United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ERNEST C. BROWN, Plaintiff,
THOMAS DART, Sheriff of Cook County; BILQIS JACOBS-EL, Director of the Cook County Department of Facilities Management; and CARA SMITH, Executive Director of Cook County Department of Corrections, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. Lee, United States District Judge
Ernest Brown was incarcerated in the Cook County Jail (CCJ)
for several weeks in 2014. He brings suit under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Defendants Thomas Dart, Bilqis Jacobs-El,
and Cara Smith, alleging deliberate indifference to the
unconstitutional conditions of his confinement. Defendants
have filed a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6) seeking to dismiss
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint for failure to state
a claim. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants'
motion to dismiss is denied.
was incarcerated within Division 6 of the CCJ for three weeks
in February and November of 2014. Am. Compl. ¶ 17, ECF
No. 39. Throughout Plaintiff's incarceration, Defendant
Dart was the Sheriff of Cook County, Defendant Jacobs-El was
the Director of the Cook County Department of Facilities
Management, and Defendant Smith was the Executive Director of
the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC).
Id. ¶¶ 4-6.
alleges that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions
of confinement. Specifically, he alleges that his cell had
inadequate heating, that he and other inmates had inadequate
access to hygienic facilities like toilets, sinks, and
showers, and that those same hygienic facilities were overrun
with mold, mildew, lime, and drain flies. Id.
¶¶ 19-20, 29. Moreover, according to Plaintiff,
mice and cockroaches were present throughout Division 6,
including in Plaintiff's cell, id. ¶ 21,
and he was provided inadequate shoes and an inadequate
mattress, which caused him to sustain various stress
injuries. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. In addition,
Plaintiff was denied sufficient food, as well as prompt and
adequate medical treatment for various injuries that occurred
during his incarceration (including the stress injuries and a
separate hand injury). Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Last,
Plaintiff alleges that he was charged by the commissary for
goods that he did not receive, that he was denied access to
the law library, and that he was denied access to the
religious services of his choice. Id. ¶¶
his stay in Division 6, Plaintiff filed multiple grievances
detailing complaints about conditions within the CCJ. See
id. ¶¶ 27, 29-30. He alleges that Defendants
and the CCJ staff did not substantively respond to those
grievances or remedy the referenced conditions. See
id. He also asserts that “others repeatedly
notified Deputy Cook County Sheriffs on many occasions”
of the conditions within the CCJ. Id. ¶ 30. The
other inmates received similarly inadequate responses.
Id. ¶¶ 29-30.
November 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint
bringing a single count under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendants Dart, Jacobs-El, and Smith in their individual and
official capacities. He claims that he was subjected to
unconstitutional conditions of confinement during his
incarceration in Division 6, and he argues that Defendants
were deliberately indifferent to these conditions in
violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Defendants have
moved to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency
of the complaint. Bell v. City of Country Club
Hills, 841 F.3d 713, 716 (7th Cir. 2016). Rule 8(a)(2)
requires that a complaint contain a “short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, which is sufficient to provide the defendant with
fair notice of the claim and its basis.” Arnett v.
Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “In determining a
complaint's sufficiency, [a court will] construe it in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accept
well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all inferences in [the
nonmovant's] favor.” Zahn, 815 F.3d at
1087 (internal quotation marks omitted).
complaint, however, must still 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 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. Furthermore, a court need not
“accept as true any legal assertions or recitals of the
elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory
statements.” Zahn, 815 F.3d at 1087 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Individual Capacity Claims
bringing his individual capacity claims, Plaintiff alleges
that each of the Defendants acted with deliberate
indifference to the conditions of his confinement, in that
they ignored court decrees, guidelines and directives, and
inmate grievances-including Plaintiff's own
grievances-describing the objectively unconstitutional
conditions within Division 6. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 29-31.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the individual capacity
claims against them, arguing that they cannot be held
personally liable to Plaintiff for the conditions of his
confinement. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss at 5-6, ECF No. 52.
Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has failed to
allege that they possessed subjective knowledge of the
conditions that he faced, because he only attributed
knowledge of “general facts” to them in his
complaint. Id. Where those “general
facts” involve systemic conditions throughout Division
6, however, Defendants are mistaken. As such, accepting the
complaint's allegations as true, the Court finds that
Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for relief.
order to state a claim for unconstitutional conditions of
confinement, Plaintiff must allege that (1) there was an
objectively serious deprivation “result[ing] in the
denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities, ” and (2) the defendant prison officials
were “deliberately indifferent to this state of
affairs.” Gray v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000, 1005
(7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834 (1994)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Deliberate indifference to an
unconstitutional prison condition may be found where an
official knows about the condition and ...