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Rohan v. Saline County Jail

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 7, 2019

SALINE COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.



         In this case, Plaintiff Christopher Scott Rohan, proceeding pro se, alleges excessive force and deliberate indifference claims against law enforcement and medical personnel in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff's claims stem from injuries sustained during his arrest on March 7, 2019, and the subsequent treatment of those injuries. Six of the seven remaining defendants to this case-Jamie Nutz, Lou Miller, Michael Sutton, Sarah Shaft, David Wallace, and Tina Miller-seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against them.[1] There are two motions pending before the Court: (1) the Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Defendants Nutz and Lou Miller[2] (Doc. 29); and (2) the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Sutton, Shaft, Wallace, and Tina Miller (Doc. 33). Although the procedural posture of the two motions is different, the principal argument is the same: Defendants allege that Plaintiff fails to state a claim against them. For the following reasons, the Court agrees.

         I. BACKGROUND[3]

         On March 7, 2019, in an effort to evade law enforcement, Plaintiff attempted to hide in the trunk of a vehicle. Doc. 13 at 2. After Officer Austin Baker arrived on the scene with his police dog, Maggie, Plaintiff alleges he verbally surrendered from inside the trunk. Id. Plaintiff then proceeded to open the trunk, but, as he was attempting to surrender, Plaintiff alleges Officer Baker ordered Maggie to attack. Id. Plaintiff suffered multiple bite wounds to his right foot, thigh, arm, and hand. Id.

         Plaintiff was subsequently taken to the Salina Regional Hospital, where he received “minor treatment” for his injuries. Id. But Plaintiff alleges that, when he was ultimately released into the custody of the Saline County Jail (“SCJ”), he still had open wounds and was “covered in dog slobber.” Id. While at SCJ, Plaintiff claims he was “denied antibiotics and [a] shower” by multiple members of the SCJ staff: specifically, Defendants Nutz, Shaft, Wallace, Sutton, Lou Miller, and Tina Miller. Id. Plaintiff alleges he was allowed to shower four days after his arrest. Id. But Plaintiff claims that, when he continued to ask for antibiotics, the above-identified SCJ staff claimed they had “to order” or “go get” the medication even though, as Plaintiff alleges, a doctor had already placed an order for the medication several days earlier. Id. Plaintiff ultimately received the requested antibiotics on March 13, 2019. Id. at 2-3.

         Plaintiff claims the purported lack of antibiotics, coupled with the denial of his requests for a shower, caused him to develop an infection in his wounds, which has resulted in pain and disability. Id. Plaintiff also claims that, while at SCJ, he repeatedly asked for an MRI of his right arm. Id. at 3. However, Plaintiff alleges Lou Miller told him “there's nothing we can do.” Id. Approximately two months later, on May 8, 2019, Plaintiff claims he again asked Lou Miller about an MRI. Id. But Plaintiff claims Lou Miller again denied his request, telling him to “just let [the] prison handle it, ” despite observing that Plaintiff had “lost feeling in [his] right thumb.” Id.

         Based on these allegations, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated as a result of “deliberate indifference” and “excessive force.” Id.

         II. STANDARD

         As set forth above, six of the seven remaining defendants have filed motions asserting Plaintiff's claims are legally deficient. Docs. 29, 33. Defendants Sutton, Shaft, Wallace, and Tina Miller move pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), arguing Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants Nutz and Lou Miller also argue Plaintiff fails to state a claim, but bring their motion pursuant to Rule 12(c), rather than Rule 12(b)(6), because they have already filed an answer. See Arnold v. City of Olathe, Kan., 2019 WL 4305132, at *3 (D. Kan. 2019) (noting that Rule 12(h)(2) allows the court to consider a defense of failure to state a claim within a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings). A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), however, is essentially the same as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)-the distinction between the two rules is “purely one of procedural formality.” Id. Therefore, courts evaluate a Rule 12(c) motion under the same standard used to analyze a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Id.

         The court will dismiss a cause of action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) under two circumstances. First, dismissal is warranted where an issue of law precludes recovery. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989). Second, dismissal is likewise appropriate where the factual allegations fail to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible if its factual allegations allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the opposing party is liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the court must accept well-pleaded factual allegations as true, this obligation does not extend to legal conclusions or to “threadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action.” Id. at 678-79. Complaints drafted by pro se litigants, however, are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by legal counsel and will only be dismissed if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts supporting the claim for relief. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Nevertheless, it is not the proper function of the courts to assume the role of advocate for a pro se litigant. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). The Court examines Plaintiff's claims with these criteria in mind.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Failure to Oppose Defendants' Motions

         Before addressing the merits of the arguments raised in Defendants' motions, the Court first addresses Plaintiff's failure to respond to those motions. Defendants Nutz and Lou Miller filed their Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings on July 10, 2019, and Defendants Sutton, Shaft, Wallace, and Tina Miller followed suit with their Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on July 22, 2019. Docs. 29, 33. Plaintiff did not timely respond to either motion. See D. Kan. R. 6.1(d)(2) (responses to dispositive motions must be filed and served within 21 days). Nonetheless, recognizing Plaintiff's pro se status and the fact that he had recently been transferred to a different facility, the Court extended Plaintiff's deadline for response to September 12, 2019.[4] Doc. 35. But the Court advised Plaintiff that failure to respond to the pending motions could result in the Court taking up the motions without the benefit of his position. Id. To date, Plaintiff still has not responded to either motion.

         Plaintiff's pro se status neither excuses him from compliance with procedural rules nor shields him from the consequences of his noncompliance. See Nielsen v. Price, 17 F.3d 1276, 1277 (10th Cir. 1994) (noting the Tenth Circuit has “repeatedly insisted that pro se parties follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants”). Because Plaintiff failed to respond to the motions by the deadline for doing so, and because he has not made any showing of excusable neglect, ...

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