United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Yandle United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for New Trial
(Doc. 287). For the following reasons, the Motion is
Reginald Pittman was booked into the Madison County Jail on
August 16, 2007. Defendants Sergeant Randy Eaton and Officer
Matt Werner were employees of the Madison County Jail during
Pittman's detention. On December 19, 2007, after being
detained for more than four months, Pittman attempted suicide
by hanging himself with a bed sheet in his jail cell. As a
result of his suicide attempt, Pittman suffered ischemic
anoxic injury to his brain rendering him severely brain
damaged and legally disabled.
October 2018, a 5-day trial was held to determine whether the
conduct of Defendants Eaton and/or Werner was deliberately
indifferent under federal law or willful or wanton under
Illinois law. The jury found for Defendants and against
Plaintiff. Plaintiff now seeks a new trial asserting: 1)
erroneous jury instructions; 2) erroneous evidentiary
rulings; and 3) that the conduct of Pittman's Guardian
prejudiced the Plaintiff.
motion for a new trial is based on a challenge to jury
instructions, the trial court's jury instructions are
analyzed as a whole to determine if they accurately stated
the law and did not confuse the jury. Knox v.
Indiana, 93 f.3d 1327. 1332 (7th Cir. 1996). If the jury
instructions contain incorrect or confusing legal statements,
the Court must determine whether a party was prejudiced by
the instructions. United Airlines, Inc. v. United
States, 111 F.3d 551, 555 (7th Cir.1997). The submission
of inadequate jury instructions requires reversal only if it
appears that the jury's comprehension of the issues was
so misguided that one of the parties was prejudiced.
Soller v. Moore, 84 F.3d 964, 969 (7th Cir.1996).
to F.R.C.P. 51, a party wishing to contest a jury
instruction must distinctly state “the matter objected
to and the grounds for the objection.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
51(c)(1). “The objection must be specific enough that
the nature of the error is brought into focus.... There are
no formal requirements, but pragmatically speaking the
district court must be made aware of the error prior to
instructing the jury, so that the judge can fix the problem
before the case goes to the jury.” Schobert v. Ill.
Dep't of Transp., 304 F.3d 725, 729-30 (7th
Cir.2002) (citation omitted). Moreover, “…the
party must state the same grounds when objecting to the jury
instruction as it does in its motion for a new trial or on
appeal.” Id. at 730.
Defendants' argument to the contrary, Plaintiff preserved
his objection to the issues instruction given by the Court.
While it is arguable that Plaintiff's Counsel initially
consented to the instruction (Doc. 295, Tr. Tran. Day 4,
357:1-12), he did make a record of his position that the
instruction was inconsistent with Miranda v. County of
Lake, 900 F.3d 335 (7th Cir. 2018) and
therefore erroneous, prior to the Court instruction the jury
(Doc. 296, Tr. Tran. Day 5, 370:13-371:21). That said,
Plaintiff's contention that the jury instruction given
required a finding of subjective intent which was rejected by
the Seventh Circuit in Miranda is simply incorrect.
Pittman was a pretrial detainee, Plaintiff's claim arises
under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause,
rather than the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual
Punishment Clause. See, Kingsley v.
Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 192 L.Ed.2d 416 (2015);
Miranda v. County of Lake, 900 F.3d 335, 350-351
(7th Cir. 2018). Under Kingsley and
Miranda, in order to prove a failure to protect
claim, a plaintiff need only establish that the
defendant's conduct was objectively unreasonable - not
that the defendant was subjectively aware that it was
unreasonable. Miranda, 900 F.3d at 352-53. In other
words, a plaintiff must show that a defendant “knew, or
should have known, that [a] condition posed an excessive risk
to health or safety” of the detainee and “failed
to act with reasonable care to mitigate the risk.”
Id. This is a more exacting standard than that
required to prove negligence, or even gross negligence and is
“akin to reckless disregard.” Id.
Court submitted the following issues instruction to the jury:
The Constitution requires jail officials to protect detainees
from harming themselves under certain circumstances. To
succeed on this claim, Plaintiff must prove each of the
following four (4) things by a preponderance of the evidence:
1. There was a strong likelihood that Plaintiff would
seriously harm himself. A mere possibility of serious harm is