Hardeman v. Wathen, No. 18-2672 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Pretrial detainees at the Lake County Adult Correctional Facility allege that for approximately three days, jail officials shut off all water in their jail without any warning. The shutdown was apparently conducted in order to replace a pump. With no running water, the detainees were provided with five bottles of water for their personal and sanitation uses and with a communal barrel of water for each pod in the jail. As a result, they became ill and feces built up and festered in the jails’ toilets, attracting insects. When plaintiffs asked for more water, they were locked down in their cells as punishment. The detainees filed a putative class action, alleging violations of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The district court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The rights that plaintiffs identify—to have enough water for drinking and sanitation, and not to be forced to live surrounded by their own and others’ excrement—are clearly established. Regardless of the legitimacy of the jail’s objective, taking as true the conditions described in the complaint, with plausible inferences, the conditions of confinement were objectively unreasonable and “excessive in relation to” any legitimate non-punitive purpose.