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Former Detainee Alleges Unconstitutional Conditions at Illinois Jail, Accepts $7,501 Judgment

On April 24, 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a former pretrial detainee at the Edgar County Jail (ECJ) in Illinois stated a claim concerning unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the facility. The appellate court also affirmed the dismissal of a claim alleging deliberate indifference to the detainee’s medical needs.

Over a period of two-and-a-half years, Richard D. Budd served three stints at ECJ as a pretrial detainee. He initially spent 45 days at the jail following a 2009 arrest. During that time he was confined with eight other detainees in an area of the facility intended for three; he had to sleep on the floor alongside broken windows and damaged toilets.

After another arrest two years later, Budd was placed in a section of the ECJ where overcrowded conditions again forced him and other prisoners to sleep on the floor amid water from a shower leak. The cells had broken windows, exposed wiring, extensive rust, sinks without running water, toilets covered in mold and spider webs, and a broken heating system. ECJ staff did not provide prisoners with cleaning supplies.

Four months later, Budd was again arrested and had to sleep on the floor in an ECJ cellblock. The cell’s vents were blocked, the heating and air conditioning systems did not work, and detainees were denied recreation. While living in these conditions, something scratched or bit Budd’s leg, resulting in an infection and swelling. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment after contacting the Sheriff.

Budd’s civil rights complaint alleged that conditions at ECJ fell below constitutional standards and that jailers were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The district court dismissed the suit for failure to state a cause of action.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit held the complaint stated a claim as to the conditions at ECJ. The appellate court noted that Budd had attached two newspaper articles to his complaint in which Edgar County Sheriff Edward Motley was quoted describing the jail as not “livable” and violating “acceptable standards.”
The Court of Appeals said the unhygienic conditions described in Budd’s complaint had been held to state a claim in other cases under the Fourteenth Amendment, as he was a pretrial detainee. Moreover, three doctors had told Budd that his infection was caused by unsanitary conditions at the jail, so the harm was not speculative. He also alleged the conditions at ECJ had traumatized him, and the Seventh Circuit found Budd’s “exposure to psychological harm or a heightened risk of future injury” from being held at the jail was itself actionable.

Further, jails must meet minimal standards of habitability, such as adequate bedding and protection from cold. Allegations of overcrowding, lack of recreation and poor air circulation in combination likewise contribute to a conditions of confinement claim. Having found that Budd stated such a claim, the appellate court concluded the lawsuit named the Sheriff in his official capacity and thus should be allowed to proceed.

Budd’s medical claim, however, failed. The Court of Appeals noted that he was seen by a nurse as soon as he complained about his leg injury. He was also promptly taken to a hospital after contacting the Sheriff. Therefore, the district court’s order was vacated in part and affirmed in part, and on remand the lower court was ordered to rule on Budd’s motion for appointment of counsel. See: Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840 (7th Cir. 2013).

Following remand, on September 4, 2013 the district court denied the defendants’ Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) motion to strike portions of Budd’s amended complaint. Those portions included “facts which tend to show that the Defendants were well aware of the deplorable conditions at the Edgar County Jail before, during, and after Plaintiff’s injuries, but exhibited deliberate indifference to the jail’s deplorable conditions.” In denying the motion, the court found that the challenged portions of the amended complaint were relevant to Budd’s claims against the county. See: Budd v. Edgar County Sheriff’s Office, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125823 (C.D. Ill. 2013).

On January 3, 2014, Budd accepted a Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 68 offer of judgment by Edgar County and resolved his lawsuit for $7,501 in damages plus taxable court costs and attorney’s fees.

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