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Leach v. Shaffer

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 6, 2019

JIMMY W. LEACH, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on the on the Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (Doc. 100) of Magistrate Judge Reona J. Daly recommending that the Court deny defendant Chet Shaffer's motion to dismiss (Doc. 73), grant in part and deny in part plaintiff Jimmy W. Leach's motion to strike affidavits and exhibits, to reopen discovery and for leave to file an amended complaint, and for sanctions (Doc. 88), grant in part and deny in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 81), strike the “Jail Work Schedule” submitted in support of the defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 81-3) and enter judgment in favor of defendants Rex Roberts and Richard Hargraves at the close of the case. The only claims remaining for trial would be Counts 1, 3 and 4 against Shaffer. Leach and Shaffer have filed objections to the Report (Docs. 101 & 102, respectively).

         The Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge in a report and recommendation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The Court must review de novo the portions of the report to which objections are made. Id. “If no objection or only partial objection is made, the district court judge reviews those unobjected portions for clear error.” Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).

         I. Background

         This lawsuit arose after Leach was detained in the Franklin County Jail (“Jail”) beginning on March 18, 2016. At that time, Shaffer was the jail administrator, and Roberts and Hargraves were jail officers. At the time of his detention, Leach suffered from seizure disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). He did not receive medication for either condition or any other kind of medical attention while in the Jail until March 21, 2016, when he was taken to the local emergency room. He was then transferred to a larger hospital, where he remained for more than a week. Several days after he returned to the Jail, he was transferred from the Jail to Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), but his medication and medical records were not sent with him. Menard did not receive his medical records for a week, during which time Leach again went without medication.

         Leach filed this lawsuit alleging that Shaffer provided him constitutionally inadequate medical care by failing to summon medical attention from March 18 to 21, 2016 (Count 1), that Roberts and Hargrave did not give constitutionally adequate attention to Leach's medical needs when they refused to transport his medication with him when he was transferred from the Jail to Menard (Count 2), that Shaffer wrongfully failed to preserve evidence related to the relevant incidents at the Jail and to Leach's medical condition and treatment (Count 3), and that all defendants intentionally inflicted Leach with emotional distress (Count 4).

         II. Shaffer's Motion to Dismiss Count 3: Negligent Spoliation of Evidence (Doc. 73)

         A. The Report

         Magistrate Judge Daly found that Leach adequately pled special circumstances that would create a duty for Shaffer to preserve evidence in this case. Specifically, she found that Leach's alleged grievance about his medical treatment and his medical problems put, or should have put, Shaffer on notice of potential litigation, especially in light of Shaffer's experience with prior detainee litigation. She further found that Shaffer's duty to preserve evidence in anticipation of potential litigation extended to the evidence Leach claims Shaffer negligently failed to preserve, including video footage of the hallway outside Leach's jail cell.

         B. Shaffer's Objection

         Shaffer objects on the grounds that the video Leach claims he should have preserved shows the common area of the Jail, not Leach's cell, so it would only show Leach's removal from his cell when he was taken to the emergency room, not his condition within the cell. Shaffer argues that the removal of Leach from his cell was nothing special and should not have alerted Shaffer to the need to preserve the video footage.

         With respect to consultation forms from crisis therapist Jill Flemming and Leach's hospital discharge paperwork, Shaffer argues that those records were produced by Leach in discovery. He posits that since Leach has the documents, Shaffer had not duty to preserve them.

         Shaffer also suggests Leach was not truthful when claiming he filled out a grievance that put Shaffer on notice of his medical complaints.

         Finally, Shaffer argues that, considering the evidence presented in support of his summary judgment motion, it is clear Magistrate Judge Daly misconstrued the Illinois tort of negligent spoliation of evidence and whether Shaffer is immune from liability from such a suit under 745 ILCS 10/2-201. That statute provides that “a public employee serving in a position involving the determination of policy or the exercise of discretion is not liable for an injury resulting from his act or omission in determining policy when acting in the exercise of such discretion even though abused.” Shaffer claims his decisions regarding preserving evidence were determinations of policy and an exercise of discretion.

         C. Analysis

         The Court conducts a de novo review of this portion of the Report.

         With respect to the video footage, Shaffer improperly relies on evidence not in Leach's complaint to argue that the video was irrelevant and would not have tipped Shaffer off that he should have preserved it for potential litigation by Leach. Shaffer brought his motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), however, so the question is not what the video actually depicted but whether the complaint adequately alleged a negligent spoliation cause of action. As Magistrate Judge Daly found, it did. That conclusion is not impacted by evidence discovered later in the case.

         The same goes for the medical evidence from Flemming and the hospital; Leach adequately pled his spoliation claim as to these documents. While it may be difficult for him to prove at trial that Shaffer's conduct in failing to preserve records caused him any harm where he obtained the allegedly ...

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