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Collins v. Aramark Correctional Services LLC

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

February 16, 2017

SIDNEY COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
ARAMARK CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, INC., and STEVE DREDGE, Defendants.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff proceeds pro se from his detention in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Act. He pursues a constitutional claim that the facility provided him inedible food by serving mechanically separated chicken which arrived in boxes marked “for further processing only.” Before the Court are Defendants' motions for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the motions are denied.

         Background

         On December 20, 2010, four residents detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center filed a purported class action challenging, as is relevant to this case, the serving of mechanically separated chicken from boxes marked “for further processing only.” Smego v. Ill. Dept. of Human Serv., 10cv3334 (C.D. Ill.). On June 2, 2011, the plaintiffs' motion for class certification in that case was denied because they were pro se. (10cv3334, d/e 43, p. 2.) A flood ensued of over 60 additional cases filed by some 80 other residents regarding the same issues.

         The additional plaintiffs were joined into the original case, and Plaintiff Richard Smego was designated as spokesperson. Id. d/e 336. The Court was eventually able to recruit pro bono counsel, but only for the plaintiffs in the original case. The claims of the rest of the plaintiffs were severed and stayed, with the hopes that the resolution of the original case might resolve the other cases or help guide the Court in resolving the other cases.

         Summary judgment was denied in the original case, and then the original case settled in July 2014. Part of the settlement was an agreement that the mechanically separated chicken labeled “for further processing only” would no longer be served at the facility. After the original case settled, the plaintiffs in the other cases were given an opportunity to file an amended complaint if they still wished to proceed with their claims. Six of those cases remain, including this one, which is now at the summary judgment stage.

         Legal Standard Applicable to Civil Detainee's Claim

         The Fourteenth Amendment due process clause governs rather than the Eighth Amendment because Plaintiff is a civil detainee, not a prisoner serving a sentence. The Supreme Court stated in Youngberg v. Romeo that "[p]ersons who have been involuntarily committed are entitled to more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish." 457 U.S. 307, 322 (1982). This difference was reiterated by the Seventh Circuit in Hughes v. Scott, 816 F.3d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 2016); see also McGee v. Adams, 721 F.3d 474, 480 (7th Cir. 2013)(citing Youngberg but noting that “the Supreme Court has not determined how much additional protection civil detainees are entitled to beyond the protections afforded by the Eighth Amendment bar on cruel and unusual punishment.”); Rice ex rel. Rice v. Correctional Medical Services, 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012)("[T]he Supreme Court has not yet determined just how much additional protection the Fourteenth Amendment gives to pretrial detainees.").

         In application, the Fourteenth Amendment standard thus far appears indistinguishable from the Eighth Amendment standard on conditions of confinement claims. For example, the Seventh Circuit has stated that a conditions of confinement claim by a civil detainee requires an objectively serious deprivation and deliberate indifference by the defendant. Sain v. Wood, 512 F.3d 886, 894 (7th Cir. 2008). This is the same standard governing an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim by a prisoner. The Seventh Circuit more recently confirmed in Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 310 (7th Cir. 2015), that “[w]e have held that there is little practical difference, if any, between the standards applicable to pretrial detainees and convicted inmates when it comes to conditions of confinement claims, and that such claims brought under the Fourteenth Amendment are appropriately analyzed under the Eighth Amendment test.”

         However, the Seventh Circuit has also recently acknowledged the difficulty of defining the legal standard applicable to detainees, noting the “shifting sands of present day case authority.” Werner v. Wall, 836 F.3d 751, 759 (7th Cir. 2016). In Smith v. Dart, even though confirming the appropriateness of relying on Eighth Amendment cases, the Seventh Circuit stated in dicta that the subjective element requires a “‘purposeful, a knowing, or a possibly reckless state of mind, '” arguably a lower hurdle than deliberate indifference. 803 F.3d 304 n. 2 (quoted cite omitted). That dicta was ultimately referring to the Supreme Court case of Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015), which held that a defendant's subjective state of mind in a pretrial detainee's excessive force claim was relevant only to the extent that the defendant's actions were “purposeful or knowing.” After Kingsley, though, the Seventh Circuit has continued to rely on the deliberate indifference standard to pretrial detainees' claims for lack of medical care. See, e.g., Daniel v. Cook County, 833 F.3d 728, 732-33 (2016).

         At this point, the Court can avoid trying to define what greater protection is afforded civil detainees as compared to prisoners. Plaintiff's claim survives summary judgment even under the Eighth Amendment standard. Avoidance may no longer be possible when faced with how the jury should be instructed, but that is a discussion for another day.

         Discussion

         At the summary judgment stage, evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, with material factual disputes resolved in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a reasonable juror could find for the nonmovant. Id.

         Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff means accepting his version of events, if his version is based on his personal knowledge. Plaintiff testified in his deposition that he ate the mechanically separated chicken marked “for further processing only” from the middle of 2010, when Aramark purportedly began serving the product, until May 2012, when Plaintiff became so sick that he was hospitalized. (Pl.'s Dep. 50-56.) When he ate the product he suffered “diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach.” (Pl.'s Dep. p. 53). In May 2012, the problem became worse, according to Plaintiff, because Plaintiff was placed in special management and was not able to shop at the commissary for other food. Plaintiff had to eat what was provided, which meant eating mechanically separated chicken labeled “for further processing only” from four to six times per week. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 55.) Plaintiff saw Dr. Lochard twice over the next two weeks because Plaintiff felt ill. Plaintiff continued to feel worse each day for about two weeks until one day, 15 minutes after eating the mechanically separated chicken for further processing only, he “could hardly stand up in my room. I was vomiting. I had diarrhea. I was sick and I had to go to the hospital. [The doctor] had put me on a liquid ...


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