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T.S. v. Twentieth Century Fox Television

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

April 20, 2017

T.S., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX TELEVISION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMY J. ST EVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         On October 5, 2016, minor Plaintiffs T.S. and Q.B., through their legal guardians, brought the present twelve-count First Amended Class Action Complaint against Defendants Twentieth Century Fox Television and other Fox entities (“Fox Defendants”); Cook County, Illinois; Leonard Dixon, the Superintendent of Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (“JTDC”); the Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County (Chief Judge's Office); and Defendant Does alleging violations of their constitutional rights, along with supplemental state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367(a). Plaintiffs, who seek to represent a class of similarly situated juveniles, bring the following substantive claims and claims seeking to establish certain Defendants' liability in their First Amended Complaint: (1) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against all Defendants (Count I); (2) a Fourth Amendment claim against all Defendants (Count II); (3) a Monell liability claim against Cook County/and or the Chief Judge's Office (Count III); (4) a joint action liability claim against the Fox Defendants (Count IV); (5) a respondeat superior liability claim against the Fox Defendants in relation to Plaintiffs' constitutional claims (Count V); (6) a constitutional conspiracy claim against all Defendants (Count VI); (7) a state law breach of fiduciary duty claim against Superintendent Dixon and Defendant Does (Count VII); (8) an inducement of breach of fiduciary duty claim against the Fox Defendants (Count VIII); (9) an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against all Defendants (Count IX); (10) a state law civil conspiracy claim against all Defendants (Count X); (11) a state law respondeat superior claim against Cook County, the Chief Judge's Office, and the Fox Defendants (Count XI); and (12) an indemnification claim pursuant to 745 ILCS 10/9-102 against Cook County (Count XII).

         Before the Court are three separate motions to dismiss brought by the Fox Defendants, Defendants Dixon and Cook County, and the Chief Judge's Office pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court denies the Cook County Defendants' and Chief Judge's Office' motions to dismiss the following claims - Counts I, III, VII, IX and X, and grants without prejudice these Defendants' motions to dismiss Count VI. As to the Fox Defendants, the Court grants without prejudice Defendants' motions to dismiss Counts I, IV, VI, VIII, IX, and X. The Court grants with prejudice Defendants' motions to dismiss Counts II and V. Furthermore, the Court grants Plaintiffs leave to amend their allegations in Counts IV, VI, VIII, IX, and X in a Second Amended Class Action Complaint - in accordance with this ruling and consistent with counsel's Rule 11 obligations - by no later than May 12, 2017.[1] See Runnion v. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Nw. Indiana, 786 F.3d 510, 518 (7th Cir. 2015) (there is a “presumption in favor of giving plaintiffs at least one opportunity to amend.”). Last, at this stage of the proceedings, Defendants Dixon and the Chief Judge's Office have not established their affirmative defenses regarding immunity. See Hyson USA, Inc. v. Hyson 2U, Ltd., 821 F.3d 935, 939 (7th Cir. 2016) (“a plaintiff ordinarily need not anticipate and attempt to plead around affirmative defenses.”).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014); see also Hill v. Serv. Emp. Int'l Union, 850 F.3d 861, 863 (7th Cir. 2017). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under the federal pleading standards, a plaintiff's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Put differently, a “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). When determining the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, courts must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs' favor.” Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016).

         BACKGROUND

         I. Introduction

         In the summer of 2015, officials placed the JTDC on lockdown so that it could be used to film episodes for the Fox television show Empire. (R. 23, First Am. Compl. Intro. ¶ 1.) More specifically, the filming of Empire at the JTDC occurred over three different time periods in the summer of 2015, namely, June 21 through 26, July 13 through 16, and August 23 through 26. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiffs, who were juvenile detainees during that time, allege that JTDC officials “placed off limits” certain areas that are essential to the JTDC's mission of educating and rehabilitating the hundreds of juveniles housed there, including the JTDC's school, its facilities for family visits, the outdoor recreation yard, the library, the infirmary, and the chapel. (Id. Intro. ¶ 1, ¶¶ 30, 32, 35.) JTDC officials placed these areas off limits so the Fox Defendants' agents and employees could use these areas to stage and film the television show. (Id. Intro. ¶ 1.) To that end, JTDC officials ordered that the juvenile detainees either remain in their cells or be placed in jail-style “pod” areas, which significantly limited the juveniles' movement. (Id. Intro. ¶ 2, ¶¶ 34, 36.) As a result, the juvenile detainees sat for days on end, their schooling existed in name only, visits from their families were effectively eliminated, and sick-call requests were ignored, among other alleged deprivations. (Id. Intro. ¶ 2, ¶¶ 35, 38.) In short, these lockdowns effectively cancelled or interrupted the JTDC programs intended to help the juvenile detainees. (Id. Intro. ¶ 2, ¶ 40.) Plaintiffs allege that the purpose of these lockdowns was to provide the Fox Defendants with a realistic prison facility for the Empire episodes. (Id. Intro. ¶ 3.)

         II. Agreement to Film at the JTDC

         In the spring of 2015, Superintendent Dixon and/or the Chief Judge's Office, one or more of the Fox Defendants, and/or one or more of the Defendant Does entered into an agreement permitting Empire's crew to film at the JTDC. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 56.) The parties' agreement contemplated that the Empire crew of approximately 250 individuals, including dozens of staff, actors, and extras, would have access to many of the restricted facilities on the JTDC's second and third floors and that the juveniles would be barred from those facilities so the crews could work without interruption. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 31, 32.) Plaintiffs allege that under this agreement, the JTDC would confine the juvenile detainees to their cells and pods on the JTDC's upper floors for extended periods of time. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 34.) According to Plaintiffs, in reaching this agreement, all of the Defendants knew that filming Empire at the JTDC would result in the lockdowns and attendant restrictions on the juvenile detainees housed there. (Id. ¶ 29.) In addition, internal JTDC planning documents prepared for the Empire filming indicate that many JTDC staff members were expected or directed to leave their normal duties to provide services to the Empire crew, including acting as extras in the show, assisting at the delivery docks to permit the free flow of film equipment, escorting actors and crew members to and from the set, and cleaning up after the crew. (Id. ¶ 33.)

         III. Juvenile Pretrial Detainees

         To put the disruptions resulting from the filming of Empire in context, Plaintiffs allege that many of the juveniles housed at the JTDC have encountered traumatic experiences prior and during their detention, including that sixty percent of the juveniles who enter the JTDC have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and around one-quarter of them are taking prescribed psychotropic medications. (Id. ¶ 18.) Added to this, Plaintiffs assert that the juveniles frequently arrive at the JTDC in a state of crisis having been separated from their families and placed in confinement. (Id.) Plaintiffs also allege that the 2015 lockdowns were psychologically damaging to many of the juvenile detainees because they were forced to remain idle in their cells and pods. (Id. ¶ 48.) According to Plaintiffs, as a proximate result of these lockdowns and the attendant conditions, the juveniles housed at the JTDC suffered emotional and psychological pain, were deprived of meaningful opportunities for rehabilitation, education, and family visits, and were subjected to increased risk of physical violence at the hands of other juveniles at the facility. (Id. ¶ 78.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. Constitutional Claims

         In Counts I through VI of the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs bring substantive constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as claims seeking to establish certain Defendants' liability for the alleged constitutional violations. To succeed on their § 1983 claims, Plaintiffs must show: “(1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or federal law and (2) that defendants were acting under color of state law.” Wilson v. Warren Cnty., Illinois, 830 F.3d 464, 468 (7th Cir. 2016). As Plaintiffs acknowledge, the Fox Defendants are not state actors, and thus they cannot be liable for any constitutional violations unless Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged their joint action with state actors and/or that the Fox Defendants conspired with state actors to deprive Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights. See id.; see also L.P. v. Marian Catholic High Sch., 852 F.3d 690 (7th Cir. 2017). Before determining whether Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the Fox Defendants acted jointly with the state actor Defendants, the Court first turns to whether Plaintiffs have adequately alleged the substantive constitutional claims under Iqbal and Twombly.

         A. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim - Count I

         In Count I of the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that as juvenile detainees, the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause provides them certain protections in relation to the conditions of their confinement and that all of the Defendants violated these protections. See Schall v. Martin, 467 U.S. 253, 269, 104 S.Ct. 2403, 81 L.Ed.2d 207 (1984) (“[d]ue process requires that a pretrial detainee not be punished”) (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979)); see also Bergren v. City of Milwaukee, 811 F.2d 1139, 1142-43 (7th Cir. 1987). As the Seventh Circuit instructs, “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.” Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 310 (7th Cir. 2015). That being said, under the seminal Supreme Court decision relating to pretrial detainees' due process rights, namely, Bell v. Wolfish, the Supreme Court held that “court[s] must decide whether the disability is imposed for the purpose of punishment or whether it is but an incident of some other legitimate governmental purpose.” Bell, 441 U.S. at 538. More specifically, “[i]n the absence of an expressed intent to punish, a pretrial detainee can nevertheless prevail by showing that the actions are not ‘rationally related to a legitimate nonpunitive governmental purpose' or that the actions ‘appear excessive in relation to that purpose.'” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015) (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 561). Also, “[i]n assessing whether the treatment of the detained juvenile satisfies the requirements of due process, it is quite appropriate - indeed necessary - to consider that in such an environment juveniles may indeed have different needs and more importantly, different capacities than adults.” Bergren, 811 F.2d at 1143.

         Here, the challenged governmental action consists of the three lockdowns at the JTDC that occurred in June, July, and August 2015. Plaintiffs argue that these lockdowns, which resulted in the denial of their due process rights, were not rationally related to a legitimate nonpunitive purpose, but rather, the purpose of these lockdowns was to provide the Fox Defendants with a realistic prison facility to film two Empire episodes. In response, Defendants Dixon and Cook County argue that Plaintiffs have failed to allege a sufficient deprivation of their liberty interests in the context of substantive due process protections pursuant to Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 415 (1995), and its progeny - which is not Plaintiffs' theory of liability concerning the conditions of their confinement because Plaintiffs are not incarcerated adult prisoners challenging disciplinary segregation. See Id. at 485 (“The punishment of incarcerated prisoners, on the other hand, serves different aims than those found invalid in Bell.”); see also Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 223, 125 S.Ct. 2384, 162 L.Ed.2d 174 (2005) (“The Sandin standard requires us to determine if assignment to [a Supermax prison] ‘imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'”) (citation omitted). Instead, Plaintiffs' theory of the case is that all of the Defendants violated Plaintiffs' due process rights in relation to the conditions of their confinement as juvenile pretrial detainees in contradiction of Bell v. Wolfish. As such, Defendants' arguments relying on Sandin and Wilkinson are unavailing. Similarly, the Chief Judge's Office's “shock the conscience” argument is without merit because Bell did not instruct “federal courts to inquire into the state of anyone's conscience.” Titran v. Ackman, 893 F.2d 145, 147 (7th Cir. 1990) (“Bell v. Wolfish did not instruct the inferior federal courts to inquire into the state of anyone's conscience, and to the extent ‘substantive due process' applies, it is ‘at best redundant of [sic] that provided by the Eighth Amendment.'”) (citation omitted).

         Next, all of the Defendants attempt to pick apart each alleged constitutional deprivation in isolation despite well-settled Seventh Circuit authority “that some conditions which taken singly do not constitute cruel or unusual punishment, may in cumulative effect violate the Eighth Amendment.” Dixon v. Godinez, 114 F.3d 640, 643 (7th Cir. 1997); see also Gray v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000, 1005 (7th Cir. 2016) (“[s]ome conditions of confinement may establish an Eighth Amendment violation in combination when each alone would not do so.”) (citation omitted). Viewing the allegations and all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor - and the alleged deprivations as a whole - Plaintiffs have plausibly stated the denial of their due process rights by alleging that the filming of the Empire episodes and Defendants' attendant conduct resulted in depriving the juvenile detainees access to the infirmary and the denial of sick-call requests, along with the elimination of schooling, family visits, and restricting the juveniles' movement and outdoor activities. See Smith, 803 F.3d at 313 (“We have recognized that lack of exercise can rise to a constitutional violation”); Ortiz v. City of Chicago, 656 F.3d 523, 531 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Each state actor who encounters a detainee must reasonably respond to medical complaints.”); Swansey v. Elrod, 386 F.Supp. 1138, 1143 (N.D. Ill. 1975) (“children who remain unconvicted of any crime may not be subjected to devastating psychological and reprehensible physical conditions”). In fact, Plaintiffs' allegations regarding the denial of access to the infirmary and the rejected sick-call requests - alone - state an actionable claim. See, e.g., Dobbey v. Mitchell-Lawshea, 806 F.3d 938, 940 (7th Cir. 2015); Gallagher v. City of Winlock, Wash., 287 Fed.Appx. 568, 576 (9th Cir. 2008).

         Nevertheless, all of the Defendants argue that the deprivations were short-term inconveniences - taking issue with Plaintiffs' characterization of the alleged constitutional deprivations. At this procedural posture, however, the Court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor, not in Defendants' favor. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2196, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Smith, 803 F.3d at 309. Additionally, Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that there was no legitimate governmental purpose for the lockdowns, but rather the lockdowns provided the Fox Defendants with a realistic prison facility to use as a set for two Empire episodes - allegations that allow the Court to reasonably infer the purpose of the governmental action was punishment. See Bell, 441 U.S. at 538-39 (“if a restriction or condition is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal - if it is arbitrary or purposeless - a court permissibly may infer that the purpose of the governmental action is punishment that may not constitutionally be inflicted upon detainees.”); Mulvania v. Sheriff of Rock Island Cnty., 850 F.3d 849 (7th Cir. 2017) (“A pretrial condition can amount to punishment in two ways: first, if it is ‘imposed for the purpose of punishment, ' or second, if the condition ‘is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal - if it is arbitrary or purposeless - a court permissibly may infer that the purpose of the government action is punishment.'”) (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 538-39). As such, Plaintiffs' allegations are sufficient at this stage of the proceedings. Thus, the Court denies Defendants' motion to dismiss Count I of the First Amended Complaint.[2]

         B. Fourth Amendment Claim - Count II

         In the alternative to their Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, in Count II, Plaintiffs bring a Fourth Amendment claim against all of the Defendants arguing that the Supreme Court has not definitely determined whether the Fourth Amendment continues to provide protection against the use of excessive force beyond arrest. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989); see also Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2479 (Alito, J., dissenting) (“we should decide whether a pretrial detainee can bring a Fourth Amendment claim based on the use of excessive force by a detention facility employee, ” because “[w]e have not yet decided that question.”). Plaintiffs' argument is misplaced because the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that “the Due Process Clause protects a pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment.” See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989); see also Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 127, 112 S.Ct. 1061, 117 L.Ed.2d 261 (1992) (“the Due Process Clause of its own force requires that conditions of confinement satisfy certain minimal standards for pretrial detainees”). As such, an alternative claim based on the Fourth Amendment is unwarranted. The Court grants, with prejudice, Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim as alleged in Count II.

         II. Claims Pertaining to Liability

         A. Joint Action ...


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