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Mike Woods v. Officer Evan Fermaint

August 17, 2012

MIKE WOODS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER EVAN FERMAINT, OFFICER HON. HARRY D. LEINENWEBER ROBERT MAAS, THOMAS DART, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, AND THE COUNTY OF COOK, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry D. Leinenweber, JudgeUnited States District Court

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are agreed upon by the parties, unless otherwise indicated.

On April 2, 2010, Plaintiff Mike Woods ("Woods") was an "up and coming" chief of the Vice Lords gang and was being held in Cook County Jail's Division 10, Tier 3-A. He was one of three or four Vice Lords who were greatly outnumbered on the tier by members of a rival gang, the Gangster Disciples, who comprised essentially the remainder of the tier population. Exactly how many people the remainder constituted was not specified, but Defendant Officer Robert Maas ("Maas") testified the tier can hold 48 inmates and half of them can be out of their cells in the tier's common area at a time.

Maas was supervising inmates on the 3-A Tier that day, but went to lunch at approximately 11:45 a.m. or 12:00 noon. He was relieved by Defendant Officer Evan Fermaint ("Fermaint"). A short time later, Fermaint left the tier to provide assistance to another officer and returned in approximately 10 minutes.

While Fermaint was gone, several Gangster Disciples attacked Woods and two other Vice Lords, including Jerome Moore ("Moore"). Woods was stabbed multiple times. Fermaint testified that when he returned he saw evidence that a fight had occurred and he felt it might soon resume, so he called for other officers. Moore, in a written statement, said Fermaint at that point did not call for assistance. All parties agree that when the fight did resume shortly after Fermaint's return, he issued a "10-10" alarm over his radio, signaling a fight was in progress. Backup soon arrived to separate the inmates.

Woods alleges a violation by both Maas and Fermaint of his Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for failing to protect him while in custody. He also sues Sheriff Tom Dart ("Dart") and Cook County (the "County") for indemnification. Although the initial Complaint named several other Defendants, Maas, Fermaint, Dart and the County are the only defendants remaining in the Amended Complaint. Further relevant facts are discussed below.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Windle v. City of Marion, 321 F.3d 658, 660-661 (7th Cir. 2003). The record is reviewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Ramsey v. Mellinger, No. 97-4250, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 8993, at *5 (7th Cir. May 6, 1999). When a moving party supports a motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other evidence, the adverse party, by affidavits or other evidence, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Failure to Protect

The source of the Constitutional right at issue here is the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, but because Woods was a pre-trial detainee, the Fourteenth, rather than the Eighth Amendment, applies. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 910 (7th Cir. 2005). However, there is little practical difference between the two standards in this instance and therefore § 1983 claims are to be analyzed under the Eighth Amendment test laid out in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). Id.

To prevail on a claim of failure to protect, an inmate must show that (1) he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, and (2) that defendant-officials acted with ...


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