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Whitted v. Konkle

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

July 30, 2018

CODY KONKLE, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Molly Whitted (“Ms. Whitted”) alleges that her rights were violated when Defendant Cody Konkle (“Mr. Konkle”), a Correctional Officer at the Indiana Department of Correction's (“IDOC”) Madison Correctional Facility, pressured her into having sexual intercourse. Now before the Court for resolution is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Jan Davis, Superintendent of the Madison Correctional Facility (“Superintendent Davis”), whom Ms. Whitted has sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state-law theories [Dkt. No. 10]. For the reasons detailed herein, the motion is GRANTED.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         This litigation was initiated by Ms. Whitted, an Indiana prisoner who, at the time of the events related to this case, was housed at IDOC's Madison Correctional Facility. Ms. Whitted has alleged that on January 13, 2016 Mr. Konkle coerced her into accompanying him to the correctional facility's locked basement, where he pressured her to have sexual intercourse with him, [Dkt. No. 1 (“Compl.”)] at 2. She further alleges that over the course of the five previous months, Mr. Konkle “engaged in a regular pattern of manipulative comments, overly familiar, flirtatious conduct, and intimate personal association with Whitted.” Id. She does not disclose whether she informed Superintendent Davis or any other IDOC employee of Mr. Konkle's conduct.

         According to Ms. Whitted, roughly ten days after this sexual encounter, on January 23, 2016, she developed a vaginal irritation and, accordingly, asked Mr. Konkle-in advance of seeking treatment from the medical office-whether he had a sexually transmitted disease. Id. Mr. Konkle became angry and accused Ms. Whitted of intending to disclose the incident in order to get him fired. Id.

         Ms. Whitted complains that following her conversation with Mr. Konkle she was transferred to the Indiana Women's Prison and segregated from other inmates on January 24, 2017. Id. at 3. There, Ms. Whitted received medical attention and treatment for the physical, mental, and emotional injuries she alleges that she suffered. Id.

         Thereafter, the IDOC investigated the incident and Mr. Konkle's employment was terminated. Id. He was also arrested for, charged with, and pled guilty to sexual misconduct, in violation of Indiana law. Id.

         On June 16, 2016, Ms. Whitted filed a notice of tort claim naming the IDOC, the Madison Correctional Facility, and the Office of the Indiana Attorney General. She filed her Complaint in this court on December 29, 2017.

         In her Complaint, Ms. Whitted asserts “on information and belief” that Superintendent Davis “knew of, but reacted unreasonably to, an objectively substantial risk of serious harm male correctional officers posed to female inmates.” Id. at 5. Further, Ms. Whitted claims “on information and belief” that Superintendent Davis “knew or should have known Konkle posed an excessive risk to [her] health or safety and Davis failed to respond reasonably to that risk.” Id. Ms. Whitted has asserted that Superintendent Davis breached duties owed to her by failing to:

implement adequate pre-employment screening for correctional officer candidates; train male staff on issues relating to supervision of female inmates; provide or review training materials prohibiting sexual misconduct; minimize access to secluded areas and one-on-one contact between male staff and female inmates; and make a good faith effort to limit the assignment of correctional officers in female dormitories to female staff.

Id. at 5-6. Ms. Whitted further asserts that Superintendent Davis is personally liable for the tortious conduct of Mr. Konkle under the doctrines of agency, vicarious liability, employer-employee relations, master and servant, respondeat superior, joint venture, contract, and as a result of her non-delegable duty to ensure that correctional officers at the Madison Correctional Facility comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States (namely the Eighth Amendment) and the State of Indiana. Id. at 6. Finally, Ms. Whitted claims that Superintendent Davis's conduct was “of such a nature that punitive damages should be imposed against her individually in an amount commensurate with the willful and malicious or recklessly indifferent acts alleged herein.” Id.

         On February 26, 2018, Superintendent Davis filed a motion seeking dismissal of Ms. Whitted's claims against her. Dkt. Nos. 10, 11 (“Def.'s Memorandum of Law”). Ms. Whitted responded on March 14, 2018, limiting the scope of her claims against Superintendent Davis to § 1983 and state-law negligence claims. Dkt. No. 12 (“Pl.'s Resp.”), the dismissal of which is sought in the pending action. Dkt. No. 14 (“Def.'s Reply”).[1] The motion is ripe for ruling.

         Motion to Dismiss Standard

         The motion to dismiss before us is based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Accordingly, the Court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint and draw all ensuing inferences in favor of the non-movant. Lake v. Neal, 585 F.3d 1059, 1060 (7th Cir. 2009). The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” and its “[f]actual allegations must . . . raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp, 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). The complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Stated ...

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