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Montee Lavon Moore v. Vendor/Aramark Correctional Food Services

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION


July 20, 2011

MONTEE LAVON MOORE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VENDOR/ARAMARK CORRECTIONAL FOOD SERVICES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This 42 U.S.C. §1983 ("Section 1983") action was brought by Cook County Department of Corrections ("County Jail") inmate Montee Lavon Moore ("Moore") against three defendants--Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart ("Sheriff Dart"), food service purveyor Aramark Correctional Food Services ("Aramark") and Anderson Pest Control ("Anderson")--because he holds them responsible for assertedly deplorable conditions involving the food provided to County Jail inmates. According to Moore, as he was carrying out his assignment of passing out lunches at the County Jail, he found a live mouse among the lunches, and that discovery triggered his filing of the Complaint.*fn1

That filing in turn generated the issuance of three earlier opinions by this Court:

1. Opinion I, issued April 12, 2011, confirmed Moore's entitlement to go forward in forma pauperis under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1915, identified the possible need for a Pavey hearing and, in the interim, arranged for service of process and setting an initial status hearing.

2. Opinion II, issued June 30, identified the need for Sheriff Dart to correct some pleading errors in his Answer and granted Anderson's then-tendered Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 12(b)(6) motion for its dismissal on the ground that it is not a "state actor," as Section 1983 requires.

3. Opinion III was a July 6 supplement to Opinion II, following up on the potential Pavey issue that would compel the dismissal of the entire action if Moore had failed to exhaust administrative remedies (42 U.S.C. §1997e(a)).

At this point only Aramark remains as a defendant because Moore and Sheriff Dart have settled their differences, resulting in the July 11 dismissal of the claims against Sheriff Dart with prejudice.

Now Aramark has submitted its own Rule 12(b)(6) motion seeking its dismissal, having noticed that motion up for presentment on July 27. As was the case with Anderson, that motion is unanswerable, so that there is no need to await the presentment date before ruling. Only a brief explanation is required.

As a private contractor hired to provide food services as the County Jail, Aramark does not fit the Section 1983 concept of being a "state actor"--in the words of the statute, of acting "under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage of any State." Indeed, even if it were otherwise--even if Aramark could be brought into the "state actor" net by analogy to Burton v. Wilmington Pkg. Auth., 365 U.S. 715 (1961)--so that Aramark's actions were to be viewed as "fairly attributable to the state" (see Lugar v. Edmonson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982)), Moore would still founder--this time on the need to show individual rather than respondeat superior liability on Aramark's part (Palmer v. Marion Cty., 327 F.3d 588, 594 (7th Cir. 2003)).

There is a good deal more that could be said. Aramark's 14-page supporting memorandum of law cites substantial caselaw--several of the cases involving Aramark itself--that has consistently rejected Section 1983 liability under comparable circumstances. In short, as stated earlier, nothing that Moore could offer up could stave off the inevitable. This action is dismissed.*fn2


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