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Gentry v. Floyd County

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

February 16, 2016

TABITHA GENTRY, VINCENT MINTON, MICHAEL HERRON, ADAM WALKER, BRIAN BURGESS, ANNA CHASTAIN, and JANELLE SOUTH, on their own behalf and on behalf of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FLOYD COUNTY, INDIANA, DARRELL MILLS, Individually and in his capacity as Floyd County Sheriff, TIFFANY FRANS, Individually, OFFICER ATHERTON, Individually, RYAN RAINEY, Individually, and OFFICERS JOHN/JANE DOE, Individually, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          For TABITHA GENTRY, VINCENT MINTON, MICHAEL HERRON, ADAM WALKER, BRIAN BURGESS, ANNA CHASTAIN, JANELLE SOUTH, Plaintiffs: Daniel J. Canon, CLAY DANIEL WALTON & ADAMS, Louisville, KY; Theodore Wendover Walton, CLAY FREDERICK ADAMS PLLC, Louisville, KY; Laura Elizabeth Landenwich, CLAY DANIEL WALTON & ADAMS PLC, Louisville, KY.

         For FLOYD COUNTY, INDIANA, Defendant: R. Jeffrey Lowe, KIGHTLINGER & GRAY, LLP-New Albany, New Albany, IN; Richard R. Fox, LAW OFFICES OF RICHARD R. FOX, New Albany, IN.

         For DARRELL MILLS, Individually, and in his capacity as Floyd County Sheriff, TIFFANY FRANS, Individually, OFFICER ATHERTON, Individualy, RYAN RAINEY, Individually, JOHN/JANE DOE, Individually, Defendants: R. Jeffrey Lowe, KIGHTLINGER & GRAY, LLP-New Albany, New Albany, IN.

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         ENTRY ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO CERTIFY CLASS

         RICHARD L. YOUNG, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs, Tabitha Gentry, Vincent Minton, Michael Herron, Adam Walker, Brian Burgess, Anna Chastain, and Janelle South, are a group of detainees who were housed in padded isolation cells of the Floyd County Jail in conditions they claim were unconstitutional. Before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         In 2010, the Floyd County Sheriff's Department issued a policy statement entitled " Combative Subjects Practices." (Filing No. 49-3, Combative Subjects Policy). As the name of the Policy suggests, the Policy covers the best practices for Floyd County Jail Personnel to deal with " combative and potentially suicidal subjects" entering the Jail. ( Id. ). The Policy leaves the determination of who falls within the Policy to the discretion of Jail Personnel, and grants them the authority to take unruly detainees to a padded cell, strip them of their clothes, and replace their clothes with a " protective smock." ( Id. ). In determining whether a subject is unruly, the Policy instructs staff to use a " temperature test" :

Supervisors or medical staff that deem a subject unstable by means of intoxications [sic], general threating [sic] behavior, have the ability to take each incident and conduct a " temperature" test to decided [sic] what the best course of action is to protect all parties. This " temperature" test to decided [sic] what the best course of action is to protect all parties. This " temperature" test includes the subject's demeanor, attitude, actions, intoxication, and a number of other officer observations that would allow him to make this determination.

( Id. ).

         Subjects who fail the temperature test are placed into one of two padded isolation cells, referred to as " PD-1" and " PD-2." (Filing No. 44-1, Deposition of Lt. Andrew Sands[1] at 90-92). These cells consist of four walls; there is no bench on which to sit. ( See Filing No. 52, Plaintiffs' Ex. 5 (videotape of Plaintiffs in one of the cells)). Once inside a padded cell, detainees are stripped of their clothing (sometimes forcibly) and given a one-size-fits-all protective (i.e., suicide prevention) smock. In addition, they are deprived of mattresses, blankets, and personal hygiene products because, according to Lt. Andrew Sands, such items can be used as weapons. (Sands Dep. at 125-29; see also id. at 230 (" Q: So anytime someone refuses orders, you view them as a threat to use their clothing as a weapon against officers? A: Among other reasons, yes." )). Detainees remain in the padded cell until Jail Personnel determine, in their judgment, that the detainees will behave. ( Id. at 103-04 (testifying that " if an inmate was a behavioral problem, we may tell them, " Okay. Let's reevaluate this in a couple hours [until] you can prove to us that you're going to follow our rules and be respectful . . . ." )).

         The Plaintiffs herein were not placed in a padded cell because of a risk of suicide. Instead, Plaintiffs were placed (sometimes forcibly carried) in a padded cell because they failed the temperature test by engaging in bad behavior during the booking process, such as engaging in verbal arguments with Jail Personnel. ( See, e.g., Filing No. 1, Compl. ¶ 47). In addition to being stripped of their clothing, Plaintiffs allege they were treated without dignity or respect. Some had to urinate in a floor drain ( Id. ¶ ¶ 62, 75, 84, 106, 122, 136); some were denied their medications ( id. ¶ ¶ 110, 132); some were pepper sprayed ( id. ¶ ¶ 56, 115); and some were hit with a taser ( id. ¶ ¶ 72, 101).

Page 76

          Plaintiffs allege that the Jail's Policy and unwritten practice of " stripping out" [2] unruly subjects violates the Fourth Amendment's right to privacy and prohibition against excessive force; the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; and the Fourteenth Amendment's right to substantive and procedural due process. Plaintiffs seek to certify the following class for liability issues only pursuant to Rule 23(c)(4):

All inmates confined from June 12, 2013 to present in the Floyd County Jail who were not on a suicide watch, but were housed in a padded cell where they were deprived of clothing, bedding, and hygiene products.

         In addition, Plaintiff's propose the following subclass:

Those class members who were subjected to weapons deployment while confined and secured in the padded cells.

         II. Rule 23 Requirements

         Class action suits are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. A party seeking class certification bears the burden of establishing that certification is appropriate. Retired Chicago Police Ass'n v. City of Chicago, 7 F.3d 584, 596 (7th Cir. 1993). The decision whether to grant or deny a motion for class certification lies within the broad discretion of the trial court. Id.

         Rule 23 prescribes a two-step analysis to determine whether class certification is appropriate. First, a plaintiff must satisfy all four requirements of Rule 23(a): (1) numerosity; (2) commonality; (3) typicality; and (4) adequacy of representation. Clark v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., 256 Fed.Appx. 818, 821 (7th Cir. 2007); Williams v. Chartwell Fin. Servs., Ltd., 204 F.3d 748, 760 (7th Cir. 2000). The failure to meet any one of these requirements precludes certification of a class. Retired Chicago Police Ass'n, 7 F.3d at 596. Second, the action must also satisfy one of the conditions of Rule 23(b). Clark, 256 Fed.Appx. at 821; Williams, 204 F.3d at 760. Plaintiffs seek certification under Rule 23(b)(3), which permits class certification if " questions of law or fact common to class ...


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