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Scott v. Buncich

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

September 23, 2016

TAMARA RACHEL SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BUNCICH, individually and in his official capacity as SHERIFF OF LAKE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William C. Lee, Judge

         This matter is before the court on the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant John Buncich (DE 27).[1] Plaintiff Tamara Scott filed a response in opposition to the motion (DE 32) and Buncich filed a reply (DE 35). For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The motion is granted as follows:

1) Scott's claim against Buncich, in his individual capacity, for denial of medical care is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE;
2) Scott's claim against Buncich, in his individual capacity, for medical malpractice is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE;
3) Scott's claims against Buncich, in his official and individual capacities, for conspiracy are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE;
4) Scott's claims against Buncich, in his official and individual capacities, for failure to intervene are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE;
5) Scott's claim against Buncich, in his official capacity, for punitive damages is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE; and
6) Scott's claim for indemnification is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         The motion to dismiss is denied as to Scott's claim against Buncich, in his official capacity, for denial of medical care (i.e., Scott's Monell claim). All other claims asserted against all other defendants are unaffected by this Order and remain pending.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Tamara Scott was arrested on April 1, 2014, and incarcerated in the Lake County Jail for approximately two months. Complaint, p. 2. Scott alleges that she experienced serious health problems while in jail and that her repeated entreaties for medical care were mostly ignored. Id. The factual foundation of Scott's lawsuit is summarized in the following paragraph from her Complaint:

On or about April 6, 2014, Plaintiff began experiencing rectal problems. Despite constantly (for almost two months) seeking medical treatment from the Defendant Officers and Defendant Medical Care Providers, Plaintiff's condition went relatively untreated and, as a result, Plaintiff developed severe ulcerative colitis and other debilitating medical problems. These conditions exist to this day and will likely affect Plaintiff throughout the remainder of her life.

Id. Scott alleges in her Complaint that the Defendants' failure to provide her with proper medical care was “in violation of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.” Id., p. 9. She brought this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking “compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and costs” against the Defendants, including Buncich. Id., p. 17.

         Scott alleges seven claims in her Complaint, to wit:

1) a claim for “denial of medical care” alleging that the “Defendants had notice of Plaintiff's medical need . . . and yet, they failed to provide her with necessary medical attention, in violation of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments . . . .” (Count I);
2) a claim for “conspiracy” to “depriv[e] Plaintiff of her rights . ., ” alleging that the “Defendants reached an agreement among themselves to deprive Plaintiff of her constitutional rights and to protect one another from liability . . . .” (Count II);
3) a claim for “[f]ailure to intervene . . . to prevent the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights . . . .” (Count III);
4) an Indiana state law claim for “medical malpractice, ” alleging that the “Defendants, in rendering medical care and treatment to Plaintiff and/or holding themselves out as professionals who were rendering medical care” . . . “were negligent in the provision of medical care to Plaintiff.” (Count IV);
5) a claim against Defendant Correctional Health, alleging that Correctional Health (a company that contracts to provide medical care at the Lake County Jail) “is liable as principals [sic] for all torts committed by their [sic] agents.” (Count V);
6) a claim that “Buncich is liable as a principal for all torts committed by his agents[, ]” pursuant to a theory of respondeat superior (Count VI); and
7) an Indiana state law claim for “indemnification, ” alleging that many of the defendants in this case are or were public employees and, as such, the “public entities are directed to pay judgments of civil rights violations” if those employees are found liable (Count VII). Complaint, pp. 9-17. All of Scott's claims are asserted against all the named defendants, with the exception of Count V, which names only Defendant Correctional Health, and Count VI, the state law respondeat superior claim against Buncich.

         In her response brief, however, Scott states that she “agrees to voluntary dismissal of the following claims against Sheriff Buncich: (1) the individual capacity Denial of Medical Care claim (Count I), (2) the State Law Medical Malpractice claim (Count IV)[2], (3) the State Law Respondeat Superior claim (Count V)[3] and (4) all claims for punitive damages against him in his official capacity.”[4] Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition (DE 32), p. 2 (capitalization in original). Accordingly, those claims are dismissed.

         The following claims against Buncich remain and are the targets of his motion to dismiss:

1) Scott's claim for denial of medical care asserted against Buncich in his official capacity as Sheriff of Lake County (i.e., Scott's claim under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978));
2) Scott's claim for “conspiracy, ” alleging that Buncich (apparently in both his individual and official capacities) conspired with other defendants to cover up their acts or omissions regarding Scott's medical care (or lack thereof); and
3) Scott's claim alleging that Buncich failed to intervene “to prevent the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights” (again, apparently in both his individual and official capacities).[5]

         It is these remaining claims that Buncich asks the court to dismiss. Buncich argues that none of the remaining claims asserted against him can survive his motion because they “cannot survive the Iqbal plausibility standard[.]” Defendant's Reply, p. 3. More specifically, Buncich argues that he “is entitled to dismissal with prejudice on all individual capacity claims because Sheriff Buncich did not personally participate in any acts alleged by Plaintiff[], nor does Plaintiff allege that he has. . . . Plaintiff's § 1983 Monell claims against Sheriff Buncich, in his official capacity, must be dismissed with prejudice because Plaintiff has merely made boilerplate allegations of de facto municipal policy and does not allege a specific pattern or series of incidents that support the general allegation[, ]” and “Plaintiff's demand for punitive damages against Sheriff Buncich, in his official capacity, must be dismissed because said claims are not permitted by law.” Motion to Dismiss, pp. 1-2. Having dispensed with the punitive damages claim and the indemnification claim, the court moves to analyzing Scott's remaining claims.

         DISCUSSION

         I. ...


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