Plaintiff Must Show More than a Handful of Incidents to Prove a Widespread Practice

February 21, 2020

Kenyatta Bridges, a Cook County inmate, was given a medical order for a low bunk. He didn’t get assigned to a low bunk, and, when he fell off the top bunk, he sued.  He made a Monell claim, alleging that the Cook County Sheriff had a policy and practice of ignoring low bunk permits. He identified 3-5 other incidents in the last 7 years where a detainee didn’t get a low bunk when there was a medical order for such a low bunk and were (allegedly) injured in a fall.

District Court Judge Manish Shah granted summary judgment, and Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Court held that 3-5 incidents over a 7 year period is not enough to show an unconstitutional policy and practice. The Court explained:

“We suppose that if the Cook County Department of Corrections housed as few inmates as Sheriff Andy Taylor’s two-cell lockup in small town Mayberry, three or five incidents in a short period of time might create a question for a jury regarding whether a practice is widespread. But more than five million people reside in Cook County, and the Department houses thousands of detainees, with hundreds entering and leaving on a daily basis. In this context, three or five incidents over a seven-year period is inadequate as a matter of law to demonstrate a widespread custom or practice.”

This decision clarifies the requirements necessary to show a widespread practice under Monell.

Bridges v Dart COA 7 Opinion 2.19.20

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