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Hernandez v. Dart

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 16, 2014

THOMAS DART, Sheriff of Cook County, and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.


JAMES B. ZAGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jose Hernandez has brought this action pursuant to Section 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. § 794(a), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Thomas Dart, Sheriff of Cook County, and Defendant Cook County, Illinois. Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Dart in his individual capacity pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.


Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at Cook County Jail. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. Plaintiff entered the jail on June 12, 2013. Id. During Plaintiff's processing, Cook County medical personnel determined that Plaintiff, who is wheelchair bound, required placement in a housing unit compliant with the ADA. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff was not assigned to an ADA compliant housing unit; rather, he was placed in a housing unit that did not have access to handicap-accessible showers or toilets, lacked accessories to accommodate his disability, and did not have proper facilities for visitation. Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff complained to staff and filed grievances requesting to be placed in an ADA compliant unit. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff claims that grievance forms were not regularly available, were difficult to file with appropriate staff, and could be classified as "requests" at the discretion of prison staff, resulting in many grievances being ignored. Id. ¶¶ 19-21. Plaintiff was not moved to an ADA compliant housing unit, and alleges that he incurred injuries as a result. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Further, Plaintiff alleges that during a medical visit to an area hospital, he was "shackled to a hospital bed." Id. ¶¶ 16-18.


When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court treats all well-pled allegations as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Justice v. Town of Cicero, 577 F.3d 768, 771 (7th Cir. 2009). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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. Id.


Defendants argue that Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against Defendant Dart in his individual capacity should be dismissed because: (1) Plaintiff failed to plead enough facts that Defendant Dart had individual knowledge of or condoned any alleged constitutional violation specific to Plaintiff; (2) assignment to a non-ADA compliant housing unit is not actionable under § 1983 as there is no apparent constitutional basis or federal law entitling pretrial detainees to specific housing; and (3) § 1983 cannot be used to remedy a violation of a federal statute if the statute already contains enforcement mechanisms. Defs.' Second Mot. Dismiss at 3-4. Defendants further argue that Defendant Dart's involvement in the creation or implementation of prison policies was in his capacity as a duly elected official. Id. at 4.

A. Individual Liability

To receive § 1983 relief against an individual defendant, a plaintiff must establish (1) that the defendant acted under color of state law, and (2) that the defendant deprived him of a constitutional or federal right. Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 606 (7th Cir. 2005).

Generally, "[m]isuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law, is action taken under color of' state law." United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 326 (1941). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Dart misused his power by creating a deliberately indifferent policy of assigning disabled detainees to non-ADA compliant housing as the sheriff of Cook County. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. While Plaintiff does not plead any specific facts to establish that Defendant Dart acted under the color of state law, Defendants do not contest whether Plaintiff established this element and Plaintiff sufficiently alleges that Defendant acted under the color of law.

Defendants challenge whether Defendant Dart can be individually liable for action taken in his capacity as a duly elected official. Defs.' Second Mot. Dismiss at 4; Reply at 4. Individual capacity suits attempt to attach liability on government officials for actions committed under the color of state law. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). Official capacity suits are usually another way of pleading an action against a government entity of which an officer is an agent. Id. at 165-66 (quoting Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55 (1978)). In an official capacity suit, the government entity must have policies or customs in place that are a "moving force" in the alleged constitutional or federal law violations. Id. at 166 (quoting Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326 (1981)). Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against Defendant Dart is not an official capacity claim. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Dart's policies at the prison were the cause of the constitutional violations faced by Plaintiff. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendant Dart had discretionary power to create policies and customs in the prison, under the color of law as Sheriff, of which Cook County was not the moving force. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 14, 18-21. Plaintiff adequately alleges that Defendant Dart may be individually liable for constitutional violations committed under the color of state law. Graham, 473 U.S. at 165-66.

Plaintiff alleges two constitutional violations against Defendant Dart. First, Plaintiff alleges that in not being assigned to ADA compliant housing, Defendant violated his Fourteenth Amendment right not to be punished by depriving Plaintiff of adequate medical care. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 8. Second, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated his Fourth and Fourteenth ...

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