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Jaclyn Currie v. Tom Cundiff

March 22, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge:


In December 2008, Phillip Okoro, who was being held in the Williamson County Jail, died as a result of diabetic ketoacidosis.*fn1 Plaintiff Jaclyn Currie, as administrator of Okoro's estate, and as the personal representative of his heirs, brought suit on October 14, 2009 (Doc. 2). Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 59) now controls. Plaintiff brings suit against prison officials, the contract healthcare providers and their employer, Health Professionals, Ltd., and Williamson County, Illinois. The 93-count complaint asserts the following claims:

Counts I-XV: civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S. C. § 1983;

Counts XVI-XXX: claims under the Illinois Wrongful Death

Act, 740 ILCS 180/1;

Counts XXXI-XLV: claims under the Illinois Survival Act, 755

ILCS 5/27-6;

Counts XLVI-LX: claims under the Illinois Family Expense

Act, 750 ILCS 65/15, and the common law;

Counts LXI-LXXV: state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress;

Counts LXXVI-LXVII: state law claims of respondeat superior liability;

Count LXXVIII: a state law claim for indemnification; Counts LXXIX-XCIII: state law claims for willful and wanton conduct.

Defendant Vick, as the current Sheriff of Williamson County, is sued in his official capacity only. Defendant Cundiff, the former Sheriff, and Defendant Tyner, Captain of the Williamson County Jail, are both sued in their official and individual capacities. The Second Amended Complaint does not specify in what capacity the other individual defendants are sued, and Defendants have not raised this issue. For purposes of the claims under 42 U.S. C. § 1983, they will be considered to be sued in their individual capacities. See Miller v. Smith, 220 F.3d 491, 493-494 (7th Cir. 2000); Hill v. Shelander, 924 F.2d 1370, 1373-1374 (7th Cir. 1991).

Before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Bennie Vick, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Williamson County, Tom Cundiff, individually and in his official capacity as former Sheriff of Williamson County; Captain Gary Tyner, individually and in his official capacity as Captain of the Williamson County Jail, the County of Williamson, Lieutenant David Sweetin, Lieutenant Robert Craig, Sergeant Dennis Pinkerton, Officer Darren Ferrell, Officer Ryan Horn, Officer Brandi Milani and Officer C.J. Watts (Doc. 89).*fn2 Plaintiff Jaclyn Currie has filed a response (Doc. 97), to which the Defendants have replied (Doc. 100).

1.Synopsis of Material Facts

Defendants' motion (Doc. 89) and Plaintiff's response (Doc. 97) both contain detailed recitations of the facts, with citations to deposition testimony and documentation. There is little dispute regarding the majority of the facts underlying this case, so only a synopsis is necessary to place the issues in context. Factual disputes and Plaintiff's expert opinion evidence will be discussed separately, if necessary for the resolution of Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

On October 16, 2008, Phillip Okoro was arrested after a neighbor complained that Okoro had thrown a rock through her car window. Okoro was charged with Criminal Damage to Property, a misdemeanor offense. He was taken to the Williamson County Jail, and that is where he stayed until his death on December 23, 2008.

At all relevant times, Defendant Tom Cundiff was the Sheriff of Williamson County. Gary Tyner was Captain and Administrator of the Jail. Lieutenant Dave Sweetin's was responsible for ensuring inmates received the proper diabetic meals, based on a diabetic menu plan produced by Marion Memorial Hospital. Defendants Craig, Pinkerton, Ferrell, Watts, Milani and Horn were all correctional officers at the Jail.

Health Professionals, Ltd., ("HPL") was the contract provider of healthcare services for the Williamson County Jail. HPL provided correctional officers with training regarding general health and mental health. Correctional officers also received mental health training at the St. Clair County Correctional Academy. HPL is responsible for inmate health assessments, provision of general health care, and advising the Jail administration and correctional officers regarding medical services. HPL also provides prescription medications for inmates and detainees, as prescribed by HPL doctors. Pursuant to the contract with HPL, Dr. Chhabra works at the Jail 2 hours per week, and is available on-call 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Nurse Lynn, a registered nurse, is at the Jail 25 hours per week, and is otherwise on-call 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

HPL medical providers set the protocol for diabetics housed at the Jail. The standard protocol for diabetic detainees and inmates is to check blood sugar levels twice daily and administer the appropriate dosage of insulin. Diabetic detainees and inmates at the Jail are provided three diabetic meals per day and also a diabetic snack each evening. HPL trained the correctional officers at the Jail how to use Accu-Check blood sugar meters, chart the levels and administer insulin. Nurse Lynn instructed the officers how to administer the insulin. It was the correctional officers, not HPL staff, who routinely delivered the food and carried out the monitoring and insulin injections. This was due in part because Okoro had once thrown an insulin needle at Nurse Lynn, and there had been other behavioral concerns (and, presumably, because Nurse Lynn only worked at the Jail 25 hours per week). As a practical matter, the officers allowed Okoro to administer the insulin shot himself. The officers would direct any questions to Nurse Lynn. Also, if, for example, a diabetic inmate did not eat his diabetic meal, that would be reported to Nurse Lynn. Nurse Lynn and Dr. Chhabra monitored the records of Okoro's insulin levels and injections.

Franklin-Williamson Human Services, not HPL, was the contract provider of mental health evaluations and services. Darla Dawson, who has a bachelor's degree in psychology, was the crisis counselor assigned to the Jail.

After Okoro was brought to Jail on October 16, 2008, Rebecca Nance, who is not named as a defendant, completed Okoro's booking chart in the computer, noting that Okoro had stated that he was taking medication for diabetes; that fact was also relayed to Nurse Lynn. At an unspecified time, Okoro's foster-father also called and relayed to Captain Tyner that Okoro was diabetic.

On the first day Okoro was incarcerated, Nurse Lynn met with him and discussed his diabetes. According to Lynn, Okoro was uncooperative and not forthcoming with information, but she did glean that he did not recall the last time he had checked his blood sugar or taken insulin. Nurse Lynn subsequently discussed Okoro's medical history with Dr. Chhabra, who assessed what was needed and established the appropriate treatment protocol. Okoro's blood sugar was to be checked twice daily (8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.); a specific dosage of insulin was to be administered in the morning and afternoon and, if needed, additional units of insulin were to be administered based on a sliding scale.

Mental health worker Darla Dawson reviewed Okoro's medical file, spoke with Nurse Lynn and met with Okoro. Dawson considered Okoro moderately depressed, and she opined that Okoro did not need any further mental health evaluations or psychiatric treatment. She recommended that he remain in isolation for the safety of himself, the guards and the medical staff. She further recommended that the Jail continue to monitor and treat his diabetes. Finally, she recommended that the Jail contact Franklin-Williamson Human Services as needed.

On October 28, 2008, Dr. Chhabra reviewed Okoro's charts (including Dawson's report) and examined him in person. Okoro's medication and treatment protocol were not adjusted.

On November 11, 2008, Dr. Klug (not a defendant in this case) conducted a mental fitness examination in connection with Okoro's criminal case. Dr. Klug noted apparent auditory hallucinations and persecutory delusions. Dr. Klug also observed that Okoro's blood sugar level was "not controlled," he was "not in good shape," and '[h]e certainly needs treatment." "Something needs to be done." Dr. Klug reported to the Court that Okoro was not competent to stand trial. Doc. 97, Exhibts N, JJ.

Although the Jail is equipped with a video recording system, audio is not recorded, and there is no direct view of Isolation Cell #1, where Okoro was celled at the time of his death. Consequently, only a video of the hallway outside the cell is available. Correctional Officers are required to check on inmates every 30 minutes (or less), and there are logs of these checks.

Correctional Officer Watts recalls that on the afternoon before Okoro died, Okoro had made a joking remark about getting a "computer phone" and then being able to get more dates than Dennis Pinkerton. Leading up to the emergency situation on December 23, 2008, Officers Horn and Crites were the last to check on Okoro. Horn checked at 7:56:30 a.m., and Crites checked at 7:57:36 a.m. The last official log entry was at 8:24:19 a.m. on December 23, 2008. Officers Ferrell, Milani, Horn, Watts and Crites gathered at Okoro's cell to perform the morning insulin check and injection, but Okoro did not respond. Horn and Ferrell entered the cell, recognized the emergency and began CPR. According to Horn, Okoro's body had changed position from when he last checked Okoro's cell at 7:56 a.m. The surveillance video recording does not show anyone going into Okoro's cell between Horn's cell check and when the team arrived to administer insulin. An emergency was declared at 8:24 a.m. An ambulance was called and Okoro was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy indicated that Okoro died of the consequences of diabetic ketoacidosis (Doc. 97, Exhibit DD).

As a point of reference, Dr. Louis Philipson, Plaintiff's expert regarding diabetes and ketoacidosis, explains:

Symptoms include thirst, decreased vision, increased urination, weight loss, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, headache, and a fruity smell on the breath. Death can result from low blood pH, which can cause altered mental status and cardiac arrest. In the case of chronic ketosis, the patient with diabetes can become accustomed to the slow onset of symptoms and many if not all of the usual symptoms might not appear. Over many days the patient builds up a level of ketones and ketoacids that can cause fluid and electrolyte shifts, abnormalities in potassium, sodium and other electrolyte in the blood, so that an arrythmia resulting in cardiac arrest or a stroke from the hypercoagulable state is a common cause of death.

Doc. 97, Exhibit V, pp. 9-10.

2.Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if 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); Mercatus Group, LLC v. Lake Forest Hospital, 641 F.3d 834, 839 (7th Cir. 2011). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for ...

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