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Pierce v. Cook County

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

September 4, 2014

COOK COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). For the following reasons, the court grants in part and denies in part the motion.


Plaintiff, Joseph Pierce, has brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Cook County Correctional Officers Jason Earl, Shenita Winston, [1] Anthony Parker, Michael Matanic, Norlander Young, Gordon (no first name given), and Mason (no first name given);[2] unknown Correctional Officers; the Cook County Sheriff (the "Sheriff"); and Cook County (the "County"). Pierce alleges that on July 21, 2011, while he was a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail (the "Jail"), the defendant correctional officers "severely" beat and kicked him while other defendant correctional officers stood by and failed to intervene. (Compl. ¶ 9.) As a result, plaintiff allegedly suffered serious eye trauma and fractures to his orbital and jaw bones. The complaint contains four counts: § 1983 excessive force and failure to intervene against the defendant officers (Count I); state-law battery against the defendant officers (Count II); respondeat superior against the Sheriff (Count III); and indemnification against the County (Count IV).

Defendants move for summary judgment.


A. Summary Judgment Standards

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering such a motion, the court construes the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Kvapil v. Chippewa County, Wis. , 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014). "Summary judgment should be denied if the dispute is genuine': if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Talanda v. KFC Nat'l Mgmt. Co. , 140 F.3d 1090, 1095 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)); see also Bunn v. Khoury Enters., Inc. , 753 F.3d 676, 681-82 (7th Cir. 2014). The court will enter summary judgment against a party who does not "come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in [its] favor on a material question." Modrowski v. Pigatto , 712 F.3d 1166, 1167 (7th Cir. 2013).

B. Facts

On August 27, 2010, Pierce entered the Jail after his arrest for armed robbery. He remained there until he was convicted and sentenced in late 2011 to ten years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Pierce is currently in custody at the Pontiac Correctional Center. (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' L.R. 56.1 Statement ¶ 2; Defs.' L.R. 56.1 Statement, Ex. B, Dep. of Joseph Pierce at 43.)

Plaintiff contends that on July 21, 2011, defendant Earl was escorting him to a court appearance when Earl and other officers, including Gordon, stopped him in a hallway and beat him up in retaliation for derogatory comments plaintiff had made to Earl earlier that morning. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 9, 18-21.) According to plaintiff, Gordon told him to stand against the wall; Earl then said, "Talk that shit now, " and punched plaintiff in the left eye. Gordon then punched plaintiff twice. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 19-20.) Plaintiff fell to the floor, and Gordon, Earl, and another officer stomped on and beat plaintiff. (Pierce Dep. at 93-94.) Other officers allegedly arrived and joined in, beating plaintiff with their walkie-talkies and kicking, punching, and stomping on him. ( Id. at 90, 96.) Plaintiff estimates that at least 13 officers punched him more than 100 times and stomped on him more than 100 times. ( Id. at 99, 124-26.)

Plaintiff was transported to the Cook County Hospital (the "Hospital") that day. The next day, he was transferred from the Hospital to Cermak Health Services ("Cermak"), the medical division of the Jail. He was transferred back to the Hospital on August 8, 2011 and then back to Cermak on August 11, 2011. (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s L.R. 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 51-53.) Plaintiff states that he had surgery on October 1, 2011 "to repair [his] orbital bone and reposition [his] left eye." (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A, Aff. of Joseph Pierce ¶ 8.)

C. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Pierce alleges in Count I that the defendant officers used excessive force or failed to intervene during the use of excessive force, thereby violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants first argue that Pierce failed to exhaust the Jail's administrative remedies prior to bringing suit, as the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA") requires. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) ("No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted."); Fluker v. County of Kankakee , 741 F.3d 787, 791 (7th Cir. 2013). "[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle , 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). ...

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