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Charles Lawson v. Salvador Godinez

March 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman



Charles Lawson, a Cook County Jail inmate, has sued Cook County Jail Executive Director Salvador Godinez, Superintendent William Thomas and Correctional Officers Kelvin Barnes and Kevin Hopkins for violating his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his safety and need for medical attention resulting from an attack by other inmates. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.


On January 28, 2009, Lawson was housed at the Cook County Jail ("CCJ") in Division 9 on Tier 1G, an administrative segregation unit in which each detainee is allowed to be out of his cell for one hour per day, one cell at a time. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 1, 3; Compl. ¶ V.1.) Tier 1G houses detainees who have been found guilty of possession of a weapon while in CCJ. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 3.) In January 2009, Kelvin Barnes was the head officer of Tier 1G and Kevin Hopkins was his backup officer. (Id. ¶ 4.) William Thomas was the superintendent of Division 9, and Salvador Godinez was, and is, the Executive Director of the CCJ. (Id.)

At 3:30 a.m. on January 28, 2009, an inmate gained access to the control area of the tier and began "popping" open cell doors. (Id. ¶ 5; see Defs.'Ex. 1, Pl.'s Dep. 25-26, Apr. 13, 2010.) Twelve to fifteen inmates exited their cells and began fighting each other. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 6-7.) Upon seeing inmates out of their cells, Barnes immediately called an "all available" -- a call to all available, not otherwise occupied, personnel to provide assistance. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Backup officers arrived within two to three minutes. (Id. ¶ 11.) Barnes and Hopkins did not attempt to break up the fights prior to backup arriving, given that doing so would have been dangerous and would have jeopardized their safety. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Lawson was in his cell during the above described incident. (Id. ¶ 12.) Prior to the incident, Lawson did not have a problem with any particular inmate on his tier and had not reported any problems with any Tier 1G inmate. (Id.¶¶ 13-14.) Several inmates entered Lawson's cell, Lawson and the inmates began to wrestle, during which time one of the inmates sliced Lawson's upper arm with a piece of metal and Lawson's hand was slammed in his cell door. (Id.¶¶ 15-16; see Defs.'Ex. 1, Pl.'s Dep. 34-39.)

After the incident, a sergeant, who is not named as a defendant in this case, walked by Lawson's cell, asked if he needed medical attention and then ordered that Lawson be taken out of his cell. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 17-18.) The sergeant saw the puncture wound to Lawson's arm. (See Defs.'Ex. 1, Pl.'s Dep. 42.) Lawson was taken to see a nurse later that morning before he went to court, and the nurse dressed the puncture wound, which had stopped bleeding, with gauze and tape. (Id. 43-44, 46; see Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 18.) Lawson stated that the slammed door on his hand caused a bone to protrude from his hand. (See Defs.'Ex. 1, Pl.'s Dep. 52-53.) However, he acknowledged that x-rays of his hand that were taken in July 2009 showed no injury. (Id.)

Later in the morning on January 28, 2009, Lawson went to court at the courthouse in Markham, Illinois. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 19.) Lawson did not complain about his injuries while in court. and did not speak with Superintendent Thomas about the incident until two weeks later. (Id. ¶ 20.)

Lawson states that he was familiar with the grievance process at the jail. (Id. ¶ 25.) On May 29, 2009, he wrote a grievance about the stabbing incident, which was given the control number 2009 X 1123. (Id. ¶ 26.) He gave the grievance to his social worker on June 8, 2009. (Id.) On June 19, 2009, Lawson received a response that denied his grievance and referred the grievance to the Division's Physician and Patient Care Services. (Id. ¶ 27.) On the form, Lawson wrote "6/19/09" as the date he requested the appeal, but he did not write anything in the section provided for him to state the basis for an appeal. (Id.) Though he had filed several prior grievances, this was his first appeal. (Defs.'Ex. 1, Pl.'s Dep. 62-63.) The record is unclear as to what happened to the grievance after this point, but it appears that no appeal was taken. (Id.; Defs.' Ex. 2, Detainee's Grievance at 2.)


Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). In determining the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, the court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if a reasonable finder of fact could return a decision for the nonmoving party based upon the record. See id. at 252; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000).

Section 1983 provides that "[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To bring a claim under § 1983, plaintiff must establish that: (1) he has been deprived of a federal right, (2) by a person acting under color of state law. See Alvarado v. Litscher, 267 F.3d 648, 651 (7th Cir. 2001).

Lawson asserts the following claims: (1) defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his safety by failing to have better security in his area of the jail in general and, more specifically, on January 28, 2009, when inmates escaped their cells and attacked him, and (2) defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his resulting injuries, i.e., the stab wound to his arm and the bone sticking out of his hand. Although Lawson does not specify whether he is suing each defendant in his individual capacity, official capacity or both, the complaint suggests that he is suing Officers Barnes and Hopkins in their individual capacity for failing to protect him on the ...

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