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Webber v. Pharis

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

February 3, 2015

MARCI WEBBER, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY PHARIS, et al., Defendants.


MANISH S. SHAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, who is involuntarily committed to the Elgin Mental Health Center, alleges that her constitutional rights were violated when the Center's staff manhandled her and forcibly injected her with a sedative. Plaintiff brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against ten workers at the Center, the Center itself, its chief, and the Illinois Department of Human Services. These defendants now all move to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim and lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted in-part, and denied in-part.

I. Legal Standard

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation omitted). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court accepts the well-pleaded facts as true. Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013).

If a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the allegations regarding subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 443-44 (7th Cir. 2009); G & S Holdings LLC v. Continental Casualty Co., 697 F.3d 534, 539 (7th Cir. 2012). "Where jurisdiction is in question, the party asserting a right to a federal forum has the burden of proof, regardless of who raises the jurisdictional challenge...." Craig v. Ontario Corp., 543 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 2008).

II. Background

On May 3, 2014, plaintiff Marci Webber, who is confined to the Elgin Mental Health Center, [1] was seated in the facility's day room. [8] ¶¶ 1-2. Around 7:35 p.m., plaintiff learned from a fellow patient that her snack-time privileges had been restricted by defendant Marva Stroud.[2] Id. ¶ 3. When plaintiff entered the dining room shortly thereafter, she was accosted by Stroud who shouted, "You're not coming in here, you're not coming in here!" Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Defendant Velma Westbrook[3] quickly approached plaintiff as well, sticking her finger in plaintiff's face and shouting at plaintiff to leave the dining room. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff responded by saying, "I need to know why I can't come in." Id. ¶ 7. Westbrook once more put her finger in plaintiff's face, brought her own face close to plaintiff's, and shouted "You're not getting any snack, you're restricted!" Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff said, "You need to get out of my face, " to which Westbrook replied, "Move me, move me!" Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff responded: "You're trying to provoke me so you can make stuff up in my chart." Id. ¶ 10. "That's right, " Westbrook said, "I'm going to make stuff up and put it in your chart." Id. ¶ 11.

At this point, Stroud stepped in between plaintiff and Westbrook such that Stroud and Westbrook were "simultaneously threatening physical violence towards [plaintiff]." Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff walked away from the dining room entrance and calmly returned to her room. Id. ¶ 13. Back at her room, plaintiff calmly spoke with her roommate for about 15 minutes. Id. ¶ 14.

At approximately 7:55 p.m., defendant Zella Nappier, a security guard, arrived at plaintiff's room and told her the nurse wanted to see her. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff followed Nappier down the hallway to the men's day room, where plaintiff was confronted by two additional security guards, defendants William Epperson and Gus Cabezudo. Id. ¶ 16. The three security guards escorted plaintiff another 40 feet to the nurse's station. Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff was directed to follow defendant Gloria Lagunilla, a nurse, into the examination room. Id.

Once in the room, Epperson and Cabezudo grabbed plaintiff from behind. Id. ¶ 18. The two guards secured her arms and thighs, and-bending her body 90 degrees-forced her torso onto an examination table. Id. While plaintiff was incapacitated in this manner, Lagunilla pulled her pants down to expose her buttocks and injected her with Lorazepam-a narcotic sedative. Id. ¶¶ 19, 51.

Following the injection, plaintiff asked to call her lawyer, which she was permitted to do. Id. ¶ 20. She then calmly returned to her room, where she sobbed and cried profusely. Id. ¶ 21.

On September 16, 2014, the substantially same events took place, except involving defendants Syed Hussain, Criselda Rana, Ryma Jacobson, and Vicky Sandhu. Id. ¶ 22. The amended complaint provides no more information about these additional events or defendants.

Plaintiff's five-count amended complaint seeks redress under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her first-, fourth-, eighth-, and fourteenth-amendment rights. In addition to naming all the defendants identified above, plaintiff names the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Elgin Mental Health Center, and the Center's chief, Jeffrey Pharis.

III. Analysis

A. Defendants Hussain, Rana, Jacobson, and Sandhu

Hussain, Rana, Jacobson, and Sandhu move to dismiss Counts I through IV on the ground that the amended complaint is devoid of any allegations addressing how any of their specific acts or omissions were unconstitutional. In total, plaintiff's amended complaint says the following about these four defendants: (1) it identifies each of their citizenships, residencies, and employments ( see [8] ¶¶ 33-36); (2) it names them as defendants in the headings to Counts I through IV ( id. at 19, 22, 26, 29); and (3) it alleges that ( id. ¶ 22):

On September 16, 2014, at approximately 10:00 AM, Defendants Syed Hussain, Chriselda Rana, Ryma Jacobson and Vicky Sandhu, along with some others named in this complaint or unnamed, again forcibly injected medication into Plaintiff Webber's body, in an incident substantially repeating the pattern and circumstances, with only minor variations, from May 3, 2014, as described in paragraphs 2. through 21., above.

The amended complaint says nothing else about the alleged conduct of these four defendants, or, for that matter, about the events of September 16, 2014. Although Hussain, Rana, Jacobson, and Sandhu noted these deficiencies in the memorandum in support of their motion to ...

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