On December 4, 2008, plaintiffs, a class of pregnant women who had given birth while incarcerated in the Cook County Jail (in Chicago), filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Cook County in the United States Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for compensatory and punitive damages, claiming that their rights secured by the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and state law had been violated. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that defendants' policy of shackling pregnant women to their birthing tables for several days surrounding birth, without breaks to walk or use the bathroom, violated their constitutional rights.
Between December 2007 and December 2008, the Cook County Jail would transport pregnant female prisoners to Stronger Hospital when they went into labor. The Sheriff had allowed the practice of shackling women to their obstetric tables before, during, and after birthing. The purported justification for this practice was the repeated escape attempts of mothers during childbirth. The plaintiffs alleged that this practice not only endangered the health of the mother and child, but also lead to indignity and humiliation for the mothers, because the shackles would not be removed for any purpose, leaving mothers to soil the beds. This practice, plaintiffs claimed, also greatly increased the chances of infection. One plaintiff had been shackled for two days to the hospital bed. Another plaintiff was shackled to the bed, with no permission to use the bathroom or to leave, for five days. Other class representatives alleged similar experiences involving shackling between December 2007 and December 2008.
On December 9, 2009, the Court (Judge Amy J. St. Eve) denied the Plaintiffs' motion for class certification, finding that the plaintiffs' motion to reserve individual damages claims caused them to run afoul of the adequacy requirement for class certification under Federal Rule Civil Procedure 23. The Court also found that the superiority and predominance requirements of FRCP 23 were also lacking. The plaintiffs attempted to bring an interlocutory appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, but leave to appeal was denied on March 23, 2010.
On May 10, 2010, after the plaintiffs' attorneys had filed myriad individual claims against Cook County, the plaintiffs made an amended motion to certify a class. The Court certified the class on June 22, 2010. Thereafter, the Defendants filed an FRCP 12(b)(6) Motion to Dimiss.
On December 29, 2010, the Court denied the defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The defendants had argued that supervisory liability could not attach unless the plaintiffs could prove that the Sheriff was personally involved in the enforcement of the policy. The Court found that the plaintiffs' allegations in the complaint were sufficient to satisfy the 12(b)(6) standard, by alleging that the defendant Sheriff knew of and was involved in the enforcement of the shackling policy sometime after December 2007. Thereafter the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment.
On December 20, 2011, the Court granted the defendant Sheriff's motion for summary judgment on a damages claim against the sheriff in his individual capacity, but denied the defendants and plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment on the Substantive Due Process and state law negligence claim.
On May 17, 2012, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary approval of a settlement agreement reached with the county through settlement conferences. The agreement provided that a total settlement fund of 4.1 million dollars would resolve all class liability for the shackling policy, and would be allocated to class members via a point distribution system that took account of the nature and duration of the shackling each class member suffered.
On May 22, 2012, a hearing was held on the motion, and the court approved the class mailing, with a final hearing to be held on August 30, 2012. At that hearing, the settlement was approved by Judge St. Eve.Blase Kearney - 09/27/2012