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Smith v. Sims

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 19, 2019

LESTER SMITH, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Lester Smith filed suit alleging various violations of state and federal law against Defendants arising out of an assault he endured while detained at the St. Clair County Jail awaiting trial. Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment on the merits of Smith's claims. The matter has been referred to the undersigned by District Judge J. Phil Gilbert pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and Local Rule 72.1(a)(2). For the reasons delineated below, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. Findings of Fact

         On January 4, 2018, Smith sought leave to file an amended complaint related to an assault in February 2016 in the St. Clair County Jail. The Court identified that the amended complaint adequately pleaded the following claims:

Count 1: Defendant Sims and Strubberg failed to protect Plaintiff from a violent attack by other inmates in violation of the [Fourteenth] Amendment.
Count 2: Sims and Strubberg conspired to deprive Plaintiff of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by failing to protect him from a violent attack by other inmates.
Count 5: Defendant Sims and Strubberg intentionally inflicted emotional distress in relation to the violent attack on July 25, 2016.
Count 6: Respondeat superior claim as to the intentional infliction of emotional distress state law claim in Count 5 against the St. Clair County Sheriff in his official capacity.
Count 7: An indemnification claim against St. Clair County related to the state law claim in Count 5.

(Doc. 28, 29).

         Beginning in February 2016, Smith was a pretrial detainee in the St. Clair County Jail. He was first housed in Annex B Block, but on March 17, 2016, he had to be moved to a new cell after several of his fellow inmates passed notes complaining about Smith stealing from and threatening people. The inmates warned that Smith's disruptive behavior was going to cause a fight. (Doc. 57-3). Smith was reassigned to H Block, but he had to be moved to G Block because H Block was being painted. He was moved to the infirmary due to a broken finger on May 4, 2016.

         On May 14, 2016, Smith was reassigned to J Block, but he reported that he feared for his safety. He provided jail officials with the names of three individuals he feared, and he was moved to the recovery cell until he could be reassigned. The responding officer placed a “keep-separate” order on the three individuals to ensure that Smith would not be housed with them again. (Docs. 57-6, 57-7). Smith then was reassigned to G Block.

         On July 22, 2016, Smith reported that he feared for his safety from another detainee in G Block. The responding officer rehoused Smith in the recovery cell and placed a keep-separate order on the individual Smith identified. Another detainee, Alan Davis, testified that Smith left G Block because he was trying to be housed with his brother who had been arrested. (Doc. 57-9, p. 17-18).

         Smith was still in the recovery cell on July 25, 2016, when he alleges that he saw Defendant Michael Sims, a corrections officer with the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, walk near his cell. Smith testified that he asked Sims if he was being moved to a new cell, and that Sims told him, “hold on, I'll be back.” (Doc. 57-4, p. 38-40). Smith interpreted Sims's comment to mean he was going to check about the reassignment. Defendant Steven Strubberg, a sergeant assigned to the Classification, Discipline and Intelligence Sections, does not recall speaking with Sims about Smith on July 25, 2016, but Smith testified that Sims checked with Strubberg to determine the appropriate placement for Smith.

         Sims returned approximately ten minutes later, after allegedly speaking with Strubberg and checking the keep-separate orders, and told Smith to pack up his stuff. Sims opened the cell door and began to walk Smith away from the recovery cell. Smith testified that he then asked where he was going, and Sims told him he was reassigned to B Block. (Doc. 57-4, p. 40-41). Smith allegedly told Sims that he could not go to B Block because he knew there were other inmates in B Block with whom he had issues.

         Smith knew who was in B Block because the block was in the middle of a shakedown around the time of his interactions with Sims, and the B Block inmates were temporarily held in the barbershop. Smith could see the barbershop from the recovery cell. According to Smith, he warned Sims that he feared for his life and that he faced a life-or-death situation if he went to B Block. (Doc. 57-4, p. 42-50). Smith alleges that Sims walked away a second time to check with Defendant Strubberg for “keep separate” orders for inmates in B Block. (Doc. 57-4, p. 53). At no point during the interaction did Smith identify a specific individual or group of inmates by name or description who posed a danger to him, but he did indicate that he feared for his life.

         Sims and Strubberg walked out of booking together and towards Sims, who was still in the recovery cell with his belongings. (Doc. 57-4, p. 56). Sims then walked Smith to B Block and opened the door, with Smith repeatedly telling Sims he could not go into the block. Smith testified that Sims told him that he did not get to choose where he goes. (Doc. 57-4, p. 50, 56-58). Smith was assigned to B Block at 1:31 p.m.

         By 2:00 p.m., Officer Ripperda called Sergeant Nichols about injuries Smith sustained in B Block. According to Smith, he was cleaning an empty cell and putting his belongings away, when someone grabbed him from behind, and he was attacked. (Doc. 57-4, p. 61). He does not know who attacked him. Defendant Sims does not remember any interactions with Smith but testified via affidavit that where a detainee cannot or will not identify a person by name, identifying information, face or specific threat, he houses a detainee in the assigned cell block. (Doc. 57-12).

         When asked about his emotional distress at his deposition, Smith acknowledged that part of the reason he asked to see a psychiatrist on August 29, 2016, was because he was having trouble sleeping. Smith was also worried about his case and family and had concerns about being jumped. (Doc. 57-4, p. 75-76). Smith did not indicate that his ...

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