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Lopez-Aguirre v. Board of County Commissioners

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 23, 2014

LAURA V. LOPEZ-AGUIRRE, Individually, as Administrator of the Estate of Julio C. Aguirre, deceased, and as Next Friend for her Minor Children Em. A. and El. Al, Plaintiffs,


KENNETH G. GALE, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Third Amended Complaint to add an additional cause of action against Defendant Corizon Health, Inc. and add a punitive damages claim to a previous claim of negligence. (Doc. 294.) After a careful review of the submissions of the parties, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to add Defendant Corizon to its §1983 claim, but DENIES the motion to add the punitive damages demand to the negligence claim.


Plaintiff filed this action in November 2012, alleging claims against Defendants for actions she alleges occurred while her husband was in the custody of the Shawnee County Department of Corrections and which, she claims, resulted in her husband's death. An Amended Complaint was filed early in the case (December 3, 2012) before answers were filed. (Doc. 4.)

All of the Defendants remaining in the case, except Defendant Corizon Heath, Inc., are governmental Defendants, or individuals in positions with governmental Defendants. In her Amended Complaint (Doc. 4), Plaintiff alleged claims against the governmental Defendants under 18 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution for deliberate indifference to Decedent's medical needs, excessive force, and other due process claims. She also alleged negligence, negligent supervision and training, assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, and outrage against the government Defendants. Count IX alleged negligent failure to supervise Corizon (called PHS in that Complaint). That claim alleged that the failure of the governmental Defendants to supervise Corizon was "wanton, malicious, evil, oppressive, or involved reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of Decedent, thus entitling Plaintiffs to an award of punitive damages." (Doc. 4, at ¶ 156.)

In Counts XV and XVI, Plaintiff alleged causes of action against Corizon for negligence and failure to supervise, claiming that specific and systemic failures lead to Decedent's death. (Doc. 4, at 36-38.) These Counts, the only ones specifically aimed at Corizon in the Amended Complaint, alleged entitlement to damages but did not include claims for punitive or exemplary damages. Corizon was an included Defendant in the wrongful death and survival actions based negligence. The final summary request for relief includes a demand for actual and punitive damages ( Id., at 41.)

From January through March of 2013, the parties litigated Motions to Dismiss, which were resolved on April 17, 2013, by District Court Judge Lungstrum. That ruling resulted in the dismissal of some claims and parties. The order did not, however, affect the claims against Corizon. The order resulted in leave being granted to Plaintiff to amend certain claims. (Doc. 75.)

A Second Amended Complaint was filed on May 3, 2013, against the remaining Defendants. (Doc. 76.) That pleading alleges in part that the County contracted with Corizon to provide medical care to inmates (Doc 76, at ¶ 17); Decedent was arrested on December 2, 2010, and taken to the Shawnee County Department of Corrections for detention (¶¶ 27-28); during his arrest and detention, Decedent exhibited behavior indicative of mental illness and that officers requested that he be evaluated (¶¶ 27-32, 39-40, 48-49, 73); that requests from family, and a State District Court Judge, for evaluations were ignored (¶¶ 37-38); that Corizon nurses failed to recognize, or ignored, Decedent's need for health services and failed to request services or initiate medical intervention (¶¶ 43, 46, 50, 56-57, 60, 67); and Decedent was not provided adequate medical treatment for his mental or physical health.

Count I of the Second Amended Complaint, the current effective pleading, is a claim under §1983 for deliberate indifference to Decedent's medical and mental heath needs, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, against the governmental Defendants, alleging entitlement to punitive damages. (Doc. 76, at 19.) In support of this claim, Plaintiffs allege that although Decedent exhibited "strong signs of deteriorating physical and mental health and was in a state of psychosis, " the "Defendants disregarded" the risk and were "deliberately indifferent" to Decedent's needs by failing to provide "adequate medical treatment." ( Id., at ¶¶ 95, 96, 97).

Count III is a claim under §1983 against the governmental Defendants alleging the failure to implement or avoid practices and policies that resulted in the other constitutional claims. ( Id., at 22.) Plaintiff alleged in this regard:

The failure of Defendants to affirmatively act in the face of policies, procedures, practices, and usages which resulted in constitutionally violative conduct established a policy to condone and otherwise tolerate constitutionally violative conduct in general and specifically, the constitutionally violative conduct alleged herein. Had Defendants affirmatively acted to establish hiring, training, supervision, and retention policies, procedures, practices, or usages which were reasonably calculated to assure that officers were properly hired, trained, supervised, and retained or dismissed, the constitutional deprivation suffered by Decedent would not have occurred.

( Id., at ¶ 126.) No punitive damages allegations are included in Count III.

Count IV alleges a state law negligence action against the County and related Defendants for failing to provide medical treatment and failure to protect Decedent from self-inflicted harm. ( Id., at 25.) In this negligence count, Plaintiff alleges entitlement to punitive damages. Similarly, Counts V and VI alleges state law negligence actions against the County and some related Defendants for negligent supervision and training of "officers under their supervision" or officers they were "assigned to train." ( Id., at 27-29.) These counts also allege entitlement to punitive damages.

Count VII alleges the state law tort of outrage against the County, claiming that the conduct of the County Defendants was "extreme, outrageous, beyond the bounds of decency, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." ( Id., at ¶153.) The count claims that the County Defendants acted intentionally or in reckless disregard of Decedent. ( Id. ) The claim requests punitive damages. ( Id., at 158.) In Count X, Plaintiff alleges ...

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