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Ventresca v. Lake County

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

January 24, 2018



          Sara L. Ellis, Judge

         After he was allegedly subjected to unlawful conditions while incarcerated at Lake County Jail and denied appropriate medical treatment for the injuries he sustained as a result of these conditions, Plaintiff Derek Ventresca brought this civil rights action against Defendants Lake County; the Lake County Sheriff's Office (the “Sheriff's Office”); Mark Curran, in both his individual capacity and his official capacity as the Sheriff of Lake County; Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. (“Armor”); and Allison Beatty, Cecillia Cardona, Patti McDougall, and Eric Mizuno (collectively, the “Armor Defendants”); and John Doe pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Ventresca brings claims for unconstitutional conditions of confinement against Doe and Curran in his official capacity, as well as for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against Curran in his individual and official capacities, Armor, and the Armor Defendants.

         Finally, Ventresca seeks indemnification from Lake County for any judgment entered against Curran in his official capacity. Defendants have filed several motions to dismiss Ventresca's amended complaint. Because Ventresca has sufficiently met his pleading burden with respect to his deliberate indifference claim against the Armor Defendants and the Monell claim for unlawful conditions for confinement, the Court allows these claims to proceed. But the Court dismisses his Monell claim for deliberate indifference to his medical needs because he has failed to sufficiently allege that his injuries arose from a widespread policy or practice.


         On or about August 25, 2016, Ventresca was brought to the Lake County Jail for intake, booking, and pre-trial detention. He was placed in cell B12 with approximately twenty other inmates for four to five nights. The cell had a drain in the floor, which other inmates used as a toilet. The cell smelled of urine and urine frequently covered the floor. Additionally, fecal matter surrounded the exterior of the toilet in the cell. The cell was not cleaned during Ventresca's time there. Ventresca and the other inmates also did not have mattresses while in cell B12, sleeping instead on the concrete floor. After Ventresca requested a mattress from Doe, Doe denied his request and told him to take his complaint up with the Sheriff's Office. After sleeping on the concrete floor, Ventresca began to suffer from severe and persistent back pain; muscle and back stiffness; sharp shooting pains; and numbness in his lower back and legs. Ventresca also has trouble sleeping and performing normal daily tasks.

         Since this time, Ventresca has repeatedly requested medical treatment for his chronic back pain. Armor provides medical services for the Lake County Jail, and employed Beatty, a medical administrator, Cardona, a nurse, McDougall, a nurse practitioner, and Mizuno, a doctor. Until December 2016, several Armor staff members, including Beatty, McDougall, and Mizuno, refused to let Ventresca be examined and treated by a doctor. On or about November 11, 2016, Cardona met with Ventresca and confirmed that the conditions of his confinement in cell B12 likely caused his injuries. Despite this information, Cardona denied Ventresca's request to be seen by Mizuno for further analysis and treatment. Mizuno did prescribe painkillers for Ventresca's injuries even though he never evaluated Ventresca's injuries. After the painkillers proved ineffective and Ventresca renewed his requests to be examined and treated by a doctor, Beatty, McDougall, Cardona, and Mizuno denied those renewed requests. In December 2016, Mizuno examined Ventresca, performed a cursory evaluation, and prescribed additional painkillers that failed to remedy Ventresca's injuries. As part of the grievance process, Ventresca did receive a thicker mattress, but prison officials later removed the mattress from his cell claiming that they had no record of the grievance resolution.


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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.


         Ventresca's first amended complaint includes claims against the individual Defendants pursuant to § 1983 for unlawful conditions of confinement (Count I)[3] and deliberate indifference (Count II). Ventresca also seeks to proceed pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), for the alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement as a result of the Sheriff's Office policy or practice (Count III) and for deliberate indifference to his medical needs against Armor and the Sheriff's Office through Curran (Count IV). Defendants move to dismiss Ventresca's deliberate indifference claims arguing that Ventresca has not properly alleged Defendants acted indifferently and that Ventresca suffered from a serious medical need. Additionally, Curran and Armor argue that Ventresca's Monell claims fail because they are stated in a conclusory fashion. The Court addresses each of these arguments in turn.

         I. Deliberate Indifference Claim (Count II)

         Ventresca alleges that Curran, in his individual capacity, Armor, and the Armor Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.[4] “[T]he Fourteenth Amendment prohibits deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of pretrial detainees.” Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. County of Madison, 746 F.3d 766, 775 (7th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (explaining that deliberate indifference claims arise under the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment, but courts use Eighth Amendment case law as a guide). To state a deliberate indifference claim, Ventresca must allege both that he has an objectively serious medical condition, and that Defendants were subjectively aware of and consciously disregarded his medical need. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994).

         A. Objectively Serious Medical Condition

         First, the Court must determine whether Ventresca has adequately alleged that he suffered from an objectively serious medical condition. An objectively serious medical condition is “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” King v. Kramer, 680 F.3d 1013, 1018 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Zentmyer v. Kendall County, 220 F.3d 805, 810 (7th Cir. 2000)). An injury is also objectively serious if a “failure to treat [it] could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Although not “every ache and pain or ...

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