United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Evansville Division
ENTRY ON JOINT MOTION TO DISMISS
RICHARD L. YOUNG, JUDGE
Dawn Opipari, was a pre-trial detainee in the Gibson County
Jail. She alleges that the Defendants, correctional officers
Zachary Keller and Michael Owens from the Gibson County
Sheriff's Department, violated her Fourteenth Amendment
right to due process by subjecting her to inhumane conditions
of confinement. Defendants now move to dismiss her Complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted. For the reasons explained below, the court
DENIES the motion.
Monday, October 24, 2015, Plaintiff and her live-in
boyfriend, Tim Hughes, had an argument during which she
injured herself. (Filing No. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 11-12).
Members of the Princeton Police Department, Princeton Fire
Department, and Princeton Emergency Medical Services were
called to the scene and found Plaintiff sitting on the floor
of the garage. (Id. ¶ 14). Plaintiff was taken
to Gibson County General Hospital unwillingly and, after her
medical exam was over, she was transported to the Jail.
(See Id. ¶¶ 19, 28, 30-31). She was placed
in a restraint chair for an “extended period of time,
” and then placed in a padded cell “which was
extremely cold and brightly lit.” (Id.
¶¶ 33-34). When she asked for a blanket, she
alleges she “was placed back in the restraint chair, a
net was placed over her head, and she was taken to a dark,
extremely hot room, where she was left in the corner, in a
restraint chair, for an extended period of time.”
(Id. ¶ 35). She “eventually passed out
from the heat.” (Id.). When she awoke, she
repeatedly asked to be taken out of the room. (Id.
¶ 36). At some point, she “was placed back into
the extremely cold, brightly lit padded cell.”
in the padded cell, she alleges her requests to use the
bathroom were “often ignored, forcing her to urinate
and defecate either in a plastic cup or the corner of the
cell.” (Id. ¶ 37). She felt nauseous, and
was told that if she did not eat the food provided, she could
not have anything to drink. (Id. ¶ 38). In
addition, she “developed sores on her feet as a result
of rips and tears in the floor, ” but was deprived of
medical attention. (Id. ¶ 39).
Friday, October 28, 2015, Plaintiff was released from the
Jail. (Id. ¶ 40).
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of
claims for “failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of
a motion to dismiss is to test the legal sufficiency of the
complaint, not the merits of the lawsuit. Szabo v.
Bridgeport Machines, Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 675 (7th Cir.
2001). A court may grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
only if a complaint lacks “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). A complaint that is sufficient on its face need not
give “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must
provide more than “labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action.” Id. at 555. When resolving a motion
to dismiss, the court accepts all well-pleaded factual
allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Yeksigian v.
Nappi, 900 F.2d 101, 102 (7th Cir. 1990).
pretrial detainee, Plaintiff is protected by the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth
Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment. Rice ex re. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs.,
675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012). Nevertheless, the court is
guided by Eighth Amendment case law in addressing conditions
of confinement claims by pre-trial detainees. Id.;
Smego v. Mitchell, 723 F.3d 752, 756 (7th Cir. 2013)
(“[T]he protection afforded under [the Due Process
Clause] is functionally indistinguishable from the Eighth
Amendment's protection for convicted prisoners.”).
To state a claim, a plaintiff must first allege that
“the adverse conditions complained of were
‘sufficiently serious' such that the acts or
omissions of prison officials giving rise to these conditions
deprived the prisoner of a ‘minimal civilized measure
of life's necessities.'” Rice, 675
F.3d at 664-65 (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 837 (1994)). If so, the court considers whether jail
officials were deliberately indifferent to the adverse
conditions. Id. Here, Defendants argue that the
conditions of Plaintiff's confinement, considered
separately, are not objectively serious enough to constitute
a constitutional violation.
the Eighth Amendment, life's necessities include food,
shelter, heat, bedding, clothing, and hygiene items.
Jaros v. Illinois Dep't of Corr., 684 F.3d 667,
670 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Rhodes v. Chapman, 452
U.S. 337, 347 (1981) (“Adequate food and facilities to
wash and use the toilet are among the minimal civilized
measure of life's necessities that must be afforded
prisoners.”); Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d
488, 493 (7th Cir. 2006) (“A lack of heat, clothing, or
sanitation can violate the Eighth Amendment.”);
Maxwell v. Mason, 668 F.2d 361, 365 (8th Cir. 1981)
(confinement in isolation without adequate clothing or
bedding supports an Eighth Amendment claim: “clothing
is a ‘basic necessity of human existence'”).
“Conditions of confinement, even if not individually
serious enough to work constitutional violations, may violate
the Constitution in combination when they have a mutually
enforcing effect that produces the deprivation of a single,
identifiable human need.” Budd v. Motley, 711
F.3d 840, 842-43 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Rhodes,
452 U.S. at 362-63 (“It is important to recognize that
various deficiencies in prison conditions must be considered
together. The individual conditions exist in combination;
each affects the other; and taken together they may have a
cumulative impact on the inmates.”).
court finds Plaintiff's allegations are sufficiently
serious to state a claim under the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. She was denied access to water;
restrained against her will with a net over her head;
subjected to extreme temperatures which caused her to pass
out; and forced to urinate and defecate in her cell. She
further alleges that due to the poor condition of the floor,
she developed sores on her feet. These alleged conditions
fall below the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities, and thus rise to the level of punishment without
due process of law. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S.
520, 537 (1979) (“[P]unitive measures . . . may not
constitutionally be imposed prior to a determination of
guilt.”); see also Dixon v. Godinez, 114 F.3d
640, 642 (7th Cir. 1997) (holding exposure to extreme cold
may state an Eighth Amendment violation); Lindsey v.
Esser, 2015 WL 5032659, at *4 (W.D. Wis. 2015)
(“The lack of a functioning toilet, however, is more
significant . . . . ‘[W]hen the Eighth Amendment is
operative, its ban is violated by locking a person, for any
significant period of time, in a cell lacking a flushing
toilet and a washbowl.'”) (quoting Flakes v.
Percy, 511 F.Supp. 1325, 1332 (W.D. Wis. 1981); Cano
v. City of New York, 44 F.Supp.3d 324 (E.D.N.Y. 2014)
(“[D]epriving an incarcerated individual the ability
‘to eat, drink, or use the bathroom' for several
hours is sufficient to state a claim for deliberate
indifference.”) (quoting Boadi v. City of New
York, 12-CV-2456, 2012 WL 3062063, at *4 (W.D.N.Y. July
26, 2012)). Therefore, Defendants' motion to dismiss
Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment conditions of
confinement claim is DENIED.
court finds Plaintiff states a cognizable conditions of
confinement claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore,
Defendants' Joint ...