captain Rosario," to return plaintiff to his tier without further medical treatment. The plaintiff complained to Nurse Jacky, Captain Rosario, and another officer escorting him back to the tier -- "Sergeant Helms" -- that he was in excruciating pain and unable to walk. But, plaintiff says that these officers, and another officer whom he knows as "Officer Ramos," responded by forcefully and intentionally dumping him out of his wheelchair and into the frame of a door, which caused plaintiff to sustain additional injuries to his neck, back, foot, and hand, and exacerbated the injuries he had received during the attack.

After being dumped from his wheelchair, plaintiff was helpless on the ground. Rather than assisting him, two of the officers dragged plaintiff downstairs to the first floor bullpen, causing injuries to his side and hip. The officers then left plaintiff on the floor of the bullpen where he remained for approximately four hours. During that time, certain defendants, including Captain Rosario and Sergeant Harrison, demanded that plaintiff sign a document against his will. Although he could not read the document -- he says he is unable to read or write English -- plaintiff was informed that the document was a plea bargain, and further informed that if he did not sign the document he would be left on the floor of the bullpen and denied medical treatment. Plaintiff refused to sign the document.

At approximately 9:30 on the evening of October 20, plaintiff was finally taken in a wheelchair by Sergeant Harrison to Cermak Health Services of Cook County, which is about two blocks south of the Jail. While he was there, the medical staff prescribed him medication and performed a CAT scan of his head and an x-ray of his back and hand. Plaintiff characterizes the treatment provided as inappropriate, and that he continued to suffer serious pain. On the morning of October 21, 2009, plaintiff was discharged from Cermak Health Services and returned to his cell. There, he remained in pain and his injuries worsened. Plaintiff claims that he has yet to receive appropriate treatment for the injuries he sustained on October 20, 2010, and continues to suffer severe and debilitating pain in his back, ribs, hip, head, neck, hands and feet. He claims his back injuries are permanent and, in addition, he has suffered emotional distress, mental anguish, and insomnia.

Plaintiff, who is 58, adds that he has a list of other ailments that require medical treatment: chest pain, coronary artery disease, hypertension, anemia, hypercholesterolemia, insomnia, back pain, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and arthritis. His physicians, including those employed by Cook County, have prescribed: walking shoes, a cane, a "medical chair", prescription glasses, medications, and physical therapy. Plaintiff claims that these items have been repeatedly and unjustifiably withheld from him entirely, or not given to him in a reasonably timely manner.

Finally, plaintiff alleges that "[t]he Constitutional violations detailed above were caused in part by the customs, policies, and practices of the [Sheriff and County], as promulgated, enforced, and disseminated by [the Sheriff], whereby the [Sheriff and County] . . . failed to provide access to proper health care in this and many other documented cases . . . were deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk of inmate against inmate attacks in this and many other documented cases . . . [and] failed to ensure that excessive force was not used against pre-trial detainees in this and many other documented cases. (Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 39, 41, 43).


ANALYSIS The Sheriff and the County first argue that plaintiff's Monell allegations are inadequate under Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. --, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). Second, they point out that the Sheriff and his employees have no employment relationship with the County, and ask that the complaint against the County be dismissed in its entirety. And lastly, they ask that all claims for punitive damages against the Sheriff and the County be dismissed because, as municipalities, they are immune from such claims.


Plaintiff's Monell Claims Fail to Pass Muster under Twombly and Iqbal

In the wake of Twombly and Iqbal, it is clear that a plaintiff "must do better than putting a few words on paper that, in the hands of an imaginative reader, might suggest that something has happened to her that might be redressed by the law." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th Cir. 2010). In Twombly, the Court laid to rest the "no set of facts language" that it said "puzzl[ed] the profession for 50 years" after Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563. "To 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.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "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." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Allegations that amount to nothing more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint consisting of nothing more than "'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement,'" must be dismissed for failing to meet the requirements of Rule 8. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Allegations of facts "that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, . . . 'stop[] short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.' " Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. These are the very types of allegations the plaintiff sets out in Counts I through III of his amended complaint.

The amended complaint goes into some detail while relating the events surrounding the attack on plaintiff and the response of the guards, the nurse on duty, and medical staff at Cermak Health Services. But once the allegations regarding Officers Zriny and Ramos, Sergeants Helms and Harrison, Captain Rosario, and Nurse Jacky end and the allegations regarding the Sheriff and County begin, that detail vanishes. All the amended complaint has to say about the Sheriff and the County is a thrice-repeated, talismanic mantra: "[t]he Constitutional violations detailed above were caused in part by the customs, policies, ...

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