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Jaclyn Currie v. Tom Cundiff

May 10, 2012

JACLYN CURRIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOM CUNDIFF, WILLIAMSON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, UNKNOWN EMPLOYEES AND SUPERVISORS OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY JAIL, GARY TYNER, DAVID SWEETIN, ROBERT CRAIG, DENNIS PINKERTON, OFFICER DARREN FERRELL, OFFICER R. HORN, OFFICER BRANDY MILANI, OFFICER C.J. WATTS, HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, LTD., DOCTOR JOGENDRA CHHABRA, MARILYN ANN LYNN, AND BENNIE VICK, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

From a practical standpoint, punitive damages appear quite important to the parties' respective strategic positions, and to how this case will be tried. Therefore, in advance of trial, the reasonable likelihood of the availability of punitive damages relative to the remaining claims must be assessed, as well as the proper burden of proof for such damages. All parties have briefed the issues (see Docs. 163 & 165).

1. The Nature of the Case and Procedural History

In December 2008, Phillip Okoro, who was being held in the Williamson County Jail, died as a result of diabetic ketoacidosis. 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 originally brought suit against Williamson County, Illinois, various jail officials, the contract healthcare providers and their employer, Health Professionals, Ltd. At this juncture, the Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 159) controls, and the only remaining claims are against the contract healthcare providers, Dr. Chhabra and Nurse Reynolds, and their employer, Health Professionals, Ltd. The complaint asserts the following claims:

Counts 1-3: civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S. C. § 1983;

Counts 4-6: claims under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/1;

Counts 7-9: claims under the Illinois Survival Act, 755 ILCS 5/27-6;

Counts 10-12: state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress;

Count 13: a state law claim against only Health

Professionals, Ltd., asserting respondeat superior liability;

Counts 14-16: state law claims for willful and wanton conduct.

2. Plaintiff's Prayer for Relief

A review of the Third Amended Complaint (and the original Complaint) reveals that the claims seek varying damages. For example, the Section 1983 claims seek only "damages," while the wrongful death claims specify a variety of specific damages. None of the 16 claims include a specific prayer for punitive damages. However, the complaint includes a general "Request for Relief," which specifically requests punitive damages.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has not decided whether punitive damages must be specifically pled in a complaint, but it has observed that it is the law of the Circuit that "district courts should afford the prevailing party the relief to which it is entitled without regard to errors in the pleadings." Soltys v. Costello, 520 F.3d 737 742 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Employers Reinsurance Corp., 144 F.3d 1077, 1080 (7th Cir. 1998)).*fn1 The Court has discretion to award both legal and equitable relief as appropriate. Old Republic Insurance Co., 144 F.3rd at 1080; Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c), Advisory Committee Note to 1937 Adoption, Subdivision (c). With respect to the ...


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