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Becerra v. Kramer

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

January 10, 2017

Jose Alfonso Becerra #85762, Plaintiff,
Donald Kramer, et al., Defendants.



         Jose Alfonso Becerra (“Plaintiff”), a pretrial detainee held at the Kane County Adult Justice Center (“KCAJC”), brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer and KCAJC Director James Lewis. Plaintiff alleges that he is shortchanged on meals, that food handling techniques at the jail are unsanitary, and that he suffered food poisoning on December 27, 2015. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment, in which they contend that Plaintiff has not brought forth evidence that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk of harm to Plaintiff's health. For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants Defendants' motion.


         I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         The Court received Plaintiff's response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment on October 20, 2016. (Dkt. No. 37.) The response, however, did not comport with the requirements for a proper response under Local Rule 56.1. Because Defendants had not served Plaintiff with a Local Rule 56.2 Notice to Pro Se Litigants Opposing Summary Judgment, the Court gave Plaintiff another opportunity to respond following service of the notice. (Dkt. Nos. 38, 39.) Plaintiff, however, has not submitted a revised response.

         Local Rule 56.1 “is designed, in part, to aid the district court, ‘which does not have the advantage of the parties' familiarity with the record and often cannot afford to spend the time combing the record to locate the relevant information, ' in determining whether a trial is necessary.” Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citation omitted). Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide “a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitles the moving party to judgment as a matter of law.” Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009). “The opposing party is required to 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.'” Id. (citing N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)). Generally, the purpose of Local Rule 56.1 statements and responses is to identify the relevant admissible evidence supporting the material facts, not to make factual or legal arguments. See Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006) (holding that pro se plaintiff's statement of material facts did not comply with Rule 56.1 as it “failed to adequately cite the record and was filled with irrelevant information, legal arguments, and conjecture.”). “When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by the rule, those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the motion.” Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632; see also Frey Corp. v. City of Peoria, Ill., 735 F.3d 505, 513 (7th Cir. 2013).

         A district court may insist on strict compliance with its local rules regarding summary judgment. Metropolitan Life Ins. v. Johnson, 297 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2002). Although Plaintiff is pro se, he nonetheless must comply with Local Rule 56.1. See Cady, 467 F.3d at 1061 (“even pro se litigants must follow rules of civil procedure”). Therefore, the facts set forth in Defendants Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement are deemed admitted to the extent supported by evidence in the record. See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 880, 884 (7th Cir. 2012). Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, however, the Court has considered the factual assertions he makes in his response to Defendants' summary judgment motion, but only to the extent he has pointed to evidence in the record or could properly testify himself about the matters asserted. See Boykin v. Dart, No. 12 C 4447, 2014 WL 5611466, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 4, 2014) (Chang, J.) (“Although the Court is entitled to demand strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1, it ordinarily affords pro se plaintiffs significant leeway in responding to summary judgment filings.”).

         II. Factual Background

         This lawsuit arises from Plaintiff's allegations that he became ill on December 27, 2015, after eating a meal of savory stroganoff that was served to him while detained at the KCAJC. (Defs.' Stmt. (Dkt. No. 34) at ¶ 1.) Plaintiff contends that jail workers failed to: (1) use a steamer to warm food; (2) properly wash food trays and utensils; (3) provide fruit on a daily basis, and (4) provide the correct amount of food with certain meals. (Id. at ¶ 2.)

         Plaintiff has suffered from gastritis since about 2013 or 2014. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Gastritis is a gastrointestinal condition that causes nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. (Id. at ¶ 10; see Mayo Clinic, Gastritis Symptoms, conditions/gastritis/basics/symptoms/con-20021032 (last visited January 5, 2017)). Plaintiff's gastritis became so severe that he was vomiting blood for two to three months before getting medication. (Id. at ¶ 11; see Pl.'s Dep. (Dkt. No. 34-1) at 20:2-20:12.) Plaintiff took prescription medication that alleviated his symptoms. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff, however, continues to suffer from symptoms of gastritis on and off, and as recently as June 2016. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on December 27, 2015, a dinner of rice and meat, identified based on a review of the menu as savory stroganoff, caused him to suffer vomiting and diarrhea. (Id. at ¶ 15; see Pl.'s Dep. at 38:18-41:1.) Plaintiff submitted a grievance stating that he was sickened with stomach “eachs [sic] and cramps” after eating the meal. (Id. at ¶ 16; see Grievance Report, Dkt. No. 34-2.) Plaintiff's grievance also stated that the jail had not kept the food in a steamer, that the jail had not changed the menu 15 months, and that commissary prices were too high. (Id. at ¶ 17; see Grievance Report.)

         In response to the grievance, Lt. Corey Hunger investigated and found that no other inmates had complained of food poisoning as a result of the meal. (Id. at ¶ 18; see Grievance Report.). Lt. Hunger further stated that the jail prepares the meals according to Illinois County Jail Standards. (Id.) Director Lewis also investigated Plaintiff's grievance and responded that the food served meets or exceeds county jail standards. (Id. at ¶ 19; see Grievance Response/Update, Dkt. No. 34-3.)

         Plaintiff did not seek medical treatment with regard to the alleged food poisoning, and was not diagnosed with food poisoning by any medical professional. (Id. at ¶ 20.) He did not tell any guards that he was sick. (Id.) Plaintiff discussed the alleged food poisoning with his cellmate, Moses Ramirez. (Id. at ¶ 21.) In addition, Plaintiff did not retain any of the food or have it tested after getting sick. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff testified he presumes that he became ill due to the food not being hot, but he also described the food on that day as hot, or at least warm. (Id. at ¶ 23; see Pl.'s Dep. at 66:7-66:18.)

         Lt. Hunger stated that the jail served approximately 400 detainees the same savory stroganoff meal on December 27, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 24; see Affidavit of Lt. Corey Hunger, Dkt. No. 34-4.) According to Lt. Hunger, Plaintiff is the only detainee who claimed to have gotten food poisoning as a result of the meal. (Id. at ¶ 25; see Affidavit of Lt. Corey Hunger, Dkt. No. 34-4.) Plaintiff contends that his cellmate, Ramirez, also became ill as a result of the meal, and suffered diarrhea and stomach pains. (Pl.'s Dep. at 51:22-52:14.) Even by Plaintiff's own account, however, it is not clear that Ramirez suffered food poisoning, as opposed to a reaction to soy. Indeed, according to Plaintiff, Ramirez sought medical attention and received a no-soy tray from the jail doctor. (Id. at 53:24-55:4.) Plaintiff did not know of anyone else becoming ...

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