Davis v. Buncich et al
OPINION AND ORDER: Davis is GRANTED leave to seek money damages against Sheriff Buncich in his official capacity, as outlined in Order; Davis is GRANTED leave to proceed against Citris Palango and Kathy Escobed in their individual capacities for m oney damages, as outlined in Order; May is DISMISSED from this cause of action; any and all other claims contained in the complaint are DISMISSED; the clerk is DIRECTED to transmit the summons and USM-285 forms for Palango and Escobed to the USMS; t he USMS is DIRECTED to effect service of process on Palango and Escobed; and dfts Sheriff Buncich, Palango, and Escobed are ORDERED, pursuant to 42:1997(g)(2), to respond to the claims that survive this screening order, as provided for in the Fed. R. Civ. P. and N.D. Ind. L.R. 10-1(b). Signed by Chief Judge Philip P Simon on 2/10/2016. (lhc)(cc: Davis/USMS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
JOHN BUNCICH, et al.,
Cause No. 2:14-cv-341
OPINION AND ORDER
Donald Davis, a pro se prisoner, filed an amended complaint under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, identifying the previously unnamed Lake County Jail officers who held him
under substandard conditions for two days at the Lake County Jail. (DE 62.) Initially,
Davis was granted leave to proceed against Sheriff Buncich in his official capacity.
However, I informed Davis that, because service could not be made on an unnamed
defendant, he would need to file an amended complaint once he obtained the name of
the Lake County Jail officers.
I must review the amended complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant
who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. To survive dismissal, the complaint
must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs.,
581 F.3d 599, 602–03 (7th Cir. 2009). “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.” Id. at 603. Thus, the plaintiff “must do
better than putting a few words on paper that, in the hands of an imaginative reader,
might suggest that something has happened to her that might be redressed by the law.”
Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th Cir. 2010). Nevertheless, I must bear in
mind that “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
Davis again alleges he was housed under substandard conditions while at the
Lake County Jail on February 20, 2013, through February 21, 2013. He claims that when
he arrived at the jail on February 20, 2013, Officers Citris Palango and Kathy Escobed
placed him in a freezing cold holding cell without a blanket and required him to sleep
on a dirty concrete floor. He asserts that they did not give him any toilet paper, shower
shoes, or socks. Based on these events, Davis sues Sheriff Buncich, in his official
capacity, and Captain Dave May, Officer Palango, and Officer Escobed for violating his
Eighth Amendment rights.
In evaluating an Eighth Amendment claim, courts conduct both an objective and
a subjective inquiry. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The objective prong
asks whether the alleged deprivation is “sufficiently serious” so that “a prison official’s
act results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Id.
Although “the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons,” Rhodes v. Chapman,
452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981), inmates are entitled to be provided with adequate food,
clothing, bedding, and sanitation. Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 463 (7th Cir. 2009);
Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 493 (7th Cir. 2006); Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1432
(7th Cir. 1996). On the subjective prong, the prisoner must show the defendant acted
with deliberate indifference to his health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. As the
Seventh Circuit has explained:
[C]onduct is deliberately indifferent when the official has acted in an
intentional or criminally reckless manner, i.e., the defendant must have
known that the plaintiff was at serious risk of being harmed and decided not
to do anything to prevent that harm from occurring even though he could
have easily done so.
Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005) (internal citations and quotation
marks omitted); see also Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 855 (7th Cir. 1999) (where inmate
complained about severe deprivations but was ignored, he established a “prototypical
case of deliberate indifference”).
Although Davis’s amended complaint is not heavy on detail, I conclude that he
has stated enough to proceed on a claim that he was denied the minimal civilized
measure of life’s necessities for two days. As recounted above, he claims that Palango
and Escobed made him sleep on the concrete floor of a freezing cold cell without any
blankets. Further, they never provided him with toilet paper, socks or shower shoes.
Giving Davis the benefit he is entitled to at this stage, he has adequately alleged a claim
for inadequate conditions of confinement against Palango and Escobed.
Sheriff Buncich has been sued in his official capacity for his role in overseeing the
operations of the Lake County Jail. Suing a “government employee in his official
capacity is akin to suing the entity that employs him and the standard for liability is the
same.” Second Amendment Arms v. City of Chicago, No. 10-cv-4257, 2012 WL 4464900, at
*4 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 25, 2012). Thus, a claim against Sheriff Buncich in his official capacity
can only be successful if the plaintiff establishes that the actions on which liability is
predicated took place pursuant to a government policy or custom. Monell v. New York
City Dep’t of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Schor v. City of Chicago, 576 F.3d 775, 779
(7th Cir. 2009). Davis has already been given leave to proceed against Sheriff Buncich.
Again, giving Davis the benefit he is entitled to at this early stage, he has plausibly
alleged that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Lake
County Jail, which may have been the result of the Lake County Jail’s policy or custom.
Finally, Davis seeks to hold May responsible for the actions of Palango and
Escobed because he was their supervisor. However, because there is no general
respondeat superior liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, May cannot be held liable simply
because he supervises those officers. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009).
Therefore, May must be dismissed from this case.
(1) Davis is GRANTED leave to seek money damages against Sheriff Buncich in
his official capacity for the Lake County Jail having a policy or custom which resulted in
the jail failing to provide Davis with adequate bedding, clothing, heat, and sanitation
while at the Lake County Jail on February 20, 2013 through February 21, 2013, in
violation of the Eighth Amendment;
(2) Davis is GRANTED leave to proceed against Citris Palango and Kathy
Escobed in their individual capacities for money damages for failing to provide him
with adequate bedding, clothing, heat, and sanitation while at the Lake County Jail on
February 20, 2013, through February 21, 2013, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
(3) May is DISMISSED from this cause of action;
(4) any and all other claims contained in the complaint are DISMISSED;
(5) the clerk is DIRECTED to transmit the summons and USM-285 forms for
Palango and Escobed to the United States Marshals Service;
(6) the United States Marshals Service is DIRECTED to effect service of process
on Palango and Escobed;1 and
(7) defendants Sheriff Buncich, Palango, and Escobed are ORDERED, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1997(g)(2), to respond to the claims that survive this screening order, as
provided for in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind. L.R. 10-1(b).
ENTERED: February 10, 2016.
s/ Philip P. Simon
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Sheriff Buncich has already been served and appeared in this case.
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