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Potts v. Manos

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

November 7, 2013

REGINALD M. POTTS, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
SERGEANT JOHN MANOS, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Reginald M. Potts, Jr., has filed a second amended complaint against various employees of Cook County Jail ("Cook County Jail" or the "Jail") in their individual capacities, Cook County, and Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart in both his individual and official capacities. (Dkt. 52.) Potts alleges claims for excessive force, failure to protect, liability pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), and statutory indemnification. ( Id. ) The sole issue before the court is whether Potts has alleged sufficient facts against Dart in his individual capacity to survive Dart's motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 72.) For the following reasons, Dart's motion is denied.[1]

BACKGROUND[2]

Potts is a pretrial detainee at Cook County Jail. He has been repeatedly subjected to excessive force by Jail employees despite having filed "dozens of grievances" and having "pleaded directly to policymakers and supervisors at the Cook County Jail on numerous occasions about the improper use of pepper spray and excessive force by Jail employees." (Dkt. 52 ¶ 4.) Potts alleges one incident in particular that occurred on May 27, 2009. According to Potts, he was taking a shower at the Jail when a Jail employee turned off the water and then sprayed Potts with oleoresin capiscum spray ("OC spray"), or pepper spray. Jail employees refused to allow Potts to shower to remove the spray. They then handcuffed and shackled Potts and fitted him with a waist chain to take him to the medical unit to be treated for the pepper spray. On the way there, Jail employees allegedly twisted Potts' cuffed wrist and dragged him on the concrete, causing Potts to suffer injuries to his head, back and ankles. Potts alleges he reported the incident to Jail supervisors but that they took no action to investigate the force.

This shower incident is but one instance of physical abuse at Cook County Jail and is part of a pattern and practice of unlawful actions. Potts enumerates multiple other incidents in which he was physically abused or otherwise mistreated by Jail employees. After each instance, he complained to or notified Jail supervisors but does not know if any action was taken to investigate his allegations or take corrective action against any Jail employee.

Potts has repeatedly notified a class of defendants he labels the "Supervisor Defendants" - including Dart - about the conditions of his confinement at the Jail. He also notes a Jail policy that requires a "Use of Force" report to be filled out every time a Jail employee uses OC spray or other force on a detainee. He thus states,

On information and belief, some or all of the Supervisor Defendants received such reports or were otherwise notified each time a Jail employee used force on Potts. On information and belief, video cameras recorded each time a jail employee used force, and the video recordings are in the possession or control of the Cook County Sheriff's Office. In addition, on information and belief, the Supervisor Defendants participated in high-level meetings in which the use of force against Potts was discussed.

( Id. ¶ 33.)

Based on these allegations, Potts states that "the Supervisor Defendants were thus personally aware that Jail employees were repeatedly using excessive force on Potts, not to maintain or restore discipline, but instead to maliciously cause Potts harm." ( Id. ¶ 34.) By failing to protect Potts and ignoring his grievances and complaints, Jail employees were deliberately indifferent to the risks Potts faced, violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Potts' Fourteenth Amendment rights. In addition to alleging Count II against Dart in his individual capacity, Potts alleges three other counts against different defendants and/or against Dart in his official capacity. In Count I, Potts alleges a claim against various Jail employees for violation of § 1983 by using excessive force against him. In Count III, he alleges that the policy and practice of Jail employees of using excessive force on detainees results in Monell liability against Dart in his official capacity, [3] and in Count IV he alleges that the Cook County Sheriff is responsible for paying any tort judgment for compensatory damages for which Cook County employees are liable within the scope of their employment, and that Cook County is liable to pay any judgment for compensatory damages entered against the defendants.[4]

Dart has moved to dismiss the second amended complaint, arguing that he cannot be liable in his individual capacity for Potts' alleged harm. (Dkt. 72.)

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 486 (7th Cir. 2002). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis, but must also establish that the requested relief is plausible on its face. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. At the same time, the plaintiff need not plead legal theories. Hatmaker v. Mem'l Med. Ctr., 619 F.3d 741, 743 (7th Cir. 2010). Rather, it is the facts that count.

ANALYSIS[5]

Dart argues that the complaint provides no factual basis to conclude that he was personally involved in any unconstitutional conduct. (Dkt. 72 at 3.) He asserts that Potts' statement that Dart participated in "high-level meetings in which the use of force against Potts was discussed" (dkt. 52 ¶ 33) is insufficient to meet requisite pleading standards. (Dkt. 72 at 2-3.) Potts responds that (1) he has met and exceeded the Twombly and Iqbal pleading standards; (2) cases from this district support his argument that a pretrial detainee can bring suit against the Cook County Sheriff in his individual capacity where the Sheriff had personal knowledge of ...


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