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Demouchette v. Sheriff of Cook County

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

February 17, 2015

Joseph Demouchette, et al., Plaintiffs,
Sheriff of Cook County Thomas Dart, et al., Defendants.



This case arises from the death of Joseph Demouchette, a pre-trial detainee who committed suicide at Cook County Jail. Plaintiffs (the decedent's children and wife) have brought federal and state law claims against Cook County and certain prison officials (Sheriff Thomas Dart, Lieutenant Jaime Hernandez, Superintendent Stanley Janus, Officer Richard Mason and Sergeant Phyllis Turner). [62], Am. Compl. The prison officials will be collectively referred to as the "Sheriff Officers."

Cook County and the Sheriff Officers each have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Cook County's motion for summary judgment [184] is granted in part and denied as moot in part; and the Sheriff Officers' motion for summary judgment [194] is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate 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. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See CTL ex rel. Trebatoski v. Ashland School District, 743 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2014).

II. Background

The following facts are taken from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements ( see [214]; [215]; [223]) and the exhibits attached thereto.

A. Demouchette's Suicide

On September 27, 2008, the decedent Demouchette, who was then 30 years old and had a history of heroin addiction and mental illness, was arrested for domestic battery. [186-17], Greifinger Dep. Tr. at 83:17-24; [223] ¶¶ 1-4, 6. He was transported to Cook County Jail later that day. [214] ¶ 13; see [223] ¶ 7.

Upon arrival at Cook County Jail, Demouchette was placed in multiple holding cells while being processed. [214] ¶ 15. He underwent (among other things) medical history and psychological screenings conducted by Cermak Health Services (which is part of Cook County). [214] ¶¶ 17, 26; [215] ¶¶ 30-32, 45. Nothing unusual was recorded on the Medical Intake Form. [215] ¶ 38. The Primary Psychological Screening Tool Form recorded the answer "no" to questions about Demouchette's drug use ("Do you use drugs?") and suicidal tendencies (such as, "Have you ever attempted suicide?"). [214] ¶ 26; [215] ¶ 52. There is expert testimony from Plaintiffs, however, that Demouchette "[m]ore likely than not" was experiencing heroin withdrawal during these screenings. [186-17], Greifinger Dep. Tr. at 83:5-16; accord [186-17], Greifinger Dep. Tr. at 33:17-21; [223] ¶ 91. Moreover, Demouchette's records from prior stays at Cook County Jail showed that he had used heroin and previously had attempted suicide. [223] ¶ 4.

Demouchette was assigned to the general population in Division 5, Tier 2-H. [215] ¶ 54. The Division 5 Tiers can be monitored by two closed circuit televisions. [214] ¶ 43.

On September 28, 2008, at 1:30 a.m., Demouchette was taken to Tier 2-H with other detainees and assigned a cell. [214] ¶¶ 29-30; [216-3], Officer's Living Unit Log at 0143. Another inmate also assigned to Tier 2-H (Alfred Johnson) testified that around 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. that night, he heard Demouchette calling out from his cell "CO, CO" for approximately 15 minutes. [214] ¶ 36; [223] ¶ 23. The officer assigned to Tier 2-H that night (Anthony Martello) does not recall hearing Demouchette calling out "CO, CO." [214] ¶ 37.

The record also includes an investigation report describing "in summary but not verbatim" statements from Demouchette's cellmate (Adair Davidson) that Demouchette appeared "dope sick" (a colloquial term referring to someone experiencing drug withdrawal, typically from an opiate such as heroin) and vomited two or three times that night. [216-2], Investigation Report; [223] ¶ 24. Unsworn statements from an investigation report are hearsay, however, and cannot be considered as part of this Court's judgment. Collins v. Seeman, 462 F.3d 757, 760 n.1 (7th Cir. 2006). To this point, some of the statements attributed to Davidson in the investigation report are hearsay within hearsay. The report describes a conversation Lieutenant Hernandez stated he had with Davidson. [216-2], Investigation Report.

There is conflicting testimony about Demouchette's appearance the morning of September 28, 2008. Johnson, a detainee, testified that around 10:00 a.m. that day, he had a brief conversation with Demouchette who appeared "drowsy" and "dope sick." [214] ¶ 51; [223] ¶ 25. Johnson-who had accompanied Demouchette to Cook County Jail, in multiple holding cells and from processing to Tier 2-H-also testified that Demouchette did not appear "sick" or "dope sick" at those prior times. [214] ¶¶ 14, 16, 28; [215] ¶¶ 17-18, 55; see also [214] ¶ 30 (testimony from an officer during the night shift (Martello) that Demouchette appeared "the same as everyone else"). In contrast to the testimony from Johnson, Officer Mason, who was assigned to Tier 2-H, also saw Demouchette on the morning of September 28, 2008, but observed that Demouchette did not appear "physically ill." [214] ¶ 53.

Later that morning, around 11:00 to 11:30 a.m., Demouchette began to commit suicide by hanging himself. [223] ¶¶ 31-33, 35, 39. According to detainees and an officer, detainees began yelling and kicking at the doors and waiving at the security cameras to get an officer's attention. [214] ¶ 64; [223] ¶ 33, 39. The record contains conflicting testimony about how long it took an officer to come to Demouchette's cell once these detainees began requesting help. There is testimony that it took anywhere from 10 (or less) to 30 minutes before an officer responded. [214] ¶¶ 63-64; [223] ¶ 35.

Officer Mason is one of the officers who responded. [223] ¶¶ 39-40. He was an officer assigned to Division 5, Tiers 2-G and 2-H, during the 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. shift on September 28, 2008. [214] ¶ 40. Officer Mason's responsibilities included conducting security checks every 30 minutes during his shift. [214] ¶ 45; [223] ¶¶ 30, 50, 68. That required Officer Mason physically to go cell-to-cell and observe the detainees. [214] ¶ 45. According to logbook records, Officer Mason completed security shifts for Tier 2-H at 10:04, 10:38, 11:00 and 11:28 a.m. [195-3], Mason Dep. Tr. at 31:14-32:3; [214] ¶ 46; [216-3], Officer's Living Unit Log at 0044.

Plaintiffs allege that Officer Mason falsely filled out the logbook for Tiers 2-G and 2-H on September 28, 2008 because he recorded conducting security checks at the exact same time for both tiers. [213], Pls.' Opp'n Br. at 8; [216-3], Officer's Living Unit Log at 0044, 0046; [223] ¶ 52. Sergeant Turner was the supervisor who signed these logbooks. [216-3], Officer's Living Unit Log at 0044, 0046; [223] ¶ 82. Officer Mason never has been disciplined for filling out inaccurate logbooks. [223] ¶ 83.

When Officer Mason responded, he saw Demouchette with one end of a bed sheet around his neck and the other end tied to the cell's window grate. [223] ¶ 40. Officer Mason called his supervisor and asked that medical personnel respond. [214] ¶ 74; [223] ¶ 40. He did not administer CPR to Demouchette. [195-3], Mason Dep. Tr. at 61:8-14; [223] ¶ 40.

Once medical personnel arrived, they initiated CPR at 12:06 p.m. and called 911. [214] ¶ 81; [223] ¶ 41. The Chicago Fire Department responded and took Demouchette to the emergency room. [214] ¶¶ 81, 88; [223] ¶ 42.

Demouchette was pronounced dead at 12:53 p.m. that very day. [223] ¶ 42. An autopsy was performed on Demouchette's body the next day (September 29, 2008), and the medical examiner's opinion was that Demouchette's cause of death was hanging, with the manner of death being suicide. [215] ¶ 87.

B. Policies and Procedures at Cook County Jail

Plaintiffs allege that certain policies and procedures in place at Cook County Jail contributed to Demouchette's death.

First, Plaintiffs allege that Lieutenant Hernandez assigned officers to "cross-watch" tiers despite knowledge that cross-watching posed a safety risk. [223] ¶ 48. Cross-watching is where an officer monitors two tiers simultaneously-one physically and the other through a monitor. [223] ¶ 46. Lieutenants and superior officers decide whether officers should cross-watch tiers while on shift. [195-4], Turner Dep. Tr. at 37:3-12; [223] ¶ 48. The Department of Justice has put Cook County Jail on notice that cross-watching is "unacceptable and dangerous." [223] ¶ 63.

Second, Plaintiffs allege that Lieutenant Hernandez did not adequately monitor his subordinate officers to ensure that they actually conducted security checks. [213], Pls.' Opp'n Br. at 12-13; [223] ¶ 83.

Third, Plaintiffs allege that there was an unsafe policy of officers not administering CPR. [213], Pls.' Opp'n Br. at 11-12. Lieutenant Hernandez testified that when there is a medical emergency, such as an inmate trying to hang himself, the procedure is for officers to contact medical staff and their supervisors to respond. [195-5], Hernandez Dep. Tr. at 30:22-32:13. Officers do not perform CPR on a detainee when they do not know what took place. [195-5], Hernandez Dep. Tr. at 32:16-34:1; [223] ¶ 60. It is not clear from the portions of the record cited by Plaintiffs whether or not Lieutenant Hernandez was responsible for creating or implementing this purported policy. See [223] ¶¶ 60-61.

III. Analysis

A. Federal Claim: Deliberate Indifference

Pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs brought deliberate indifference claims against all the individual Defendants, but only the claims against Officer Mason and Lieutenant Hernandez remain ( see [64] and [172]) and are at issue here.[1]

The Supreme Court has interpreted the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment, as imposing a duty on states to provide medical care to inmates. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976). Prison officials violate the Constitution if they are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs. Id. at 104.

To prove a claim for deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show: (1) that he had an objectively serious medical condition; (2) that the defendant knew of the condition and was deliberately indifferent to treating the plaintiff; and (3) that this indifference injured plaintiff. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010). Circumstantial evidence is appropriate proof of deliberate indifference. Foelker v. Outagamie County, 394 F.3d 510, 513 (7th Cir. 2005).

Under the second prong, the official must have had subjective knowledge of the risk to the inmate's health, and he also must have disregarded that risk. See Collins, 462 F.3d at 761. Evidence that the official acted negligently is insufficient to prove deliberate indifference. See Hicks v. Churchich, 161 F.3d 1030, 1040 (7th Cir. 1998). Rather, "deliberate indifference' is simply a synonym for intentional or reckless conduct, [and] reckless' describes conduct so dangerous that the deliberate nature of the defendant's actions can be inferred." Qian v. Kautz, 168 F.3d 949, 955 (7th Cir. 1999).

There is no dispute here that drug withdrawal and suicide are serious medical conditions. See [196], Sheriff Officers' Br. at 8; Foelker, 394 F.3d at 512-13 (drug withdrawal); Cavalieri v. Shepard, 321 F.3d 616, 620 (7th Cir. 2003) (suicide). For both Officer Mason and Lieutenant Hernandez, therefore, this Court will only consider the second and third prongs.

1. Officer Mason

Officer Mason argues that he was not deliberately indifferent and, even if he were, is nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity. ...

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