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Boston v. Dart

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

September 26, 2016




         Maurice Boston, a former pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail[1] (“CCJ”), brings this action pro se pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act (“Rehab Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 791, et seq. Boston, who is wheelchair-bound, claims that Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart and former CCJ ADA Coordinator Marlene Fuentes violated his rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and by refusing to accommodate his disability. The parties have consented to this court's jurisdiction, (R. 29); see 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         Before describing the facts the parties submitted in connection with the current motion, the court notes that in several respects Boston's submissions fall short of the requirements set out in Local Rule 56.1. “Under the Local Rules of the Northern District of Illinois, a party filing a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 must serve and file a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law.” Judson Atkinson Candies, Inc. v. Latini-Hohberger Dhimantec, 529 F.3d 371, 382 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation and citation omitted). The opposing party must then “file ‘a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.'” Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)). The opposing party may also present a separate statement of additional facts that requires the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008). A plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with these rules. Morrow v. Donahoe, 564 Fed.Appx. 859, 860 (7th Cir. 2014).

         In this case, in compliance with the Local Rules, Defendants filed a statement of material facts along with their motion for summary judgment. (R. 64, Defs.' Stmt. of Facts (“DSOF”).) Each substantive assertion of fact in the DSOF is supported by evidentiary material in the record. Also, Defendants provided Boston with the required Local Rule 56.2 Notice, which explains in detail the requirements of Local Rule 56.1. (R. 65.) However, Boston's response to the DSOF and his submission titled “Plaintiff's Additional Material Facts” suffer from multiple deficiencies. Most significantly, some of Boston's factual assertions are unsupported by citations to the record or blend facts with legal arguments.

         The Local Rules require the parties to provide “specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.” L.R. 56.1(a)(3). The court is not required to comb the record to locate relevant information. Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Moreover, legal arguments, suppositions, and conclusions of law are not “facts.” See Judson Atkinson, 529 F.3d at 382 n.2 (“It is inappropriate to make legal arguments in a Rule 56.1 statement of facts.”). Nor is the “response to a statement of facts . . . the place for purely argumentative denials, and courts are not required to ‘wade through improper denials and legal arguments in search of a genuinely disputed fact.'” Almy v. Kickert Sch. Bus Line, Inc., No. 08 CV 2902, 2013 WL 80367, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 7, 2013) (internal citation omitted) (quoting Bordelon v. Chi. Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000)). Accordingly, to the extent Boston has not supported his factual assertions with citations to evidence or has made legal assertions dressed up as factual statements, those assertions will not be considered.

         The other significant shortcoming in Boston's factual assertions in response to the motion for summary judgment is that many of those assertions conflict with his sworn deposition testimony or involve matters requiring specialized expertise. “[L]itigants cannot create sham issues of fact with affidavits that contradict their prior depositions.” Janky v. Lake Cnty. Convention & Visitors Bureau, 576 F.3d 356, 362 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Nor may a plaintiff “use an affidavit sworn to after a deposition to contradict deposition testimony without giving a credible explanation for the discrepancies.” Abraham v. Washington Grp. Int'l, Inc., 766 F.3d 735, 741 (7th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). Moreover, a layperson may not testify about matters involving medical, technical, or other specialized knowledge.[2] See Fed. R. Evid. 701, 702. Thus, the court has taken into account Boston's basic representations about his general health status, such as that he is paraplegic, but has set aside those statements that call for medical expertise. And because Boston has not explained the discrepancies between some of his factual assertions and his sworn deposition testimony, the court has also excluded from consideration those conflicting assertions. With these exclusions taken into account, the relevant facts are set forth below.


         The parties generally agree on the essential facts. In 1995, about 17 years prior to Boston's detention at CCJ, he was shot by a Chicago police officer. (R. 64, DSOF, Ex. 1, Boston Dep. at 15.) The incident left Boston a T11 paraplegic. (Id. at 15-16, 28.) Boston has partial movement in his right leg, but he cannot move his left. (Id. at 16.) He can walk about half a block with the assistance of a walker, cane, or leg brace, but he is unable to stand without the assistance of a brace for his left leg. (Id. at 16-17.) Nonetheless, Boston is in his wheelchair all day and he uses a seat cushion. (Id. at 44, 50.) Boston's leg paralysis has not affected his upper body strength or mobility.[3] (Id. at 17, 38.)

         Defendant Fuentes's ADA Coordinator position was specifically created to address disability and accommodation issues detainees may encounter at CCJ. (R. 64, DSOF, Ex. 2, Fuentes Decl. ¶ 1.) Among her other duties, Fuentes provided annual in-service training and education to the correctional staff, as well as six to seven trainings per month on aiding detainees with mobility and other issues. (Id. ¶ 3.) Michael Gumm is the ADA Compliance Project Director for Cook County and has held this position since June 2014. (R. 64, Defs.' Ex. 4, Gumm Decl. ¶ 1.)[4]Gumm has a degree and work experience in architecture. (Id.) Gumm's job duties include: (1) development of ADA program policies, procedures, and guidelines for Cook County; (2) coordination with the Cook County Sheriff to help ensure CCJ's compliance with the ADA and Rehab Act; and (3) review of annual capital improvement projects. (Id. ¶ 2.)

         CCJ's Residential Treatment Unit (“RTU”) was designed and built to house detainees with disabilities and to provide them with medical treatment in a “modern, ADA-compliant facility.” (Fuentes Decl. ¶ 5; Gumm Decl. ¶ 3.) This $85 million construction project began in 2009. (Fuentes Decl. ¶ 5; Gumm Decl. ¶ 3.) CCJ began transferring those detainees with special needs to the RTU in August 2014. (Fuentes Decl. ¶ 5.) Boston, who was a pretrial detainee at CCJ from July 2012 until about April 2016, was part of the first group of detainees who transferred into the RTU on August 21, 2014. (Boston Dep. at 18; R. 76, Boston Aff. at 92.) Boston raises two claims against Defendants. He claims that structural barriers in the RTU shower stalls made it exceedingly difficult for him to access the showers and that the tables in the RTU were not wheelchair-accessible. (Boston Dep. at 22, 52.)

         A. Shower Stall

         There is a shower stall in the RTU bathroom that is designed for detainees in wheelchairs. (Fuentes Decl. ¶ 7.) The stall has a concrete bench that detainees can sit on while showering. (Id.; R. 64, DSOF, Ex. 2, Attach. 4, Photos of ADA Shower Stall.) The shower bench is 18 inches high.[5] (Gumm Decl. ¶ 7.) The ADA requires shower benches to be between 17 and 18 inches high, but does not require them to be padded. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) The surface of the shower bench is textured so that the users do not slip off. (Id. ¶ 18.) The shower stall with the bench is also equipped with grab bars. (Boston Dep. at 24; Fuentes Decl. ¶ 8; Gumm Decl. ¶¶ 7-8.) According to Gumm, this shower stall is ADA-compliant.[6] (Fuentes Decl. ¶ 8; Gumm Decl. ¶¶ 7-8.) The other shower stalls in the RTU, which are not designed for detainees with disabilities, are not equipped with grab bars. (Boston Dep. at 42; Boston Aff. ¶ 5.)

         Boston says that the ADA-compliant shower stall was “not of use” to him, (R. 76, Boston's Resp. to DSOF ¶ 16), because he found it very difficult to maneuver from his wheelchair onto the bench, (Boston Dep. at 24). The shower bench, which is apparently fixed to the floor, cannot be moved. (Id.) Boston used the grab bars to help him move onto the concrete block, but believed that pulling himself from the chair caused stress to his injured spinal cord. (Id. at 24-25, 30.) He asserts that he sustained abrasions and scrapes from using the bench and that it was slippery when wet despite its textured surface. (Id. at 44, 47; Boston Aff. at 87.)

         On occasion during his detention at CCJ, Boston had to undergo a course of antibiotic treatment for bed sores. (Boston Dep. at 48.) Boston asserts that his pressure sores are not caused by his confinement to a wheelchair because, according to him, his $300 seat cushion and his air mattress prevent bed sores. (Id. at 45, 50-51.) He believes that the cuts and scrapes he sustained while using the concrete block in the shower stall turned into pressure sores. (Id. at 47.) However, no medical professional has diagnosed Boston as having developed pressure sores or any other medical condition as a result of him having used the concrete block. (Id. at 48.)

         While conceding that he could “clean [him]self and do whatever [he] need[ed] to do” in the ADA stall, Boston states that he was nevertheless effectively unable to shower as often as he liked, and to therefore maintain proper “lower [body] hygiene, ” since he found it too painful both to slide over to the concrete block and to sit on it. (Id. at 25-26.) Because Boston disliked the ADA-compliant shower stall, he used the shower bench only about four or five times and spent only about six to seven minutes at a time in the shower. (Id. at 45-46.) Although Boston used the ADA shower stall on ...

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