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Boggs v. Redman

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

September 4, 2019

JENNIFER BOGGS, for next friend and husband LARRY LEALLEN BOGGS, SR., Plaintiff,



         Mr. Larry Boggs was brutally attacked by another inmate while incarcerated in the St. Joseph County Jail. Because he is now incapacitated and permanently disabled, Ms. Jennifer Boggs has sued various officers for her husband alleging violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a state law claim of negligence. St. Joseph County Sheriff William Redman, St. Joseph County Jail Warden Julie Lawson, Lieutenant George Holvoet, Deputy Kevin Brothers, and Deputy Hannah Smith have moved to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).


         The complaint paints the following picture accepting its well-pleaded allegations as true for this motion and drawing inferences in the light most favorable to Ms. Boggs. Mr. Boggs, a 135-pound white male and roofer by trade, was arrested on July 24, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana for one misdemeanor offense. ECF 4 ¶ 7, 10, 31. Officers transported him to the St. Joseph County Jail where Deputy Smith then booked, searched, screened, and interviewed him. Id. ¶ 8-9.

         During booking, Deputy Smith (and other unnamed officers) saw that Mr. Boggs had a white supremacist prison gang symbol tattooed on his chest with the words “Aryan Brotherhood” along with other tattoos and an iron cross. Id. ¶ 11. Despite these markings, Deputy Brothers, a jail classification officer, placed Mr. Boggs in a cellblock where the deputy knew his safety would be imminently threatened by “non-white gang members and others violently opposed to white supremacist prison gangs” who could overwhelm his modest size and ability to defend against a physical attack. Id. ¶ 13-14. Although the complaint is less than clear on this point, it alleges that Deputy Brothers twice claimed that Mr. Boggs had no gang affiliation or conflict issue. Id. ¶ 15, 17.

         Four days passed without incident. The morning of July 28, 2017, another inmate, alleged to be “non-white, ” attacked and attempted to murder Mr. Boggs, leaving him unconscious and severely bleeding. Id. ¶ 20-21. The complaint alleges that none of the defendants intervened to protect Mr. Boggs, though it offers little as to where the various officers were stationed that morning other than generally that Warden Lawson was supervising the jail and Lieutenant Holvoet was supervising the cellblock. Id. ¶ 19, 22. Officers responded to Mr. Boggs after another inmate discovered him unconscious. Id. ¶ 23.

         The altercation required five months of hospital care for severe brain trauma and numerous skull fractures. Id. ¶ 24-25. Even today, Mr. Boggs remains paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, without the ability to speak. Id. ¶ 28. Ms. Boggs cares for Mr. Boggs fulltime as well as three minor children. Id. ¶ 29-30. The other inmate was convicted for his role in the attack. Id. ¶ 27.


         In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010). A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The statement must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible and establishes a right to relief above the speculative level. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A plaintiff's claim need only be plausible, not probable. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012). Evaluating whether a plaintiff's claim is sufficiently plausible to survive a motion to dismiss is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).


         In addition to a state law negligence claim, Ms. Boggs filed several federal constitutional claims under the Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause. In large measure, she claims that the various officers named as defendants failed to protect Mr. Boggs from his assailant while in custody. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a right of action to any person who is deprived “of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.”

         A. Sheriff William Redman

         Ms. Boggs has sued Sheriff Redman in his official representative capacity. “A suit against a governmental officer in his official capacity is really a suit against the entity of which the officer is an agent.” Franklin v. Zaruba, 150 F.3d 682, 684 n.2 (7th Cir. 1998). “There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983, ” so “the violation of the plaintiff's rights must result from a municipal custom or policy [for] the municipality to be held liable.” Ball v. City of Indianapolis, 760 F.3d 636, 643 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)); accord Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 771 (7th Cir. 2008). At this stage, mere “[b]oilerplate allegations of a municipal policy, entirely lacking in any factual support that a city policy does exist, are insufficient.” Rodgers v. Lincoln Towing Serv., Inc., 771 F.2d 194, 202 (7th Cir. 1985). There must be an “affirmative link” between the policy and the alleged constitutional violation; the policy must be the moving force behind the violation. Sivard v. Pulaski Cty., 17 F.3d 185, 188 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Grieveson, 538 F.3d at 771.

         Ms. Boggs has adumbrated no facts that would support an inference of a policy-whether an official policy, unwritten custom, or “series of violations to lay the premise of deliberate indifference” or to sustain an official capacity § 1983 claim. Thomas v. Cook Cty. Sheriff's Dept., 604 F.3d 293, 303 (7th Cir. 2010); Rodgers, 771 F.2d at 201-02. She occasionally alleges that certain acts occurred “by policy” (ECF 4 ¶ 5, 33, 35), but that boilerplate language offers no definition to the alleged policy and provides no context for finding such a policy to have motivated the constitutional deprivation. Granted, this case remains at the pleading stage as Ms. Boggs points out, but she cannot proceed without some facts that would make her ...

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