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Anthony Renth v. Robert Hertz and Michael Elliott

April 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on the motion to dismiss filed by defendant Robert Hertz pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which the Court has construed as a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 10). Plaintiff Anthony Renth has responded to the motion (Doc. 14).

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir. 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.

II. Facts

Viewed in Renth's favor, the evidence establishes the following relevant facts.

Renth was detained from October to December 2009 in the Madison County Jail first as a pretrial detainee, then after a guilty plea on October 6, 2009, as a convicted felon.*fn1 Hertz was the Madison County Sheriff and was in charge of the jail.

At some point, Renth and defendant Michael Elliot were both housed on cellblock D-South of the jail. Elliot had been convicted in the past of robbery and was being detained on first degree murder charges in which it was alleged that he tortured and killed a disabled pregnant woman. He had also been involved in an altercation with another jail inmate, Bradley Vowels, on September 9, 2009. In contrast, Renth was a middle-aged non-violent career drug offender.

Renth and Elliot were housed on the same cellblock pursuant to a jail policy that provided cellblock D-South would house only felony detainees. The policy delegates cell assignments to the jail deputy. It allows the deputy to consider the reason for detention, the inmate's sex, health, age, type of offense charged and prior record, and any need to separate from other inmates involved in the inmate's case when making cell and cellblock assignments. It also allows an inmate to be moved to another cell or cellblock.

Hertz has no day-to-day involvement with the housing assignments of inmates pursuant to the policy. He did not personally make the decision to house Renth or Elliot on cellblock D-South, was not aware of Renth's housing assignment, and did not know that Elliot posed a specific threat to Renth's safety. Renth did not complain to Hertz about any danger from Elliot or from being housed on cellblock D-South, and he did not ask to be given a different housing assignment. Although Hertz was aware that Elliot had gotten into an altercation with Vowels in the past, his investigation did not reveal who was at fault for the conflict. Hertz was not aware of any other altercation involving Elliot.

On December 26, 2009, Elliot assaulted and injured Renth. After the incident, Hertz first became aware that Renth and Elliot had been housed on the same cellblock and that Elliot posed a risk to Renth.

In December 2010, Renth filed a negligence lawsuit in state court. In August 2011, Renth amended his complaint to allege a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Eighth Amendment right not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment. He believes Hertz was deliberately indifferent to his safety needs by placing him on the same cellblock as Elliot and by failing to prevent Elliot's assault.

Hertz asks the Court to dismiss the claim against him because he was not aware of any danger Elliot posed to Renth, an essential element of a deliberate indifference claim. In response, Renth argues that Hertz was deliberately indifferent to his safety by placing him on the same cellblock as Elliot, which Hertz should have known posed a danger to Renth. Renth also believes Hertz should ...

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