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McFields v. Sheriff of Cook County

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

September 24, 2019

COURTNEY MCFIELDS et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Courtney McFields, Pierre Brunt, Anthony Dixon, and Walter Williams, detainees at the Cook County Jail (CCJ) filed this putative class action challenging the way in which CCJ handles health service requests from detainees complaining of dental pain. Plaintiffs claim that CCJ’s policy fails to provide detainees complaining of dental pain with a face-to-face assessment by a registered nurse or higher-level practitioner. As a result, Plaintiffs claim, CCJ’s policy violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it is unreasonable and reflects a deliberate indifference to pain. The case is currently before this Court on Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification [84]. For the reasons explained below, the Court denies the motion.

         I. Legal Standard

         To be certified, a proposed class must first satisfy all four requirements of Rule 23(a): (1) the class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable (“numerosity”); (2) there must be questions of law or fact common to the class (“commonality”); (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties must be typical of the claims or defenses of the class (“typicality”); and (4) the representative parties must fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class (“adequacy”). Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a). Additionally, where, as here, a Plaintiff seeks certification under Rule 23(b)(3), Plaintiff must show: (1) that issues common to the class members predominate over questions affecting only individuals, and (2) that a class action is superior to other available adjudication methods. Messner v. Northshore University HealthSystem, 669 F.3d 802, 811 (7th Cir. 2012). The Plaintiff also bears the burden of proving all of these requirements by a preponderance of the evidence. Priddy v. Health Care Service Corporation, 870 F.3d 657, 660 (7th Cir. 2017). District Courts possess broad discretion in deciding whether to certify a class. Reiter v. Sonotone Corp., 442 U.S. 330, 345 (1979).

         II. Background & Procedural History

         A. Plaintiffs’ Claim

         Plaintiffs’ complaint names as Defendants the Sheriff of Cook County and Cook County. The Sheriff operates CCJ and is charged, together with Cook County, with providing medical care, including dental care, to CCJ detainees. [77], ¶¶ 4–6. Defendants require that detainees with dental pain complete a “health service request form” before receiving treatment. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiffs allege that the “standard of care for processing a health service request” requires review by a registered nurse or higher-level provider and a face-to-face evaluation within 48 hours. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiffs further allege that CCJ’s policies do not conform to this standard; rather, under CCJ policy, nursing staff members forward dental pain health service forms directly to dental staff without evaluating patients and without providing pain medication. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiffs allege that CCJ’s failure to provide the face-to-face assessments “deviates so radically from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards that it is not medical judgment at all.” Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiffs allege that CCJ has “acted unreasonably and with deliberate indifference in refusing to ensure timely screening and analgesia through nursing triage of dental complaints.” Id. at ¶ 18.

         In their amended complaint, Plaintiffs state that they planned to assert this claim on behalf of:

All persons confined at the Cook County Jail from October 31, 2013 to the date of entry of judgment in this case who, having submitted a written complaint of dental pain, were not examined by a registered nurse or higher level practitioner within 48 hours of submission of the written complaint.

Id. at ¶ 41. Subsequently, they moved to certify a slightly different class:

All persons who, while detained at the Cook County Jail between November 1, 2013 and April 30, 2018, submitted a written “Health Service Request Form” complaining of dental pain and did not receive a face-to-face assessment by a registered nurse or higher-level practitioner after submitting the request.

[84], p. 1. Plaintiffs, who seek only damages, seek to certify the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). See [77], p. 7.

         The four named plaintiffs all fall within the proposed class. Plaintiff McFields entered CCJ on September 10, 2014. Id. at ¶ 20. On October 29, 2014, McFields submitted a written health service request form complaining about dental pain; the next day, a registered nurse reviewed the form and referred it to a dentist, without conducting a face-to-face assessment. Id. at ¶¶ 21–22. McFields submitted a second health service request form on November 14, 2014; he saw a dentist six days later, on November 20, 2014. On that date, the dentist extracted McFields’ infected tooth. Id. at ¶¶ 23–24.

         Plaintiff Brunt began experiencing dental pain at CCJ in the fall of 2016; he submitted several health service request forms and filed several grievances complaining of dental pain but did not receive a face-to-face assessment. Id. at ¶¶ 25–27. Brunt waited 60 days before he was finally treated by a dentist. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Plaintiff Dixon began experiencing dental pain at CCJ in May of 2014; he submitted several health service request forms and filed several grievances complaining of dental pain but did not receive a face-to-face assessment. Id. at ¶¶ 28–30. Dixon, like Brunt, waited ...


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