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Williams v. Core Civic

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 20, 2019

CORE CIVIC, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Joseph Williams brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He named as a defendant CoreCivic, Inc. (“CoreCivic”). Mr. Williams alleges that he suffered injury when, as a result of overcrowding and understaffing at Marion County Jail II, an inmate performed CPR on Mr. Williams after he suffered a drug overdose. CoreCivic operates Jail II and thus is responsible for the policies and practices implemented there. Mr. Williams's complaint asserts that CoreCivic exhibited deliberate indifference to his safety through its policy and practice of allowing overcrowding and understaffing at Jail II.

         This civil rights action is before the Court for resolution of CoreCivic's motion for summary judgment, dkt. 39. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is denied.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Brown v. Advocate S. Suburban Hosp., 700 F.3d 1101, 1104 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         The court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941-42 (7th Cir. 2016). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome-determinative. Montgomery v. American Airlines Inc., 626 F.3d 382, 389 (7th Cir. 2010). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Miller v. Gonzalez, 761 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2014). The court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to “scour the record” for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them. Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University, 870 F.3d 562, 569, 572 (7th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation omitted). “Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party.” Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

         II. Facts

         Mr. Williams is currently incarcerated at Miami Correctional Facility. Dkt. 1 at 1. Prior to arriving at Miami, Mr. Williams was incarcerated at Marion County Jail II (“Jail II”). Dkt. 1 at 2. Mr. Williams alleges that Jail II was “grossly overcrowded” and “grossly understaffed.” Dkt. 1 at 2.

         On October 13, 2016, Mr. Williams overdosed on a substance he believed was heroin. Id. At the time of this incident, according to Mr. Williams, one correctional officer was responsible for monitoring 148 inmates, which led to Mr. Williams receiving CPR from an inmate.[1] Id. He sustained injuries to his ribs and sternum from the CPR. Dkt. 1 at 2-3.

         The shift logs kept at Jail II indicate that, shortly before the incident, two correctional officers were posted on the south end of the fourth floor. Dkt. 40-3 at 10. Two correctional officers were also posted on the north end of the fourth floor. Id. at 11. When Mr. Williams overdosed, an emergency response was called to the north end of the fourth floor, and the correctional officers from the south end of the fourth floor responded to assist with lockdown and securing inmates. Id.

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Williams brought his claim against CoreCivic, a private company that operates Jail II, rather than individuals who work at Jail II. See dkt. 1 at 1. Because CoreCivic acts under color of state law by contracting to perform a government function, i.e., running a correctional institution, it is treated as a government entity for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Jackson v. Ill. Medi-Car, Inc., 300 F.3d 760, 766 n.6 (7th Cir. 2002). To state a claim against a private corporation, the plaintiff must show a constitutional violation that “was caused by an unconstitutional policy or custom of the corporation itself.” Shields v. Ill. Dep't of Corr., 746 F.3d 782, 789 (7th Cir. 2014); see also Bd. of Cty. Comm'r of Bryan Cty, Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997) ...

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