Brown v. Godinz et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Z. Lee on 7/5/17.Mailed notice(ca, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
EDWARD L. BROWN,
S.A. GODINZ, MICHAEL LEMKE,
G. LUSCHINGER, and D. COLEMAN, )
15 C 522
Judge John Z. Lee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pro se Plaintiff Edward Brown, a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”),
has brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants S.A.
Godinez, Michael Lemke, Jon Luchsinger, and D. Coleman. 1 Plaintiff alleges that he has been
subjected to a wide range of unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Stateville. Defendant
Luchsinger has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, Luchsinger’s
motion is granted.
Local Rule 56.1
Motions for summary judgment in the Northern District of Illinois are governed by Local
Rule 56.1. “The obligation set forth in Local Rule 56.1 ‘is not a mere formality.’ Rather, ‘[i]t
follows from the obligation imposed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) on the party opposing summary
judgment to identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial.’”
Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24
F.3d 918, 924 (7th Cir. 1994)). The Seventh Circuit has “routinely held that a district court may
S.A. Godinez’s and Jon Luchsinger’s names are misspelled on the docket and in Plaintiff’s
complaint as “S.A. Godinz” and “G. Luschinger,” respectively.
strictly enforce compliance with its local rules regarding summary judgment motions.” Yancick
v. Hanna Steel Corp., 653 F.3d 532, 537 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the party moving for summary judgment to provide “a
statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and
that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law.” LR 56.1(a)(3). In addition,
where the nonmovant is pro se, Local Rule 56.2 requires the movant to provide a “Notice to Pro
Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment.” LR 56.2. The nonmovant, whether pro
se or not, must then file “a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party’s
statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts
of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.” LR 56.1(b)(3)(B). In addition, the
nonmovant must present a separate “statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any
additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment.” LR 56.1(b)(3)(C).
“When a responding party’s statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving
party’s statement in the manner dictated by [Local Rule 56.1], those facts are deemed admitted
for purposes of the [summary judgment] motion.” Cracco v. Vitran Express, Inc., 559 F.3d 625,
632 (7th Cir. 2009); accord LR 56.1(b)(3)(C). Furthermore, district courts, in their discretion,
may “choose[ ] to ignore and not consider the additional facts that a litigant has proposed” if the
litigant has failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1. Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., LLC, 401
F.3d 803, 809–10 (7th Cir. 2005). Although pro se plaintiffs are generally entitled to lenient
standards, they are required to comply with local procedural rules governing motions for
summary judgment. See, e.g., Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006).
Upon moving for summary judgment, Luchsinger filed and served a “Notice to Pro Se
Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment” as required by Local Rule 56.2. See Notice
Pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, ECF No. 94. The notice detailed the requirements of the local rules
governing summary judgment, and it warned Plaintiff that his failure to controvert the facts set
forth in Luchsinger’s Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement would cause those facts to be deemed
admitted. See id. Despite these admonitions, Plaintiff failed to either respond to Luchsinger’s
Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement or submit his own statement of additional facts. Accordingly,
the facts set forth in Luchsinger’s Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement are deemed admitted to the
extent they are supported by evidence in the record. See Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632.
Plaintiff is an inmate who has been incarcerated at Stateville since October 2001. Def.’s
LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 1, 4.
Defendant Jon Luchsinger worked as the Chief Engineer at
Stateville from June 2003 to December 2010. Id. ¶ 5. Luchsinger ended his employment at
Stateville on December 15, 2010. Id. ¶ 7.
In this lawsuit, Plaintiff asserts constitutional claims based on the conditions of his
confinement at Stateville. Id. ¶ 19. In particular, he complains of contaminated water, poor
sanitation and ventilation, a pest infestation, lead-based paint, excessive heat, lack of fire safety,
and sleep deprivation. Id. ¶ 20. During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that his claims are
based upon conditions from the time period from March 2011 to the present. Id. ¶ 21; Def.’s LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. A, Pl.’s Dep., at 11:6–10. In addition, he clarified that his only claim
against Luchsinger is his claim regarding contaminated water. Pl.’s Dep. at 47:6–11, 85:1–86:2.
On March 20, 2011, Plaintiff filed his first grievance regarding the conditions of his
confinement. Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 8; see also Pl.’s Dep. at 10:1–5. In this grievance,
Plaintiff complained about contaminated water, inadequate cleaning supplies, poor ventilation,
pests, toxic paint, cell-house lighting, and double-man cells.
Id. ¶ 10.
Plaintiff filed the
grievance as an emergency grievance with the prison warden. Id. ¶ 11. After the warden
determined that the grievance was not an emergency, Plaintiff sent the grievance to the
Administrative Review Board (“the Board”). Id. ¶ 12. On April 20, 2011, the Board returned
the grievance to Plaintiff along with a request for additional information. Id. ¶ 13. Specifically,
the Board requested copies of Plaintiff’s “Committed Person’s Grievance” and “Committed
Person’s Grievance Report.” Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. D, at 4. Plaintiff did not respond to
this request. Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 15.
Over two years later, on April 21, 2013, and May 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed grievances
regarding the same conditions described in his first grievance. Id.; see also Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3)
Stmt., Ex. B, at 28–34 (grievance of 4/21/13); id., Ex. D, at 16 (grievance of 5/6/13). The Board
denied these grievances on April 21, 2014. See Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 17. Apart from his
2011 grievance and his two 2013 grievances, Plaintiff has filed no other grievances regarding the
conditions at Stateville. Id. ¶ 18; see also Pl.’s Dep. at 102:12–19. 2
Plaintiff has never had any conversations or communications with Luchsinger. Def.’s LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 22; see also Pl.’s Dep. at 85:19–86:2. During his deposition, he explained that
he named Luchsinger as a defendant only because he obtained Luchsinger’s name from a bulletin
posted within Stateville. Pl.’s Dep. at 47:6–18, 85:1–10. The bulletin, which is dated December
3, 2003, provided notice that radium in Stateville’s water had exceeded certain limits in violation
of regulations set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board. Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. B, at
77. The last sentence of the bulletin reads: “If you have any questions or comments in regards to
this violation, please feel free to give Jon Luchsinger a call.” Id.
In his response brief, Plaintiff asserts that he also filed grievances in November 2009 and April
2010. See Pl.’s Resp. at 4, ECF No. 97. Plaintiff, however, has not provided any evidence to support
these assertions, and the Court therefore disregards them. See Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584
(N.D. Ill. 2000) (explaining that a party opposing summary judgment must support his factual assertions
with evidentiary materials in the record).
“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Shell v. Smith, 789 F.3d 715, 717 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive summary
judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts,” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
586 (1986), and instead must “establish some genuine issue for trial such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict in her favor.” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772–73 (7th
Cir. 2012). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for
the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Blythe Holdings, Inc. v. DeAngelis,
750 F.3d 653, 656 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).
In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court “must construe all facts and
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.”
Dorsey, 507 F.3d at 627.
“[i]nferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary
judgment motion.” Id. (quoting McDonald v. Vill. of Winnetka, 371 F.3d 992, 1001 (7th Cir.
2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “[S]aying so doesn’t make it so; summary judgment
may only be defeated by pointing to admissible evidence in the summary judgment record that
creates a genuine issue of material fact.” United States v. 5443 Suffield Terrace, Skokie, Ill., 607
F.3d 504, 510–11 (7th Cir. 2010).
In support of his motion for summary judgment, Luchsinger argues that Plaintiff’s claims
against him are barred by the statute of limitations. In the alternative, he argues that Plaintiff has
failed to present evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Luchsinger was
personally involved in, or deliberately indifferent to, the conditions of confinement at issue. For
the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Luchsinger’s arguments have merit and accordingly
grants his motion for summary judgment. 3
Statute of Limitations
Because § 1983 does not contain an express statute of limitations, § 1983 claims brought
in federal court are governed by the forum state’s statute of limitations for personal injury
claims. Johnson v. Rivera, 272 F.3d 519, 521 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S.
261, 276 (1985)). In Illinois, the statute of limitations for § 1983 deliberate indifference claims
is two years. Id. (citing Kalimara v. Ill. Dep’t of Corr., 879 F.2d 276, 277 (7th Cir. 1989)); see
also Hoban v. Anderson, -- F. App’x --, No. 16-1246, 2017 WL 1806539, at *3 (7th Cir. May 5,
2017) (applying two-year statute of limitations to § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference to
conditions of confinement).
In general, the statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim brought in federal court accrues
when “the plaintiff knew or should have known that his constitutional rights had been violated.”
Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 672 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Hileman v. Maze, 367 F.3d 694, 696
(7th Cir. 2004)). Ongoing violations of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights may delay the accrual
date of the plaintiff’s claim under the continuing violation doctrine. Heard v. Sheahan, 253 F.3d
316, 319 (7th Cir. 2001). But a defendant’s continuing violation of the plaintiff’s rights can
delay the start of the limitations period only “for as long as the defendant[ ] had the power to do
something about [the plaintiff’s] condition.” Id. at 318. Thus, for a § 1983 claim alleging
deliberate indifference to prison conditions, the limitations period begins to run when either the
plaintiff or the defendant leaves the prison, because, at that time, the defendant loses “power to
Because the Court finds that summary judgment is warranted on these bases, the Court need not
reach Luchsinger’s additional alternative argument that Plaintiff’s claims against him are barred for
failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
do something” about the plaintiff’s conditions of incarceration. See id.; Ollison v. Wexford
Health Sources, Inc., No. 16 C 00662, 2016 WL 6962841, at *5–6 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2016)
(holding that statute of limitations on plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim against prison
warden began to run when prison warden left his employment at the correctional facility where
plaintiff was incarcerated); see also Blakenship v. Obaisi, 443 F. App’x 205, 208 (7th Cir. 2011)
(dismissing claims against defendant prison official as time-barred where plaintiff brought his
claims more than two years after he left the correctional facility where defendant was employed);
Jones v. Feinerman, No. 09 C 03916, 2011 WL 4501405, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 28, 2011) (same).
Here, the series of violations that Plaintiff alleges against Luchsinger terminated when
Luchsinger no longer had the power to do something about the allegedly unconstitutional living
conditions—that is, when Luchsinger left Stateville in December 2010. At that time, Plaintiff’s
claims against Luchsinger accrued, and Plaintiff had only two years thereafter (that is, until about
December 2012) to timely bring his claims. Plaintiff, however, did not file this lawsuit until
January 14, 2015—four years and one month after his claims against Luchsinger accrued, and
long after the two-year limitations period had expired. 4 As such, his claims against Luchsinger
In his response, Plaintiff neither addresses Luchsinger’s statute of limitations argument
nor offers a basis for the Court to find that his claims against Luchsinger are timely. The Court
acknowledges that the limitations period for § 1983 claims brought by Illinois prisoners is tolled
while the prisoner completes the administrative grievance process. Johnson, 272 F.3d at 522.
According to the prisoner mailbox rule, a plaintiff’s pro se pleadings are deemed filed the date
they are handed to prison officials for mailing. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 275–76 (1988). A
certificate of service attached to Plaintiff’s complaint indicates that this occurred on January 14, 2015, see
Compl. at 79, ECF No. 6, and not on April 2, 2015, as Luchsinger asserts in his motion, see Def.’s Mem.
Supp. at 8, ECF No. 93.
But this tolling rule does not save Plaintiff’s claims against Luchsinger. At most, the limitations
period was tolled only from the one-month period from March 20, 2011, when Plaintiff filed his
first grievance, to April 20, 2011, when the Board returned the grievance along with a request for
additional information (to which Plaintiff never responded). See Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 8,
13, 15. Even with this month of tolling, the two-year limitations period would have expired in
January 2013—still long before Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in January 2015. 5 As such, the Court
concludes that Plaintiff’s claims against Luchsinger are barred by the statute of limitations.
Luchsinger is therefore entitled to summary judgment in his favor.
Lack of Personal Involvement or Deliberate Indifference
Alternatively, Luchsinger argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because
Plaintiff has failed to present evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Luchsinger
was personally involved in, or deliberately indifferent to, the conditions of confinement in
question. The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects
prisoners from conditions of confinement amounting to “a denial of ‘basic human needs.’”
Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1427 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S.
337, 347 (1981)). To prevail on a § 1983 claim challenging the conditions of his confinement
Plaintiff has not argued that the additional grievances he filed in April and May of 2013 could
have done anything to render his claims timely after the limitations period had already expired. Nor has
he argued that the limitations period could have tolled from April 2011 (when the Board returned his first
grievance with a request for additional information) until April 2013 (when he submitted his second
grievance). Even if Plaintiff had raised such arguments, however, the Court would reject them. Plaintiff
could not have tolled the limitations period merely by filing repetitive grievances based on the same set of
underlying facts. See Wagner v. Hardy, 609 F. App’x 874, 876 (7th Cir. 2015); Twitty v. Lockett, 556 F.
App’x 507, 508 (7th Cir. 2014). And any tolling that was based on the filing of his March 2011 grievance
could not have extended past April 20, 2011, given that Plaintiff never followed up on the request for
additional information that the Board sent him at that time. See Wagner, 609 F. App’x at 876 (noting that
a prisoner is “required to properly exhaust his administrative remedies in order for the grievance process
to toll a limitations period”). To hold otherwise would have the perverse result of allowing prisoners to
indefinitely extend their limitations periods by failing to comply with grievance procedures. Cf. Pozo v.
McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1023–24 (7th Cir. 2002) (rejecting interpretation of exhaustion requirement
that would have had the effect of “allow[ing] a prisoner to ‘exhaust’ state remedies by spurning them”).
under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must prove that (1) he suffered an objectively serious
deprivation “result[ing] in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities,” and
(2) the defendant was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm that the prison
conditions posed to the prisoner’s safety, meaning that the defendant knew of but disregarded
such a risk. Gray v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000, 1005 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 834, 837 (1994)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, because § 1983
creates a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated on fault, the prisoner must
establish that the defendant personally caused or participated in the alleged constitutional
deprivation. Kuhn v. Goodlow, 678 F.3d 552, 556 (7th Cir. 2012); Pepper v. Vill. of Oak Park,
430 F.3d 805, 810 (7th Cir. 2005).
Here, no reasonable jury could find from the evidence presented that Luchsinger was
personally involved in or deliberately indifferent to the conditions of confinement on which
Plaintiff’s claims are based. First, it is undisputed that Luchsinger was no longer employed at
Stateville after December 15, 2010. Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 7. Likewise, it is undisputed
that, as Plaintiff explained during his deposition, Plaintiff’s claims are based solely on the
conditions of his confinement from March 2011 to the present. Id. ¶ 21; see also Pl.’s Dep. at
11:6–10. In other words, Luchsinger was not employed at Stateville during the period giving
rise to Plaintiff’s claims. As such, Plaintiff cannot establish that Luchsinger was personally
involved in the alleged deprivations. See Kuhn, 678 F.3d at 556; Pepper, 430 F.3d at 810; see
also Moore v. Lemke, No. 15 C 1596, 2016 WL 4530308, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2016)
(granting summary judgment on prisoner’s conditions-of-confinement claim where the evidence
failed to create a “triable issue as to whether [defendant] was personally involved in any
unconstitutional conditions of confinement [the prisoner] may have endured”); Smith v. Cooper,
No. 95 C 6493, 1998 WL 142426, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 26, 1998) (granting summary judgment
on prisoner’s conditions-of-confinement claim based on lack of personal involvement where a
defendant no longer worked at the prison by the time the conditions at issue began).
Perhaps Plaintiff seeks to hold Luchsinger personally liable on the theory that his acts or
omissions laid the groundwork for conditions that did not manifest until after he had already left
Stateville. But even under this theory, Plaintiff’s claims against Luchsinger nevertheless fail
because there is no evidence that Luchsinger ever knew of or disregarded a risk to Plaintiff’s
safety arising from such acts or omissions.
Plaintiff has admitted that he never had any
conversations or communications with Luchsinger. Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 22; Pl.’s Dep.
at 85:19–86:2. In addition, Plaintiff’s grievances could not have put Luchsinger on notice of a
risk to Plaintiff’s safety, because his first grievance regarding the conditions of his confinement
was not filed until March 2011, after Luchsinger had already left Stateville’s employ. See Def.’s
LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 8. Without evidence that Luchsinger had knowledge of the conditions at
issue or the risks they posed to Plaintiff’s safety, Plaintiff cannot prevail on his claims against
Luchsinger. See Lewis v. Richards, 107 F.3d 549, 553 (7th Cir. 1997) (holding that plaintiff
could not prove deliberate indifference without showing that defendant had “specific
knowledge” of a threat to his well-being); see also Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 621 (7th Cir.
2010) (affirming summary judgment in defendants’ favor as to plaintiff’s claims for deliberate
indifference to medical needs where defendants had no knowledge of plaintiff’s needs or even
the fact of her incarceration).
In his response brief, Plaintiff refers to various documents in an attempt to raise a triable
issue of fact regarding Luchsinger’s personal involvement. But none of these documents saves
him from summary judgment.
First, Plaintiff points to the bulletin posted in Stateville in
December 2003 from which he obtained Luchsinger’s name. See Pl.’s Resp. at 1. As noted
above, the bulletin provided notice that radium in the water at Stateville had exceeded certain
limits, and it instructed readers to “feel free to give Jon Luchsinger a call” for further questions.
Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. B, at 77. Although it refers to Luchsinger by name, the bulletin
is insufficient to create a genuine dispute of fact as to whether Luchsinger had personal
involvement in or knowledge of the conditions of which Plaintiff complains. Nothing in the
bulletin suggests that Luchsinger had any authority or control over the water quality at Stateville
during the time of his employment, much less after his employment ended in December 2010.
As such, based on the evidentiary record that Plaintiff has presented, a jury would be left to
speculate as to the nature and scope of Luchsinger’s job responsibilities. The bulletin therefore
does not create a triable issue of fact as to whether Luchsinger was personally responsible for the
water quality at Stateville or otherwise personally involved in the conditions giving rise to
Plaintiff also appears to ask the Court to infer Luchsinger’s personal knowledge from
several other documents referenced in Plaintiff’s response brief—namely, grievances filed by
other inmates, Environmental Protection Agency reports, and a 2010 prison monitoring report
published by the John Howard Association of Illinois. See Pl.’s Resp. at 5. These documents,
however, have not been attached to Plaintiff’s response or otherwise provided to the Court.
Accordingly, the Court therefore disregards them, and they cannot give rise to a genuine dispute
as to Luchsinger’s personal knowledge or involvement. See Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 584.
Relatedly, Plaintiff asks the Court to infer Luchsinger’s knowledge of the conditions at
issue based on the existence of other lawsuits that have been filed against him. Pl.’s Resp. at 3,
5. Even assuming arguendo that a defendant’s knowledge of certain prison conditions could
sometimes be inferred from the filing of a lawsuit against him, Plaintiff’s argument is
unpersuasive, because all of the lawsuits he points to were filed in 2011 or later, after Luchsinger
had already left his position at Stateville. See id. Thus, it cannot be reasonably inferred from the
existence of these lawsuits that Luchsinger was personally involved in or aware of the conditions
of Plaintiff’s confinement.
In sum, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims against Luchsinger are barred by the twoyear statute of limitations. Moreover, Plaintiff has failed to present evidence from which a
reasonable jury could conclude that Luchsinger was personally involved in or deliberately
indifferent to Plaintiff’s conditions of confinement. Luchsinger thus is entitled to summary
judgment in his favor.
For the reasons stated herein, Luchsinger’s motion for summary judgment  is granted.
All claims against Luchsinger are dismissed, and Luchsinger is hereby terminated as a Defendant
in this case.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
John Z. Lee
United States District Judge
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