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Hooper v. Lain

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

April 29, 2015

NAKEHBA HOOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID LAIN, Sheriff of Porter County; JOHN WHIDUP, Warden of Porter County Jail; MEDICAL CORPORATION, assigned the duties of providing medical services at the Porter County Jail; UNNAMED PORTER COUNTY CORRECTIONS OFFICERS; JANE and JOHN DOE; and PORTER COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: JOHN EVANS, NANCY ADAMS, and LAURA BLANEY, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Nakehba Hooper, brought this lawsuit as a result of a miscarriage she suffered while an inmate at Porter County Jail. Plaintiff alleges that her miscarriage was due to Defendants' misconduct, negligence, and mistreatment. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated her rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Plaintiff also raised supplemental state law claims for professional negligence, wrongful death, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss (DE 14) all of Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons outlined below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

A. Background

Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Porter County Jail from October 6, 2012, until November 16, 2012. (DE 1, Compl. at 2.) Plaintiff was five months pregnant on her first day of incarceration. ( Id. ) Prior to her incarceration, Plaintiff was prescribed prenatal medications because she lacked an RH antigen in her blood. ( Id. ) Without proper medication this condition can cause serious illness, brain damage, or the death of a child in utero. ( Id. at 3.) During inprocessing, Jail staff confirmed that Plaintiff was pregnant. ( Id. )

Plaintiff maintains that Defendants failed to provide her the necessary medical care, which eventually led to her miscarriage. Plaintiff alleges that Jail staff replaced her prescription medication with alternative medication and that she was not examined by a gynecologist or obstetrician while incarcerated. Plaintiff also contends that Defendants failed to provide basic necessities to accommodate her pregnancy, such as proper bedding, a sleeping mat to prevent back pain, a properly fitting bra, and the requisite amount of toilet paper. ( Id. )

On October 21, 2012, at around 4:00 p.m., Plaintiff began experiencing pregnancy complications and pressed the button in her cell for assistance, but did not receive a response. ( Id. ) Plaintiff contends that she repeatedly pushed the button for assistance, but did not receive a response until 4:30 p.m. At this time, a nurse appeared, performed a cursory examination, and informed Plaintiff that she would call a doctor. ( Id. at 4.) The nurse then left Plaintiff's cell. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asserts that Jail staff did not assist her again until other inmates noticed that she was in distress and requested medical aid for her at about 5:00 p.m. ( Id. ) At 5:50 p.m., Plaintiff was shackled, handcuffed, and placed in a transport vehicle to take her to the hospital. ( Id. ) Later that evening, the emergency room attending physician told Plaintiff that her baby would not survive and Plaintiff subsequently suffered a miscarriage. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital two days later and now maintains that Defendants' conduct "caused... the loss of her fetus and the accompanying physical, emotional, and mental anguish associated with such loss." ( Id. )

B. Motion to Dismiss Standard

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim is to test the sufficiency of the pleadings, not to decide the merits of the case. See Gibson v. Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Rule 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." However, "recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).[1] As the Supreme Court has stated, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id. Rather, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A complaint is facially plausible if a court can reasonably infer from factual content in the pleading that the defendant is liable for the alleged wrongdoing. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Seventh Circuit has synthesized the standard into three requirements. See Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). "First, a plaintiff must provide notice to defendants of her claims. Second, courts must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true, but some factual allegations will be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice to defendants of the plaintiff's claim. Third, in considering the plaintiff's factual allegations, courts should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id.

C. Federal Claims

1. Section 1983 Claims

Plaintiff brought her § 1983 claims against Defendants Lain and Whidup in their official and individual capacity. In the alternative, Plaintiff argues that, if Defendants Lain and Whidup are not liable in their individual capacity, then five unnamed Jail staff members who dealt with her are liable in their individual capacities.[2] Defendants maintain that Lain and Whidup cannot be liable in their individual capacities because they had no contact with Plaintiff during her incarceration. These two Defendants also argue that it is redundant to have them both named in their official capacity since they are each members of the same municipal body. Defendants' are correct in both instances. Accordingly, the Court grants Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in part, as it addresses Plaintiff's individual capacity § 1983 claims against Sherriff Lain and Warden Whidup and the official capacity claim against Warden Whidup.

Policymakers within a municipality can be sued in their official capacity for adopting unconstitutional policies or allowing unconstitutional practices to routinely occur. This principle is referred to as Monell liability. See, e.g., Valentino v. Vill. of S. Chi. Heights, 575 F.3d 664, 674-75 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). Official capacity suits "generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). In an official capacity suit, the plaintiff simply alleges that the defendant was "party to the execution or implementation of official policy or conduct." Hill v. Shelander, 924 F.2d 1370, 1372 (7th Cir. 1991). However, a municipality cannot be held liable under Section 1983 on a theory of respondeat superior; indeed, a municipality can only be held liable for "constitutional violations caused by its official policies, including unwritten customs." Rodgers v. Lincoln Towing Serv., Inc., 771 F.2d 194, 201-202 (7th Cir. 1985) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91).

On the other hand, to recover against a particular state actor in their individual capacity, a plaintiff must show that the named defendant was personally involved in the alleged constitutional violations. See Doyle v. Camelot Care Ctrs., Inc., 305 F.3d 603, 614-15 (7th Cir. 2002). Under § 1983, a plaintiff cannot rely on a theory of respondeat superior to hold a supervisor liable; instead, a supervisor "must have had some personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation, essentially directing or consenting to the challenged conduct." Id. In other words, an individual capacity suit "focuses on the constitutional torts of an individual." Shelander, 924 F.2d at 1372. Therefore, to establish individual liability in a § 1983 action, Plaintiff must "show that the official, acting under color of state law, caused the deprivation of a federal right." Graham, 473 U.S. at 166.

Plaintiff claims that Defendants Lain and Whidup were responsible for the development and enforcement of unconstitutional policies pertaining to inmates' medical care and were responsible for supervising the execution of these policies by their subordinates. (DE 1, Compl. at 5.) Plaintiff further maintains that these "policies, customs, and practices" deprived her of constitutional rights granted in the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment. ( Id. ) Thus, Plaintiff's claims are directed at unconstitutional policies or customs as opposed to the constitutional torts of these individual Defendants. As a result, Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's individual capacity claims under § 1983 against Defendants Lain and Whidup is granted.

As discussed above, the municipal entity that is potentially liable for these official capacity claims is the Porter County Sheriff's Department. Since the Warden and the Sheriff are both members of the Porter County Sheriff's Department, it is redundant for them to both be named Defendants. Accordingly, the § 1983 claim against Defendant Whidup, in his official capacity, is dismissed, which leaves Plaintiff's § 1983 official capacity ...


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