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Digginss v. Coe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 14, 2019

SHAQUILLE DIGGINS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN COE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for New Trial filed by Plaintiff Shaquille Diggins under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. 150). For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         Background

         Diggins filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Defendant Dr. John Coe violated his constitutional rights, as well as Illinois state law, while he was an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections (Doc. 1). On November 23, 2015, Diggins and other inmates on his wing at Lawrence Correctional Center underwent strip searches because correctional officers were looking for contraband-specifically, drugs (Doc. 113 at p. 2). When the strip search of Diggins revealed a white material that appeared to be a string in his buttocks, prison officials took Diggins to the Healthcare Unit where standard procedure directed that the healthcare staff perform an anal cavity search (Id.).

         Defendant Dr. Coe performed the search, which Dr. Coe testified lasted only a few seconds (Id.). Diggins, on the other hand, testified the search took a minute and a half to two minutes and that he did not feel any lubrication (Doc. 147 at pp. 88, 92-93). Diggins stated that the search caused pain that lasted throughout the night (Doc. 102-1 at p. 14). The search revealed flecks of wet toilet paper but no contraband (Id. at p. 150).

         Diggins's First Amended Complaint alleged an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim, a Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim, as well as state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery against Dr. Coe (Doc. 43). Defendants later moved for summary judgment, which the Court granted in part (Doc. 113). Specifically, with regard to the Fourth Amendment claim, the Court found there was “no question there was a legitimate penological justification for the digital, anal cavity search.” (Doc. 113 at p. 6). Not only has the United States Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit found that preventing drug smuggling into prison is a legitimate penological interest, but, in this case, it was undisputed that an officer, upon visual inspection, saw something suspicious in or around Diggins's anus (Id.). Nevertheless, the Court denied summary judgment to Dr. Coe, as there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the legitimate search was performed in an objectively reasonable manner (Id. at p. 12). The Court observed that it was possible for a jury to find that the purported length of the search and the lack of lubrication rendered the search unreasonable (Id. at p. 13).

         The case was tried to jury in November 2018, and the jury found in favor of Dr. Coe. The Court entered judgment on the jury's verdict on November 7, 2018 (Doc. 144). Diggins now argues he is entitled to a new trial due to a prejudicially defective jury instruction on his claim that Dr. Coe violated his Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an unlawful anal cavity search. Specifically, Diggins asserts that the instruction was defective because it placed undue weight on two specific factors for the jury to consider in determining whether the cavity search was reasonable.

         Legal Standard

         Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows the Court to grant a new trial on all or some of the issues, for any reason for which a new trial has been granted in federal court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). “In ruling on a motion for new trial under Rule 59(a), the Court must determine whether the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence or if the trial was unfair to the moving party.” Purtell v. Mason, No. 04 C 7005, 2006 WL 2037254, at *3 (N.D. Ill. July 18, 2006) (citing Kapelanski v. Johnson, 390 F.3d 525, 530 (7th Cir. 2004)).

         To win a new trial based on an erroneous jury instruction, Diggins must show that (1) the instruction did not adequately state the law and (2) the error prejudiced him because the jury was likely to be confused or misled. Boyd v. Illinois State Police, 384 F.3d 888, 894 (7th Cir. 2004). Even if the jury was misled by a deficient instruction, the Court must find that Diggins was prejudiced as a result. Jimenez v. City of Chicago, 732 F.3d 710, 717 (7th Cir. 2013). An erroneous jury instruction is not prejudicial unless, “considering the instructions as a whole, along with all of the evidence and arguments, the jury was misinformed about the applicable law.” Boyd, 384 F.3d at 894 (quoting Susan Wakeen Doll Co., Inc. v. Ashton Drake Galleries, 272 F.3d 441, 452 (7th Cir. 2001)).

         Discussion

         At trial, the Court gave the jury the following instruction on Diggins's claim that Dr. Coe violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches:

To succeed on his claim that Dr. Coe violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches, Mr. Diggins must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Dr. Coe's manual search of Mr. Diggins's rectum was unreasonable under the circumstances.
In determining whether Dr. Coe's manual search of Mr. Diggins's rectum was reasonable or unreasonable, you should consider all of the surrounding circumstances. Some factors you may consider, which are not intended to limit you from ...

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