United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Linda Bradford, as Special, Administrator of the Estate of Develt Bradford, deceased, and Linda Bradford, Individually, Plaintiffs,
City of Chicago, a Municipal Corporation, Chicago Police Officer Phyllis Gill, Chicago Police Officer John Otto, and Detention Aide Darrin West, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge
the Court is the City of Chicago (the “City”),
Chicago police officers Phyllis Gill and John Otto, and
detention aide Darrin West's (Gill, Otto, and West
together, “the Individual Defendants, ” and the
City and the Individual Defendants together,
“Defendants”) joint motion to bifurcate plaintiff
Linda Bradford's (“Plaintiff”) claim against
the City under Monell v. Department of Social Services of
the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1987), stay
Monell discovery, and enter the City's limited
consent to liability for compensatory damages. R. 175. For
the following reasons, that motion is granted in part and
denied in part.
case involves the suicide of Develt Bradford
(“Bradford”) while in the City of Chicago's
custody. Bradford was arrested by Chicago police officers and
taken to a Chicago police station on November 15, 2011. R. 44
¶¶ 9, 10, 12. The next evening, Bradford was
informed that he was being charged with first degree murder
and robbery. Id. ¶ 42. According to the
allegations in the operative complaint, he was placed in a
cell in lockup at approximately 9:00 p.m. that night by the
Individual Defendants and other Chicago police officers who
are not party to this suit. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.
Bradford's cell was out of sight and sound of the booking
area where lockup personnel sat, and contained cameras that
when operative transmitted live video footage to the front of
the lockup to prevent inmate harm. Id. ¶¶
15-18, 44-45. But the cameras were not functioning and
hadn't been operable for a period of years-a fact of
which Defendants were aware. Id. ¶¶ 14,
23-26, 45. Later that same evening, Bradford learned that his
bond hearing would not take place within the customary 48
hours of his arrest. Id. ¶ 20. A few hours
later, Bradford was found dead, hanging from his neck,
suspended by a pair of pants in his cell. Id.
initially filed this action in Illinois state court in
December 2011 as administrator for the estate of Bradford,
her late husband. The court permitted several iterations of
her complaint, in each case alleging only state law claims.
But after completing discovery, Plaintiff filed a Fifth
Amended Complaint alleging a federal claim (against the
Individual Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983) for the
first time. R. 1. Defendants removed the action to this Court
in January 2016. Id. At that time, discovery was
complete on the then-current allegations. Defendants moved
for summary judgment in August 2016. R. 22. Ultimately,
however, the Court permitted Plaintiff to amend her pleading
once more in February 2017, this time to include a
Monell claim against the City. R. 43; R. 44.
Accordingly, the Court denied the summary judgment motion
without prejudice. Id.
the Sixth Amended Complaint sets forth: (1) Illinois state
law claims against the Individual Defendants under the
Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/0.01, et seq.
(Count I) and the Survival Act, 755 ILCS 5/27-6, et
seq. (Count II); (2) respondeat superior and
indemnification theories against the City (Counts V and VI,
respectively); (4) a Fourth Amendment Section 1983 claim
against the Individual Defendants (Count III); and 5) a
Monell claim against the City (Count IV). R. 44.
Count III, Plaintiff alleges that the Individual
Defendants' failure to properly supervise Bradford after
he received notice of his charges was objectively
unreasonable and posed a substantial risk of harm to
Bradford's health and safety in violation of his Fourth
Amendment rights. Id. ¶¶ 40-51. And in her
Monell claim (Count IV), Plaintiff alleges that the
City's ongoing failure to repair camera equipment
installed to ensure inmate safety and systematic
understaffing of city lockups created constitutionally
unreasonable conditions of confinement for inmates at risk of
suicide. Id. ¶¶ 53-56.
Court extended the fact discovery cutoff on the
Monell claim to October 18, 2019, but has not yet
set an expert discovery schedule. R. 174. On July 26, 2019,
Defendants jointly filed this motion to bifurcate
Plaintiff's Monell claim and to stay
Monell discovery. Included with their motion was a
limited consent to the entry of judgment against the City if
the Court grants Defendants' motion to bifurcate and stay
(“Limited Consent”). R. 175, Ex A. In it, the
City consents to entry of judgment against it for
compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys fees
“[w]ithout admitting the Monell
allegations” if any Individual Defendant is found
“liable for a violation of [Bradford's]
constitutional rights, ” including on summary judgment.
Id. at 2. The Limited Consent further provides that
the City also consents to the entry of such a judgment if the
Individual Defendants are absolved of liability because of
qualified immunity. Id. at 2-3.
hearing on Defendants' motion, the Court told the parties
that the fact discovery cut-off date would stand. However,
the Court also informed the parties that if it otherwise
decided to grant Defendants' motion to bifurcate and stay
the Monell claim, the Court would also stay expert
discovery pending the resolution of the other claims.
convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and
economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or
more separate issues [or] claims.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b).
Whether to bifurcate the trial of any issues or claims is
within the Court's “considerable” discretion.
Krocka v. City of Chi., 203 F.3d 507, 516 (7th Cir.
2000). Indeed, the Court may “separate claims or issues
for trial if the separation would prevent prejudice to a
party or promote judicial economy.” Chlopek v. Fed.
Ins. Co., 499 F.3d 692, 700 (7th Cir. 2007). “If
one of these criteria is met, the district court may order
bifurcation as long as doing so will not prejudice the
non-moving party or violate the Seventh Amendment, ”
which guarantees a jury trial for civil cases in federal
court. Id. A district court also has wide discretion
with respect to discovery matters, and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26(d) allows a court to stay discovery on
Monell claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(d); Carr v. City
of N. Chi., 908 F.Supp.2d 926, 927 (N.D. Ill. 2012).
to bifurcate Monell claims are frequently granted in
this District because such claims typically require a
significant amount of work-including expert discovery-that
may ultimately be for naught because in “many if not
most cases, disposition of the individual claims will either
legally or practically end the litigation.” Medina
v. City of Chi., 100 F.Supp.2d 893, 895 (N.D. Ill.
2000). Indeed, a plaintiff's failure to prove that he
suffered a constitutional injury at the hands of an
individual employee typically is fatal to his Monell
claim against the municipality. Id. On the other
hand, if the plaintiff prevails on his constitutional claim
against the municipal employee, he is “likely not to
want or need to proceed any further, ” id.,
because Illinois law requires a “local public entity to
pay . . . any tort judgment or settlement for compensatory
damages . . . for which it or an employee while acting within
the scope of his employment is liable.” 745 ILCS
10/9-102. In all cases, the Court evaluates a motion to
bifurcate on the facts before it, Saunders v. City of
Chi., 146 F.Supp.3d 957, 968 (N.D. Ill. 2015), and its
decision will be overturned “only upon a clear showing
of abuse.” Houskins v. Sheahan, 549 F.3d 480,
495 (7th Cir. 2008).
contend that: (1) a combined trial that includes the
Monell claim would prejudice both the City and the
Individual Defendants; and (2) judicial economy favors
bifurcation and stay of Monell discovery because
expert discovery would be burdensome and costly, and may not
be necessary due to the Limited Consent. R. 175; R. 180. In
response, Plaintiff argues that bifurcation is improper
because her Monell claim is not contingent upon the
success of her Section 1983 claims against the Individual