United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE HORNSBY
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE UNITED/STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Dr. William Mark
Haynes ("Haynes"), the Claiborne Parish Coroner.
[Record Document 24]. The parties have filed an opposition
and a reply, which have been considered by the undersigned.
[Record Documents 26 and 27]. For the reasons below, the
motion is GRANTED, and all claims against
Haynes are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
is the widow of Terrence Goudeau ("Goudeau"), a
former inmate at David Wade Correctional Center
("DWCC"). [Record Document 20 at 1, 3]. On July 12,
2016, Goudeau was found dead in his cell; Haynes then ordered
an autopsy. [Id. at 5, 9]. Plaintiff has alleged two
theories regarding Goudeau's death. First, in accordance
with the autopsy, she alleges that Goudeau hanged himself.
[Id.]. Alternately, she alleges that Goudeau's
death resulted from "foul play or criminal
violation" based on evidence of bruising on the body.
[Id. at 10].
the suicide theory, Plaintiff has alleged that DWCC employees
knew that Goudeau "had attempted and/or threatened to
commit suicide on prior occasions" and that they
breached the standard of care for suicidal inmates by placing
him a cell containing "hanging hazards."
[Id. at 5-6]. As his surviving spouse, Plaintiff
brings a wrongful death action, a survival action, and a 42
U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the State of Louisiana, the
Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, DWCC
(collectively, the "State Defendants"), Jerry
Goodwin, DWCC's warden ("Goodwin"), and an
unnamed insurance company and unnamed DWCC
employees. [Id. at 2, 7-8].
allegations against Haynes arise in the context of her
"foul play" theory. She alleges that Goodwin
instructed Haynes to send the body to a forensic pathologist
in Youngsville, Louisiana in contravention of Haynes's
usual policy of sending bodies from DWCC to Little Rock,
Arkansas for autopsy. [Id. at 9]. As a result, the
autopsy report was allegedly "misleading or highly
questionable . . . resulting on information and belief in a
spoliation of evidence in the cause of death of Terrence
Goudeau." [Id.]. Because Plaintiffs pleading
with regard to Haynes is not entirely clear, the Court
proceeds on the assumption that she has asserted a wrongful
death action, a survival action, a § 1983 claim, and a
tort claim arising from his duties as coroner. [Id.
Law and Analysis
Standard of Review
order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a
plaintiffs complaint must "state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face." BellAtl. Corp. v.
Twomblj, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Lmmbly, 550 U.S. at 556). In determining whether the
plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, the court must
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to her,
see In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC, 624
F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010), and accept as true all
well-pleaded factual allegations, see Lwombly, 550
U.S. at 555; In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig, 495
F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2009). However, "[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). Thus, the Court does not have to accept as true
"conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences,
or legal conclusions." Vlotkin v. IP Axess Inc,
407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing Southland Sec.
Corp. v. INSpire Ins. Sols, Inc., 365 F.3d 353, 361 (5th
Wrongful Death and Survival Actions
wrongful death action "embraces conduct that causes the
death of another, " while a survival action "comes
into existence simultaneously with the existence of the
tort." Walls v. Am. Optical Corp., 98-0455, pp.
14-15 (La. 9/8/99); 740 So.2d 1262, 1274 (first quoting
Taylor v. Giddens, 618 So.2d 834, 840 (La. 1993);
then quoting Callais v. Allstate Ins. Co., 334 So.2d
6982, 700 (La. 1975)). Because there is no allegation that
Haynes caused Goudeau's death and because Goudeau died
prior to Haynes's involvement in this matter, [Record
Document 20 at 5], to the extent that Plaintiff has alleged
either a wrongful death action or a survival action against
Haynes, she has failed to state a claim.
Section 1983 Claims
Section 1983 is violated only when a person deprives another
of a constitutional or statutory right under the color of
state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012); Am. Mfrs. Mut.
Ins. Co. v. Sullivan,526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999). Because
a deceased person lacks constitutional rights, Whitehurst
v. Wright,592 F.2d 834, 840 & n.9 (5th Or. 1979),
Haynes cannot have violated Goudeau's constitutional
rights. Plaintiff may also be alleging that Haynes, in his
capacity as coroner, violated her rights. However, as her