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Mayer v. Dart

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

August 6, 2019

ANTHONY MAYER, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS DART, Sheriff of Cook County, and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.

          JOHNSON & BELL, LTD. Jack E. Bentley One of the Attorneys for Defendants

          DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          EDMOND E. CHANG, JUDGE

         Defendants, THOMAS DART, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Cook County, and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, by their attorney KIMBERLY M. FOXX, State's Attorney of Cook County, through her Special Assistant State's Attorneys, JOHNSON & BELL, LTD., move for judgment on the pleadings and state as follows:

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Anthony Mayer, an inmate at the Cook County Jail (“Jail”), alleges that his constitutional rights are being violated because he has not received treatment for tooth pain. Plaintiff alleges that the Jail's policy is to delegate to dental assistants the responsibility to schedule dental appointments for inmates and that this policy is the proximate cause of Plaintiff not receiving treatment for tooth pain. Plaintiff alleges Defendants are liable because they are aware this policy causes inmates unnecessary pain. This Court should grant Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings because Plaintiff has failed to allege factual content showing it is plausible that a policy or custom of Sheriff Dart or Cook County caused Plaintiff any harm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), “a party can move for judgment on the pleadings after the filing of the complaint and answer.” Moss v. Martin, 473 F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) (“After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”). A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) “is governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014); see also Gill v. City of Milwaukee, 850 F.3d 335, 339 (7th Cir. 2017) (“A motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).”).

         Therefore, in ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, courts “must determine whether the complaint states ‘a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Gill, 850 F.3d at 339 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 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.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         “In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard announced in Twombly and Iqbal, [courts] accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true, but legal conclusions and conclusory allegations merely reciting the elements of the claim are not entitled to this presumption of truth.” McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (affirming dismissal of Monell claim where “alleged ‘facts' [were] actually legal conclusions or elements of the cause of action, which may be disregarded on a motion to dismiss”). After accepting well-pleaded facts as true and drawing all inferences in the plaintiff's favor, a plaintiff can survive a motion [for judgment on the pleadings] only if his claim is “plausible rather than merely conceivable or speculative.” Carlson v. CSX Transp., Inc., 758 F.3d 819, 826 (7th Cir. 2014).

         In addition, “[a] plaintiff can plead himself out of court by alleging facts which show that he has no claim, even though he was not required to allege those facts. Allegations in a complaint are binding admissions, and admissions can of course admit the admitter to the exit from the federal courthouse.” D.B. v. Kopp, 725 F.3d 681, 686 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Jackson v. Marion County, 66 F.3d 151, 153-54 (7th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted)); see also Epstein v. Epstein, 843 F.3d 1147, 1150 (7th Cir. 2016); Atkins v. City of Chicago, 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011). The court is not required to “ignore facts set forth in the complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claim . . . .” Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009).

         ARGUMENT

         In determining whether the complaint states a claim that is plausible on its face, courts “begin by taking note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim . . . .” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675. In the present case, Plaintiff is not suing any individual medical professional whom he believes caused him to receive delayed treatment. Rather, Plaintiff is suing Thomas Dart, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Cook County, and Cook County (“County”).

         Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, “a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). “Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.” Id. In other words, § 1983 imposes liability on a municipality only when an official policy or custom “causes an employee to violate another's constitutional rights.” Id. at 692 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Glisson v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 849 F.3d 372, 379 (7th Cir. 2017) (“The critical question under Monell . . . is whether a municipal (or corporate) policy or custom gave rise to the harm (that is, caused it), or if instead the harm resulted from the acts of the entity's agents.”). Consequently, to survive Defendants' Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff's complaint must contain “factual content” that allows the Court “to draw the reasonable inference” that a policy or custom of Sheriff Dart or the County caused Plaintiff not to receive treatment for tooth pain. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         The Seventh Circuit has primarily “identified three different ways in which a municipality or other local governmental unit might violate § 1983: (1) through an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) through a ‘wide-spread practice' that although not authorized by written law and express policy, is so permanent and well-settled as to constitute a ‘custom or usage' with the force of law; or (3) through an allegation that the constitutional injury was caused by a person with ‘final decision ...


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