Correctional Officers Win Summary Judgment in Failure to Protect Claim

June 27, 2018

Chief Judge James E. Shadid in the Central District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of two correctional officers at the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee County, Illinois in McKinstry v. Colbert, et al. Case No. 16-CV-02362 (C.D. Ill. June 12, 2018). Plaintiff, a pre-trial detainee, alleged that another detainee had concocted a ruse to get out of his locked cell in order to attack Plaintiff. The attacker had previously threatened Plaintiff, and Plaintiff had gotten into an argument with another detainee minutes earlier but did not know at the time that the attacker and the other detainee were associates. After the attacker threatened Plaintiff, Plaintiff walked back to his upper-tier cell and called down to the correctional officer to let him back in his cell because he had been threatened. Despite the attacker having given Plaintiff a very detailed threat, including disclosure of the ruse he intended to use to get out of his cell, Plaintiff did not inform the correctional officer who had threatened him, what cell he was in, or the specifics of the threat itself. The ruse employed by the attacker included asking for a plunger to be brought to his cell from another corrections officer, which required his door to be opened. The attacker then ran out of the cell to fight with Plaintiff as soon as the other corrections officer opened the door. Plaintiff was unharmed in the attack, and even swung first in the fight, sending the other detainee to the emergency room. After the attack, Plaintiff filed suit against the officers claiming that the officers were deliberately indifferent to his safety by releasing the attacker from his cell.

Judge Shadid found that Plaintiff could not establish that the officer who opened the cell door, who he had not informed that he had been threatened, could have been deliberately indifferent because she had no knowledge of the impending danger. The officer had no reason to believe that the attacker’s pretense for opening the door was false. Additionally, the officer to whom Plaintiff complained was not provided enough detailed information to have known of a specific threat to Plaintiff’s safety. Nor could Plaintiff rely on the fact that he had argued with an associate of the attacker, because prior to the physical altercation there was no evidence linking the two incidents. Finally, the surveillance video evidence did not support Plaintiff’s other claim that the attacker had otherwise signaled his intent to harm the plaintiff. The officers were represented by Michael Condon and Tony Fioretti.

McKinstry v. Colbert, Case No. 16-cv-02362, d/e 27 (C.D. Ill. June 12, 2018).

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