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Shannon v. Porter County Sheriff's Dept.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 11, 2017

JOHN SHANNON, Plaintiff,
PORTER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT., a political subdivision of the State of Indiana; DAVID LAIN, Individually and in his capacity as Sheriff of the Porter County Sheriff's Dept.; JOHN WIDUP, Individually and as Warden of the Porter County Jail, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on September 6, 2016, by Defendants Porter County Sheriff's Department, David E. Lain and John Widup in their individual and official capacities (DE #23). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (DE #23) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The motion is GRANTED as to: (1) the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against David E. Lain and the Porter County Sheriff's Department; (2) the civil conspiracy and state constitutional claims; and (3) the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the Porter County Sheriff's Department. These claims are DISMISSED, and defendant David E. Lain is DISMISSED from this case. The motion is DENIED as to: (1) the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against John Widup in his individual capacity; (2) the issue of qualified immunity for John Widup; and (3) the negligence claim against the Porter County Sheriff's Department.


         On May 17, 2012, Plaintiff John Shannon (“Shannon”) was attacked by an inmate while he was a pretrial detainee in the Porter County Jail (“Jail”). Shannon filed this action against Defendants Porter County Sheriff's Department (“Sheriff's Department”), David Lain (“Lain”) in his individual capacity and in his capacity as Sheriff of the Sheriff's Department, and John Widup (“Widup”) in his individual capacity and in his capacity as Warden of the Jail (together, “Defendants”), alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Indiana Constitution, and state tort claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. (DE #1-1.) The case was removed to federal court, and after the close of discovery, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment on September 6, 2016. (DE #23.) Shannon filed his response to Defendants' motion on November 9, 2016. (DE #29.) Defendants filed their reply to the motion on November 22, 2016. (DE #32.)



         Summary judgment must be granted when “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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Not every dispute between the parties makes summary judgment inappropriate; “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id. In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). “However, our favor toward the nonmoving party does not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture.” Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

         While the movant bears the initial burden of production to inform the district court why a trial is not necessary, these requirements “are not onerous” where the nonmoving party “bears the ultimate burden of persuasion on a particular issue.” Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 2013). A party may move for summary judgment based on either “affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim” or by “asserting that the nonmoving party's evidence [is] insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.” Id. at 1169 (citation and internal quotations omitted). A party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion may not rely on allegations or denials in his own pleading, but rather, must “marshal and present the court with the evidence [he] contends will prove [his] case.” Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). If the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of an essential element on which he bears the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is proper. Massey v. Johnson, 457 F.3d 711, 716 (7th Cir. 2006).

         Material Facts

         On April 17, 2012, Shannon was taken into custody at the Jail on a failure to appear warrant on multiple misdemeanors. A day or two thereafter, Shannon met with Porter County Police Department Detective Reynolds and a Porter County prosecutor to discuss an incident Shannon had witnessed involving a man named Mark Hurst (“Hurst”). During that meeting, Shannon agreed to testify at Hurst's criminal trial. Shannon requested no deal in return for his testimony, but asked to be protected while being held at the Jail. They told Shannon that he would receive protective custody and be kept separate from Hurst, who was also being held at the Jail. According to Shannon, an unidentified jail employee stated that he was in contact with Warden Widup and advised Shannon that he would be placed in protective custody. Shannon believed that protective custody meant that he would not be housed with the general population of inmates.

         The Jail's standard operating procedure on inmate classification states that jail personnel “shall flag inmates who . . . have a special need.” (DE #29-11 at 3.) “Some inmates may have conditions or situations that call for them to have increased supervision, segregation, or special living conditions. These special needs include . . . [protective custody, for reasons such as . . . [t]estifying as a witness.” (Id. at 4.) The Jail's standard operating procedure on segregation housing states that jail personnel “shall segregate an inmate if the inmate . . . [n]eeds protective custody.” (DE #29-10 at 1.) Widup and other jail officers testified that it is well understood within the jail community that inmates who testify against other inmates are at a unique or greater risk of harm from other inmates, and recognized the special need for protective custody for inmates who testify as witnesses. (See DE #29-2 at 19 (“unique risk”); DE #29-6 at 4 (“greater risk”); DE #29-5 at 3-4 (acknowledging that a testifying inmate's life and health are in jeopardy, and that he faces a risk from the general population as well as from the inmate against whom he testifies).)

         The Jail had three areas in which inmates were segregated from the general population: (1) sex offender segregation, including child molesters, who were segregated for their own protection; (2) medical segregation, for inmates needing medical care; and (3) disciplinary segregation, for inmates who had violated Jail rules. The Jail did not have “protective custody” segregation for testifying inmates because the Jail was “not set up” for it. (DE #29-2 at 11.) The Jail's practice was to keep a testifying inmate separated from the inmate against whom he testified by placing a “keep separate” designation in its data entry system. A “keep separate” designation was the “most basic form” of protective custody at the Jail. (DE #29-3 at 12.) Widup recalled that three inmates had been relocated to other county jails because they were testifying against other inmates who were housed in the Jail.

         On April 19, 2012, Detective Reynolds called the Jail's classification officer David Cavanaugh (“Cavanaugh”) and requested that a keep separate order be entered for Shannon and Hurst. Cavanaugh entered the keep separate order, and Shannon and Hurst were kept separate while Shannon was in custody. Lain, Widup and Assistant Warden Ron Gaydos (“Gaydos”) testified that they did not receive any notice from the prosecutor's office that Shannon needed special housing arrangements, and were not aware of anyone requesting special protection for Shannon.

         On April 20, 2012, Shannon met with Cavanaugh to determine Shannon's housing assignment. Cavanaugh completed a jail classification form in the process of determining Shannon's housing assignment. While the form did not indicate that Shannon was testifying against Hurst, it noted that Shannon was to be kept separate from Hurst. Shannon was then housed in general population.

         Shannon was deposed prior to testifying at Hurst's criminal trial. Sometime between Shannon's deposition and trial testimony, Shannon communicated with Widup while in the Jail's booking area. Their accounts of this communication differ considerably. Shannon testified that he “told [Widup] my concern” while in the Jail's booking area, and Widup “said he's aware of the situation and would make sure that I am moved today. . . . [T]hen he called Lieutenant Young over. . . . [Young was] told by the warden [Widup] to make sure that I am moved, and which [sic] I did not get moved.” (DE #29-7 at 15.) In contrast, Widup testified that Shannon merely “yelled at me about something” while in the booking area. (DE #29-2 at 11.)

         On April 25, 2012, Shannon testified at Hurst's criminal trial. Shannon told Detective Reynolds, the prosecutor, and the officer who transported him to the courthouse that he was still being housed in general population. The officer told Shannon that he would handle it. Shannon also spoke to jail Captain Ronald Taylor (“Taylor”) about not being in protective custody. Taylor told him that protective custody was for child molesters, and that Shannon would be moved that day. Shannon was never placed in protective custody.

         After Hurst's trial, Shannon was in line for food with other inmates when a jail officer congratulated him on testifying against Hurst. Thereafter, Shannon was assaulted by some inmates, which resulted in red marks on his face. Shannon summoned an officer using the emergency button in his cell, and told him that another officer had disclosed to inmates that Shannon was a snitch, that he feared for his safety, and that he was supposed to be in protective custody. An officer's incident report dated May 2, 2012, states that an officer received inmate request forms about removing Shannon from general population. According to the incident report, the officer discussed the requests with Shannon, who said that he had been threatened by an unidentified inmate, that he did not fear for his safety, and that “the reason alot [sic] of people do not like him is because he is a witness against another inmate.” (DE #29-15 at 2.) The officer initially left Shannon in his cell, but ...

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