James v. Hale, No. 19-1857 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
James, a pretrial detainee at the St. Clair County Jail, was assaulted by another inmate and suffered severe facial injuries. James filed a pro se civil-rights lawsuit against Hale, the jail infirmary's administrator, accusing her of inadequately treating his medical needs. He later acquired counsel. Significant discovery followed, including the production of jail infirmary and outside medical records that contradicted allegations in his complaint. James obtained leave to file an amended complaint, but the factual section simply repeated the allegations in the original version. In a subsequent deposition, James contradicted those factual assertions.
When Hale moved for summary judgment, James responded by swearing out an affidavit incorporating by reference the allegations in the amended complaint. The magistrate disregarded the affidavit and an affidavit submitted by James’s mother and recommended that the court grant the motion. The district judge excluded the affidavits under the sham-affidavit rule and entered summary judgment for Hale. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. James’s affidavit was a sham and an improper attempt to convert the complaint's allegations into sworn testimony to avert summary judgment. The exclusion of his mother’s affidavit was harmless error because she added nothing of substance. The constitutional claim lacks factual support, so summary judgment in Hale’s favor was proper.