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Godfrey v. Shrestha

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

March 29, 2017

Dawn Godfrey, Plaintiff,
v.
Correctional Officer A. Shrestha Star 17442, et al., Defendants.

          KIMBERLY M. FOXX, State's Attorney of Cook County

          James E. Hanlon, Jr. Assistant State's Attorney

          Allyson L. West Assistant State's Attorney

          DEFENDANTS' RULE 50 MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

          Hon. Matthew F. Kennelly, Judge

         Defendants, Correctional Officer A. Shrestha (Star 17442) and Cook County by their attorney, Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney of Cook County, through James E. Hanlon, Jr. and Allyson L. West, Assistant State's Attorney, moves this Honorable Court for a judgment as a matter of law against the Plaintiff, Dawn Godfrey.

         In support thereof, the Defendant states as follows:

         Introduction

         Plaintiff claims Defendant Officer Shrestha failed to protect her from being assaulted on February 19, 2015, by approximately three other detainees at Cook County Jail. That this assault happened while Officer Shrestha was on duty is not enough for constitutional liability to attach. Instead, Plaintiff must present undisputed facts showing Officer Shrestha was aware of the specific threat presented by the other detainees and was deliberately indifferent to the risk of Plaintiff being injured by this threat. Plaintiff does not adduce sufficient evidence to establish either necessary element.

         Legal Standard

         Based on that testimony, no “reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a); see Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod., Inc., 530 U.S. 133 (2000); Erikson v. Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections, 469 F.3d 600, 601 (7th Cir. 2006)(quoting Mack v. Great Dane Trailers, 308 F.3d 776, 780 (7th Cir. 2002).

         Argument

         Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence that would reasonably permit this Honorable Court to find in her favor on the material question of whether Defendant Officer Shrestha failed to protect her from being punched by another detainee on February 19, 2015. Simply because this incident happened on Defendant Officer Shrestha's watch is not sufficient to impose constitutional liability, and this Court should grant the Defendant judgment as a matter of law.

         Prison officials owe inmates a duty to protect them from violent assaults inflicted by other inmates. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833; Guzman v. Sheahan, 495 F.3d 852, 856-57 (7th Cir. 2007). An official violates that duty if she is deliberately indifferent to conditions that pose a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847; Klebanowski v. Sheahan, 540 F.3d 633, 637 (7th Cir. 2008). A Section 1983 claim based on deliberate indifference has both an objective and a subjective element: (1) the harm that befell the prisoner must be objectively, sufficiently serious and a substantial risk to his or her health or safety, and (2) the individual defendant was deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk to the prisoner's health and safety. Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005); Matos v. O'Sullivan, 335 F.3d 553, 556 (7th Cir. 2003)(citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832). The subjective element requires that the prison official act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind, "something akin to criminal recklessness, " Norfleet v. Webster, 439 F.3d 392, 397 (7th Cir. 2006) or “approaching a total unconcern for the prisoner's welfare in the face of serious risks.” Rosario v. Brawn, 670 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2012)(citations omitted). A condition that poses a substantial risk of harm is one where the “risks [are] so great that they are almost certain to materialize if nothing is done.” Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 911 (7th Cir. 2005).

         In order to prove deliberate indifference, a detainee must show that prison officials were "aware of a substantial risk of serious injury to [the detainee] but nevertheless failed to take appropriate steps to protect him from a known danger." Guzman, 495 F.3d at 857 (citing Butera v. Cottey, 285 F.3d 601, 605 (7th Cir. 2002)). Negligence or gross negligence will not substantiate a claim of deliberate indifference; a plaintiff must show the defendant had “actual knowledge” of the risk. Washington v. LaPorte County Sheriff's Department, 306 F.3d 515, 518 (7th Cir. 2002); see Matos, 335 F.3d at 557 (if the defendant “should have known” ...


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