United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge
Jerrell Harris, who is represented by recruited volunteer
counsel, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against
defendants Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, Sergeant Gerald Moore,
Nurse Obuli, Officers Brent O'Hearn, Patrick Fitzpatrick,
Scott Knefel, Geno Muskat and Jacek Brylewski, and the County
of Cook (collectively, “Defendants”). Defendants
moved to dismiss Harris's operative complaint under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 36. For the
reasons that follow, that motion is granted in part, but the
Court takes under advisement certain aspects of that motion
pending additional briefing ordered below.
12(b)(6) motion challenges the “sufficiency of the
complaint.” Berger v. Nat. Collegiate Athletic
Assoc., 843 F.3d 285, 289 (7th Cir. 2016). A complaint
must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with
“fair notice” of the claim and the basis for it.
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). This standard “demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
“labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must
“contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.' ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “ ‘A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.' ” Boucher v. Fin. Sys. of Green Bay,
Inc., 880 F.3d 362, 366 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard,
the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws
all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Tobey v. Chibucos, 890 F.3d 634, 646 (7th Cir.
facts giving rise to this lawsuit are straightforward, the
procedural history less so. The Court begins with the facts
alleged in the operative complaint.
was an inmate at Cook County Jail at all times relevant to
this lawsuit. R. 35 ¶ 2. On February 29, 2016, Harris
was in maximum security segregation because of overcrowding
when Nurse Obuli announced medication time would be at 6:00
p.m. in the dayroom. Id. ¶¶ 16, 25-27.
Because only two inmates are permitted in the dayroom at a
time, Sergeant Moore directed Officers Knefel, Fitzpatrick,
O'Hearn, Muskat, and Brylewski to lock Harris in a
janitor's closet, where he remained for fifteen minutes.
Id. ¶¶ 27-28. Before doing so, Knefel told
Harris “This is how we treat savages, ” and
Fitzpatrick said “This is how we treat animals.”
Id. ¶¶ 15, 28. Harris repeatedly yelled
“Let me out, ” and complained to Knefel that it
was hot and he was having difficulty breathing. Id.
¶ 29. Eventually, Harris lost consciousness and fell
backward, hitting his head, causing a half-inch-high raised
bump. Id. ¶¶ 30, 33. Harris claims that
his lower back was also injured from the fall, apparently
because the shackles and padlock that held his arms behind
his back were in the general vicinity of bullet fragments
lodged in his back from an incident years before.
Id. ¶¶ 31-32.
Harris regained consciousness, Officers Knefel and
Fitzpatrick roughly pulled him to his feet. The officers
laughed at his request for medical care, id.
¶¶ 34-35, and Sergeant Moore stated “We
really f***ed up, ” id. ¶ 36. Nurse Obuli
was summoned and took Harris's pulse but did not examine
his head or lower back. She recommended that Harris walk to
the infirmary (a distance of approximately 25 feet) for
further medical treatment. Id. ¶¶ 28-30.
Harris complained of dizziness and lower back pain.
Id. ¶ 41. Sergeant Moore refused to obtain a
wheelchair for Harris after Nurse Obuli said he did not need
one. Id. ¶¶ 7, 19. Officer Knefel walked
Harris to the infirmary, where Nurse Obuli gave him ten
Tylenol or Advil pills for his headache and back pain, but
refused to set up an appointment with the staff doctor.
Id. ¶¶ 20, 40, 42.
to Harris, the bump on his head remained for at least four
days after the incident, he experienced headaches and lower
back pain for a week, and continues to experience lower back
pain on occasion. Id. ¶¶ 43-44. Harris
also alleges he suffered embarrassment, outrage, fear and
emotional trauma from the incident. Id. ¶ 48.
2016, Harris filed a federal case captioned Harris v.
Moore, et al., 16 C 5233 (N.D. Ill.) regarding the same
events that underlie this lawsuit (“First
Lawsuit”). 16 C 5233, R. 1. Harris named “SG.
Moore/Nurse Ms. Obuli, ” “C'O'
O'Hearn, ” “C'O' Fitzpatrick, ”
“C.O. Knifeel, ” “C.O. Muskat, ” and
“C.O. Brylewski” as defendants. Id. The
case was assigned to this Court, and counsel was recruited.
Harris subsequently amended his complaint through counsel to
name Sergeant Moore, Correctional Officer Knifeel,
Correctional Officer Fitzpatrick, Nurse Obuli and
“Unknown Correctional Officers” as defendants,
and terminate O'Hearn, Brylewski and Muskat. 16 C 5233,
R. 8. Ultimately, in November 2016, Harris voluntarily
dismissed his lawsuit because he could not determine the full
names of the individual defendants. 16 C 5233, R. 15; R. 46
later in November 2017, Harris filed a complaint in state
court through the same counsel, naming by last name Moore,
Fitzpatrick, Knefel and Obuli as defendants. In May 2018,
Harris amended the complaint to add Sheriff Dart and replace
Moore, Fitzpatrick, Knefel and Obuli with “Unknown Cook
County Correctional Officers” and “Unknown Cook
County Correctional Nurse.” On July 31, 2018, Dart
filed a notice of removal and the case was assigned to this
Court. R. 1. On December 10, 2018, Harris filed a Second
Amended Complaint naming as defendants: Sheriff Dart;
Sergeant Moore and Officers O'Hearn, Fitzpatrick, Knefel,
Muskat and Brylewski (identifying each by badge number);
“First Name Unknown (F/N/U) Nurse Obuli;” and
Toni Preckwinkle as President of the Cook County Board of
Commissioners. R. 16. The Second Amended Complaint eliminated
the reference to unknown correctional officers. Id.
Harris filed a Third Amended Complaint the next day,
substituting Cook County for Preckwinkle. R. 18. Finally, on
March 18, 2019, Harris filed his Fourth Amended Complaint-the