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Best v. State

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 14, 2017

LARRY BEST, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, DUSHAN ZATECKY, JOHN SAFFORD, JEFFERY KING, BLAINE HURT, WALTER PETERSON, HERBERT DUNCAN, CORIZON HEALTH, INC., and PAUL A. TALBOT M.D., Defendants.

          ENTRY ON STATE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by Defendants the State of Indiana, Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”), Superintendent Dushan Zatecky, and IDOC staff John Safford, Jeffery King, Blaine Hurt, Walter Peterson, and Herbert Duncan (collectively, “State Defendants”) (Filing No. 21). After spending more than two years in administrative segregation at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, Plaintiff Larry Best, Jr. (“Best”) was moved back into the general population at the prison, and one month later, he was attacked and seriously injured by fellow inmates. Best initiated this lawsuit against the State Defendants as well as Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”), and Paul A. Talbot, M.D. (“Dr. Talbot”) for violating his Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to protect him and having a deliberate indifference toward his health and safety. The State Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, asserting various arguments for dismissal of Best's four claims. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the Complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Best as the non-moving party. See Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Best was an inmate at the Pendleton Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”). He is now an inmate at Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill, Indiana. While in custody at Pendleton, Best was held in administrative segregation because of threats of violence against him by members of a prison gang called the Brotherhood of the Aryan Nation (“Aryan brotherhood”). Members of the Aryan brotherhood had physically beaten Best and threatened his life because he refused to join their gang. Because of the attack and threats of violence, Best was held in segregated housing for more than two years leading up to July 5, 2015 (Filing No. 1 at 2-3).

         On July 6, 2015, Defendant King, a caseworker with IDOC, informed Best that he would be returned to the general population at Pendleton. Best told King that he was fearful to return to the general prison population because members of the Aryan brotherhood who had attacked and threatened him were still in Pendleton's general population. King told Defendant Safford, a unit team manager with IDOC, about Best's concern for his safety in the general population. King and Safford knew that inmates are routinely moved among the housing units and Best likely would not be safe from the Aryan brotherhood's threats. Despite this potential threat, Best was moved from administrative segregated housing into the general prison population. Id. at 3.

         Best alleges that “Duncan and Peterson were responsible for investigation of the continued threat to [Best] if he was returned to general population but failed to make any investigation and allowed [Best] to return to general population with reckless disregard for [Best's] safety.” Id. When he was moved out of segregated housing, the general population guards and officers were surprised by Best's placement in the general prison population because of threats against him. Id.

         On August 7, 2015, one month after being moved back to the general prison population, Best was attacked by members of the Aryan brotherhood. His attackers used large river rocks and other objects, which the prison officials had placed in front of prison cell houses, presumably for decoration. These large river rocks were accessible to the violent inmates at Pendleton and could be and were used as weapons. Although prison officials knew of the gang's threats against Best, they failed to take measures to secure the prison to provide for his safety. Id. at 3-4.

         The attack occurred while Best was leaving the medical line at the prison infirmary, which was located in a walkway dubbed “death alley” because it was an area known for inmate-on-inmate assaults. The area was not well supervised, and Best alleges prison officials, including Superintendent Zatecky, knew the area was dangerous but were deliberately indifferent to the safety of the inmates. Id.

         Defendant Hurt was the officer in charge at the time of the attack, and he failed to supervise the movement of inmates through “death alley” to and from the infirmary for their daily medication. Pendleton was understaffed on the day of Best's attack, and the staff failed to monitor inmate movement from place to place and thus could not prevent the attack on Best. Further, IDOC failed to provide adequate supervision of the inmates at Pendleton. Best alleges that Superintendent Zatecky knew the prison was “extremely short on staff” because he had admitted this fact only months before the attack on Best, and this staff shortage allowed gang violence within the prison and cultivated an environment conducive to inmate violence. Id.

         Best sustained severe lacerations and bruises to his head, face, back, shoulders, arms, and right hand and wrist during the attack. He was bleeding profusely and sought medical treatment for his injuries (Filing No. 1 at 4). Dr. Talbot, an employee of Corizon, was on duty at the time of Best's attack. At that time, Corizon contracted with Pendleton to provide medical care at the prison. Dr. Talbot treated Best's injuries by suturing his cuts and stapling the head wounds, which would be fastest. However, Dr. Talbot did so without first administering an anesthetic to Best's head in disregard to the pain that Best would endure. Id. at 5.

         Dr. Talbot failed to monitor Best's condition after the initial suture and staples to his head. Instead, Dr. Talbot returned Best to his cell with the severe head injury without anyone to observe his condition. Because of the lack of monitoring, Best suffered another injury to the head when he blacked out in his cell, falling against the wall and onto the floor. Best suffered dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, as well as other concussion symptoms, and pain in his back, neck, head, and elbow. Best has difficulty remembering and concentrating. Dr. Talbot, Corizon, and IDOC delayed processing, referring, and approving diagnostic tests necessary for treatment of Best's injuries, and they continued to pursue ineffective treatment for his condition that continues to worsen. Id. at 5, 11-12.

         On September 26, 2016, Best filed this lawsuit asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) and state tort law against the State Defendants, Corizon, and Dr. Talbot. Best alleges his Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated because the Defendants failed to protect him, had a deliberate indifference and reckless disregard toward his health and safety, provided inadequate medical care, and deprived him of the opportunity to serve his prison sentence without constant fear of threats and violence. Corizon and Dr. Talbot filed an Answer in response to Best's Complaint, and the State Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that has failed to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Bielanski, 550 F.3d at 633. However, courts “are not obliged to accept as true legal conclusions or unsupported conclusions of fact.” Hickey v. O'Bannon, 287 F.3d 656, 658 (7th Cir. 2002).

         The complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court explained that the complaint must allege facts that are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Id.; see also Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2009) (“it is not enough to give a threadbare recitation of the elements of a claim without factual support”). The allegations must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Stated differently, the complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In their Motion to Dismiss, the State Defendants address each of the four counts asserted in Best's Complaint and advance various arguments for the dismissal of each of the counts as to specific State Defendants. For the sake of convenience and simplicity, the ...


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