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Whitehead v. Dart

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

December 14, 2016

THOMAS J. DART, in his official capacity, BILQIS JACOBS-EL, in her official capacity, MARTIN MAHONEY, RONALD PECHOTA, MARK DOMICO, and COOK COUNTY MUNICIPALITY, Defendants.


          Ruben Castillo Chief Judge United States District Court

         In this action, Ricky Whitehead and Omar Williams ("Plaintiffs") sue Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart ("Dart"), Bilqis Jacobs-El ("Jacobs-El"), Martin Mahoney ("Mahoney"), Ronald Pechota ("Pechota"), Mark Domico ("Domico"), and Cook County, Illinois (collectively "Defendants"), alleging that they were exposed to unduly cold temperatures while housed at the Cook County Jail ("the Jail"). (R. 76, Third Am. Compl.) Defendants now move for summary judgment. (R. 112.) For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise stated. During the winter months of 2013-14, Plaintiffs were pretrial detainees at the Jail and were housed together in Division 9, Cell 3301. (R. 127, Pis.' Resp. to Facts ¶¶ 1-2.) Dart is and was the Sheriff of Cook County during the relevant period. (Id. ¶ 3.) Jacobs-El is the Director of the Cook County Department of Facilities Management ("CCDFM"). (Id. ¶ 4.) Mahoney and Domico are employed by CCDFM as engineers and during the relevant period were assigned to Division 9 of the Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Pechota is an engineer assistant employed by CCDFM and was also assigned to Division 9. (Id. ¶7.)

         The Jail has policies and procedures in place to address heating, cooling, and ventilation within the Jail. (Id. ¶ 8.) One such policy is "Interagency Directive, " entitled "Response to Abnormal Temperature Conditions in Custodial Areas, " which has been in effect since January 2011. (Id. ¶ 9.) The directive was the result of an agreed order entered in United States v. Cook County, 10 C 2946 (N.D. Ill. May 13, 2010), a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") over conditions at the Jail. In accordance with the agreed order, CCDFM is obligated to "ensure adequate ventilation throughout the Facility to ensure that inmates receive an adequate supply of air flow and reasonable levels of heating and cooling." Id., R. 3-2, Agreed Order § III, ¶ 83(e). The agreed order further provides that CCDFM staff "shall review and assess compliance with this requirement on a daily basis for automated systems and on an annual basis for non-automated systems."[1] Id.

         Interagency Directive details the relative responsibilities of the Sheriffs Office and CCDFM with respect to addressing abnormal temperatures at the Jail. (R. 127-3, Directive.) The directive defines "abnormal temperature conditions" as "[t]emperatures outside of the normal, acceptable range for well-being." (Id. § Ill(A).) Indoor temperatures are considered abnormal if they are "outside of the range of 68° and 77° Fahrenheit." (Id.) Outdoor temperatures are considered abnormal if they are "at or below 10°" or "at or above 85° Fahrenheit." (Id.) "Indoor temperature" refers to "[a]ir temperature readings inside facilities as measured by CCDFM." (Id. § Ill(C).) "Outdoor temperature" refers to "readings as provided by the National Weather Service for Midway Airport, and monitored by the Executive Director of the [Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC")]" (Id. § Ill(D).)

         The directive also contains general notification procedures for temperature problems at the Jail. (Id. § IV(A).) Under these procedures, correctional officers who become aware of a temperature problem must notify their watch commander, who in turn notifies the CCDFM divisional engineer by calling a 24-hour call center. (Id.) Once the CCDFM receives such notification, it is expected to have a member of the engineering staff "respond to the location to take a temperature reading within an hour." (Id. § VII(B).) If temperatures are observed to be outside the acceptable range, "engineering staff shall make every attempt to remedy the situation and bring the temperature within the acceptable range." (Id.§ VII(C).) If the temperature problem cannot be fixed within 24 hours, CCDFM is required to contact the Sheriffs Office to alert them "so that further action, such as inmate relocation, may be taken." (Id. § VII(D).) The Sheriffs Office, in turn, is required to generate an "incident report" whenever an "abnormal temperature condition is verified." (Id. § IV(A)(4).) If temperatures fall below 60 degrees, the Sheriffs Office must provide all inmates in the affected area(s) with "warming measures, " such as additional blankets, and must move inmates to a warmer area if the problem is not resolved in two hours. (Id. § IV(A)(5)-(6).) Sheriffs Office records reflect that five incident reports were filed regarding unduly cold temperatures in Division 9 between November 2013 and January 2014. (R. 132-1, Incident Reports.)

         Under the directive, CCDFM engineers are also required to "conduct rounds of CCDOC daily on each of three shifts to ensure indoor temperatures remain in the acceptance range of 68°-77°." (R. 127, Directive § VII(A).) CCDFM has devised a system of compliance with this requirement whereby engineers complete "round sheets" recording the temperature in eight different cells, one of which happens to be Cell 3301-the cell where Plaintiffs were housed during the relevant period. (R. 132, Defs.' Resp. to Add'l Facts ¶ 3.) The Jail also maintains an electronic work order system through which Jail staff can notify CCDFM of issues with indoor air temperatures, although the parties dispute whether the system was adequately utilized during the relevant period. (R. 127, Pis.' Resp. to Facts ¶ 21.) The parties do agree that the system exists, and that CCDFM engineers also conduct routine maintenance on the mechanical system that heats and cools Division 9. (Id. ¶ 18.) Between November 2013 and March 2014, CCDFM responded to 45 work orders pertaining to problems with indoor air temperatures within Division 9. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         On January 27, 2014, Plaintiff Williams submitted a grievance complaining of "freezing temperatures" in his cell and "frost" on the window and walls. (R. 127-9, Williams Grievance Docs, at 2.) The following day, Plaintiff Whitehead submitted a similar grievance complaining that it was so cold there was 'Ice on the inside of the cell." (R. 127-10, Whitehead Grievance Docs, at 2.) On February 4, 2014, a work order was generated by Michael DeSena, the "work order coordinator" at the Jail and a non-party to this case.[2] (R. 127-9, Williams Grievance Docs. at 3-4.) The work order stated simply that Cell 3301 was "too cold." (Id. at 4.) The work order was assigned to Phillip W. Casica, a maintenance supervisor at CCDFM who is also not a party to this lawsuit. (R. 127-11, CCDFM Records; see also R. 114-4, Domico Dep. Tr. at 13-14.) CCDFM records reflect that on February 6, 2014, and February 7, 2014, Pechota and two other building engineers (neither of whom are defendants in this case) spent a total of 2.5 hours addressing the problem. (R. 127-11, CCDFM Records.) Their notes reflect that they "adjusted preheat and heating valves ... to accommodate for colder [outside air] temps, " and "re-checked all for proper temp ranges on 2-7-14." (Id.) Their notes also reflect that it was abnormally cold that week, and that on the dates the repairs were made the outside air temperatures were approximately five degrees. (Id.)

         Daily round sheets completed by Mahoney, Domico, and Pechota from the period January 27, 2014, to February 7, 2014, reflect that the temperature in Cell 3301 never fell below 70 degrees. (R. 127-18, Cell 3301 Round Sheets.) In fact, round sheets submitted by Defendants for the winter months of 2013-14 reflect that temperatures in each of the eight cells that were monitored never went below 70 degrees. (R. 116 & 117, Round Sheets.) The parties vigorously dispute whether these round sheets were properly completed during the relevant period. (See R. 127, Pis.' Resp. to Facts. ¶¶ 15-17; R. 132, Defs.' Resp. to Add'l Facts ¶¶ 1-13.)


         In March 2014, Plaintiffs brought this action alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (R. 1, Compl.) After counsel was appointed to the parties engaged in discovery, Plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint naming as defendants Cook County, Dart in his official capacity, Jacobs-El in her official capacity, and Mahoney, Pechota, and Domico in their individual capacities. (R. 76, Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-12.) Plaintiffs allege that from November 2013 to March 2014 they "suffered due to sustained lack of heat in their cell." (Id. ¶ 18.) They claim that the cell was so cold that they could see their breath and "their shampoo bottles froze." (Id. ¶ 21.) They allege that they repeatedly complained about these conditions but "their complaints essentially went unheeded." (Id. ¶ 22.) They claim that there is a widespread problem in Division 9 with adequate heating, and that Sheriffs Office and CCDFM staff members fail to adequately address inmates' complaints about temperature problems. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.) They further allege that although maintenance staff was required to "regularly monitor temperatures in individual cells, " they failed to do so and instead engaged in a "concerted effort to falsify temperature logs ... for the purpose of manufacturing evidence showing compliance" with the consent judgment entered in the case brought by DOJ. (Id. ¶ 19.) In Plaintiffs' view, "the intentional falsification of the temperature logs constitutes malicious, wanton or oppressive acts and a reckless indifference to the constitutional rights of others." (Id. ¶ 26.)

         Defendants now move for summary judgment on the entirety of the complaint, arguing that Plaintiffs have failed to come forward with evidence establishing that any of them were deliberately indifferent to their right to adequate heating. (R. 112, Mot.; R. 133, Reply.) Plaintiffs object to the entry of summary judgment as to any Defendant. (R. 128, Resp.)


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citation omitted). "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." Kvapil v. Chippewa Cty., 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In deciding whether a dispute exists, the Court must "construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Natl Am. Ins. Co. v. Artisan & Truckers Cas. Co., 796 F.3d 717, 723 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).

         Under Rule 56, the movant has the initial burden of establishing that a trial is not necessary. Sterk v. Redbox Automated Retail, LLC, 770 F.3d 618, 627 (7th Cir. 2014). "That burden may be discharged by showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If the movant carries this burden, the nonmovant "must make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The nonmovant "must go beyond the pleadings (e.g., produce affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file) to demonstrate that there is evidence upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict in [their] favor." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence, however, is insufficient to fulfill this requirement." Wheeler v. Lawson, 539 F.3d 629, 634 (7th Cir. 2008). Nor can "speculation and conjecture" defeat a motion for summary judgment. Cooney v. Casady, 735 F.3d 514, 519 (7th Cir. 2013). In addition, "[o]nly disputes that could affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court cannot weigh conflicting evidence, assess the credibility of the witnesses, or determine the ultimate truth of the matter, as these are functions of the jury. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Omnicare, Inc. v. United Health Grp., Inc.,629 F.3d 697, 704-05 (7th Cir. 2011). Put simply, "summary judgment cannot be used to resolve swearing contests between litigants." Payne v. Pauley,337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). Instead, the Court's role is simply "to determine ...

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