United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
DONNA MAHL ROMBACH, ET AL.
JOE CULPEPPER, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
Chief of Police Joe Culpepper, Warden Scott Adams, and Mayor
Wendy O'Quin Perrette have filed a motion for summary
judgment. Rec. Doc. 29. Plaintiff timely filed an opposition.
Rec. Doc. 45. Defendants then sought, and were granted, leave
to file a reply. Rec. Doc. 50. For the reasons discussed
below, IT IS ORDERED that the motion (Rec.
Doc. 29) is GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
case arises out of Gregory Rombach's death while in
custody at the Bogalusa City Jail on July 9, 2015.
See Rec. Doc. 3 ¶ 4. At 1:52 a.m. on Monday,
July 6, 2015, Mr. Rombach was arrested for shoplifting from a
Walmart. See Rec. Doc. 29-6. During
booking, the police learned that there was a warrant for Mr.
Rombach's arrest for failure to appear. See id.;
Rec. Doc. 29-7. Mr. Rombach was subsequently arrested per the
warrant. See Rec. Docs. 29-6; 29-8. At 2:55
a.m. on July 6, 2015, Mr. Rombach filled out a medical form,
indicating that he had no medical conditions other than an
allergy to penicillin. See Rec. Doc. 29-9 at 1-2. In
the afternoon of July 6, 2015, Mr. Rombach was sentenced for
failure to appear to fifteen days in custody or a $250.00
fine. See Rec. Doc. 29-10. Mr. Rombach's
arraignment for the shoplifting arrest was set for one week
later, on July 13, 2015. See Id. Mr. Rombach was
then returned to the custody of the Bogalusa City Jail.
Rombach made three telephone calls from jail before he passed
away. He first called his mother in the early hours of July
6, 2015, to tell her that he had been arrested and to ask
that she bail him out of jail. See Rec. Doc. 29-13
at 3-5. He called his parents again, likely on July 7, 2015,
when he spoke with his father. See Rec. Doc. 29-14
at 2. When asked how he was doing, Mr. Rombach responded,
“Not so good, Dad.” Id. Mr. Rombach also
called his brother, but the record does not indicate when
that call took place. See Rec. Doc. 29-15.
point after booking, Mr. Rombach told jail personnel that he
was withdrawing from heroin. See Rec. Docs. 29-2
¶¶ 10-11; 29-5 ¶¶ 6, 8. Scott Adams, the
warden of the jail, states in his affidavit that a nearby
hospital told him that “there is no real treatment of
withdrawal symptoms and it is sufficient for the jail to
observe the inmate in withdrawal and provide plenty of
hydration, aspirin, and malox-type products to assist the
inmate with the symptoms experienced in going through
withdrawal.” Rec. Doc. 29-5 ¶ 13. According to
Warden Adams, “Rombach requested and was given a small
dose of castor oil for relief of constipation.”
Id. ¶ 14. There is no other evidence in the
record of whether and how Mr. Rombach was treated for his
Adams' employees had similar understandings of what jail
policy required them do when an inmate was suffering from
withdrawal symptoms. Louis Clark, a jail employee, testified
in his deposition that inmates experiencing withdrawal
symptoms are given “Imodium for diarrhea[, ]”
“ibuprofen for pain, [and] muscle spasm, and Emetrol
[for] . . . nausea.” Rec. Doc. 45-7 at 2. Lisa Erwin,
another jail employee, echoed Clark's testimony in her
own deposition when she testified that “[t]he only
thing [the jail] give[s] [inmates] now is Emetrol, Imodium,
and ibuprofen.” Rec. Doc. 45-5 at 3. Erwin went on to
explain that she didn't have “any protocols”
for inmates going through withdrawal, but agreed with Warden
Adams that the nearby hospital had recommended treatment with
over-the-counter medications. See Id. Erwin did not
know if the hospital had told the jail how to know when an
inmate's withdrawal symptoms are severe enough to warrant
professional medical attention. See id.
point after informing jail personnel that he was in
withdrawal, Mr. Rombach was moved to a private padded cell.
See Rec. Doc. 29-2 ¶ 14. Jail personnel said
that the move was “because [Mr. Rombach] was being
disruptive” and so jail personnel wanted to
“observe [Mr. Rombach] better.” Id. Jail
personnel state that when questioned about his symptoms while
in the private padded cell, Mr. Rombach “said he was
fine and requested to go back to his cell [;]” a
request that was accommodated. See Rec. Doc. 29-5
¶ 11. Christopher Flot, an inmate who was in the jail at
the same time as Mr. Rombach, states that Mr. Rombach
“was placed in a private cell after he repeatedly
called for medical attention.” Rec. Doc. 45-3 at 1. Mr.
Flot states that Mr. Rombach was moved to the private cell on
Mr. Rombach's second day of incarceration, which was
likely July 7, 2015. See id.
Flot's declaration provides other details about Mr.
Rombach's time in jail. According to Mr. Flot, Mr.
Rombach was assigned to the cell next to his, where the
inmates were confined from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. every day.
See Rec. Doc. 45-3 at 1. Both Mr. Flot and Mr.
Rombach had access to the same day room when not confined to
their cells. See Id. Mr. Flot states that Mr.
Rombach ate “very little food, which he vomited
up.” Id. Mr. Flot heard Mr. Rombach “ask
to be taken to a hospital for medical attention.”
Id. at 2. According to Mr. Flot, a prison employee
who heard Mr. Rombach's request said that Mr. Rombach
could not go to the hospital. See Id. Mr. Flot also
states in his declaration that he “personally told Mr.
Otis, Mr. Lewis, [and] Ms. Knight that [Mr. Rombach] did not
feel well, was not eating and was vomiting, and [that Mr.
Rombach] needed a doctor.” Id. Mr. Flot also
declares that the jail employees “did not make regular
inspections of the cells when [the inmates] were on lockdown
at night.” Id. at 2-3.
inmate was also aware that Mr. Rombach was not feeling
well. Chadwick Hart, who either shared a cell
with Mr. Rombach or Mr. Flot the night that Mr. Rombach
passed away, told Detective David Miller that Mr. Rombach was
throwing up at 11:00 p.m. on July 8, 2015, and that Mr.
Rombach continued to throw up throughout the night.
See Rec. Doc. 45-2. These statements are consistent
with the prison report of Mr. Rombach's death. See
Id. When Detective Miller arrived at Mr. Rombach's
cell on July 9, 2015 to investigate Mr. Rombach's death
earlier that day, he saw vomit in the toilet in the cell.
See Id. An autopsy was subsequently conducted; the
cause of death was a “perforated duodenal ulcer with
peritonitis.” See Rec. Doc. 29-11 at 2. The
autopsy also revealed that Mr. Rombach had amphetamine,
methamphetamine, and opiates in his system when he died.
See Id. at 3.
January 2016, Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit.
See Rec. Docs. 1; 3. There are two distinct sets of
defendants. All defendants have been sued in their individual
and official capacities. See Rec. Doc. 3 ¶ 3.
One set is a group of John and Jane Does, who are described
as employees of “the Bogalusa Police Department and/or
of the City of Bogalusa and its jail.” See Id.
¶ 3(d). The Amended Complaint alleges that these unnamed
defendants are liable to Plaintiffs under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to
the United States Constitution by denying Mr. Rombach
necessary medical care, which resulted in his death. See
Id. ¶¶ 21, 23. The Amended Complaint also
alleges that these unnamed defendants are liable to
Plaintiffs under Louisiana Civil Code Articles 2315, 2315.1,
and 2316 for causing Mr. Rombach's death. See
Id. ¶¶ 22-23.
other set of Defendants is a group of three named
individuals: Joe Culpepper, the Chief of Police in Bogalusa;
Scott Adams, the Warden of the Bogalusa City Jail; and Wendy
O'Quin Perrette, the Mayor of the Bogalusa. See
Id. ¶ 3(a)-(c). The Amended Complaint alleges that
the named defendants are liable to Plaintiffs for
facilitating Mr. Rombach's death through negligent hiring
and training and failure to develop appropriate policies for
inmates with medical needs. Id. ¶ 24(a)-(d).
These allegations also appear to state a claim for municipal
liability under the doctrine established by the United States
Supreme Court in Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The Amended Complaint also
alleges that that the named defendants are liable for the
actions of the unnamed defendants “under the principle
of respondeat superior.” Rec. Doc. 3 ¶ 24(e).
named defendants then moved for summary judgment.
See Rec. Doc. 29. Later that same day, Plaintiffs
filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint that
properly names the John and Jane Doe defendants. See
Rec. Doc. 30. The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge
Wilkinson, who denied the motion without prejudice.
See Rec. Doc. 42. Plaintiffs then filed a motion to
continue trial, with the intention of reurging their motion
for leave to file an amended complaint if a continuance was
granted. See Rec. Doc. 43. The motion to continue
trial was granted and Plaintiffs were given one week to file
another motion for leave to file an amended complaint.
See Rec. Doc. 51. Because the proposed Amended
Complaint does to affect Plaintiffs' claims against the
originally-named defendants, the instant motion for summary
judgment is still before the Court.