United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CASTILLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE
Simmons ("Plaintiff) brings this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act
("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132 et seq.,
and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a) et
seq., against S.A. Godinez ("Godinez"),
Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections
("IDOC"); Tarry Williams ("Williams"),
Warden of Stateville Correctional Center
("Stateville"); Dr. Saleh Obaisi ("Dr.
Obaisi"), Medical Director at Stateville; Wexford Health
. Sources, Inc. ("Wexford"); and IDOC. (R. 43,
Second Am. Compl.) Before the Court is IDOC's motion to
dismiss Plaintiffs ADA claim on Eleventh Amendment grounds.
(R. 115, Mot.) For the reasons stated below, the motion is
has been incarcerated within IDOC since 2007 and was held at
Stateville between September 2009 and September 2015. (R. 43,
Second Am. Compl. ¶ 17.) During his time at Stateville,
Plaintiff alleges that he was made to use a top bunk without
a ladder, requiring him to get in and out of bed by climbing
on a sink. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 23.) Plaintiff
alleges that on October 1, 2013, he slipped and fell on his
back while attempting to climb out of his bunk. (Id.
¶ 24.) From October 2013 to September 2015, Plaintiff
allegedly experienced "mobility- limiting" back
pain due to the fall. (Id. ¶ 28.) During that
period, Plaintiff claims that he requested medical treatment
numerous times from employees of IDOC and Wexford, a private
company that provides medical care to inmates within IDOC.
(Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) He alleges that his
requests were denied or ignored. (Id. ¶¶
40-46.) He further alleges that on multiple occasions, he
requested a low bunk pass or an assistive device to get in
and out of the top bunk. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.)
He claims these requests were also ignored. (Id.
¶¶ 33-34.) Due to his inability to climb up to the
top bunk, Plaintiff alleges that he slept on the floor on
multiple occasions during this period. (Id. ¶
35.) After Plaintiff was transferred out of Stateville, he
underwent an MPJ, which revealed two bulging discs in his
back. (Id. ¶ 43.)
April 2016, Plaintiff filed a.pro se complaint over
the lack of treatment for his back and the lack of an
accessible bed. (R. 1, Compl.) This Court appointed counsel
to represent him. (R. 6, Order.) After an earlier amendment,
Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint on March 21,
2017. (R. 43, Second Am. Compl.) In Count I, Plaintiff
alleges that Godinez, Williams, and Dr. Obaisi exhibited
deliberate indifference to his medical needs. (Id.
¶¶ 47-57.) In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that
Wexford's policy of using "cost-cutting
measures" violated his constitutional right to adequate
medical care. (Id. ¶¶ 58-62.) In Counts
III and IV, Plaintiff alleges that Wexford and IDOC denied
him reasonable accommodations in violation of the ADA and the
Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide him with a low bunk
pass or an accessible bed. (Id. ¶¶ 63-86.)
Obaisi,  Williams, and Godinez all answered the
Second Amended Complaint. (R. 48, Answer; R. 55, Answer.)
Wexford and IDOC both moved to dismiss. (R. 46, Mot.; R. 53,
Mot.) On August 16, 2017, this Court issued a memorandum
opinion and order denying both motions in their entirety.
Simmons v. Godinez, No. 16-4501, 2017 WL 3568408,
*l-6 (N.D. 111. Aug. 16, 2017). In doing so, the Court
determined that Plaintiff had adequately stated claims under
the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, as well as a claim for
violation of his constitutional rights. Id. at *3-6,
After the Court's ruling, Wexford filed its answer. (R.
96, Answer.) IDOC answered Counts I, II, and IV, (R. 116,
Answer), but now moves to dismiss Count III-the ADA claim-on
Eleventh Amendment grounds. (R. 115, Mot.) Plaintiff opposes
the dismissal of this claim. (R. 123, Resp. at 2-6.)
the Eleventh Amendment, "an unconsenting State is immune
from suits brought in federal courts by her own
citizens[.]" Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651,
662-63 (1974). Thus, unless sovereign immunity is waived by
the state or expressly abrogated by Congress, a
state cannot be sued for damages by a private citizen in
federal court. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169
(1985); Sonnleitner v. York, 304 F.3d 704, 717 (7th
Cir. 2002). State agencies like the IDOC are treated the same
as states for Eleventh Amendment purposes. Billman v.
Indiana Dep 't of Corr., 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir.
be noted at the outset that IDOC's motion is largely an
academic exercise, because Plaintiff also brings a claim
against IDOC under the Rehabilitation Act. (See R.
43, Second. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 75-86.) Relief available
under the ADA is "coextensive" with relief
available under the Rehabilitation Act, and Illinois has
waived its sovereign immunity for claims brought under the
Rehabilitation Act by accepting federal funds to operate its
prisons. Jaros v. Ill. Dep't of Corr., 684 F.3d
667, 671-72 (7th Cir. 2012). Thus, IDOC will remain a party
to this case, and Plaintiff will be entitled to the same
relief, regardless of whether the ADA claim against IDOC is
dismissed. See id.
Plaintiffs claim against IDOC under the ADA raises a
"thorny question of sovereign immunity."
Jaros, 684 F.3d at 672. The Supreme Court has
"expressly declined to decide whether states are immune
from suits for damages arising from conditions that violate
the ADA but not the Constitution." Id. at 672
n.5 (citing United States v. Georgia, 546 U.S. 151,
159 (2006)); see also Morris v. Kingston, 368
Fed.Appx. 686, 689 (7th Cir. 2010) (observing that in
Georgia, the Supreme Court "left open the
question whether the ADA could validly abrogate sovereign
immunity for non-constitutional violations" (emphasis
omitted)). However, the Supreme Court has held that
"insofar as Title II creates a private cause of action
for damages against the States for conduct that actually
violates the Fourteenth Amendment, Title II validly abrogates
state sovereign immunity." Georgia, 546 U.S. at
159 (emphasis omitted). This has been interpreted to mean
that "where the state's conduct is alleged to
violate both the Constitution and the ADA, a state is not
immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment."
Johnson v. Godinez, No. 13 CV 2045, 2015 WL 135103,
at *7 (N.D. 111. Jan. 9, 2015). Thus, where a prisoner
alleged not only an ADA claim, but also a claim that the
defendants' conduct violated his right to medical
treatment under the Constitution, IDOC did not have Eleventh
Amendment immunity. Id; cf. Wagoner v. Ind. Dep't of
Corr., No. 3:05-CV-438-CAN, 2013 WL 11842011, at *7
(N.D. Ind. Nov. 26, 2013) (concluding that because
prisoner's constitutional claims had been dismissed, it
was an "open question" whether state department of
corrections had Eleventh Amendment immunity from
prisoner's ADA claim), aff'd on other grounds by
Wagoner v. Lemmon, 778 F.3d 586 (7th Cir. 2015).
Plaintiff alleges that he was denied adequate medical care
and adequate bedding while incarcerated within IDOC, and that
the failure of individuals employed by IDOC to provide him
with a low bunk pass or an assistive device resulted in him
sleeping on the floor on many occasions. (R. 43, Second Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 75-86.) Failure to provide an inmate with
adequate medical care or adequate bedding violates the
Constitution. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
832 (1994) (holding that inmates are entitled to adequate
medical care for serious medical needs under the
Constitution); Buddv. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 843 (7th
Cir. 2013) (holding that inmates are entitled to
"minimal standards of habitability" under the
Constitution, including "adequate bedding").
Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently
alleged conduct by IDOC that, if proven, would violate both
the Constitution and the ADA, thus avoiding any issue with
sovereign immunity. See Georgia, 546 U.S. at 159;
Johnson, 2015 WL 135103, at *7. IDOC's motion to
dismiss will be denied.
final matter, in its response to the motion, Plaintiff asks
the Court to not only deny the motion but also to hold IDOC
in default, apparently because IDOC delayed in answering
Count III. (R. 123, Resp. at 4-5.) The Court declines to take
this drastic step, as IDOC has not violated any scheduling
order or otherwise failed to respond to the Second Amended
Complaint. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). The
Court will instead order IDOC to answer Count III by the
deadline set below. The Court also declines to award
sanctions against IDOC for bringing this motion as Plaintiff
requests. (R. 12, Resp. at 5.) While the better course might
have been for IDOC to raise this argument in its earlier
motion to dismiss, IDOC's conduct has not unduly delayed
the proceedings. The parties conducted discovery while the
motion was pending, and the Court has set a trial date of
July 23, 2018-to which it intends to adhere. (See R.
130, Min, Entry.) IDOC's argument about sovereign
immunity, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh
Circuit has acknowledged is a "thorny" issue,
cannot be considered so frivolous as to warrant the
imposition of sanctions. Jaros, 684 F.3d at 672.
foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss (R. 115) is DENIED.
The IDOC is ordered to answer Count III within seven days of
this order. The July 23, 2018, trial date and the June 29,
2018, deadline for filing dispositive motions previously set
by this Court shall stand. The parties are DIRECTED to
reevaluate their settlement positions in ...