In Jump v. Village of Shorewood, the court (Ripple/Scudder/Kirsch, with Judge Kirsch writing and Ripple dissenting) affirmed summary judgment against the estate of a man who committed suicide at the local county jail. The estate brought a Fourth Amendment false arrest claim that was dismissed on probable cause and qualified immunity grounds (the specifics of those grounds are worth reading but outside the purview of this roundup), as well as a Fourth Amendment claim for failing to protect the decedent (Jonah Marciniak) from self-harm. The claim was brought under the Fourth Amendment instead of the Fourteenth Amendment, because at the time of his death, Marciniak had not yet had a probable cause hearing, although the court notes (as it has in multiple prior decisions) that placing the divide between Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment protection at the probable cause hearing needs to be revisited after Manual v. City of Joliet, 137 S. Ct. 911, 917-19 (2017). Slip Op. at 15. It also accepts (as the court did earlier in Pulera v. Sarzant, 966 F.3d 540, 549 (7th Cir. 2020)) the parties’ agreement that the standard for a failure-to-protect claim is the same whether brought under the Fourth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment.
On the merits of the claim, the majority finds that the case is factually indistinguishable from Pulera and so doomed to the same fate. The majority acknowledges that there was evidence Marciniak was inebriated and had overdosed days earlier, that Marciniak was crying and asking for his roommate who had recently committed suicide, that Marciniak was harming himself by physically throwing his body against the cell bars, that the suicidality section of Marciniak’s intake form was blank, and that jail staff waited 45 minutes between checks. A reader would be forgiven for thinking that those kinds of facts do make the difference, since in Pulera the central fact the court seized on in granting summary judgment was the fact that Pulera himself reported that he was not suicidal, and Marciniak made no such statement. But the majority said the evidence discussed above was only sufficient to give notice of “general distress and a history of psychiatric treatment, not risk of suicide.” Slip Op. at 17.
Judge Ripple dissents from the majority opinion, finding a material question of fact as to the liability of one of the jail guards. Judge Ripple thoroughly reviews the evidence that he believes is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to conclude the guard was objectively unreasonable in failing to protect Marciniak from suicide. Slip Op. at 23-24. Judge Ripple also believes that Pulera does not dictate the outcome because, in his view, the defendants in Pulera each only had a piece of the information whereas the jail guard in this case had the whole picture.