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Wilson v. Grimes

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 31, 2017

CORNELIUS LORENZO WILSON
v.
DENNIS GRIMES, ET AL.

          RULING

          JAMES J. BRADY JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Misjoinder or, in the Alternative, to Sever and Transfer Claims to the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division filed on behalf of Defendants, Jackson Correctional Center, LLC, LaSalle Corrections, LLC, and Timothy Ducote (“Jackson Parish Defendants”).[1] Plaintiff, Cornelius Wilson, has filed an Opposition[2] to which the Jackson Parish Defendants have filed a Reply.[3] Also before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Misjoinder, or, in the Alternative, to Sever and Transfer Claims to the Western District of Louisiana, Lake Charles Division filed by Defendant, The GEO Group, Inc.[4] Plaintiff opposes the Motion.[5] The Court's jurisdiction exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Oral argument is not necessary. For the following reasons, the Defendants' Motions shall be granted.

         I. Brief Factual and Procedural History

         During his incarceration as both a pretrial detainee within the custody of East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (EBRPP) and as a convicted inmate with the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) at numerous public and private facilities, Wilson claims that he received inadequate medical care for untreated and undiagnosed throat cancer that has resulted in the loss of his vocal chords and ongoing pain and suffering. In his original Pro Se Complaint[6] and First Amended Complaint, [7] filed by counsel, Wilson asserted various federal and state law claims against fourteen defendants, including individuals and entities associated with Jackson Parish Correctional Center in Jonesboro, Louisiana, and Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, Louisiana, arising out his medical treatment.

         From February of 2015 until October of 2015, Plaintiff claims that he made repeated complaints to various individuals at EBRPP about his sore throat, but he was only treated by the medical staff with antibiotics, expectorants, and steroids.[8] Plaintiff claims that his condition did not improve, and EBRPP's medical staff and personnel should have referred to him to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist or to a facility that could examine his vocal chords with a scope.[9] On or about October 9, 2015, Wilson claims that an employee of EBRPP and/or Prison Medical Services scheduled a TeleMed appointment for him with an ENT physician at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital on October 28, 2015.[10] Although the TeleMed appointment proceeded as planned, the video did not work for the examination.[11] At that time it was determined that another appointment needed to be scheduled where Plaintiff's vocal chords could be examined in person using a scope.[12] Immediately following his October 28, 2015 appointment, the Louisiana Department of Corrections (“DOC”) transferred Plaintiff from EBRPP to Jackson Parish Correctional Center (“JPCC”).[13]

         During the month Plaintiff was incarcerated at JPCC, Plaintiff claims to have “complained through appropriate avenues at JPCC about the ongoing and worsening condition of his throat and voice.”[14] Plaintiff also claims that his medical file should have contained information about his need to have his vocal chords examined by a scope. And yet, despite their knowledge of Wilson's ongoing discomfort, the medical staff and personnel of LaSalle Corrections, LLC (LaSalle) and Jackson Correctional Center, LLC (JCC)--two private companies allegedly contracted by the DOC to manage and operate the JPCC--never evaluated Wilson's vocal chords or scheduled an appointment for Wilson to have his vocal chords evaluated by “an appropriate physician with access to a scope.”[15] On or about November 23, 2015, the DOC transferred Plaintiff from JPCC to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center (“Elayn Hunt”).[16]

         While at Elayn Hunt, Plaintiff claims that he complained about the worsening condition of his throat and voice through appropriate avenues, and on one occasion, he showed Elayn Hunt personnel blood that he had coughed up on a tissue.[17] Although Plaintiff's medical condition was known and in his medical files, and his discomfort was apparent, Elayn Hunt medical staff never evaluated Wilson's vocal chords and never arranged for him to be taken to a facility where his vocal chords could have been examined by scope.[18] On or about December 28, 2015, the DOC transferred Wilson from Elayn Hunt to Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, Louisiana.[19]

         While at Allen Correctional Center, Plaintiff alleges that he complained through the appropriate channels about the worsening condition of his throat and voice.[20] Although the medical staff had Plaintiff's medical file and knew of his discomfort, Allen Correctional Center medical staff never evaluated Wilson's vocal chords.[21] The medical staff of Allen Correctional Center did arrange for Plaintiff to see a physician at University Hospital. On February 29, 2016, Dr. Rachel Barry, an otolaryngologist, conducted a laryngoscopic examination of Wilson's vocal chords and discovered a large tumor on his left false vocal cord.[22] After additional testing, including a biopsy, it was determined that Wilson had squamacell carcinoma cancer.[23] On March 31, 2016, doctors performed a total laryngectomy with bilateral neck dissections.[24]

         Wilson returned to Allen Correctional Center on April 11, 2016.[25] He claims that despite repeated requests, medical staff did not supply Wilson with necessary medical equipment to remove the excess mucus and liquid from the stoma on his throat.[26]

         Subsequently, the DOC transferred Wilson to Elayn Hunt so he could undergo six weeks of radiation treatment in Baton Rouge.[27] While at Elayn Hunt, Plaintiff claims that he requested a smaller laryngectomy tube but medical staff refused to provide one.[28] Wilson also claims that, in spite of his complaints, Elayn Hunt's staff continued to use a van without air conditioning to transport him to his radiation treatments, which exposed him to vehicular exhaust and extreme summer heat causing him significant and unnecessary pain and discomfort.[29] On July 19, 2016, Wilson concluded his radiation treatment.[30]

         As a result of the flooding in the Baton Rouge area, Wilson was transferred to Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) in September of 2016.[31] He claims that LSP does not have the required equipment to drain and suction his stoma, and that he has not received any physical or speech therapy as prescribed by his treating physicians.[32]

         On October 14, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Pro Se Complaint against the EBRPP Defendants[33] asserting Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims to his medical needs, and state law claims of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[34]Almost one year later, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed a First Amended Complaint adding several new Defendants, including the Warden of JPCC, Timothy Ducote (Ducote), and the management entities contracted by the DOC to operate the JPCC- LaSalle Corrections, LLC, and Jackson Correctional Center, LLC. Wilson also added The Geo Group, Inc. (Geo) as a Defendant because it is a private company contracted by the DOC to manage the operations of the Allen Correctional Center.[35] Wilson reasserted his original Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims, but also asserted failure to supervise/train[36] claims against certain Defendants, including Ducote, and Monell[37] claims based on the Eighth Amendment against certain Defendants, including JCC, LaSalle, and Geo.[38]

         The Jackson Parish Defendants and Geo move for the dismissal of Plaintiff's claims on the grounds of misjoinder. In the alternative, the Defendants request that the Court sever and transfer the claims against them to the appropriate Federal District Court in the Western District of Louisiana.[39]

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

Under Rule 20(a)(2), permissive joinder of defendants is proper if:
(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.

         In other words, “Rule 20 requires that all of the [plaintiff's] claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence and there is a common issue of fact or law.”[40] However, “[i]n the absence of a connection between Defendants' alleged misconduct, the mere allegation that plaintiff was injured by all defendants is not sufficient [by itself] to join unrelated parties as defendants in the same lawsuit pursuant to Rule 20(a).”[41]

         In the event of misjoinder, the court may sever the claims against the misjoined party pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 21.

Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides the following:
Misjoinder of parties is not a ground for dismissing an action. On motion or on its own, the court may at any time, or just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against any party.

         As set forth in Rule 21, to remedy improperly joined parties, the court should not dismiss the action outright. However, the Court “may, at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party.”[42]

         Additionally, in the context of prisoner-litigation, “[r]equiring parties to assert unrelated claims against different defendants in separate complaints avoids unduly cumbersome litigation, and … ensures that prisoners pay the fees required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §1915(g) for each suit.”[43]

         In this case, Plaintiff argues that joinder is proper because each of his claims against each of the Defendants arise “out of the same occurrence” and “arise from the same set of operative facts.”[44] Specifically, that Wilson complained of the exact same symptoms and asked for the same remedy at each facility and was met with the same response-inaction or denial of his request. Therefore, each of the ...


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