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Torres v. Dart

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

July 16, 2015

CANDIDO TORRES, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS DART, Sheriff of Cook County, COOK COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, EARL GREER, Superintendent, MARIO REYES, Assistant Superintendent, and SALIM DAWALIBI, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JEFFREY COLE, Magistrate Judge.

The plaintiff has filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Sheriff of Cook County, Thomas Dart, the Cook County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff's Office superintendents Earl Greer and Mario Reyes, and Dr. Salim Dawalibi, a physician with Cook County Health and Hospital Systems. He charges them with violating his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at the Cook County Jail. He alleges that while he was there, a number of medical accommodations he was supposed to have been entitled to were ignored despite his repeated complaints. Sheriff Dart and the Cook County Sheriff's Office have moved to dismiss Count III of plaintiff's complaint, which purports to lodge a Monell claim against them in connection with the alleged violations. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Monell permits suits against municipal entities under § 1983, but only when a governmental policy or custom caused the constitutional deprivation; municipal entities cannot be liable for their employees' actions under a respondeat superior theory. Id. at 691.

I.

THE PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

The plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that, when he arrived at Cook County Jail, he underwent a general intake screening at Cermak Health Services [Dkt. # 38, ¶ 14], which runs the health service for detainees at Cook County Jail. See Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 604 F.3d 293, 298 (7th Cir. 2010). Due to his age and medical conditions, a Cermak nurse recommended he undergo a more extensive examination. [Dkt. # 38, ¶ 14]. As a result, he was diagnosed with hypertension, type II diabetes, asthma, glaucoma, chronic back pain, and chronic knee pain. In order to cope with this constellation of maladies, Cermak issued a number of restrictions. Plaintiff was: (1) to be assigned to a lower bunk; (2) provided the use of a cane; (3) assigned to medical housing; (4) provided medical intermediate care; (5) given a special diet for diabetics; (6) allowed to sit in a regular chair in the day room - plaintiff for some reason applies a shorthand for this, calling it "immobilizer"; and (7) provided the use of a wheelchair for long distances. [Dkt. # 38, ¶ 15].

According to plaintiff, these restrictions were essentially ignored, in violation of his rights as guaranteed by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He was assigned to a top bunk in regular housing. He was fed the normal diet rather than the one for diabetics. He was not provided the use of a wheelchair for over two months. And while he was initially given an "immobilizer" and allowed to sit in a regular chair and given normal shoes due to the swelling in his feet[1], defendants Greer and Reyes took those away from him after a few weeks. [Dkt. # 38, ¶¶ 16-19].

Plaintiff repeatedly requested that Greer and Reyes comply with the medical restrictions that Cermak issued, but they refused. They kept him in regular housing, kept him assigned to the top bunk, fed the regular food which is "loaded with grease, salt, and lacked fruit" while other diabetics were given the special diet. Despite repeated requests, he was never provided a cane and had to wait several weeks for the use of a wheelchair for long distances. Despite his repeated complaints, they refused to return his "immobilizer" and normal shoes. His feet became severely swollen as a result, resulting in pain and reducing him to a shuffling walk. [Dkt. # 38, ¶¶ 21-26]. All along, plaintiff filed numerous grievances about these refusals to honor his medical restrictions. [Dkt. # 38, ¶ 27].

Plaintiff alleges that Sheriff Dart was and is, at all relevant times, in complete control of and responsible for the inmates of Cook County Jail. [Dkt. # 38, ¶¶ 9, 38]. He claims that the foregoing acts and omissions violate the Constitution and were the result of the customs, policies, and practices of the Cook County Jail, and fostered by Sheriff Dart. A pattern of deliberate indifference to medical needs was allowed, and employees were not properly trained to respond to these needs or implement necessary medical restrictions. Plaintiff says that the offending customs, policies, and practices include: (1) intentionally fostering an atmosphere at Cook County Department of Corrections in which personnel were encouraged to disregard serious medical needs; (2) failing to ensure personnel adhered to medical restrictions; (3) failing to enforce medical restrictions; (failing to implement an environment in which correction and medical personnel can work with each other to provide basic healthcare and adherence to medical restrictions. [Dkt. # 38, ¶¶ 36-37]. Plaintiff adds that there are several cases pending in the Northern District of Illinois in which inmates allege similar indifference to medical needs. [Dkt. # 38, ¶ 39].

II.

ANALYSIS

A.

To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's complaint need contain only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint 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). The court must determine if the allegations in the complaint state a plausible claim for relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. These factual allegations must be more than "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

The Seventh Circuit has said that this standard is "a fine line, though, and it is appropriate to give plaintiffs a chance to amend a complaint to provide more factual detail, as the district court did here after its first dismissal." Bausch v. Stryker Corp., 630 F.3d 546, 562 (7th Cir.2010) ("Generally, if a district court dismisses for failure to state a claim, the court should give the party one opportunity to try to cure the problem, even if the court is skeptical about the prospects for success."). A claim should survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss if the complaint contains well-pled facts-that is, not just legal conclusions-that permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. When ...


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