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Harvey v. Gaughan

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 21, 2014

JOSEPH M. HARVEY, administrator of the estate of RACHEL M. HAMMERS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MIKE GAUGHAN, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, Chief Judge.

This matter comes before the court on defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs, the estate and surviving children of Rachel M. Hammers, bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against fifteen individuals and entities in connection with Hammers's death while detained at the Douglas County Correctional Facility. Plaintiffs' five-count complaint alleges three counts of Eighth Amendment violations under § 1983 and two counts of wrongful death under Kansas state law.

Defendants raise the following seven issues: (1) plaintiffs failed to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8; (2) plaintiffs failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of decedent Rachel Hammers's rights under the Eighth Amendment; (3) plaintiffs do not sufficiently identify defendants; (4) plaintiffs' "official capacity" claim fails to state a claim; (5) Defendants, in their individual capacities, enjoy qualified immunity; (6) plaintiffs improperly request punitive damages against the County and individual defendants in their official capacities; and (7) this court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state-law wrongful death claims. Dkt. 18, at 2.

The court finds that plaintiffs have failed to plead a short, plain statement showing they are entitled to relief for the deprivation of Eighth Amendment rights under § 1983 and dismisses those claims without prejudice. Accordingly, the court does not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims and dismisses them without prejudice. Dismissing counts on issues one, two, and seven renders analysis of issues three, four, and five premature.

I. Background

In accord with the court's obligation to accept as true a plaintiff's alleged facts when determining the sufficiency of a pleading, the following factual background is adopted from the amended complaint.

Decedent Rachel Hammers, an alcoholic prone to binge drinking, was a thirty-two year old resident of Douglas County, Kansas. Dkt. 17, at 20. On Friday, May 11, 2012, she began drinking in the morning and continued to drink until her arrest early that evening. Dkt. 17, at 21. She was booked into the Douglas County Correctional Facility ("DCCF") at 5:57 p.m. but law enforcement neither administered a Breathalyzer test nor screened for risk of alcohol withdrawal or a potential need for detoxification. Dkt. 17, at 21. Her DCCF health record files were not consulted, she was not assessed by healthcare personnel, and she was placed into the general population of DCCF. Dkt. 17, at 21.

At 9:51 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, 2012, DCCF personnel found Hammers unresponsive and bloodied in her cell. Dkt. 17, at 22. She was transported by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where medical personnel pronounced her dead at 10:46 a.m. Cause of death was attributed to seizure activity related to acute ethanol withdrawal. Dkt. 17, at 22.

The administrator of Hammers's estate, Joseph M. Harvey, filed this case on behalf of the estate and of Hammers's three surviving children. Dkt. 17, at 1. All plaintiffs are domiciled in Douglas County, Kansas. Dkt. 17, at 4. The named defendants are: the Board of County Commissioners of Douglas County, Kansas, in its corporate capacity; Mike Gaughan, Nancy Thellman, and Jim Flory, the three commissioners of the Douglas County Board, in their official capacities; Craig Weinaug, County Administrator of Douglas County, Kansas, in his official and individual capacities; Kenneth M. McGovern, Sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas, in his official and individual capacities; Kenneth L. Massey and Steve Hornberger, Undersheriffs of the Sheriff's Office of Douglas County, Kansas, in their official and individual capacities; Troy Miller, an officer of the Sheriff's Office of Douglas County, Kansas, in his official and individual capacities; Dennis E. Sale, D.O., L.L.C.; Dennis E. Sale, D.O., in his individual capacity and representative capacity as managing member of Dennis E. Sale, D.O., L.L.C.; Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association, Inc. ("VNA"); Judith A. Bellome, Chief Executive Officer of VNA, in her individual and representative capacities; Angelique Lower, Chief Financial Officer of VNA, in her individual and representative capacities; and Eric Huerter, M.D., acting Medical Director of VNA, in his individual and representative capacities. Dkt. 17, at 5-7. All defendants were domiciled at all relevant times in Douglas County, Kansas. Dkt. 17, at 5-7. All defendants were, at all relevant times, involved in the administration or operations of DCCF and its health care practices regarding detainees.

Plaintiffs filed a five-count complaint on April 21, 2014, followed by a five-count amended complaint on June 27, 2014. Dkts. 1; 17. Count I of the amended complaint alleges a violation of Eighth Amendment rights against all defendants for deliberate indifference to Hammers's medical needs and failure to provide medical care and treatment. Dkt. 17, at 25-26. Plaintiffs allege that DCCF medical policies and procedures failed to adequately screen incoming prisoners for alcohol withdrawal risk, evaluate prisoners "who screen positive for alcohol risk, " and did not provide adequate clinical intervention and detoxification for prisoners who are at risk for or are experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Dkt. 17, at 27.

Count II an Eighth Amendment violation for failure to train or inadequate training against the Board of Douglas County Commissioners, Gaughan, Thellman, Flory, Weinaug, McGovern, Massey, Hornberger, Sale, L.L.C., Sale, VNA, Bellome, Lower, and Huerter. Dkt. 17, at 34. The claims in Count II relate to conduct alleged in Count I.

Count III alleges another Eighth Amendment violation, i.e., for failure to supervise or inadequate supervision, against the Board of Douglas County Commissioners, Gaughan, Thellman, Flory, Weinaug, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, McGovern, Massey, Hornberber, Sale, L.L.C., Sale, VNA, Bellome, Lower, and Huerter. Dkt. 17, at 41. The claims in Count III relate to conduct alleged in Count I.

Count IV alleges Wrongful Death, pursuant to K.S.A. § 60-1902, against the Board of Douglas County Commissioners, Gaughan, Thellman, Flory, Weinaug, McGovern, Massey, Hornberger, and Miller for their conduct related to Count I. Dkt. 17, at 48. Count V alleges Wrongful Death, pursuant to K.S.A. § 60-1902, against Sale, L.L.C., Sale, VNA, Bellome, Lower, and Huerter for their conduct related to Count I. Dkt. 17, at 55.

Defendants Douglas County, Kansas Board of Commissioners, Gaughan, Thellman, Flory, Weinaug, Massey, McGovern, Hornberger, and Miller filed this ...


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