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Moore v. Corizon Health Inc.

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

March 28, 2018

LISA RENA MOORE, et al., Plaintiffs,
CORIZON HEALTH INC., et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs Lisa Rena Moore, on behalf of decedent Tonya Sue Moore (“Moore”), Jeremy Eugene Moore, and Natasha Rose Moore (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a Complaint against the Prison's private health care contractor (Corizon Health), seven employees of the Indiana Women's Prison, [1] five employees of Corizon Health, [2] and four unknown employees referred to as Jane Doe and John Doe seeking relief based on the death of Moore, which occurred approximately fourteen months after her incarceration at the Indiana Women's Prison. Plaintiffs bring their action alleging a violation of the Eighth Amendment and state-law negligence claims. Corizon Health and its employees have not filed a motion to dismiss, and the claims against them will not be addressed in this order.

         This cause is now before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim filed by Defendants McCauley, Walker, Wilson, Todd, Redmond, Ray, and Quenzer (collectively, “DOC Defendants”) on May 30, 2017, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [Dkt. 34.] For the reasons detailed in this order, we GRANT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         In addressing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we treat all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, and we draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 2003). As such, Plaintiffs pleaded the following facts in their complaint which are considered to be true for this purposes of this motion. Moore was incarcerated on February 13, 2014, [3] and subsequently passed away on April 12, 2015, while still incarcerated. [Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 26-27.] During this period, Moore submitted approximately thirty “Health Care Slips” for treatment of unknown illnesses causing her “back pain, shortness of breath, weakness, trouble walking any distance, ” and a sixty-five pound weight loss. [Id. ¶¶ 29-31.] Plaintiffs did not plead specific facts regarding the extent of the medical treatment Moore received or did not receive in response to these “Health Care Sips.”

         Approximately a week before Moore's death, she “became lightheaded in a shower stall and collapsed”; Moore was transferred to the medical care unit by an unknown prison nurse. [Id. ¶ 32.] On April 10, 2015, an unknown inmate reported to a nurse that Moore was in excruciating pain and was in urgent need of medical care. [Id. ¶ 33.]

         On April 11, 2015, Moore was semiconscious in her cell when Defendant Todd entered and called for medical assistance. [Id. ¶ 34.] During this interaction, Defendant Todd made comments about the seriousness of Moore's condition, such as “it's just Tonya Moore; she [sic] just in pain.” [Id.] Following the call for medical assistance, unknown medical personnel came and took Moore to the medical unit by wheelchair. [Id. ¶ 35.] Plaintiffs do not allege what occurred while Moore was in the medical unit. Moore was returned to her cell shortly thereafter and was left in her cell without the ability to sit up and after having vomited the medication[4] she was given. [Id. ] Defendant Todd threatened other inmates by telling them that they would be given a conduct report if they assisted Moore in any way. [Id. ¶ 36.] Despite the threat, two fellow inmates assisted Moore and did, indeed, receive Defendant Todd's threatened conduct reports. [Id.]

         During the night of April 11, 2015, unknown inmates reported that they heard Moore moaning for help. [Id. ¶ 37.] One inmate continually pushed the call button in her cell to alert prison officials of Moore's medical necessity, but no prison staff came to assist Moore. [Id. ¶ 39.] One inmate was so concerned that she called Moore's father to inform him of his daughter's medical needs and to suggest that he employ private medical assistance. [Id. ¶ 38.]

         At approximately 11:30 a.m. on April 12, 2015, Defendant Walker observed Moore in her cell and called medical personnel because Moore appeared “very pale, in severe pain and could not sit up.” [Id. ¶ 41.] When medical assistance arrived, Moore exhibited no blood pressure, no measurable oxygen levels, appeared very pale, and could not move from the fetal position. [Id.] At this time, emergency services were called, and Moore left the prison by ambulance. [Id.] Later that day, Moore died from septic shock, cardiac arrest, and complications from undiagnosed lung cancer. [Id. ¶ 42.] Plaintiffs do not allege any fact regarding the involvement of Defendants McCauley, Wilson, Redmond, Ray, and Quenzer with Moore or her medical treatment.[5]

         Plaintiffs filed a four-count complaint seeking relief for Moore's death. [Dkt. 1.] Count I of Plaintiffs' complaint alleges a violation of the Eighth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Id. at 12-15.] Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint alleges a state-law gross negligence claim. [Id. at 15-17.] Count III of Plaintiff's Complaint alleges a claim under the Indiana General Wrongful Death Statute. [Id. at 17-18.] Lastly, Count IV of Plaintiffs' complaint alleges a claim under the Indiana Adult Wrongful Death Statute. [Id. at 18-20.]

         DOC Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a plausible claim upon which relief could be granted against any of them. In support, DOC Defendants contend that: (1) Plaintiffs' Section 1983 claim does not include sufficient facts to show personal or direct involvement by any of the DOC Defendants [Dkt. 34 ¶ 2] and that Plaintiffs' Section 1988 request is improperly listed as a separate claim for relief [id. ¶ 4]; (2) Plaintiffs state-law general wrongful death claim cannot be brought against DOC Defendants because they enjoy immunity, or alternatively, Plaintiffs did not plead sufficient facts upon which relief could be granted under the statute [id. ¶ 5]; and (3) Plaintiffs' state-law adult wrongful death claim fails to state a claim because Moore is not an “adult person” within the meaning of the Indiana Adult Wrongful Death Statute [Id.].

         In response to DOC Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiffs concede the following claims should be dismissed: (1) any claim found in Count I of the complaint against DOC Defendants in their official capacity [Dkt. 42 ¶ 2]; (2) any claim in Counts I through IV against those prison and healthcare providers referred to as John Doe and Jane Doe [id. ¶ 4]; and (3) any claim found in Count II against DOC Defendants [id. ¶ 6]. We accept that concession and order these claims dismissed with prejudice. No further discussion of them will ensue. We address Defendants' remaining arguments in turn below.

         Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under Seventh Circuit law, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint ‘must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face . . . . A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751-52 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to satisfy Rule 8 or withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The complaint “must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Arnett, 658 F.3d at 752 (quoting Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., 536 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008)).

         This standard does not require, however, that a plaintiff plead a probable cause of action. Arnett, 658 F.3d at 752. “[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). A party moving to dismiss bears a weighty burden. “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 546.

         If Plaintiffs have failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim of relief that is plausible on its face, the court should grant the motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Arnett, 658 F.3d 742. When a district court grants a motion to dismiss an original complaint, the plaintiff no longer has a right to amend her complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). However, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, a court should freely grant leave to a plaintiff to amend her complaint “when justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(2), and the “liberal amendment policy embodied in Rule 15 continues to govern a court's decision to dismiss a complaint with prejudice, ” Gonzalez-Koeneke v. West, 791 F.3d 801, 808 (7th Cir. 2015). “[A] plaintiff whose original complaint has been dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) should be given at least one opportunity to try to amend her complaint before the entire action is dismissed.” Runnion v. Girl Scouts of Greater Chi. & Nw. Ind., 786 F.3d 510, 519 (7th Cir. 2015). However, where it is clear that the complaint's defect cannot be corrected because any amendment is futile, a court may deny leave to amend and enter an immediate final judgment. Id. at 520.

         Legal Analysis

          I. Section 1983 and the Eighth Amendment (Count I)

         Count I of Plaintiffs' complaint brings an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which has been made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.[6] See, e.g., Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962);[Dkt. 1 at 12-15.] “To recover damages under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that a defendant was personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995). “By the plain terms of § 1983, two-and only two-allegations are required in order to state a cause of action under that statute. First, the plaintiff must allege that some person has deprived him of a federal right. Second, he must allege that the person who has deprived him of that right acted under color of state[7] or territorial law.” Jacobs v. City of Chicago, 215 F.3d 758, 774-75 (7th Cir. 2000) (quoting Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980).

         In this case, Plaintiffs allege that DOC Defendants violated Moore's rights under the Eighth Amendment, which bars the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects inmates against punishments that “involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, ” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976) (internal citations omitted), and obligates the government “to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration.” Id. This protects inmates “against a lack of medical care that ‘may result in pain and suffering which no one suggests would serve any penological purpose.'” Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 828 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103). It is well settled that the “‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment includes a prohibition on deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners.Orlowski v. Milwaukee Cty., 872 F.3d 417, 423 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104).

         Accordingly, a government officer may be held individually liable under Section 1983 if he exhibits “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs” of an inmate. Rodriquez, 577 F.3d at 828. However, mere negligence in the provision of medical care is not a constitutional violation. Id. at 829. A plaintiff must show both: “(1) an objectively serious medical condition to which (2) a state official was deliberately, that is subjectively, indifferent.” Id. (quoting Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008)).

         A. Objectively Serious Medical Condition

         Under the first prong of the Eighth Amendment test, an objectively serious medical condition “is one that ‘has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention.'” Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff's Dep't, 604 F.3d 293, 301 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Cir. 2008)).

         There are facts alleged here that plausibly support the conclusion that Moore had an objectively serious medical condition. Moore, on several occasions, was brought to a medical unit after inmates or prison employees called for medical care. [Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 32, 34, 41.] Similarly, Moore exhibited outward, obvious symptoms, such as vomiting [id. ¶ 35]; collapsing in a shower stall [id. ¶ 32]; reporting back pain, shortness of breath, weakness, trouble walking any distance, and a sixty-five pound weight loss [id. ¶¶ 29-31]; appearing very pale and in severe pain, and lacking the ability to sit up [id. ¶ 41]. These symptoms were so obvious that even other inmates (laypersons) recognized her need for medical assistance by reporting Moore's condition to a nurse [id. ¶ 33]; continually pushing a call button to get Moore medical assistance [id. ¶ 39]; and calling Moore's father to suggest that he pursue private medical assistance [id. ¶ 38].

         Because Plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded that Moore had an objectively serious medical condition, we must now determine whether Plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded that the individual DOC Defendants were deliberately indifferent to that condition.

         B. Deliberate Indifference to ...

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