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White v. Watson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 26, 2016

DWAYNE WHITE, Administrator of the Estate of Bradley C. Scarpi, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD WATSON, PHILLIP MCLAURIN, ST. CLAIR COUNTY, MARK J. HARRIS, BRIAN D. CUNNINGHAM, RODNEY WILSON, CHRISTOPHER LANZANTE, NANCY SUTHERLIN, DAVID NICHOLS, THOMAS MESEY, DANTE S. BEATTIE, PATRICK FULTON, HOWARD KURTZ, NICHOLE LIEBIG and STEVEN J. FRIERDICH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Doc. 30). Plaintiff Dwayne White, administrator of the estate of Bradley C. Scarpi, deceased, has responded to the motion (Doc. 34).

         I. Standard for Dismissal

         When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This requirement is satisfied if the complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 556). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         In Bell Atlantic, the Supreme Court rejected the more expansive interpretation of Rule 8(a)(2) that “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, ” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 561-63; Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 777. Now “it is not enough for a complaint to avoid foreclosing possible bases for relief; it must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief . . . by providing allegations that ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 777 (quoting Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555).

         Nevertheless, Bell Atlantic did not do away with the liberal federal notice pleading standard. Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007). A complaint still need not contain detailed factual allegations, Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555, and it remains true that “[a]ny district judge (for that matter, any defendant) tempted to write ‘this complaint is deficient because it does not contain . . .' should stop and think: What rule of law requires a complaint to contain that allegation?” Doe v. Smith, 429 F.3d 706, 708 (7th Cir. 2005) (emphasis in original). Nevertheless, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555. If the factual detail of a complaint is “so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled under Rule 8, ” it is subject to dismissal. Airborne Beepers, 499 F.3d at 667.

         II. Facts Alleged

         Accepting all allegations in the complaint as true, the Court finds the following relevant facts for the purposes of this motion.

         The plaintiff's decedent, Bradley C. Scarpi, was detained in the St. Clair County Jail (“Jail”) from April 14, 2014, to May 23, 2014, when he committed suicide in his cell. Scarpi suffered from mental illness - including a generalized anxiety disorder - and drug addiction, and had cycled in and out of the Jail for about the last decade of his life. Defendant Major Phillip McLaurin is the Jail's superintendent, and defendant Richard Watson is the St. Clair County sheriff under whose authority the Jail is maintained. The Jail does not have a suicide prevention policy.

         On May 23, 2014, at about 4:00 p.m., Scarpi reported to defendant Jail Officer Mark J. Harris that he needed to move to a different cell because he was being threatened by other nearby detainees. In response, Sergeant Brian Cunningham ordered that Scarpi be moved to a different cell block. On his way to his new housing assignment, Scarpi told Harris and defendant Officer Rodney Wilson, who were escorting Scarpi, that he was also in danger at his new housing assignment. Wilson told Cunningham of Scarpi's fear, so Cunningham order that Scarpi be instead moved to a maximum security cell block, the E-Max cell block. The cell to which Scarpi was assigned was not a “suicide-proof” cell, that is, a cell designed to prevent inmates from taking their own lives.

         On his way to the E-Max cell block, Scarpi told “Defendant Officers, ” presumably his escorts Harris and Wilson, that he was going to kill himself. Harris and Wilson told him to be quite and get in his cell. Not long afterward, Scarpi also told defendant Officer Christopher Lanzante that he was going to kill himself. Lanzante responded that Scarpi could do what he wanted to do and walked away. At some point, another detainee in the E-Max cell block told Lanzante that Scarpi was going to kill himself. Lanzante responded essentially that then Scarpi would be dead. Jail personnel did not regularly check on Scarpi or provide him with mental health services.

         At approximately 9:40 p.m., Lanzante discovered Scarpi hanging from his cell bars, alive but unconscious. Defendants Lieutenant Nancy Sutherlin, Sergeant David Nichols, Officer Thomas Mesey, Officer Dante S. Beattie, Officer Patrick Fulton, Officer Howard Kurtz, Officer Nicole Liebig, and Officer Steven J. Frierdich, all of whom were working at the Jail that night, responded to Lanzante's call for assistance. Scarpi was transported to a hospital where he died at approximately 10:17 p.m.

         Scarpi's brother filed this lawsuit as the administrator of Scarpi's estate. In the Amended Complaint, the plaintiff asserts six causes of action:

Count I: a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against McLaurin, Cunningham, Harris, Wilson, Lanzante, Sutherlin, Nichols, Mesey, Beattie, Fulton, Kurtz, Liebig and Frierdich (the “individual defendants”), in their individual capacities for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause;
Count II: a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Watson in his official capacity for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause;
Count III: a claim under Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, against Watson in his official capacity for failure to accommodate Scarpi's mental illness;
Count IV: a claim under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/1, against the individual defendants on behalf of Scarpi's two minor sons;
Count V: a claim under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act under a respondeat superior theory against Watson in his ...

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