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Gina Miller, As v. Chauncey C. Maher Iii

February 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


Tuesday, 15 February, 2011 10:19:06 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


On January 12, 2011, a Report & Recommendation [#43] was filed by Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore in the above-captioned case, recommending that Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [#30, 32, 34] be allowed. Plaintiff has filed an Objection [#44] to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. This Order follows.


A district court reviews de novo any portion of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which written objections have been made. See FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b). "The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id.


On September 10, 2010, Plaintiff Gina Miller ("Miller"), as Administrator of the Estate of Robert C. Ray ("Ray"), filed her Amended Complaint against Defendants Dr. Chauncey C. Maher III, Lee Anne Brauer, Niecy West, Ladorise Ramsey, Lieutenant Tammy Powell, various sergeants at the Sangamon County Jail, various correctional officers at the Sangamon County Jail, the Sheriff of Sangamon County, the Superintendent of the Sangamon County Jail, and Sangamon County. Miller states that she has brought the action on behalf of Ray's Estate and on behalf of her minor daughter, Brianna Ray, the decedent's only child. She includes one count against Dr. Maher pursuant to Illinois' Wrongful Death and Survival Acts, and her remaining seven counts against Defendants are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She specifically alleges that Defendants violated Ray's constitutional rights by failing to provide him proper medical care when he came to the Sangamon County jail suffering from alcohol withdrawal which included extreme alcohol delirium tremens. Miller further alleges that as a result of the Defendants' conduct, Ray died in the Sangamon County Jail on September 29, 2007.

In the Report & Recommendation filed by Magistrate Judge Cudmore, he recommends that Defendant Maher's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and the remaining Defendants' Motion to Dimiss be allowed for Miller's failure to comply with the statute of limitations applicable to Counts II-VIII. Magistrate Judge Cudmore further recommends the dismissal of Count I of the Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.


Plaintiff Miller first objects to the "crux of the Magistrate's recommendation" where he states that Section 1983 claims are personal to the injured party. See R&R at 4. The Magistrate Judge cited a Sixth Circuit case, Claybrook v. Birchwell, as well as Seventh Circuit cases in support of his conclusion. 199 F.3d. 350, 357 (6th Cir. 2000); see also Estate of Johnson by Castle v. Village of Libertyville, 819 F.2d 174, 177-78 (7th Cir. 1987); Spence v. Staras, 507 F.2d 554, 557 (7th Cir. 1974). Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erroneously relied upon the Sixth Circuit case, and that the Seventh Circuit specifically allows claimants to pursue damages allowed by the Illinois Wrongful Death Act in federal court pursuant to Section 1983.

Plaintiff correctly notes that district courts within the Seventh Circuit are bound by that Circuit's precedent, and not precedent from other Circuits. See Reiser v. Residential Funding Corp., 380 F.3d 1027, 1029 (7th Cir. 2004) (Seventh Circuit stating that district judges must follow decisions of that court regardless of whether the district courts agree with those decisions). Plaintiff also correctly points out that the Seventh Circuit has previously allowed that a Section 1983 claim may be maintained for the benefit of a decedent's estate to recover damages authorized by Illinois statutes for deprivation of the decedent's civil rights. Spence, 507 F.2d at 557 (7th Cir. 1974); Bass by Lewis v. Wallenstein, 769 F.2d 1173, 1190 (7th Cir. 1985) (holding that "in a Section 1983 action, the estate may recover damages for loss of life, [and] conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent prior to death . . . " after the court considered Illinois' Wrongful Death and Survival Acts).

However, these cases are not contrary to the Magistrate Judge's determination that Brianna does not own the claims alleged in the Complaint or have the right to bring those claims. The cases cited by Plaintiff merely provide that damages available under Illinois Wrongful Death and Survival Acts may be recovered by an estate bringing a Section 1983 claim alleging violations of the decedent's constitutional rights. See also Henning v. O'Leary, 477 F.3d 492, 495 (7th Cir. 2007) (explaining that decedent's survivors may be able to step into his shoes and exercise his remedies depending upon the state's survivorship statutes). Those cases, in considering Illinois law, do not provide that a decedent's minor next of kin may bring a Section 1983 action for an alleged violation of the decedent's civil rights. ...

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