United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
Gayla Clubb, as Independent Administrator of the Estate of Justin Clubb, deceased, Plaintiff,
Boone County Sheriff Dave Ernest, in his official capacity, et al., Defendants.
G. REINHARD UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
partial motion for judgment on the pleadings , is granted
for the reasons set forth below. Plaintiff is given 14 days
from the date of this order to file an amendment to count 1
of the complaint, repleading the correct legal theory.
Gayla Clubb, as independent administrator of the estate of
Justin Clubb, has filed this action against Boone County
Sheriff Dave Ernest, in his official capacity, along with
several other defendants regarding Justin Clubb's stay at
the Boone County adult detention facility
(“jail”). According to plaintiff's complaint,
Justin Clubb was in custody at the jail from June 2, 2017, to
June 9, 2017. On June 9, 2017, Justin Clubb hanged himself in
the jail after spending a week suffering from extreme drug
withdrawal symptoms and other health problems.
Plaintiff's 17-count complaint alleges various claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all defendants.
2, 2019, defendant Ernest filed a partial motion for judgment
on the pleadings as to count 1 of plaintiff's complaint -
a violation of due process pursuant to § 1983
(Monell). See . On August 16, 2019,
plaintiff filed a response to the motion , and on
September 3, 2019, defendant Ernest file a reply to the
response . The matter is now before the court.
brings this motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) which
states: “[a]fter the pleadings are closed - but early
enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on
the pleadings.” The standard for analyzing a motion for
judgment on the pleadings is the same as that for dismissing
a complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6): “the complaint must state a claim that is
plausible on its face.” Vinson v. Vermilion Cty.,
Ill., 776 F.3d 924, 928 (7th Cir. 2015); Gill v.
City of Milwaukee, 850 F.3d 335, 339 (7th Cir. 2017).
The court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true
and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the .. .
non-moving part[y].” Bonnstetter v. City of
Chicago, 811 F.3d 969, 973 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal
Ernest argues count 1 of plaintiff's complaint should be
dismissed because plaintiff has alleged the wrong legal
standard. Paragraph 51 of plaintiff's complaint states:
“Ernest's official actions, inactions, policies
procedures, and customs were objectively unreasonable[,
]” and therefore his claim is brought pursuant to
Monell v. Dep't of Social Services of New York,
436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1987). Defendant's sole argument is
that the “objectively unreasonable” legal
standard is not the proper standard under a Monell
claim and, therefore, count 1 should be dismissed. However,
plaintiff argues, and the court agrees, that this error does
not subject plaintiff's complaint to a judgment on the
pleading rules call for a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “[T]hey do not
countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement
of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.”
Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S. 10
(2014). Likewise, the Seventh Circuit has held that a
“complaint need not identify a legal theory, and
specifying an incorrect theory is not fatal.”
Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G. (Zurich), 953 F.2d 1073,
1078 (7th Cir. 1992). This holding has been repeated:
Alden Management Svcs., 532 F.3d 578, 582 (7th Cir.
2008) (“Courts don't hold a party to its first
legal theory. One does not plead law…”);
Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1086 (7th Cir.
2008) (“[O]ur pleading rules do not tolerate factual
inconsistencies in a complaint, [but] they do permit
inconsistencies in legal theories.”); Alioto v.
Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 721 (7th Cir. 2011)
(“[W]e have stated repeatedly (and frequently) that a
complaint need not plead legal theories, which can be learned
during discovery.”); Jajeh v. County of Cook,
678 F.3d 560, 567 (7th Cir. 2012) (plaintiff not required to
plead legal theory); Whitaker v. Milwaukee County,
Wisc., 772 F.3d 802, 808 (7th Cir. 2014) (“[I]t is
factual allegations, not legal theories, that must be pleaded
in a complaint.”). Therefore, the court finds that any
error committed by plaintiff in setting forth a legal theory
pursuant to Monell would not be fatal.
the court agrees with defendant Ernest that the
Monell liability standard is “deliberate
indifference, ” not “objectively
unreasonable” as pleaded by plaintiff. Ruiz-Cortez
v. City of Chicago, 931 F.3d 592, 599-600 (7th Cir.
2019) (Monell claims subject to deliberate
indifference); Gaston v. Ghosh, 920 F.3d 493, 498
(7th Cir. 2019) (same). For clarification and to prevent any
future confusion, the court will grant defendant Ernest's
motion to dismiss and give plaintiff leave to file an
amendment to count 1 of the complaint, repleading the proper
legal theory under a Monell claim. This will provide
a clean record as the case proceeds to summary judgment and
foregoing reasons, defendant's partial motion for
judgment on the pleadings  is granted. Plaintiff is given
14 days from the date of this order to file an amendment to