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Pittman v. County of Madison, Illinois

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 10, 2014


Argued October 1, 2013.

Page 767

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 3:08-cv-00890-DRH-DGW -- David R. Herndon, Chief Judge.

For REGINALD PITTMAN, by and through his guardian and next friend, ROBIN M. HAMILTON, Plaintiff - Appellant: Ross T. Anderson, Attorney, East St. Louis, IL.

For MADISON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, JOSEPH GULASH, Captain, ROBERT HERTZ, Sheriff, RANDY EATON, Sergeant, BARBARA J. UNFRIED, Defendants - Appellees: John L. Gilbert, Attorney, Philip Lading, Attorney, SANDBERG, PHOENIX & VON GONTARD, Edwardsville, IL; William P. Hardy, Attorney, HINSHAW & CULBERTSON, Springfield, IL.

Before CUDAHY, RIPPLE, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.


Page 768

Ripple, Circuit Judge.

Reginald Pittman attempted suicide on December 19, 2007, when he was a pretrial detainee at the Madison County Jail. By and through his guardian and appointed next friend, Robin M. Hamilton, Mr. Pittman later brought claims against the County of Madison, Illinois and various officials of the jail under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois state law. He alleged that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his risk of suicide and that they exhibited willful and wanton conduct by failing to provide adequate medical care and to protect him from suicide. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. It concluded that Mr. Pittman had failed to produce sufficient evidence of deliberate indifference or willful and wanton conduct. We believe that a genuine issue of triable of fact exists with respect to the claims against Deputy Werner and Sergeant Eaton. We agree that summary judgment was properly entered with respect to the other defendants, except insofar as Sheriff Hertz and the County may have vicarious liability on the state law claim for the actions of Deputy Werner and Sergeant Eaton. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the district court. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.




Mr. Pittman, a pretrial detainee at the Madison County Jail, attempted to commit suicide

Page 769

by hanging himself from the bars of his cell with a blanket. His attempt resulted in an ischemic anoxic injury to his brain, which rendered him severely brain-damaged and disabled. At the time of this suicide attempt, Sheriff Robert Hertz was the Madison County sheriff; Captain Joseph Gulash was the captain in charge of the jail; Lieutenant Renee Stephenson, Sergeant Randy Eaton, Officer Matt Werner and Officer Jeffrey Hartsoe worked at the jail; Barbara J. Unfried was the jail's nursing director; and Dr. Robert Blankenship was the jail's medical director.[1]


During intake procedures at the jail in August 2007, Mr. Pittman reported that he had no major medical problems, no thoughts about killing or injuring himself, no previous suicide attempts, no signs of depression and no psychiatric history. On October 20, however, he told an officer in the jail that he was suicidal. Mr. Pittman was moved to a holding cell and placed on a fifteen-minute suicide watch. Jail records show that Deputy Werner decided at 10:30 p.m. that night to refer Mr. Pittman to a social worker for evaluation when the social worker came on duty the next day.

On the next day, October 21, Mr. Pittman spoke to medical staff at the jail. Notes from the visit record that Mr. Pittman reported no suicidal ideation but stated that he was unhappy with his housing unit because people there yelled and did not sleep. Mr. Pittman was referred to mental health services, where he was seen on October 22.

The jail contracts with a mental health company, Chestnut Health Systems (" CRISIS" ), to provide mental health services to detainees and inmates. Tracy Karvinen, a crisis intervention specialist with CRISIS, evaluated Mr. Pittman on October 22. Before her meeting with Mr. Pittman, Karvinen sought his records by phone and learned that he had been evaluated by CRISIS twice in January 2005. Karvinen was told by recordkeepers over the phone that " there was really no history" for Mr. Pittman; [2] she was not given the details of his previous encounters with CRISIS. In fact, unknown to Karvinen, one of Mr. Pittman's encounters with CRISIS had been an episode in January 2005 when Mr. Pittman had been evaluated because he had made suicidal statements during an arrest. During the evaluation following that 2005 arrest, however, Mr. Pittman had denied suicidal ideation and stated that he had never been suicidal.

During his October 22, 2007, meeting with Karvinen, Mr. Pittman was oriented, cooperative and alert; he strongly denied any suicidal ideation or previous suicide attempts. He did present, however, with an anxious, depressed mood, had learned recently of a cousin's death, and reported sleeping problems and missing his family. Mr. Pittman also told Karvinen that he had no mental health or substance abuse treatment history.

Page 770

In a progress note, Karvinen recorded that Mr. Pittman had sought her help in changing housing and " stated that he [had] told [jail] staff that he was suicidal in hopes that they would move him out of the lock down block," [3] where he had been for the previous thirty days. Karvinen concluded that Mr. Pittman's " thought content was on his legal status and wanting to get out of the lock down block." [4] Karvinen and Mr. Pittman discussed and signed a safety contract, which provided that he agreed to inform jail staff if he began to have thoughts of harming himself. After the visit, Karvinen discussed Mr. Pittman's status with jail staff, and they determined that he could be placed in the general population of the jail.

Just over a week later, on October 30, 2007, Mr. Pittman filled out a sick call slip indicating that he needed to see CRISIS and that he could not sleep. Jail staff contacted Karvinen about his request, and she again evaluated him at the jail on October 30. In a progress note from that visit, Karvinen repeated that Mr. Pittman had reported being suicidal on October 22 " in hopes to go to suicide watch then to another block other than lock down." [5] She noted that he strongly denied any current suicidal ideation or past suicide attempts and was oriented, cooperative and alert, though he presented with an anxious, depressed mood and was tearful during the meeting. Mr. Pittman stated that he was " very upset and freaking out" because he had discovered that his girlfriend was " cheating on [him]" ; he also claimed that he " need[ed] out of here" because he could not stop crying and " can't be back there crying in the blocks." [6] Mr. Pittman told Karvinen that he had requested housing in " seg," a segregated unit, because he could not stop crying and did not want to be around anyone. Karvinen did not consider Mr. Pittman suicidal on October 30.

Karvinen discussed Mr. Pittman's situation with a jail lieutenant, who also spoke with Mr. Pittman. The lieutenant informed Mr. Pittman that he could be placed in segregation temporarily, but that he eventually would have to return to the general population. Jail logs for October 30 record that Mr. Pittman was " housed in the female drunk tank" on a thirty-minute watch.[7] The log notes that he was " NOT suicidal but very upset over problems at home. [Pittman] cried throughout the [CRISIS] interview and needed time to gather his thoughts." [8]

Mr. Pittman was also seen by Nurse Unfried on October 31 after he complained of sleeplessness and depression. She evaluated him and then contacted Dr. Blankenship by phone. Dr. Blankenship noted in a medical file that he discussed Mr. Pittman's complaints of depression with him. He also ordered a prescription for Sinequan[9] based on Nurse Unfried's evaluation. Dr. Blankenship wrote in the medical file that Mr. Pittman presented no suicidal ideation. He also prescribed Prozac for Mr. Pittman.[10]

Page 771

That same day, October 31, 2007, Karvinen again evaluated Mr. Pittman at the jail's request. Their meeting began at or around two o'clock in the afternoon. Karvinen wrote in a progress note that Mr. Pittman continued to have crying spells but strongly denied any current suicidal ideation or previous suicide attempts. She repeated that his thoughts were on his legal status, his girlfriend and his desire to move out of his housing unit. After Karvinen discussed Mr. Pittman's status with him and with jail staff, she recommended returning him to the general jail population.

Although Mr. Pittman was cleared by CRISIS to return to the general population, he instead had been moved to the " Male Drunk Tank for observation due to personal reasons" by 8:15 p.m. on October 31.[11] Jail logs show that Mr. Pittman had " started crying and said he needed to be moved." [12] On November 1, prison logs show that Mr. Pittman was placed in the Special Housing Unit (" SHU" ) at nine in the morning " per crisis." [13] SHU is a step-down or intermediate unit for detainees outside the general population. By the afternoon of November 1, however, Mr. Pittman was set to be moved back to the general population after prison logs recorded that he had been " banging on [the] wall [in] SHU yelling move me I'm not crazy." [14]

A few days later, on November 4, 2007, Mr. Pittman filled out a sick call slip stating that he had been vomiting. He was evaluated by Nurse Unfried the next day, but he reportedly denied having executed the sick call slip. On his way back from visiting the nurse, Mr. Pittman engaged in an altercation with another inmate whom the jail had been attempting to keep separate from him. Captain Gulash subsequently ordered that Mr. Pittman should be shackled and handcuffed whenever he left his cell because of his repeated fights with other inmates.

Mr. Pittman submitted another sick call slip on November 24, 2007, in which he complained of stomach problems, an inability to eat, stress and depression. Nurse Unfried saw him on November 26 and ordered Tagamet.[15]

On December 1, 2007, Mr. Pittman was moved from the general population to " the male drunk tank ... until suitable housing can be found" because he was " throwing feces and urine" at another inmate.[16] He was moved to the SEG-3 housing unit on December 4 " to free up space in the male drunk tank." [17] The SEG-3 housing unit is away from the general population; each detainee there has his own cell with a shower, basin, steel bunk and cell door. When he attempted suicide on December 19, Mr. Pittman was in SEG-3 and was not on suicide watch.

Bradley Banovz, an inmate who was housed in SEG-3 with Mr. Pittman, testified that Mr. Pittman had begun fighting and " moving around" in the jail in response to family problems.[18] He stated that Mr. Pittman was depressed and that

Page 772

he had urged Mr. Pittman to ask for help. Banovz admitted that the only statement that Mr. Pittman ever had made to him indicating that Mr. Pittman might be suicidal was a joke a week before the suicide attempt. Banovz reported that he and Mr. Pittman often ...

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