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Brown v. Correctional Officer Bryant

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

May 14, 2018

JOSE BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER BRYANT, COUNTY OF COOK, ILLINOIS, and THOMAS J. DART, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Ruben Castillo Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Jose Brown ("Plaintiff), a detainee at the Cook County Department of Corrections, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Correctional Officer Bryant ("Bryant"), County of Cook, Illinois ("Cook County"), and Thomas Dart, Sheriff of Cook County ("Dart") (collectively, "Defendants") based on Bryant's alleged use of excessive force. (R. 45, Am. Compl.) Before the Court is a joint motion by Cook County and Dart to dismiss the claims asserted against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (R. 56, Mot.; R. 45, Am. Compl.) For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on October 18, 2015, he was engaged in a physical altercation with another detainee in his cell. (R. 45, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-20.) A correctional officer observed the altercation and alerted other officers over his two-way radio. (Id. ¶ 21.) After the altercation ended and the other detainee returned to his own cell, Biyant arrived in Plaintiffs cell in response to the first officer's alert. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff alleges that correctional officers typically take detainees to a medical facility after physical altercations are reported. (Id.) Assuming that he would be taken to the medical facility, Plaintiff began to fully clothe himself. (Id.) Upon entering Plaintiffs cell, however, Bryant allegedly pushed Plaintiff to the ground, kneed him several times, and used racial slurs against him. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) A struggle between Plaintiff and Bryant ensued, after which Bryant was able to place Plaintiffs left hand in hand cuffs. (Id. ¶ 25.) With one of Plaintiff s hands cuffed behind his back, Bryant allegedly struck Plaintiff in the face, causing his nose to bleed. (Id. ¶ 26.) Bryant then proceeded to place Plaintiffs right hand in handcuffs. (Id.) At this point, other correctional officers arrived, and escorted Plaintiff to Post 78 where he was interviewed by Correctional Officers Velez and Durant. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) After providing his account of the incident to Velez and Durant, Plaintiff was taken to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries. (Id. % 29.)

         As a result of the altercation, Plaintiff was disciplined with 35 days of segregation. (Id. ¶ 30.) He subsequently filed a grievance against Bryant, which was denied. (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff filed an appeal of the denial of his grievance, but his appeal was also denied. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the Cook County Department of Corrections ("DOC") operates under a "pervasive and long-standing 'code of silence'" whereby correctional officers are prevented from reporting misconduct by fellow officers. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) He alleges that this "code of silence" is sanctioned by high-level officials of Cook County, including Dart, resulting in a widespread failure to investigate and punish correctional officers' use of excessive force. (Id. ¶ 34.) The amended complaint further alleges that Darf s office failed to enforce its own policies designed to protect detainees. (Id.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that the Cook County DOC maintains a policy of encouraging correctional officers to falsely report that the use of force is justified as a response to assault or threats of physical harm by detainees. (Id. ¶¶ 36-38.) Plaintiff alleges that these false reports provide correctional officers with "blanket immunity from discipline" and perpetuate a culture in which Cook County "turns a blind eye" to unlawful use of excessive force. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff alleges that the current grievance procedures as set forth in the Cook County DOC's "General Orders" do not adequately protect detainees, and additionally that Dart fails to adequately enforce these policies. (Id. ¶¶ 39-43.) The amended complaint also alleges that correctional officers within the Cook County DOC do not receive adequate training, and that Dart's policy regarding investigations of excessive force is inadequate. (Id. ¶ 43.)

         Plaintiff asserts a variety of claims against Bryant, Cook County, and Dart. (Id.) In Count I, Plaintiff asserts an excessive-force claim against Bryant under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. ¶¶ 44-51.) In Count II, Plaintiff asserts a failure-to-protect claim against Dart under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. ¶¶ 52-62.) In Counts III and IV, Plaintiff asserts a claim against Bryant for assault and battery under Illinois law. (Id. ¶¶ 63-73.) More specifically, Plaintiff claims that Dart's failure to protect is a consequence of a systemic failure by Cook County and Dart to promulgate and enforce adequate policies and to effectively monitor correctional officers. (Id. ¶ 57.) Plaintiff alleges that this failure is persistent and widespread, and further, that Dart has been deliberately indifferent by failing to remedy this failure. (Id. ¶¶ 58-59.) In Count V, Plaintiff brings a Monell claim against Dart in his official capacity. (Id. ¶¶ 74-84.) Last, in Count VI Plaintiff brings a statutory indemnification claim against Cook County pursuant to 745 Ill.Comp.Stat. 10/9-102 for the recovery of any judgments entered against Bryant or Dart. (Id. ¶¶ 85-88.)

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed his initial pro se complaint against Bryant on November 18, 2015. (R. 1, Compl.) On December, 9, 2016, the Court appointed counsel to represent Plaintiff. (R. 37, Order.) On April 10, 2017, with counsel's assistance, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint, adding Cook County and Dait as co-Defendants. (R. 45, Am. Compl.) On August 25, 2017, Bryant filed an answer. (R. 51, Answer.) On October 5, 2017, Cook County and Dart moved to dismiss Counts II and V of Plaintiff s amended complaint for failure to state a claim. (R. 56, Mot. at 1.)

         In their motion, Cook County and Dart argue that Plaintiff fails to plausibly allege a federal claim against them in Counts II and V. (Id. at 3.) As to Count II, the failure-to-protect claim against Dart, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has fails to plausibly allege that Cook County and Dart have maintained an official custom, policy, or practice which caused Plaintiff injury. (Id. at 4-6.)

         As to Count V, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has also failed to plausibly allege that Dart was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs health and safety. (Id. at 8.) Defendants argue that Plaintiff must plausibly allege that Dart had personal knowledge that a substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff existed on October 18, 2015, and that Dart personally failed to protect Plaintiff from that risk. (Id. at 8-9.) Because Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to make it plausible that Dart had a personal involvement in Plaintiffs alleged violation of constitutional rights, Defendants move to dismiss Count V. (Id.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) "challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Firestone Fin. Corp. v. Meyer, 796 F, 3d 822, 825 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough factual information to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Doe v. nil. of Arlington Heights, 782 F.3d 911, 914 (7th Cir. 2015). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content which 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). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability ...


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