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Lewis v. East Baton Rouge Parish

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 30, 2017

ADRIENNE LEWIS, by and on behalf of the minor child, LIYAH ALEXANDRIA JOHNSON
v.
EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on (1) the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 57) (the “MSJ”) filed by the Defendant, City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge (“City/Parish”); (2) the Motion to Defer or Deny City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge's Motion for Summary Judgment Pending Discovery (Doc. 64) (the “Motion to Defer”) filed by Plaintiff, Adrienne Lewis, by and on behalf of the minor child Liyah Alexandria Johnson (“Plaintiff”); and (3) the Motion to Strike Affidavit Filed in Support of Plaintiff's Motion to Defer or Deny City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge's Motion for Summary Judgment Pending Discovery (Doc. 65) (the “Motion to Strike”) filed by the City/Parish. The MSJ is opposed by the Plaintiff through the Motion to Defer (Doc. 64) and in the Memorandum in Response to City/Parish's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 68) filed by the Defendants, Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux, III, in his individual and official capacity as Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish, Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Grimes, in his individual and official capacity as Warden of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, Lieutenant Michael Duplessis, Deputy Avery Kujawa, Deputy Dalton Canezaro, and Corporal Cedric Buckner (collectively, the “Sheriff Defendants”). The Motion to Defer is opposed by the City/Parish through the Motion to Strike (Doc. 65) and a separately filed memorandum in opposition by the City/Parish (Doc. 66). The Motion to Strike is opposed by the Plaintiff. (Doc. 69). Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, facts in the record, and arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, the MSJ is denied, the Motion to Defer is granted, and the Motion to Strike is denied.

         I. Factual Background

         This suit centers on the arrest, incarceration, and death of Lamar Johnson. Given the lack of summary judgment evidence presented to the Court, the following account is primarily taken from the Amended Complaint (Doc. 27).

         On May 26, 2015, Johnson was arrested after a routine traffic stop for tinted windows. (Doc. 27 at 6.) Within an hour he was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (“EBRPP”) due to a hold on Johnson from Jefferson Parish authorities for a four-year-old arrest warrant on a non-violent charge. (Doc. 27 at 6.)

         On May 28, 2015, while in EBRPP, Johnson pled guilty to a Baton Rouge ordinance for not possessing his driver's license in 2009. (Doc. 27 at 7.) Johnson was sentenced to five (5) days with credit for time served since he entered the jail on May 26, 2015. (Doc. 27 at 7.)

         While in EBRPP, Johnson acquired and consumed synthetic marijuana called “mojo, ” which was “readily accessible by prisoners at EBRPP.” (Doc. 27 at 7.) Synthetic marijuana can have “unpredictable and, in some case, severe or even life-threatening” effects. (Doc. 27 at 7.)

         Plaintiff claims that Johnson acquired and consumed mojo while in EBRPP. Plaintiff asserts that “Johnson's reaction to mojo was severe, ” that “[h]e suffered paranoid delusions and began talking out loud to himself, ” and that, though the effects were readily apparent, “EBRPP staff ignored Mr. Johnson's serious medical needs.” (Doc. 27 at 7.)

         Plaintiff claims that Johnson was later physically attacked and pepper sprayed by some of the Sheriff Defendants, which caused Johnson to become more paranoid and delusional. (Doc. 27 at 7-8.) Plaintiff alleges that:

[A]ccording to interviews with individuals incarcerated with Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson was loudly, openly, and clearly in great emotional distress. Individuals incarcerated with Mr. Johnson who were eyewitnesses describe his condition as paranoid and suicidal, reporting specifically that Mr. Johnson was talking about killing himself, “not wanting to live” and stating he “couldn't take it” anymore.

(Doc. 27 at 8.) Plaintiff claims that some of the Sheriff Defendants knew of his emotional distress and suicidal statements “but chose to ignore his condition.” (Doc. 27 at 8.) Additionally, “EBRPP officials failed to perform a mental health assessment of Mr. Johnson.” (Doc. 27 at 9.)

         Despite his state, Johnson was moved to a different wing consisting of a row of solitary isolation cells. (Doc. 27 at 9.) Plaintiff alleged that some of the Sheriff Defendants would “house mentally ill prisoners as a means to deny such prisoners access to mental health care.” (Doc. 27 at 9.) Further, rather than regularly monitor such inmates, some of the Sheriff Defendants would “falsely write in the logbook that they make their rounds.” (Doc. 27 at 9.) According to the Amended Complaint, while in this new area, Johnson was again assaulted. (Doc. 27 at 10.)

         The Amended Complaint alleges that, though it is unclear from records how long Johnson stayed in solitary, from 7:00 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. on May 30, 2015, some of the Sheriff Defendants claimed to have made rounds to check on Johnson. (Doc. 27 at 10-11.) At 10:22 a.m. that day, “Johnson was found hanging from his cell bars. Mr. Johnson left EBRPP on a stretcher, brain damaged, but alive. He died a few days later at a local hospital.” (Doc. 27 at 11.)

         Plaintiff now files this suit alleging that Johnson “died as a result of both unconstitutional conditions of confinement and particular individual defendants' deliberate indifference to Mr. Johnson's constitutional rights.” (Doc. 27 at 1.) Among his other claims, Plaintiff asserts several counts against the City/Parish alleging § 1983 actions. These claims focus on de facto or explicit polices or practices of the City/Parish and others that caused the constitutional violation. For example, in Count One, Plaintiff alleges that the City/Parish, among other defendants, exposed prisoners at EBRPP, including Johnson, to “violent and dangerous conditions of confinement so extensive and pervasive that they reflect a de facto policy approved” by the City/Parish. (Doc. 27 at 16.) Count One continues:

Such policies and practices include, but are not limited to, racial segregation of prisoner living areas, defects in physical design and manner of operation, including inadequate staffing, inadequate supervision techniques, poor sightlines, and inadequate monitoring of prisoner living areas that combined to result in frequent violence and a continuous pattern of constitutional deprivations for the prisoners in EBRPP, including Mr. Johnson.

(Doc. 27 at 16.) Further, the City/Parish and others “failed to provide appropriate medical and mental health services to EBRPP prisoners, including Mr. Johnson, who was individually harmed by the de facto policies and practices described above.” (Doc. 27 at 17.)

         II. ...


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