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Holliman v. Cook County

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

September 6, 2016

COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, THE SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, former Cook County Sheriff DENNIS THOMPSON, Cook County Deputy Sergeant BRAZELTON, Cook County Sheriff Deputy FELIX, Cook County Cermak Medical Assistant, VASQUEZ, Cook County Cermak Doctor MARI, Cook County Cermak Doctor MACNEAL, AS-YET UNKNOWN COOK COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT AND CERMAK EMPLOYEES, Defendants.


          Robert W. Gettleman, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a former Cook County Jail inmate, John Holliman filed an eight-count first amended complaint alleging various violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state laws. Pursuant to federal law, plaintiff alleges that: (a) defendant Dennis Thompson violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures (Count I); and (b) defendants Thompson, Brazelton, Felix, Vasquez, Mari, and MacNeal[1] violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process (Count II), conspired to violate his constitutional rights (Count III), and failed to intervene to prevent the violation of his constitutional rights (Count IV). Plaintiff seeks to hold Cook County and the Cook County Sheriff (the “Sheriff”) liable for each of the alleged § 1983 violations pursuant to Monell v. Dep't of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).[2] Plaintiff further asserts a state law assault and battery claim against Thompson (Count V) and alleges that Thompson and the individual defendants conspired to act in an unlawful manner towards him (Count VI). Plaintiff also asserts respondeat superior (Count VII) and indemnification (Count VIII) claims against the Sheriff and Cook County. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims.[3] For the reasons discussed below, the court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motions.


As discussed in more detailed below, in light of the relief plaintiff seeks, the facts alleged in the first amended complaint are sparse. Plaintiff alleges that on a daily basis between November 2013 and July 2014 he “was repeatedly sexually abused by former correctional officer Dennis Thompson while incarcerated at the Cook County Jail.” According to the first amended complaint, the sexual abuse ceased “only when Plaintiff was transferred to the Illinois Department of Corrections.” Plaintiff alleges that Thompson resigned from his position as a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy in October 2014, following an internal investigation of his conduct, and that he currently faces a criminal investigation by the State's Attorney's Office.

         The first amended complaint alleges that the abuse plaintiff suffered occurred in Division 2 of the Cook County Jail, which is where detainees who require medical treatment are housed. Plaintiff alleges that “Thompson was assigned to the Division #2 Dispensary and utilized his position to ensure that Plaintiff, who required medical treatment, received his medical treatment during his shift.” According to the complaint, “Thompson repeatedly ensured that he was inappropriately alone with Plaintiff while Plaintiff was in the Division #2 Dispensary, a fact that was known or should have been known to the Individual Defendants, who took no steps to intervene or prevent the abuse from occurring.”


         1. Legal Standard

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court accepts the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Sprint Spectrum L.P. v. City of Carmel, Indiana, 361 F.3d 998, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004). The pleading must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds on which the claim rests. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising the possibility above the “speculative level.” Id.

         This standard demands that a complaint allege more than legal conclusions or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” 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.

         2. Analysis

         A. Statute of Limitations - Counts V-VIII

         Each defendant argues that plaintiff's state law claims are time-barred pursuant to the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the “Tort Immunity Act”), 745 ILCS 10/8-101(a). Although affirmative defenses, such as the statute of limitations, are not usually resolved through a motion to dismiss, if the plaintiff's complaint contains facts that on their face demonstrate the suit is time-barred, it may be disposed of under Rule 12(b)(6). See Whirlpool Fin. Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc., 67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 1995). The parties agree that Illinois law generally requires a civil action against a local entity or any of its employees for an injury to be filed within one year from the date of the injury. 745 ILCS 10/8-101(a). The first amended complaint alleges that the tortious conduct last occurred in July 2014, but plaintiff's original complaint was not filed until October 2015. Accordingly, plaintiff's state law claims for assault and battery, conspiracy, and respondeat superior[5] - each of which are asserted against public entities or their employees - are time barred pursuant to 745 ILCS 10/8-101(a).

         Plaintiff, however, argues that his state law claims may fall within an exception to the Tort Immunity Act, which provides for a two-year statute of limitations where the injury “aris[es] out of patient care.” 745 ILCS 10/8-101(b). According to plaintiff, his state law claims should not be dismissed until discovery can be completed into whether the alleged torts arose out of the medical care he received. Plaintiff contends that his “claims involve a conspiracy of medical employees working in concert to allow for abuse to occur and repeatedly continue - all while [he] was under their medical care.” Plaintiff also contends that Thompson had access to him because of his need for medical care and that the other individual defendants used their positions and authority in the medical unit dispensary to allow the abuse to occur. Plaintiff argues that discovery will reveal how the defendants “utilized their medical position to violate [his] rights, and how such violations ‘originated in, stemmed from, or resulted from' his medical care.” The court disagrees.

         As discussed by the Illinois Supreme Court in Kaufmann v. Schroeder, 241 Ill.2d 194, 200 (2011), the intent of the state legislature in adding subsection (b) to the Tort Immunity Act was to bring the act into conformity with the two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. According to the Kaufmann court, the addition of subsection (b) to the Tort Immunity Act ensured that “a person who suffers injuries arising out of patient care would not be disadvantaged by a shortened limitations period simply because he or she happened to obtain treatment at a public facility rather than a private one.” Id. In determining the scope of what it meant to “aris[e] out of patient care” for purposes of subsection (b) of the Tort Immunity Act, the Kaufmann court relied on its interpretations of the phrase with respect to the state's medical malpractice statute. Id. The Illinois Supreme Court discussed that it had previously interpreted the phrase as meaning an injury that is causally connected to the ...

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