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Smith v. Cook County

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

August 2, 2017



          Hon. Virginia M. Kendall, Judge

         Plaintiff Matthew Smith, a detainee in the custody of Cook County Jail, filed suit against Sergeant Thomas Conley, a Cook County Correctional Officer, and other unknown Cook County Correctional officers under 42 U.S.C § 1983, alleging that Defendants used excessive force against him and failed to intervene to put a stop to that force in violation of Smith's Fourth Amendment rights. (Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 23-27.) Smith also brought a Monell claim against Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, alleging that policies, practices, and customs in the Cook County Sheriff's Department created an environment in which inmates like Smith did not receive proper protection from abuse by correctional officers and where allegations of abuse by officers were not properly investigated. (Id. ¶¶ 28-33.) Additionally, Smith brought a state law respondeat superior claim against Dart for negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress on the part of his agents. (Id. ¶ 34-35.) Finally, Smith brought an indemnification claim under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act against Cook County for any damages arising from the actions of the other defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 36-37.)

         Following the close of discovery, Defendants filed this Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, arguing that Smith failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing suit and that Sgt. Conley did not use excessive force against Smith. (Dkt. 61.) For the reasons state below, Defendants' Motion [59] is denied.


         I. Events of March 22, 2012

         According to a report by Investigator Tia Parks of the Cook County Sheriff's Office of Professional Review (“OPR”), Smith was involved in a physical altercation with Sergeant Daniel McCall on March 22, 2012 when Smith refused to exit lock-up and go to court. (Def. SOF ¶ 9.) Smith has no recollection of any such altercation. (Def Ex. 1, 94:18-23.)

         Video footage from later on March 22 at Division 5 of Cook County Jail (“CCJ”) shows Officer Trevizio enter Smith's cell. (Def. SOF ¶ 11.) Upon entering the cell, Smith attempted to bite Trevizio. (Id.) In response, Trevizio struck Smith on the right side of his face near his eye. (Id. ¶ 12.) Trevizio then proceeded to spray Smith with pepper spray. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Later that day, Sergeant Thomas Conley had a verbal dispute with Smith outside of Smith's cell. (Def. SOF ¶ 14.) Handheld video footage taken by one of the correctional officers shows Conley conferring with other officers, a supervisor, and medical professionals outside of Smith's cell. (Def. SOF ¶ 14.)[1] The parties to this meeting decided to send Smith as a “direct admit” to the psychiatric unit (“2-North”) of Cermak Hospital. (Id.) Two of these individuals, Sergeant Conley and Lieutenant Queen later testified that they believed Smith was experiencing a psychotic episode. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 4.) Dr. Lassen, a psychiatrist assigned to Division 5, assessed Smith's behavior and confirmed that he was experiencing some severe form of psychiatric disorder and ordered that he be sent to Cermak Hospital where he received a variety of medications and was placed under close observation. (Pl. Ex. 13, Lassen Dep. 57:11-20.) On Dr. Lassen's order, Lieutenant Queen then ordered a transport team to remove Smith from his cell and take him to 2-North at Cermak Hospital. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 9.) The video further shows Conley and two other officers place a spit mask on Smith's face before extracting him from the cell and using force to place him on a cart to send him to Cermak Hospital. (Def. SOF ¶¶ 15, 54; Pl. SOAF ¶ 12.)

         The handheld video camera was turned off upon Smith's arrival at Cermak Hospital. (Id. ¶ 16.)[2] Sergeant Conley directed other officers throughout Smith's transport to Cermak Hospital, including directing Officer Cosimini to videotape the transport, ordering Officer Vale to place a hood over Smith's head, and directing other officers to assist as necessary. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 11.) According to Conley, he did not continue with the transport team past the entrance of Cermak Hospital and onto the elevator up to 2-North. (Pl. Ex. 7, Conley Dep. 143:18-144:1.)[3]

         The transport team then placed Smith on an elevator going up to 2-North from the lower level of Cermak Hospital (Pl. Resp. ¶ 18), a ride that only takes a matter of seconds. (Pl. Ex. 15, Drowns Dep. 51:23-52:5.) On a Sheriff's Office Incident Report, it is estimated that the transport team and Smith arrived at Cermak at approximately 7:10 p.m. and that they arrived at 2-North at approximately 7:30 pm. (Pl. Ex. 23.) Smith alleges that this gap in time was so long because the officers took several trips up and down the elevator in order to beat him up. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 21.) Smith claims that the transport team kicked and punched him during the elevator ride (Pl. SOAF ¶ 19), but no witness testimony corroborates this allegation. (Def. Resp. ¶ 19.) Smith testified that he went in and out of consciousness during this beating until a kick to the head made him completely lose consciousness. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 25.) Despite Conley's assertion that he was not present during the elevator ride, Smith alleges that Conley was on the elevator because he recalls a heavy-set, bald-headed, African-American man in a white sergeant's uniform present on the elevator. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 23.)[4] Officers present gave conflicting testimony, albeit years after the event took place, as to the number of officers that were present on the elevator. (Def. Resp ¶ 26.)

         When the elevator arrived at 2-North, the nurse, Augustus Alabi, refused to accept Smith as a patient until after he was processed through the emergency room. (Def. SOF ¶ 20.) Alabi testified that Smith was combative and uncooperative (Def. Ex. 15, Alabi Dep. 105:9-24) and needed to go to the emergency room to receive treatment for his bloody mouth. (Pl. Ex. 14, Alabi Dep. 135:1-11.) Lieutenant Pullums, a non-medical employee at 2-North, noticed that Smith had facial injuries as soon as he arrived at 2-North-he was bleeding from his mouth and had a swollen eye. (Pl. Ex. 12, Pullums Dep. 101:1-9.) Pullums wanted incident reports to reflect that Smith had been injured before he was received by her staff at 2-North. (Pl. Resp. ¶ 32.) During Smith's short stay at 2-North, he fell off his gurney and landed on his face and side. (Def. Resp. ¶ 20.)

         Smith was transferred to the emergency room where Dr. Bonaparte examined him and found bruises on both sides of Smith's eyes, both sides of his upper body, his armpits, both sides of his upper body, and both sides of his legs. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 34.) Dr. Bonaparte testified that these injuries were likely not caused by a single fall off of a gurney. (Pl. Ex. 3, 114:13-16.) Upon giving Smith treatment in the emergency room, Bonaparte transferred Smith to Stroger Hospital. (Pl. Resp. ¶ 21.)

         Dr. Nagy at Stroger Hospital examined Smith later that day. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 35.) Nagy's chart and subsequent testimony indicate that when Smith arrived at Stroger he had bruising in and around his eyes, bruising on his neck, a large amount of bruising to both shoulders and the right side of his chest, a large abrasion on his right shoulder, and abrasions on both legs. (Pl. Ex. 4, Nagy Dep. 30:11-20.) He had also suffered a collapsed lung and a small fracture to an eye socket. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 35.)

         II. ...

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