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Myles v. Reighter

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

March 28, 2018

ROBERT X. REIGHTER, et al., Defendants.


          Ruben Castillo Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff Derrick Myles filed suit against Robert X. Reighter, Pedro A, Dominguez, Charles F. Best, Sgt. Johnson (first name unknown), Lt. Phillip Martin, Dr. Jane Doe, John Does #1-5, and Jane Does #1-2 (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging deprivations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (R. 18, Am. Compl.) The Court entered a default against Defendants for failure to timely appear, answer, or otherwise plead in response to Plaintiff's amended complaint. (R. 20, Min. Entry at 1.) Plaintiff now moves for default judgment, whereas Defendants move to vacate the entry of default. (R. 30, Pl's Mot. at 1; R. 44, Defs.' Mot. at 1.) For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to vacate is granted, and Plaintiffs motion for default judgment is denied.


         Between September and December 2014, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Northern Reception and Classification Center ("NRC"), which is part of the Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"). (R. 18, Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) During that same period, Defendants were employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") and assigned to Stateville. (Id. ¶¶ 5-17.) Plaintiff alleges that upon his arrival at NRC on September 10, 2014, he was "accosted by several inmates who asked Plaintiff what his name was and why he was going to court." (Id. ¶ 19.) Another inmate allegedly accused Plaintiff of being involved in an incident wherein a friend of his had been shot. (Id. ¶ 20.) The other inmates then allegedly threatened to kill Plaintiff as soon as the prison guards left. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that he told several officers about the threats, but they ignored him. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.) He claims that as soon as the officers left the area, the other inmates attacked him, injuring his arm, wrist, and hand. (Id. ¶¶ 25-28.) He claims that these same officers then delayed getting him necessary medical treatment for over an hour, and that they wrongfully issued him a disciplinary report for fighting with the other inmates. (Id. ¶¶ 29-32.) Plaintiff was ultimately taken to Stateville's Health Care Unit ("HCU"), where medical personnel stitched an injury to his hand but allegedly failed to examine the rest of his arm or give him any medication. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.)

         At approximately 11:15 p.m. that night, Plaintiff allegedly notified two more officers that he was experiencing extreme pain, numbness, and bleeding but they ignored him. (Id. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff then broke the sprinkler alarm system in his cell to draw attention to his need for medical care. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff claims that water ran into his cell for approximately three hours before the officers responded. (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff was given another disciplinary report for damaging the sprinkler. (Id. ¶ 44.)

         The following morning, Plaintiff was taken to the HCU and was seen by a doctor, who allegedly cleaned the blood from his hand and gave him two aspirin. (Id. ¶ 47.) For the next three days, he claims to have suffered pain, loss of feeling, swelling, and a "foul-smelling greenish-yellow discharge" coming from his arm. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) Plaintiff claims that he reported all of this to various officers but they continued to ignore him. (Id. ¶ 49.)

         On September 15, 2014, Plaintiff claims that he was taken to HCU again and that doctors determined he needed emergency surgery, (Id. ¶¶ 53-54.) He claims that despite knowing this, one of the prison guards handcuffed his infected hand and placed him back in his cell. (Id. ¶ 54.) The following day, Plaintiff was taken to an outside hospital, where medical specialists concluded that Plaintiff had a "severe infection" in his left aim and subsequently performed surgery. (Id. ¶¶ 55-57.) Plaintiff claims that although the surgery "saved" his aim, he continues to have problems with his arm, wrist, and hand as a result of the lack of prompt treatment. (Id. ¶ 58.) He sues numerous officers involved in these events, as well as the prison doctor and other medical personnel who treated him at HCU. (Id. ¶¶ 8-17.)


         In October 2015, Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint. (R. 1, Compl.) The Court subsequently granted Plaintiffs motion for counsel and recruited pro bono counsel to represent him. (R. 4, Mot.; R. 9, Order.) In April 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, through counsel, alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against both named and unnamed Defendants. (R. 18, Am. Compl.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendants failed to protect him from the other inmates and ignored his requests for medical care. (Id. ¶¶ 60-81.)

         On June 7, 2016, Plaintiffs counsel appeared for a status hearing and advised the Court that Defendants had failed to timely appear, answer, or otherwise respond to the amended complaint. (R. 20, Min. Entry.) A default was entered against all Defendants on that date. (Id.) Plaintiff took no further action for more than a year, until October 3, 2017, when he moved for default judgment seeking compensatory and punitive damages against all 13 Defendants. (R. 30, Pl's Mot.) On October 16, 2017, the Illinois Attorney General, acting as a non-party, filed a response to Plaintiffs motion for default judgment arguing that none of the Defendants were ever properly served, (R. 35, Ill. Att'y Gen.'s Resp.) In November 2017, Defendants Best and Martin, represented by the Illinois Attorney General, filed a motion to vacate the default entered by the Court. (R. 44, Defs, ' Mot.) Both attest that they did not have any knowledge of this case until October 2017. (R. 444, Martin Decl.; id., Best Decl.) Plaintiff objects to Defendants' motion to vacate the default and argues that judgment should be entered against all Defendants. (R. 42, Pl's Reply; R. 48, Pl's Resp.)


         Default judgment occurs through a two-step process: (1) entry of default; and (2) entry of a default judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a), (b). Upon entry of default, "the well-pleaded allegations of a complaint relating to liability are taken as true." VLM Food Trading Int'l, Inc. v. Ill. Trading Co., 811 F.3d 247, 255 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Once a default is entered, "[t]he defaulting party cannot contest the fact of his liability unless the entry of default is vacated under Rule 55(c)." Id. However, the Court still must determine the appropriate amount of damages, which must be pleaded and proved by the plaintiff in a motion for default judgment. See Id. Before judgment can be entered, "[t]he plaintiff bears the burden to demonstrate that the district court has jurisdiction over each defendant through effective service." Cardenas v. City of Chicago, 646 F.3d 1001, 1005 (7th Cir. 2011).

         For the Court to vacate a default or a default judgment, the movant "must show good cause, quick action to respond to the default, and a meritorious defense to the underlying allegations." Acosta v. DT & C Global Mgrnt, LLC,874 F.3d 557, 560 (7th Cir. 2017); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c) (providing that the Court can set aside a default for "good cause"). The same standards govern motions to vacate a default and a default judgment, but the standards are "more liberally applied" to a motion seeking to vacate a default. Cracco v. Vitran Express, Inc.,559 F.3d 625, 631 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Additionally, there is policy in federal court ...

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