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Godfrey v. Shrestha

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

February 16, 2017

DAWN GODFREY, Plaintiff,
v.
A. SHRESTHA and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge

         Dawn Godfrey, a former pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail, has sued correctional officer Amita Shrestha and Cook County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Godfrey alleges that Shrestha failed to protect her from being attacked by three detainees in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.[1] U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 2. Shrestha denies Godfrey's claim, arguing that Godfrey cannot establish that she acted with deliberate indifference. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies defendants' motion.

         Background

         The Court takes the following facts from the parties' briefs and exhibits on summary judgment. Where facts are in dispute, the Court takes them in the light most favorable to Godfrey, the non-moving party.

         Godfrey was a detainee at the Cook County Jail from January 25, 2015 until late March 2015. The division of the jail where Godfrey was housed has three floors and two living units (tiers) on each floor. When not confined to their cells, detainees are permitted to be in their floor's dayroom, dayroom bathroom, or shower area. On the evening of February 19, 2015, Godfrey was attacked in the dayroom by three other female detainees, Goodman, Betton, and Brownlee.

         At some point before the evening of February 19, 2015, either that afternoon or the day before, Godfrey says she had a verbal confrontation with Goodman and Betton. She contends that in that confrontation, Goodman and Betton threatened her and tried to attack her. Godfrey further contends that on the evening of February 19, 2015, she had another confrontation with Goodman and Betton. She testified during her deposition that she was in the dayroom playing games with other detainees when Goodman, Betton, and another inmate, Brownlee, began to throw ice at her. Godfrey says she knocked on the interlock glass that separated the dayroom and the monitor room where correctional officer Shrestha was stationed. When Shrestha came into the dayroom, Godfrey says, she immediately informed Shrestha that Goodman, Brownlee, and Betton were throwing ice at her and that she had a confrontation with Goodman and Betton on a prior occasion in which they tried to attack her. Godfrey alleges she told Shrestha that the other detainees were threatening her and that she needed help.

         Shrestha testifies that she knew that Brownlee had a tendency of causing trouble in the facility, including a history of getting in altercations with other detainees. Despite protocol dictating otherwise, Shrestha did not remove Godfrey from the other detainees. Shrestha says she observed Goodman, Brownlee, and Betton arguing and gave them verbal commands to stop, but they did not comply. Shrestha says she then called a 10-10 over her radio-a signal that there is a fight in progress. Shrestha says she then ordered the detainees to stand outside their respective cell doors.

         The detainees followed Shrestha's instructions and made their way to their cells. On the walk down the hallway to the cells, Godfrey contends, Goodman, Brownlee, and Betton began shouting at her. Goodman, Brownlee, and Betton then attacked Godfrey. Godfrey contends that the three detainees hit her in the face, body, stomach, and head. She says that she suffered an orbital fracture and sustained lasting nerve damage in her right eye.

         Discussion

         When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court construes "all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court does not "weigh evidence or determine the credibility of a witness's testimony, " as those determinations are reserved for the finder of fact. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). Summary judgment is proper "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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         A. Deliberate indifference

         A section 1983 claim by a pretrial detainee alleging that jail officials failed to protect her from harm is analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 2; Butera v. Cottey, 285 F.3d 601, 605 (7th Cir. 2002). A jail official (such as a correctional officer) is liable under section 1983 for failing to protect a detainee "only when [she] is deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm" to the detainee. Riccardo v. Rausch, 375 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2004). "A finding of deliberate indifference requires a showing that the [correctional officer] was aware of a substantial risk of serious injury to [the detainee] but nevertheless failed to take appropriate steps to protect [the detainee] from a known danger." Butera, 285 F.3d at 605. Thus, to show that a jail official acted with deliberate indifference, an injured party must show that 1) she was exposed to a substantial risk of serious harm, 2) the jail official had actual knowledge of the threat, and 3) the jail official acted unreasonably in light of the known risk. Gevas v. McLaughlin, 798 F.3d 475, 480 (7th Cir. 2015); Guzman v. Sheahan, 495 F.3d 852, 857 (7th Cir. 2007).

         Shrestha contends that Godfrey cannot show that she was exposed to a substantial risk of serious harm, that Shrestha had knowledge of the risk, or that Shrestha acted unreasonably. Shrestha also argues in her reply brief that she is entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity.

         1. Substantial ...


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