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Culbreth v. City of Chicago

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

October 23, 2017

DEBORAH CULBRETH, as Independent Administrator of the Estate of Charles Jones, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT M. DOW, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion [85] for leave to file a fourth amended complaint (“FAC”). Defendants oppose the motion. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion [85] is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Deborah Culbreth (“Plaintiff”) is the aunt and independent administrator for the estate of Charles Jones (“Jones”), who died while in the custody of Defendant the City of Chicago (“City”). Plaintiff originally filed this action in June 2016 in the Circuit Court of Cook County. See [1-1]. Since then, the action has been removed to federal court, see [1], and Plaintiff has amended her complaint twice without opposition, see [59], [61].

         In her governing Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”), Plaintiff named as Defendants the City, Chicago Police Officers Antrinius Andrews, Jose Rivera, Michael Rucker, Brian Kennedy, Eugene Klamerus, Charles Gray, Ronald Burrell, Jr., Beverly Glinsey, Jill Johnson, and Steven Smith (the “Officers”) and Chicago Police Detention Aides Tony Wormley, John Rattler, Leo Willis, Frederick Jackson, and Rodney Jackson (the “Detention Aides”) (collectively, “Defendants”). [61] at 1.

         In the TAC, Plaintiff alleges that Jones was detained by the Third District Chicago Police Department on August 22 and 23, 2015. During this period, the Officers and Detention Aides refused Jones' requests for medical attention and failed to provide him with medical assistance. Plaintiff was found dead in his cell on the morning on August 23. [61] at 3-4. Among other claims, Plaintiff brings a Monell policy claim against the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III). Plaintiff alleges that the City's policy failures include “(1) fostering an atmosphere in Chicago Police department lock-up facilities where lock-up personnel are permitted to disregard and ignore detainees medical needs and requests for medical attention; (2) failing to ensure that serious medical needs of detainees are treated in a reasonable time frame; (3) failing to conduct adequate assessments and evaluations of a detainee's health problems; and (4) failing to have sufficient policies for monitoring detainees; (5) failing to maintain sufficient practices to provide medical care for detainees; and (6) failing to train employees to recognize and address serious medical problems of detainees.” [61] at 6-7. Plaintiff's prayer for relief for the Monell claim seeks compensatory damages, court costs, attorneys' fees, and “such other relief as is just and equitable.” [61] at 7.

         In her proposed FAC, Plaintiff seeks to amend the prayer for relief in the Monell claim to add a specific request for declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff also seeks to correct several references to the types of expenses that the estate incurred following Jones' death.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion for leave to file an amended complaint should “freely” be granted “where justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “This liberal policy of granting amendments is based in part on the belief that decisions on the merits should be made whenever possible, absent countervailing considerations.” Olech v. Vill. of Willowbrook, 138 F.Supp.2d 1036, 1040 (N.D. Ill. 2000) (citation omitted). “In the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of the allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment, '” leave to amend should be granted. Barry Aviation, Inc. v. Land O'Lakes Mun. Airport Comm'n, 377 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962)). Ultimately, “‘[t]he decision to grant or deny a motion to file an amended pleading is a matter purely within the sound discretion of the district court.'” Soltys v. Costello, 520 F.3d 737, 743 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Brunt v. Serv. Employees Int'l Union, 284 F.3d 715, 720 (7th Cir. 2002)).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion to file the FAC on the ground that she lacks standing to seek injunctive relief. Plaintiff responds that she has standing to seek injunctive relief because the FAC alleges “a continuing unconstitutional policy within the Chicago Police Department, which poses the threat of future harm” to Jones' next of kin, on whose behalf she brings suit. [98] at 3. Plaintiff alleges that should Jones' next of kin living in Chicago be arrested, they “could also be denied necessary medical care pursuant to the City's unconstitutional practices.” Id.

         To establish standing to seek injunctive relief, “plaintiffs must show that: (1) they are under threat of an actual and imminent injury in fact; (2) there is a causal relation between that injury and the conduct to be enjoined; and (3) it is likely, rather than speculative or hypothetical, that a favorable judicial decision will prevent or redress that injury.” Schirmer v. Nagode, 621 F.3d 581, 585 (7th Cir. 2010).

         The Court concludes that Plaintiff lacks standing to seek injunctive relief on the Monell claim. The fact that the Monell claim is based on an alleged policy is insufficient to establish that Jones' next of kin are “under threat of an actual and imminent injury in fact.” Schirmer, 621 F.3d at 585. Even accepting that the City has a policy to ignore all medical needs of all detainees, Plaintiff does not allege that Jones' next of kin “have ever been threatened” with arrest or detention or that their arrest or detention “is likely” or even “remotely possible.” Schirmer, 621 F.3d at 586. Nor does Plaintiff allege that Jones' next of kin suffer or are likely to suffer from any medical conditions that would require medical treatment should they be arrested and detained in the City. Without such allegations, Plaintiff's demand for injunctive relief fails for lack of standing. See, e.g., City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 105-106 (1983) (holding that even if plaintiff alleged that “all police officers in Los Angeles always choke any citizen with whom they happen to have an encounter, whether for the purpose of arrest, issuing a citation or for questioning” or that “the City ordered or authorized police officers to act in such manner, ” plaintiff would nonetheless lack standing to request injunctive relief against police officers' use of chokeholds, where he could not show that he had reason to expect to be arrested or subjected to chokehold again); Otero v. Dart, 2012 WL 5077727, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 18, 2012) (dismissing plaintiff's request to enjoin Cook County Jail's detention policy where plaintiff did not allege that he might be subjected to the policy in the future and, in any event, “such allegations would be highly speculative and too attenuated to establish standing”).

         Given the conclusion that Plaintiff lacks standing to seek injunctive relief, the Court finds it unnecessary to address Defendants' alternative argument that the need for injunctive relief is mooted by the City's “ongoing efforts to formulate a ...


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