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Brainer v. Dart

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

March 28, 2018

THOMAS J. DART, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, et al. Defendants.


          Michael T. Mason, United States Magistrate Judge:

         Plaintiff Ronald Brainer brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Cook County Jail Officers and Counselors Regina Senese, Tariq Lucas, Hubert Thompson, Jeaneane Booker, Lester Hampton, John Mueller, and Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart (collectively, “defendants”). Plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference to substantial risk of harm and to his medical needs in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights following an altercation with another inmate. Defendants have moved to dismiss the second amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. 40) is denied.

         I. Background[1]

         At all relevant times, Brainer was a pre-trial detainee at the Cook County Jail. On June 24, 2014, Brainer was involved in a physical altercation with another inmate named B. Schulten that was broken up by two unknown officers.[2] After that altercation, Brainer told those officers that Schulten had threatened his life and that he feared for his safety. No. action was taken to re-locate Brainer or Schulten to a different housing unit.

         Later that night, while Brainer was resting in his bed, inmate Schulten stabbed him in his right temple and ear. Defendant Officer Senese was on duty at the time of the attack, but did not witness the attack. Eventually, Officer Senese removed Brainer from the housing unit for questioning by defendant Officer Lucas. Defendant Officer Thompson was also made aware of the attack at this time.

         Several hours after the attack, Brainer was taken to Cermak Health Services for medical treatment, at which point it was determined that he needed to be transported to Stroger Hospital. At Stroger, Brainer's wound was stitched up. Despite complaints of hearing loss, his hearing was not tested at that time. After treatment, Brainer was transported back to Cermak Health Services, placed in the same waiting room as inmate Schulten, and subjected to further threats. After being released from Cermak, Brainer was returned to the same housing unit where Schulten continued to reside.

         On June 26, 2014, Brainer prepared a grievance relating to the attack and defendants' failure to protect him from harm. The grievance was received by defendant Booker, but no action was taken. On July 10, 2014, Brainer filed another grievance, complaining of continued threats and harassment by Schulten, but again no action was taken. At some point between the attack and August 9, 2014, Brainer also wrote a letter to defendant Sheriff Dart complaining about his health and safety. He received no response from Sheriff Dart. Between July 30, 2014 and August 9, 2014, Schulten was finally moved to a different housing unit. After the attack, Brainer also continued to complain of hearing loss and repeatedly asked to see a physician or have his hearing tested. His requests were denied.

         On June 8, 2016, Brainer filed a pro se complaint against defendants Dart, Booker, Hampton, Hurb, Jane Does 1-5, and John Does 1-5 alleging failure to protect under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and failure to properly address his grievances. (Dkt. 1.) The Clerk of Court quickly informed Brainer that his complaint included personal identifiers and was thus not in compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2. Brainer's almost identical amended complaint (this time without personal identifiers) was received on July 11, 2016. (Dkt. 9.) Around that same time, Brainer filed a motion for attorney representation. (Dkt. 7.)

         On September 8, 2016, after the initial screening required for pro se prisoner complaints, see 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a), the District Court issued an order finding that Bainer's amended complaint did not state a cause of action for failure to address his grievances. (Dkt. 10 at 3-4.) The Court did find, however, that Brainer had stated a colorable cause of action for failure to protect against defendant Dart. (Id. at 3.) Further, the Court noted that Brainer “arguably may be able to state a failure to protect claim against some or all of the unknown correctional officers.” (Id.) The Court advised Brainer, however, that he could not proceed against any unknown officers until he identified them and named them in an amended complaint. (Id.) Brainer was further advised that he should attempt to identify the unknown officers as soon as possible “in light of the two-year statute of limitations and applicable tolling rules.” (Id.) In the same order, the District Court granted Brainer's motion for attorney representation, and appointed Joseph Korn to represent him. (Id. at 4.)

         On November 2, 2016, attorney Korn filed a motion seeking relief from the appointment, arguing that he lacked the necessary competence to represent Brainer in this § 1983 case. (Dkt. 14.) The District Court denied that motion at a hearing on November 10, 2016, and granted Brainer until January 13, 2017 to file an amended complaint. (Dkt. 17.) Brainer's counsel also sought and was granted leave to issue subpoenas to the Cook County Sheriff's Office and Cook County Health and Hospital Systems seeking additional information about Brainer's allegations and the unknown officers. (Dkt. 23.) Subsequently, Brainer was granted two additional extensions of time to file his amended complaint. (Dkt. 27 & 30.)

         Brainer eventually filed his second amended complaint (the operative pleading) on May 1, 2017 against defendants Senese, Lucas, Thompson, Booker, Hampton, Mueller, and Dart alleging the facts enumerated above.[3] (Dkt. 31.) Count I alleges deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm against defendants Senese, Lucas, Thompson, Booker, Hampton, and Mueller. Count III alleges deliberate indifference to a serious medical need against Senese, Lucas, Thompson, Booker, and Hampton. Counts II and IV allege Monell claims against Sheriff Dart based on the causes of action pled in Counts I and III, respectively.

         Defendants now seek to dismiss certain claims under Rule 12(b)(6) arguing that plaintiff's claims are (1) barred by the two-year statute of limitations; (2) legally insufficient pursuant to Babcock v. White, 102 F.3d 267 (7th Cir. 1996); and (3) fail to properly allege a policy or practice against Sheriff Dart. Each issue is addressed in turn below.

         II. Standard on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, it must contain enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). When ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged and drawing all possible inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

         III. Analysis

         A. Statute of Limitations

         Defendants first argue that plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Senese, Lucas, Thompson, and Mueller must be dismissed as time-barred under the applicable two-year statute of limitations.[4] According to defendants, plaintiff's cause of action began to accrue on June 24, 2014, the date of the incident with inmate Schulten. Defendants argue that because plaintiff failed to specifically name defendants Senese, Lucas, Thompson, and Mueller until May 1, 2017, well after the two-year statute of limitations had expired, his claims against those defendants must fail. Plaintiff responds that the second amended ...

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