March 25, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 17 C 8729 -
Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge.
WOOD, Chief Judge, and Flaum and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
is vital for both health and sanitation. Dehydration affects
practically every life function, including temperature
regulation, digestion, brain function, toxin elimination, and
oxygen distribution. See Jon Johnson, "Effects of having
no water," MEDICAL NEWS TODAY,
visited July 19, 2019). After a few days, total deprivation
of water can be fatal. Id. Basic sanitation is also
plaintiffs in this case, all pretrial detainees at the Lake
County Adult Correctional Facility, allege that they were
forced to learn this lesson the hard way. For approximately
three days in 2017, the jail officials shut off all water in
their jail without any warning. With no running water, the
plaintiffs had only limited water that the defendants
provided for their personal and sanitation uses. As a result,
they became ill and feces built up and festered in the
jails' toilets, attracting insects. When plaintiffs asked
for more water, they were locked down in their cells as
punishment. The pretrial detainees responded with this
putative class action, in which they alleged that the
defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment due process
rights. Defendants moved to dismiss on the ground of
qualified immunity. The district court denied their motion,
and this interlocutory appeal followed. We agree with the
district court's decision and affirm.
this case comes to us as a motion to dismiss asserting
qualified immunity, we accept all well pleaded factual
allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiffs' favor. Reed v.
Palmer, 906 F.3d 540, 546 (7th Cir. 2018).
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and Chief of Corrections
David Wathen oversee the Lake County Adult Correctional
Facility. (We refer to them, as well as the various
yet-unnamed defendants, collectively as "Wathen.")
At the time of these events, plaintiffs (all pretrial
detainees) were housed there. On November 7, 2017, Wathen
shut off the water at the jail. He did not forewarn any of
the detainees that this shutoff was going to happen. The
complaint does not reveal why Wathen shut off the water,
although he avers in his briefing that he did so in order to
replace a water booster pump.
the shutoff, the detainees were not totally without water.
Wathen provided them with five bottles (of indeterminate
size) of water per day for their personal use. These five
bottles were all that the detainees were given to drink,
brush their teeth, wash their hands and faces, and take
medication. When individual detainees asked for more water,
they were refused. If a person repeatedly asked for more
water, he was put on lockdown.
also provided a barrel of water (again, of unclear size) to
each communal area, called a pod, within the jail. The barrel
of water in each pod was to be used for bathing, cleaning the
pod's cells, and flushing toilets within the cells. But
not all flushing: the detainees were instructed to flush only
when feces were present. They were forbidden to flush at all
during the night.
these arrangements for flushing were a failure, in that they
often did not clear the toilets. This led to feces and urine
sitting in toilets throughout the jail for prolonged periods
of time. This was no small issue, as the jail has a capacity
of approximately 740 inmates. There were thus hundreds of
toilets holding feces and urine. Unsurprisingly, the
continuous presence of excrement produced a powerful and
putrid smell. Insects were also attracted to the unflushed
plaintiffs and other detainees say that these conditions were
disgusting and caused them tangible harm. They allege that
they became "sick, sleep deprived, and agitated"
because of the continuous presence of excrement in their
cells; that they were not provided with enough water to take
needed medications; and that the lack of drinking water and
unsanitary conditions caused numerous ailments, including
"dehydration, migraine headaches, sickness, ...