Currie v. Cundiff, Case No. 09–cv–866–MJR.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
Writing for the CourtREAGAN
Citation870 F.Supp.2d 581
Decision Date10 May 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 09–cv–866–MJR.
PartiesJaclyn CURRIE, Plaintiff, v. Tom CUNDIFF, Williamson County, Illinois, Unknown Employees and Supervisors of Williamson County Jail, Gary Tyner, David Sweetin, Robert Craig, Dennis Pinkerton, Officer Darren Ferrell, Officer R. Horn, Officer Brandy Milani, Officer C.J. Watts, Health Professionals, Ltd., Doctor Jogendra Chhabra, Marilyn Ann Lynn, and Bennie Vick, Defendants.

870 F.Supp.2d 581

Jaclyn CURRIE, Plaintiff,
v.
Tom CUNDIFF, Williamson County, Illinois, Unknown Employees and Supervisors of Williamson County Jail, Gary Tyner, David Sweetin, Robert Craig, Dennis Pinkerton, Officer Darren Ferrell, Officer R. Horn, Officer Brandy Milani, Officer C.J. Watts, Health Professionals, Ltd., Doctor Jogendra Chhabra, Marilyn Ann Lynn, and Bennie Vick, Defendants.

Case No. 09–cv–866–MJR.

United States District Court,
S.D. Illinois.

May 10, 2012.


[870 F.Supp.2d 583]


Jon I. Loevy, Tara Elizabeth Thompson, Anand Swaminathan, Arthur Loevy, Russell Ainsworth, Loevy & Loevy, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Joseph A. Bleyer, Bleyer & Bleyer, Marion, IL, Douglas R. Heise, Heyl, Royster et al., Edwardsville, IL, for Defendants.


MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

REAGAN, District Judge.

From a practical standpoint, punitive damages appear quite important to the parties' respective strategic positions, and to how this case will be tried. Therefore, in advance of trial, the reasonable likelihood of the availability of punitive damages relative to the remaining claims must be assessed, as well as the proper burden of proof for such damages. All parties have briefed the issues ( see Docs. 163 & 165).

1. The Nature of the Case and Procedural History

In December 2008, Phillip Okoro, who was being held in the Williamson County Jail, died as a result of diabetic ketoacidosis. Plaintiff Jaclyn Currie, as administrator of Okoro's estate, and as the personal representative of his heirs, brought suit on October 14, 2009 (Doc. 2). Plaintiff originally brought suit against Williamson County, Illinois, various jail officials, the contract healthcare providers and their employer, Health Professionals, Ltd. At this juncture, the Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 159) controls, and the only remaining claims are against the contract healthcare providers, Dr. Chhabra and Nurse Reynolds, and their employer, Health Professionals, Ltd. The complaint asserts the following claims:

+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦Counts 1–3: ¦civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦Counts 4–6: ¦claims under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS¦
                ¦ ¦180/1; ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦Counts 7–9: ¦claims under the Illinois Survival Act, 755 ILCS 5/ ¦
                ¦ ¦27–6; ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦Counts 10–12: ¦state law claims for intentional infliction of ¦
                ¦ ¦emotional distress; ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦Count 13: ¦a state law claim against only Health Professionals, ¦
                ¦ ¦Ltd., asserting respondeat superior liability; ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----------------------+------------------------------------------------------¦
                ¦Counts 14–16: ¦state law claims for willful and wanton conduct. ¦
                +-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                

2. Plaintiff's Prayer for Relief

A review of the Third Amended Complaint (and the original Complaint) reveals that the claims seek varying damages. For example, the Section 1983 claims seek only “damages,” while the wrongful death claims specify a variety of specific damages. None of the 16 claims include a specific prayer for punitive damages. However, the complaint includes a general “Request for Relief,” which specifically requests punitive damages.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has not decided whether punitive damages must be specifically pled in a complaint, but it has observed that it is the law of the Circuit that “district courts should afford the prevailing party the relief to which it is entitled without regard to errors in the pleadings.”

[870 F.Supp.2d 584]

Soltys v. Costello, 520 F.3d 737 742 (7th Cir.2008) (quoting Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Employers Reinsurance Corp., 144 F.3d 1077, 1080 (7th Cir.1998)).1 The Court has discretion to award both legal and equitable relief as appropriate. Old Republic Insurance Co., 144 F.3d at 1080;Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c), Advisory Committee Note to 1937 Adoption, Subdivision (c). With respect to the state law claims, a plaintiff need only plead allegations constituting willful and wanton conduct. See Giles v. General Motors Corp., 344 Ill.App.3d 1191, 280 Ill.Dec. 607, 802 N.E.2d 858, 865–866 (5th Dist.2003).

Given Plaintiff's general prayer for punitive damages, and allegations of intentional, willful, extreme and outrageous conduct and abuse of power, the pleadings sufficiently frame the prayer for relief to warrant further analysis.

3. The Legal Viability of Punitive Damages

Plaintiff persists in claiming a general entitlement to punitive damages relative to the Section 1983 federal claims, and all of the state law claims, based on the alleged behavior of each Defendant. Defendants analyze each claim, addressing both legal and factual considerations. As a matter of law, punitive damages are not available in all of Plaintiff's claims, so those claims for which punitive damages are legally unavailable must be winnowed away.

a. The Section 1983 Claims

Punitive damages are recoverable in Section 1983 actions where the defendant had a reckless or callous disregard to the federally protected rights of others. Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 35, 51, 103 S.Ct. 1625, 75 L.Ed.2d 632 (1983); Woodward v. Correctional Medical Services of Illinois, Inc., 368 F.3d 917, 930 (7th Cir.2004).

Counts 1–3 allege “deliberate indifference,” which equates to the threshold standard necessary for punitive damages. See Woodward, 368 F.3d at 930. The Court has already ruled that, given the decedent Okoro's status as an arrestee who had not had a probable cause hearing, the Fourth Amendment's Due Process Clause provides the standard for evaluating Okoro's conditions of confinement. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 123–125, 95 S.Ct. 854, 43 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975); Lopez v. City of Chicago, 464 F.3d 711, 718–719 (7th Cir.2006); see also ...

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2 practice notes
  • Estate of Mayer v. Lax, Inc., No. 37A03–1207–PL–323.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • October 7, 2013
    ...of an employee to be liable for punitive or exemplary damages under the doctrine of respondeat superior.”), with Currie v. Cundiff, 870 F.Supp.2d 581, 586 (S.D.Ill.2012) (noting that under Illinois law, if liability of a corporation is premised upon respondeat superior, a plaintiff must sho......
  • Part two: case summaries by major topic.
    • United States
    • Detention and Corrections Caselaw Quarterly Nbr. 58, January 2014
    • January 1, 2014
    ...(Reno Sparks Indian Colony, Nevada, and Washoe County Jail, Nevada) U.S. District Court MEDICAL CARE WRONGFUL DEATH Currie v. Cundif, 870 F.Supp.2d 581 (S.D.I11. 2012). The administrator of the estate of a deceased detainee brought an action against a county, jail officials, and health care......
1 cases
  • Estate of Mayer v. Lax, Inc., No. 37A03–1207–PL–323.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • October 7, 2013
    ...of an employee to be liable for punitive or exemplary damages under the doctrine of respondeat superior.”), with Currie v. Cundiff, 870 F.Supp.2d 581, 586 (S.D.Ill.2012) (noting that under Illinois law, if liability of a corporation is premised upon respondeat superior, a plaintiff must sho......
1 books & journal articles
  • Part two: case summaries by major topic.
    • United States
    • Detention and Corrections Caselaw Quarterly Nbr. 58, January 2014
    • January 1, 2014
    ...(Reno Sparks Indian Colony, Nevada, and Washoe County Jail, Nevada) U.S. District Court MEDICAL CARE WRONGFUL DEATH Currie v. Cundif, 870 F.Supp.2d 581 (S.D.I11. 2012). The administrator of the estate of a deceased detainee brought an action against a county, jail officials, and health care......

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