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Outlaw v. City of Cahokia

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 26, 2017

JERRY OUTLAW, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on the motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by defendants St. Clair County, Sheriff Richard Watson, Superintendent Phillip McLaurin, Lieutenant Nancy Sutherlin, Sergeant Steven Strubberg, Officer Christopher Hoernis, Lieutenant John Fulton, Sergeant Matthew R. Scott, Sergeant Brian Cunningham and Lieutenant Karl L. Pannier (Doc. 83). They seek dismissal of Counts IV, V, VI, VII and VIII. Plaintiff Jerry Outlaw has responded to the motion (Doc. 93).

         I. Standard for Dismissal

         When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This requirement is satisfied if the complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 556). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         In Bell Atlantic, the Supreme Court rejected the more expansive interpretation of Rule 8(a)(2) that “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, ” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 561-63; Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 777. Now “it is not enough for a complaint to avoid foreclosing possible bases for relief; it must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief . . . by providing allegations that ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 777 (quoting Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555).

         Nevertheless, Bell Atlantic did not do away with the liberal federal notice pleading standard. Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007). A complaint still need not contain detailed factual allegations, Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555, and it remains true that “[a]ny district judge (for that matter, any defendant) tempted to write ‘this complaint is deficient because it does not contain . . .' should stop and think: What rule of law requires a complaint to contain that allegation?” Doe v. Smith, 429 F.3d 706, 708 (7th Cir. 2005) (emphasis in original). Nevertheless, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555. If the factual detail of a complaint is “so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled under Rule 8, ” it is subject to dismissal. Airborne Beepers, 499 F.3d at 667.

         II. Facts Alleged

         Accepting as true all factual allegations in the Second Amended Complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom in Outlaw's favor, the pleading establishes the following relevant facts for the purposes of this motion:

         In March 2015, Outlaw was a 19-year-old man with an IQ of 55.[1] Witnesses directly or indirectly identified him as the perpetrator, along with his brother Delarren Mason, of a robbery, although Outlaw did not actually commit the robbery. A few days later, on March 17, 2015, law enforcement officers went to Outlaw's home and arrested him. When the law enforcement officers questioned Outlaw in custody, they knew of his intellectual deficiencies and took advantage of them to intimidate, coerce or trick Outlaw into signing a waiver of his Miranda rights and falsely confessing to the robbery.

         Following his interrogation, Outlaw was detained at the St. Clair County Jail (“Jail”) and charged in state court with the robbery. At the jail, Outlaw was attacked by another inmate who was older and more sophisticated than he was. When he protected himself from the attack, Sutherlin issued him a disciplinary ticket for fighting. The ticket did not give Outlaw notice of the alleged violation. The Jail's Adjustment Committee, made up of Strubberg and Hoernis, heard the ticket, but was not impartial and did not give Outlaw the opportunity to be heard or to call witnesses. The Adjustment Committee found Outlaw guilty based entirely on evidence from Sutherlin and another Jail officer and sentenced Outlaw to thirty days in solitary confinement. McLaurin approved that placement in solitary confinement.

         In solitary confinement, conditions are worse than those in the general population. Outlaw was confined in a small cell without any human contact for twenty-three hours a day and was only let out once a day to shower. In solitary, he was not allowed to make calls, to have visits, to purchase anything from the commissary, or to have any yard or recreation time. He had no television in his cell and was only allowed to have two books. His cell had no window to the outside and only a small window to the hallway. The cell was infested with bugs, including bedbugs, spiders and red ants. The cell walls were dirty, the bed mats smelled of urine and the sink and toilet were filthy. The sink had only cold water that tasted like bleach. Outlaw was not provided cleaning supplies. These conditions caused Outlaw extreme mental anguish. Defendants Sutherlin, Fulton, Scott, Cunningham and Pannier were the supervisors in charge of the maximum security unit in which Outlaw was housed in solitary confinement and were responsible for the unit's conditions.

         On October 30, 2015, the state court dismissed the criminal case against Outlaw, and Outlaw was immediately released from the Jail. By that time, he had spent approximately seven and a half months in the Jail.

         The Second Amended Complaint contains nine causes of action. Those relevant to this motion are as follows:

Count IV:A claim against McLaurin, Sutherlin, Strubberg, Hoernis, Fulton, Scott, Cunningham and Pannier (collectively, the “Jail defendants”) for deliberate indifference to his health and safety because of the conditions of solitary confinement.
Count V:A claim against the Jail defendants for conspiring to deprive him of his constitutional rights in connection with his placement in solitary confinement and his conditions of confinement there.
Count VI:A claim against the Jail defendants for the state law tort of intentional infliction of ...

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