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Hurt v. Corcoran

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

August 15, 2019

JAMES P. CORCORAN, et al., Defendants. MARK OWENS, Plaintiff,
JAMES P. CORCORAN, et al., Defendants.



         At different periods between 2011 and 2017, Plaintiffs Benahdam Hurt (17-cv-7909) and Mark Owens (18-cv-334) were patients at the Elgin Mental Health Center ("EMHC") under the care of social worker Defendant Christy Lenhardt. Hurt and Owens allege that Lenhardt sexually abused them during their time there, and a separate criminal case against Lenhardt is pending in Kane County. See People of Illinois v. Lenhardt, 18-CF-667 (Kane Co. 2018).[1] In the present civil case, Hurt and Owens allege that Lenhardt's sexual abuse violated their constitutional rights. They also bring a host of claims against the Illinois Department of Human Services ("DHS") and various doctors and staff at EMHC. All Defendants except for Lenhardt move to dismiss both Plaintiffs' claims for failure to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The case is effectively stayed as to Lenhardt, pending any guilty plea in her criminal case. (See, e.g., Minute Entry [Hurt 85].) For the following reasons, Defendants' motions [Hurt 48, Hurt 60, Owens 58, Owens 70] are granted in part and denied in part.


         When considering a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court assumes the truth of the plaintiff's allegations. Simpson v. Brown Cty., 860 F.3d 1001, 1009 (7th Cir. 2017). The court need "need not, however, 'accept as true any legal assertions or recital of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements.'" Zahn v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Vesely v. Armslist LLC, 762 F.3d 661, 664-65 (7th Cir. 2014)).

         I. Benahdam Hurt

         On August 14, 2014, Benahdam Hurt was interned at EMHC after he was "found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity [ ] on a charge of Aggravated Battery on a Police Officer."[2] (Third Amended Complaint ("Hurt TAC") [Hurt 56] ¶ 1.) EMHC is "a hospital operated by" Defendant DHS. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Hurt spent nearly three years at EMHC before being released on July 22, 2017, evidently his "mandatory release date." (Id. at ¶¶ 34, 44.) The Complaint provides no further explanation regarding that date or the conditions of Hurt's confinement.

         While at EMHC, Hurt was served by a clinical treatment team. That team included at least a licensed social worker and a psychiatrist, and "was assigned the task of formulating and periodically reviewing a treatment plan to improve [Hurt's] mental condition sufficiently that he could be released back into the community." (Id. at ¶ 2.) Hurt's Complaint largely lacks chronological information, but it appears he was first housed in the "L unit," where his licensed social worker was Defendant Lenhardt. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Hurt describes a licensed social worker as someone who "administer[s] the business of [a patient's] treatment plan, and who essentially guide[s], record[s], over[sees], and document[s] the work of the treatment team" within the patient's Unit. (Id.) He asserts that Lenhardt "was fully in charge of the evaluation and documentation of [his] progress and the administration of his court-ordered mental health care, as well as the evaluation of [his] eligibility for release." (Id. at ¶ 13.)

         Much of Hurt's Complaint focuses on Defendant Lenhardt, who has not moved for dismissal. Hurt alleges that Lenhardt "commenced her scheme to sexually seduce, assault, manipulate and rape" him on the day he arrived at EMHC. (Id. at ¶ 6.) By Thanksgiving of that year, Lenhardt had initiated sexual contact with him. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Their "relationship" quickly escalated to the point of Hurt and Lenhardt "frequently engaging in sexual activities in her office during 'counseling' sessions." (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13.) She also "demand[ed] sexual favors in her office" and sent Hurt e-mail messages and nude pictures of herself. (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 31.)

         Hurt's Complaint asserts that "Lenhardt and [Hurt] were 'caught' during sexual activities numerous times by other Facility staff." (Id. at ¶ 22.) It recounts, however, only one incident involving any staff other than Lenhardt. Specifically, in the "spring of 2017," Hurt and Lenhardt "became accidentally locked" in another staff member's office on K Unit, where Lenhardt had no patients, after entering the empty office to have sex. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Lenhardt and Hurt "had to get the attention of" two EMHC employees, neither of whom are alleged to be Defendants here. (Id.) "Those staff opened the door, and then asked multiple questions about why Lenhardt and Plaintiff had been inside [the] empty office alone." (Id.) "Other staff also asked questions . . . but the Facility, its staff and administrators never conducted a follow-on investigation, nor was there any other consequence, regardless of the apparent widespread suspicion." (Id.) The Complaint contains no allegation that this incident was ever reported to EMHC administrators, the State, nor to any of the Defendants here.

         Hurt asserts that "other such 'close call' incidents were ignored, covered up or swept under the rug by suspicious staff of the Facility," but he does not specify which staff were suspicious, and the only other "close call" incident Hurt describes involved no staff at all. (Id. at ¶ 24.) He explains that "[o]ne patient on K or L Unit often made a point of waiting outside whatever office Plaintiff and Lenhardt were sexually engaged in, and on one occasion he called out loudly as they came out after a sexual encounter, 'Hey! I want to get my dick sucked, too.'" (Id.) Hurt does not allege that any of the Defendants here heard this statement.[3]

         By early 2017, Hurt had been moved from L Unit to K Unit; Hurt does not explain the reason for this move, nor does he state when the move occurred. (Id. at ¶ 5.) In K Unit, Defendant Drew Beck became Hurt's licensed social worker. (Id.) The Complaint refers to Beck as "Plaintiff's nominal social worker," but does not explain why Beck was only "nominal." (Id. at ¶ 25.) Beck's supervisor was Defendant Colleen Delaney, who reported to administrative supervisor Defendant Diana Hogan. (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 48, 49.) Defendant psychiatrists Hasina Javed and Faisa Kareemi also served as the "clinical leaders of [Hurt's] treatment plan" at unspecified times. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Hurt alleges that psychiatrist James Corcoran "trained and supervised Defendants Javed, Kareemi, Delaney, and Hogan," who, "in turn, . . . trained and supervised Defendants Lenhardt and Beck." (Id. at ¶¶ 43, 51.)

         Hurt's assertions with respect to Defendants Corcoran, Javed, Kareemi, Beck, Delaney, and Hogan are limited. He often refers generically to "the administration" or the "staff" at EMHC instead of to particular named Defendants. Hurt broadly alleges, for example, that Lenhardt told him in late 2016 that "the administration" "suspect[ed]" their relationship and was "investigating." (Id. at ¶ 26.) Hurt also notes the "frequently expressed suspicions of many staff at the Facility," without explaining how he knows about those suspicions, and he claims there were "numerous incidents of obvious sightings of Plaintiff and Lenhardt in compromising situations," without describing any incidents beyond those discussed above. (Id. at ¶ 32.) He has not alleged that any incidents were reported to Defendants; he only broadly alleges that "Defendants Corcoran, Javed, Kareemi, Delaney, Hogan and Beck . . . deliberately ignor[ed] or refus[ed] to investigate reports from other staff about Lenhardt's observed suspicious conduct." (Id. at ¶ 62.)

         Hurt's complaint does contain some allegations specific to some Defendants, however. He asserts that Beck "asked Plaintiff several times why he and Lenhardt were 'so close, '" and alleges that "Plaintiff was very certain . . . that Beck must have been fully aware that something sexual was going on with Lenhardt." (Id. at ¶ 25.) By early 2017, Hurt asserts that Beck "became quite certain that Defendant Lenhardt and the Plaintiff were sexually involved" and that Beck "took his concerns" to Defendant Delaney. (Id. at ¶ 28.) Beck, Delaney, and Defendant Hogan then met, "discussed Beck's suspicions, and collaborated to avoid any report to [the Office of the Inspector General]" and to "cover up the ongoing sexual abuse of the Plaintiff." (Id. at ¶ 29.)[4]

         Hurt asserts that Javed and Kareemi, "during the time they treated Plaintiff," also "pointedly voiced telltale observations and asked questions of the Plaintiff, which indicated that they must have suspected him and Lenhardt of sexual activity" (id. at ¶ 27); he does not describe what those comments were, nor why they led him to believe as much. Hurt further alleges that Javed, Kareemi, and Corcoran all "ignored, covered up, never reported, never stopped or even discouraged" Lenhardt's sexual activity with him, making them "complicit in the sexual abuse." (Id. at ¶¶ 32, 33.) And he claims that Javed, Kareemi, and Corcoran "falsified evidence in court reports and in Plaintiff's psychiatric and medical records, to falsely implicate Plaintiff as dangerously mentally ill and in continuing need of secure confinement in the Facility." (Id. at ¶ 62.) The court presumes, though Hurt does not so explicitly state, that he was potentially eligible for some type of earlier release than he ultimately received.

         By Spring 2017, Hurt had "surreptitiously recorded several conversations with Lenhardt, and saved that evidence as audio files on electronic devices he owned." (Id. at ¶ 34.) He does not explain why he made those recordings. In July 2017, before Hurt's "mandatory release date," "security personnel conducted an exhaustive search of Plaintiff's room." (Id. at ¶¶ 34, 35.) They "confiscated" Hurt's electronics, "which [Hurt] believes included at least four or five flash drives and two iPods," and appear to have contained the recordings. (Id. at ¶¶ 35, 36.) Hurt claims he was never given any explanation for the search and confiscation, was never provided with an inventory of the seized items, and that no "formal restriction of rights was ever documented." (Id. at ¶ 35.) Hurt now believes that his "digital files became evidence against Lenhardt, resulting in her being fired from the Facility, and causing the advent of an active investigation by the Illinois State Police." (Id. at ¶ 38.) Following the confiscation of his property, Hurt was "restricted to his room on K Unit, [and] denied all phone use and all communication with others . . . until his release on July 22, 2017." (Id. at ¶ 37.)

         Hurt filed his original complaint, through counsel, on November 2, 2017. He then filed several amended complaints [Hurt 23, 39, 56]. He raises a host of constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, making all claims under the umbrella of the "Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments." (Hurt TAC ¶ 17.) Notably, Hurt does not specify which legal claims he raises against each particular Defendant; instead, he broadly refers to the "Defendants," or the "Defendants, and each of them."[5] (See, e.g., id. at ¶¶ 77, 79.) His "first claim for relief" is for "42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Excessive Force, Battery and Unlawful Search and Seizure, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments." (Id. at 17.) Within this claim, Hurt notes his "constitutional right[s] . . . to bodily integrity and freedom from unlawful searches and seizures of his property and person, and from sexual abuse and psychological manipulation." (Id. at ¶ 72.) He also asserts that Defendants failed to take "reasonable steps to protect" him from Lenhardt, and that they all "acted in concert." (Id. at ¶¶ 76, 82.)

         Hurt's "second claim for relief" asserts violations "of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Unlawful Search and Seizure, False Imprisonment in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments." (Id. at 20.) He claims that "[t]he Defendants, and each of them, conducted malicious and sadistic violations to harm the Plaintiff, making him submit to enslavement as well as unlawful searches and seizures of his property and person, false imprisonment and violations of privacy." (Id. at ¶ 101.) He again asserts that "Defendants acted in concert," (id. at ¶ 103), and he claims that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the violation of his "fundamental human and constitutional rights" when they "refus[ed] to investigate or adequately handle violations" of his rights. (Id. at ¶ 110.)

         Though the allegations levied in Hurt's Complaint are difficult to parse, the court understands Hurt to bring due process, Fourth Amendment, and tort claims (including false imprisonment and battery) against each and every Defendant.

         II. Mark Owens

         Plaintiff Mark Owens entered DHS' care in August 2011 after being "adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity [ ] in the Circuit Court of Will County, for a criminal charge of disarming a police officer." (Owens' Fourth Amended Complaint ("Owens FAC") [Owens 65] ¶ 1.) Owens was initially placed at Chester Mental Health Center, but he was later moved to EMHC, where he spent "years" (id. at ¶¶ 2, 11); he is currently interned at Chicago-Read Mental Health Center. (Id. at 2.) His Complaint does not specify when or why he moved from Chester to EMHC, nor from EMHC to Chicago-Read.

         Like Hurt, Owens was placed under Lenhardt's care on L Unit at EMHC. (Id. at ¶ 2.) He was also under the care of Defendant Javed on L Unit. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Owens spent at least some time on K Unit and N Unit, in addition to L Unit. Owens asserts that "the clinical staff on K and L Units worked together and were familiar with each other's patients." (Id. at ¶ 2.)

         "Within a few months" of Owens' arrival at EMHC, Lenhardt made advances on him during a private counseling session. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Owens became uncomfortable and left the session; he then requested that his sessions be held "somewhere other than in [Lenhardt's] private office."[6](Id. at ¶¶ 4, 5.) Owens asserts that this "irritated" Lenhardt, who "react[ed] to [Owens'] earlier rejection of her sexual advance by implying that [he] was 'paranoid.'" (Id. at ¶ 6.) Lenhardt then suggested that Defendant psychiatrist Javed change Owens' "diagnosis . . . to bipolar disorder." (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 22.) "Fortunately, Plaintiff [Owens] was able to prevail upon Dr. Javed" in 2012 "not to follow Lenhardt's suggestion." (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 12.) In the same session, Owens described to Javed "the general details and clear impropriety of Lenhardt's earlier sexual advance." (Id. At ¶ 7.) Still, "Javed never reported the alleged incident to the Office of the Inspector General." (Id. at ¶ 8.)

         Owens additionally asserts that his psychiatrist on K Unit-Defendant Kareemi- "repeatedly recommended a diagnosis of lifelong major mental illness for him: schizoaffective disorder . . . [which] would have conveniently implied a prescription for stronger, debilitating anti-psychotic drugs which would likely have impaired Plaintiff's thinking and credibility." (Id. at ¶ 9.) Owens does not allege that his diagnosis was, in fact, ever changed, however, nor does he assert that Lenhardt had any communication or contact with Kareemi regarding Owens' diagnosis.[7]Instead, Owens makes only a general allegation of "collu[sion]" among all individual Defendants to "make [Owens] available at Defendant Lenhardt's disposal for her own personal, perverted purpose of sexual abuse." (Id. at ¶ 10.)

         Lenhardt "repeatedly sexually abused" Owens "on at least three more occasions." (Id. At ¶ 11.) Owens alleges that:

Defendant Lenhardt strongly "came on" to the Plaintiff so as to make her willful and wanton sexual assault into sexual battery, unlawfully touching and engaging in sex acts with the Plaintiff while he was confined, imprisoned, under her complete control, and under the control of her fellow staff on K and L Units who could change his diagnosis and drug him at their whim.

(Id. at ¶ 14.) He offers no more specific information about the repeated abuse.

         Owens makes some allegations that do not clearly pertain to his own treatment at EMHC. He alleges, for example, that Defendants Beck, Delaney, and Hogan "met together and explicitly agreed to conceal and not report sexual abuse of a disabled person." (Id. at ¶ 15.) This roughly matches Hurt's allegation about Beck, Delaney, and Hogan's meeting in 2017, but Owens does not explicitly state as much-this is puzzling, given that both Plaintiffs are represented by the same counsel and have filed a single response brief to all Defendants' motions to dismiss. (See Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss [Hurt 66]; Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss [Owens 73] (hereinafter, collectively referred to as "Pls.' Resp.").) Even if Owens is referring to Beck, Delaney, and Hogan's alleged meeting about Hurt, Owens has not alleged that Beck, Delaney, or Hogan- Hurt's treatment team-knew anything about Lenhardt's advances on Owens, nor that they had any involvement with Owens.[8]

         In fact, Owens' Complaint contains no other allegations specific to Beck, Delaney, or Hogan. Owens only alleges that Beck was "a social worker on K Unit"; he does not say that Beck was ever his assigned social worker. (Id. at ¶ 24.) He identifies Delaney as "a unit supervisor and officer employed by" DHS at EMHC (id. at 25), and Hogan "as an administrative supervisor and officer employed by" DHS and EMHC. (Id. at ΒΆ 26.) The Complaint contains no information about Beck, Delaney, or Hogan's individual actions with respect to Owens. Owens also mirrors Hurt's assertion that Corcoran "trained and supervised Defendants Javed, Kareemi, Delaney, and Hogan; in turn, Defendants Javed, Kareemi, Delaney, and Hogan ...

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