United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
HOSEY COLBERT, ET AL.
CITY OF BATON ROUGE PARISH OF EAST BATON ROUGE, ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 61) filed by
Defendants, Sid J. Gautreaux, III, Sheriff of East Baton
Rouge Parish ("Sheriff Gautreaux") and Dennis
Grimes, Warden of East Baton Rouge Parish Prison
("Warden Grimes"); the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 43)
filed by Defendants, City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton
Rouge ("EBR"), Prison Medical Services
("PMS"), and Rintha Simpson, Interim Director of
Prison Medical Services ("Director Simpson"); and
the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 56) filed by Defendants, Sargent
S. Grant ("Sargent Grant") and Sargent J. Cage
("Sargent Cage"). All Defendants seek the dismissal
of claims brought by Plaintiffs, Hosey Colbert and Shantita
Colbert ("Plaintiffs") under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
filed an Opposition to each Motion to Dismiss. (Docs. 58, 59,
63). Sheriff Gautreaux and Warden Grimes filed a Reply
Memorandum. (Doc. 70). Sargent Grant and Sargent Cage also
filed a Reply Memorandum. (Doc. 66). The Court has
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Oral argument is
following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss
(Doc. 61) filed by Sheriff Gautreaux and Warden Grimes is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
PART. The Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
43) filed by EBR, PMS, and Director Simpson is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
PART. The Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
56) filed by Sargent Grant and Sargent Cage is
Hosey Colbert and Shantita Colbert are the parents of Tyrin
Colbert ("Colbert"), their 17 year old son, who was
murdered by an inmate while incarcerated as a pretrial
detainee at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison
("EBRPP"). (Doc. 40 at p. 1). On January 12, 2017,
Plaintiffs brought suit against, inter alia, EBR,
which is the political entity responsible for funding
operations and maintenance of the prison; Sheriff Gautreaux,
who is responsible for running the prison; Warden Grimes, who
is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the prison;
PMS, which is the entity responsible for administering
healthcare to the inmates; Rintha Simpson, who is the Interim
Director of PMS; and "J. Does, " who are unknown
sheriffs deputies and PMS staff. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶
August 14, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a superseding First Amended
Complaint ("Complaint") adding additional claims
and Defendants in place of "J. Does." (Doc. 40).
The additional Defendants included Dr. Charles Bridges, who
is the EBRPP Medical Director; Dr. Robert Blanche, who is the
psychiatrist for the mental health program at EBRPP; as well
as, Sargent Grant and Sargent Cage, who are employees of the
East Baton Rouge Sheriffs Office. (Doc. 40 at ¶¶
allege that Defendants were, and continue to be, deliberately
indifferent to the serious medical and mental health needs of
prisoners in the EBRPP generally, and towards Colbert
individually, which resulted in Colbert's death.
(Id. at p. 1). Plaintiffs further allege that
Defendants' "explicit and de facto policies
and practices" violated Colbert's right to be free
from punishment without due process of law under the
Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id.
at p. 2). Plaintiffs bring § 1983 violations against all
Defendants all in their official capacities, and against
Sheriff Gautreaux, Warden Grimes, Sargent Grant, and Sargent
Cage in their individual capacities. (Doc. 40 at
¶¶ 88-111). Plaintiffs also allege
violations of state law. (Id. at ¶¶
Tyrin Colbert's Death
allege that on or about November 6, 2015, Colbert was
arrested at his school. (Doc. 40 at ¶ 13). On November
10, 2015, Colbert allegedly reported feeling suicidal and was
placed on suicide watch, where he was housed in Unit IFs M01
and N01 wings. (Id. at ¶ 16). Three days
later, Colbert reported hearing voices and having
hallucinations, and he communicated to Defendant PMS staff
that he needed help. (Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiffs
assert that on the same day, Defendant Dr. Blanche assessed
Colbert "through the bars of [Colbert's] cell,
" and determined that Colbert was neither suicidal nor
depressed and that he was manipulating prison staff.
(Id. at ¶ 19). Dr. Blanche then allegedly
ordered that the suicide watch be discontinued.
in November, an EBRPP deputy reportedly found Colbert rocking
back and forth, talking to the wall, and shaking in his cell
on the juvenile wing. (Id. at ¶ 22). Colbert
allegedly had not been sleeping, and Dr. Blanche reportedly
noted that Colbert "may be responding to internal
stimuli, " that he seemed "very anxious, " and
that he had an "imaginary friend." (Id. at
¶ 23). However, Dr. Blanche was purportedly unsure
whether Colbert was "psychotic" or
"malingering." (Id. at ¶ 23).
alleged instances, Dr. Blanche allegedly conducted his
assessments "through the bars of [Colbert's]
cell." (Id. at ¶¶ 22-25). Plaintiffs
assert that Dr. Blanche prescribed Colbert a number of
psychotropic medications, such as "Ativan and
Haldol. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24). On
November 25, 2015, Colbert reported to PMS staff that he had
been sexually assaulted by another prisoner. (Id. at
December 6, 2015, Plaintiffs claim that while Colbert was
housed in Unit II's M01 cellblock, an EBRPP deputy
observed Colbert put his arm into the cell and "then
[he] started screaming and struggling to pull his arm out of
the cell." (Id. at ¶ 28). Allegedly, an
x-ray two days later revealed that Colbert's forearm was
broken, and three days later, on December 11, 2015, Colbert
was transported to the hospital. (Id. at ¶ 28).
The hospital purportedly required Colbert to follow up with
the physician within 2-3 weeks, but no follow up appointment
was made and Colbert "never saw the [physician]
again." (Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiffs assert
that Colbert was not transported to any "scheduled
medical call outs" within EBRPP that occurred on
December 14 and 28, 2015, and January 4, 6, and 11, 2016.
(Id. at ¶ 31).
January 23, 2017, Colbert allegedly expressed to an EBRPP
deputy that he wanted to kill himself, prompting the deputy
to bring Colbert to PMS staff. (Id. at ¶ 33).
Plaintiffs claim that when Defendant PMS staff spoke with
Colbert, he "stared" and did not respond, prompting
PMS to strip Colbert of his clothes, handcuff and shackle
him, and place him in a paper gown, at which point Colbert
purportedly "threw himself to the floor and bloodied his
mouth" causing him to be "placed on lockdown."
(Id. at ¶ 33).
January 28, 2017, after Colbert was taken off suicide watch,
the EBRPP security staff placed Colbert in a two-person cell
on the juvenile wing with another 17 year old male,
Kermitious Thomas ("Thomas"). (Id. at
¶ 35-36). Plaintiffs allege that on February 17, 2016,
Thomas murdered Colbert, and was later convicted of the
murder. (Id. at ¶¶ 37-38). According to
Plaintiffs, no EBRPP security staff was assigned to monitor
the juvenile wing on February 17, 2016, and Defendants
Sargent Grant and Sargent Cage did not ensure that the wing
was adequately monitored. (Id. at ¶ 41).
Plaintiffs further assert that other detainees on the unit
with Colbert and Thomas heard the two "fighting and
yelling, " and that Colbert yelled 'Tm sorry"
and "I give up." (Id. at ¶ 42). When
EBRPP staff checked on Colbert, he was found unresponsive,
face down, with a blanket around his neck. (Id. at
¶ 43). Colbert was transported to a hospital and died
the next day. (Id.).
Medical and Mental Health Care at the EBRPP
EBR contracted with Health Management Associates
("HMA") "to provide an assessment of the
clinical operations and medical services being provided by
the City Parish at the [EBRPP]." (Doc. 40 at ¶ 45).
According to Plaintiffs, the authors of the HMA study
interviewed Baton Rouge officials, including Defendants
Director Simpson, Warden Grimes, Dr. Blanche, and Dr.
Bridges. (Id. at ¶ 46). The site visit and tour
of EBRPP and interviews took place in February of 2016, and
the findings and recommendations were presented publicly to
the Metro Council on June 8, 2016. (Id. at ¶
found that Defendant EBR underfunds the medical, mental
health, and dental care program at the EBRPP. (Id.
at ¶ 47). HMA recommended that, given the average daily
population of prisoners in the EBRPP, the budget should be
doubled- from the current $5 million a year to almost $10
million. (Id. at ¶ 47). Additionally, HMA found
that the EBRPP "is not adequately staffed by health care
providers to address the health care needs of the population
detained at the facility." (Id. at ¶ 48).
HMA further found, inter alia, that the two
infirmary rooms were "infirmaries' in name
only" as they were inadequate and not within sightlines,
inmates were required to make multiple delayed requests for
health care, M01 and N01 provided a "woefully inadequate
physical environment for the most unstable mentally ill"
in the prison, and there "is no [mental health]
programming done at" EBRPP ... "due to inadequate
staffing and lack of available group rooms."
(Id. at ¶¶ 50, 52, 54, 58).
Systems and Policies at the EBRPP
aver that as a result of both "explicit and de
facto policies and practices" that allow suicidal
and mentally ill prisoners to be housed in solitary
confinement, such policies not only denies necessary
treatment, but they also exacerbate the prisoners'
condition and causes unnecessary pain and suffering;
especially for adolescents like Colbert. (Doc. 40 at ¶
to Plaintiffs, the failures of all Defendants are well known
and consistent with a pattern and practice. (Id. at
¶ 80). Plaintiffs' Complaint included the following
a. Since 2013, at least four people died at the jail due to
inadequate medical and mental health care;
b. In February of 2015, Defendant GRIMES publically
acknowledged that cell doors in the EBRPP do not open and
shut due to rust, the layout of the prison makes it difficult
to monitor prisoners, ' and overpopulation requires
sending hundreds of prisoners to other parishes;
c. In October of 2015, a Baton Rouge elected official
complained of a study into the medical care at EBRPP, noting
that "the council already knows about numerous
problems" including understaffing, medical equipment
shortages, and insufficient compensation for medical
d. Also in October of 2015, Defendant GAUTREAUX was cited as
requesting a new jail "for years" and that
"officials long ago identified the problem: a
dilapidated facility that is ill-equipped to hold mentally
ill who are booked";
e. In February 2016, Defendant GAUTREAUX's spokesperson
was reported to acknowledge that Tyrin's death proves
that EBRPP is not safe for either EBRPP deputies or inmates.
Casey Rayborn Hicks noted that Defendant GAUTREAUX
"proposed in a new facility a layout that has more
visibility for deputies [and] surveillance cameras."
(Doc. 40 at ¶ 80). Additionally, Plaintiffs'
Complaint cites to media reports concerning the reported
significant decline in the quality of health care at the
EBRPP, and to instances where Sheriff Gautreaux and Warden
Grimes advocated for a new jail to address problems
previously discussed. (Id. at ¶ 82). II. LEGAL
STANDARD A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set
forth in Rule 8, which requires "a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face."' Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Ml
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
"Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief [is] ... a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense." Ashcroft, 556
U.S. at 679.
plausibility" exists "when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). Hence, the complaint need not set out
"detailed factual allegations, " but something
"more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action" is
required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. When conducting
its inquiry, the Court "accepts all well-pleaded facts
as true and views those facts in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff." Bustos v. Martini Club Inc.,
599 F.3d 458, 461 (5th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiffs' § 1983 Official Capacity Claims
Law - Monell Liability
municipalities [and government officials] cannot be held
liable under section 1983 by virtue of the doctrine of
respondeat superior, they are subject to such liability where
official custom or policy is involved in the injury."
O'Quinn v. Manuel, 773 F.2d 605, 608 (5th Cir.
1985) (citing City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471
U.S. 808, 817 (1985)); see also Monell v. Dep't. of
Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691-94
(1978). Specifically, municipal liability under § 1983
"requires proof of three elements: a policymaker; an
official policy; and a violation of constitutional rights
whose moving force is the policy or custom."
Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 578
(5th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). The
policymaker must have actual or constructive knowledge of the
official policy or custom. Pineda v. City of
Houston, 291 F.3d 325, 328 (5th Cir. 2002). The Court of
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held:
Actual knowledge may be shown by such means as discussions at
council meetings or receipt of written information.
Constructive knowledge may be attributed to the governing
body on the ground that it would have known of the violations
if it had properly exercised its responsibilities, as, for
example, where the violations were so persistent and