United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Linda Bradford, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Develt Bradford, deceased, and Linda Bradford, Individually, Plaintiffs,
City of Chicago, a Municipal Corporation, Chicago Police Officer Phyllis Gill, Chicago Police Officer John Otto, and Detention Aide Darrin West, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE THOMAS M. DURKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
this Court is the City of Chicago's Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss the recently added Monell claim to the
above-captioned suit. For the reasons that follow, the motion
12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint. See, e.g., Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of
Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir.
2009). A complaint must provide “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to
provide defendant with “fair notice” of the claim
and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard “demands more
than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). While “detailed factual allegations”
are not required, “labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The
complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
“‘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.'” Mann v.
Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard,
the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws
all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Mann, 707 F.3d at 877. Moreover, “when
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, ” the Court
may also consider “facts alleged by a plaintiff in a
brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss . . . so long as
they are consistent of the allegations in the
complaint.” Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 311
(7th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted); see also Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675
F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012) (“[A] party opposing
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion may submit materials outside the
pleadings to illustrate the facts the party expects to be
able to prove” and “may find it prudent to do
so”) (citations omitted).
factual allegations in this case are simple, but serious. On
November 15, 2011, Devalt Bradford was arrested and charged
with first degree murder. R. 44 (Complaint) ¶¶ 9,
12. After some shuffling between interview rooms and lineups,
on November 16, 2011, Bradford was placed in a holding cell
in the Fifth District lockup beyond the sight and hearing of
the police officer and detention aide on duty. Id.
¶¶ 11, 13, 18-19. The cell was outfitted with a
security camera, but the camera was broken, and had been for
years before. Id. ¶¶ 14-17, 23. Despite
numerous complaints from officers, the camera was never
repaired. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Plaintiff alleges
that it is common knowledge that arrestees charged with
serious felonies like murder are a suicide risk. R. 64
(Response) at 6. She further alleges that city employees knew
of safer places in the lockup to hold “at-risk
detainees” than the cell where Bradford was placed.
that night were one police officer and one detention aide,
though previously the standard had been to have three or four
employees on lockup duty in the cellblock where Bradford was
detained. Id. The detention aide on duty had
complained to his superiors on more than one occasion before
that shift that “two people is not enough to work
lockup.” R. 64-2 at 6. No staffing adjustments were
made in response to his complaints. Id.
early hours of November 17, 2011, Bradford hanged himself by
his pants. R. 44 ¶ 21. Three days later, again with only
two employees on lockup duty and no functioning security
cameras, another arrestee held at the Fifth District also
committed suicide, hanging himself by his underpants. See
Woods v. City of Chicago, No. 16 C 1671, slip op. at 1
(N.D. Ill.Dec. 23, 2016) (order denying motion for judgment
on the pleadings). According to Plaintiff, several other
“extraordinary occurrences” such as deaths or
serious injuries took place in city lockup cells beyond the
sight and hearing of on-duty staff and without functioning
cameras between 2006 and 2011. R. 64 at 6-7.
case was brought by Bradford's wife on his behalf and in
her individual capacity. It alleges that the continuous and
systematic understaffing of city lockups and the City's
ongoing failure to repair security equipment installed to
ensure inmate safety created constitutionally unreasonable
conditions of confinement for inmates at risk of suicide. R.
44 ¶¶ 53-56. She seeks to hold the City responsible
for failing to adequately supervise her husband, who had been
charged with murder, and thus to prevent his untimely death.
Id. (Count IV). The City moves to dismiss the
Monell claim “for boilerplate pleading.”
the government takes people into its custody, the Eighth
Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment
requires the government not to act with deliberate
indifference to serious threats to prisoners' health and
safety. Daniel v. Cook Cnty., 833 F.3d 728, 733 (7th
Cir. 2016) (citations omitted); see also Cavalieri v.
Shepard, 321 F.3d 616, 623 (7th Cir. 2003) (recognizing
the right to be free from deliberate indifference to
suicide). For pre-trial detainees like Bradford,
“the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
imposes at least as robust a duty on government
the City liable in an unreasonable conditions of confinement
case, Plaintiff must show that an “‘official
policy, widespread custom, or action by an official with
policy-making authority was the ‘moving force'
behind [Bradford's] constitutional injury.'”
Daniel, 833 F.3d at 734; see also Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658,
690-91 (1978). Here, Plaintiff alleges that Bradford's
death was the consequence of a widespread custom at the Fifth
District lockup of inadequately supervising at-risk
arrestees. Monell claims like Plaintiff's are
typically proven by reference to four elements: (1) a
widespread municipal practice so permanent and well-settled
that it constitutes a custom; (2) a harm or risk of harm to
the plaintiff that is sufficiently serious to implicate the
Constitution; (3) the defendant municipality's deliberate
indifference to that harm or risk; and (4) a causal link
between the policy or custom of the municipality and the
constitutional injury by the plaintiff. See Woodward v.
Corr. Med. Servs. of Illinois, Inc., 368 F.3d 917,
926-27 (7th Cir. 2004). There is no question that the harm
alleged in this case is serious. See Id. at 926
(finding the “serious harm” element
“obviously satisfied” by an inmate's
suicide). The City argues that as to each of the other
elements, however, Plaintiff's allegations are inadequate
to state a plausible claim for relief.
preliminary matter, the Court has indicated its skepticism
during status hearings in this case that a constitutional
right to cameras in jail cells exists. Having now reviewed
the case law, the Court remains skeptical. This does not
settle the matter, however, as to whether Plaintiff has
stated a Monell claim against the City. In the
Court's view, the right Plaintiff claims here is not to
functioning surveillance cameras, but to constitutionally
adequate care and supervision. If, as Plaintiff alleges, the
security cameras were part of the City's system for
supervising detainees, and if that system failed in a way
that caused a deprivation of Bradford's constitutional
rights, then the problem with the cameras may be an important
part of Plaintiff's case for deliberate indifference. So
while the broken camera does not, in itself, support a
constitutional claim, it may nevertheless provide support for
Plaintiff's broader argument that official indifference
to systemic problems with supervision at the Fifth District
lockup created unreasonable conditions of confinement leading
to Bradford's suicide. See Daniel, 833 F.3d at
736-37 (finding no constitutional right to a grievance
procedure but finding systemic problems with the jail's
grievance procedure relevant to whether the government was
deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff's medical