J.K.J. v. Christensen, No. 18-2177 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Two female Polk County Jail inmates endured repeated sexual assaults by correctional officer Christensen. The County’s written policy prohibited sexual contact between inmates and guards but failed to address the prevention and detection of such conduct. The County did not provide meaningful training on the topic. Near the beginning of the relevant period, the County learned that another guard made predatory sexual advances toward a different female inmate. The County imposed minor discipline on the guard but made no institutional response—no review of its policy, no training, and no communication with inmates on how to report such abuse. In a civil rights suit, the jury returned verdicts for the inmates. A Seventh Circuit panel overturned the verdict against Polk County, determining that the evidence failed to meet the “Monell” standard for municipal liability.
On rehearing, en banc, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the verdicts against both Christensen and Polk County. While the standard for municipal liability is demanding, the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict. The evidence did not require the jury to accept as inevitable that Christensen’s conduct was unpreventable, undetectable, and incapable of giving rise to Monell liability. Nor was the jury compelled to conclude that the sexual abuse had only one cause. The law allowed the jury to consider the evidence in its entirety, use its common sense, and draw inferences to decide for itself.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on June 26, 2019.