United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
W. DEGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(1) and FRCP
12(b)(6) (Doc. 44) filed by Defendants James LeBlanc,
Darrell Vannoy, Stephanie Lamartiniere, Leslie Dupont, Dr.
Randy Lavespere, and Nurse Betty Taplin (LeBlanc, Vannoy,
Lamartiniere, and Dupont are collectively the “Warden
Defendants”; Dr. Lavespere and Taplin are collectively
the “Medical Defendants”; and all defendants are
collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff William
Henderson opposes the motion. (Doc. 37.) Neither Defendants
nor Plaintiff filed a reply. Oral argument is not necessary.
The Court has carefully considered the law, the allegations
in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc.
44), and the arguments and submissions of the parties and is
prepared to rule.
following reasons, the Court will grant the Defendants'
motion in part and deny it in part. Plaintiff's claims
for prospective injunctive relief against the Defendants in
their official capacity are not barred by the Eleventh
Amendment. However, all of Plaintiff's claims for damages
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, except those against Nurse
Taplin, are dismissed for failure to state a viable claim.
Plaintiff's claims against the Warden Defendants will be
dismissed with prejudice, as further amendment would be
futile. Plaintiff's claims against Dr. Lavespere are
dismissed without prejudice, and Plaintiff is given
twenty-one (21) days in which to cure the deficiencies in
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 37),
if he can do so. If the deficiencies are not cured, these
claims will be dismissed with prejudice.
Relevant Factual Background
A. The Parties
is an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary
(“LSP”). (Doc. 37 at 1.) This suit involves the
Defendants' alleged failure to ensure that the Plaintiff
receive his HIV medication timely and consistently.
James LeBlanc is the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of
Public Safety and Corrections (“DPSC”). According
to Plaintiff, LeBlanc (1) is “responsible for the
functioning and control of all programs within the”
DPSC, (2) “creates the rules and regulations that
govern the inner workings of [DPSC]”, and (3) “is
tasked with creating policies that ensure the basic medical
needs of [DPSC] offenders are met and that there is an
internal system to readily address offender grievances in a
timely fashion”. (Doc. 37 at 3-4.)
Darrel Vannoy is LSP's Warden. (Doc. 37 at 4-5.)
Plaintiff alleges that Vannoy is the “final policy and
decision maker of LSP and . . . is tasked with ensuring
offenders at LSP receive adequate medical care.” (Doc.
37 at 5.) Vannoy (1) “is . . . in charge of hiring and
contracting with medical professionals tasked to treat
offenders with serious medical conditions, such as HIV[,
]” and (2) is also “responsible for reviewing any
administrative grievance [(“ARP”)] and
implementing curative remedies to serious grievances, such as
inadequate medical care.” (Doc. 37 at 5.)
Stephanie Lamartiniere is the assistant warden of health
services at LSP. (Doc. 37 at 5.) She “is charged with
overseeing offender medical treatment at LSP, which includes
the treatment of offenders diagnosed with HIV.” (Doc.
37 at 5.)
Leslie Dupont is a deputy warden. (Doc. 37 at 6.) Dupont
“is the unit head and tasked with reviewing responses
to ARPs.” (Doc. 37 at 6.)
the Medical Defendants, Nurse Betty Taplin “is the
senior nurse in charge of HIV positive offenders at”
LSP. (Doc. 37 at 7.) Dr. Randy Lavespere is the
“medical director of the R.E. Barrow Treatment
Center” at LSP and “has the responsibility to
ensure all doctors provide adequate care to offenders,
including HIV positive offenders” like the Plaintiff.
(Doc. 37 at 7.)
was raped a number of times at the Terrebonne Parish Jail.
(Doc. 37 at 1.) As a result, he contracted HIV. (Doc. 37 at
1.) Plaintiff was subsequently convicted of second degree
murder and sentenced to life without parole. (Doc. 37 at 1.)
December 10, 2012, Plaintiff came to LSP. (Doc. 37 at 8.)
That day, he asked to be tested for HIV. (Doc. 37 at 8.)
months later, Plaintiff was tested. (Doc. 37 at 8.) One month
later, Plaintiff was found to be HIV positive. (Doc. 37 at
8.) “It was further determined that Plaintiff was in
immediate need of medications due to the fact that his
‘T-Cell Count' was almost low enough to officially
diagnose Plaintiff with AIDS.” (Doc. 37 at 8.)
mid-2013, Plaintiff began receiving four different types of
medication” for his HIV. (Doc. 37 at 9.) Plaintiff was
supposed to receive two medications once a day and two
medications twice a day. (Doc. 37 at 9.) Three months later,
Plaintiff was scheduled to see a specialist via TeleMed.
(Doc. 37 at 9.)
the first TeleMed appointment, a doctor told the Plaintiff
“(for the first time) that Plaintiff should receive and
take his medications twice daily and once daily, depending on
the prescription.” (Doc. 37 at 9.) According to
Plaintiff, “Nurse Betty was present[, ] and the
specialist informed her that she should not dispense
Plaintiff's medications all at once. This conversation
was recorded.” (Doc. 37 at 9.) Plaintiff also alleges:
“The TeleMed specialist explained to [him] that if he
did not consistently take his medications for the rest of his
life, Plaintiff would suffer an agonizing deterioration of
his immune system which would make him susceptible to rare
cancers and impair his immune system, making him susceptible
to an early death.” (Doc. 37 at 9.) The TeleMed
specialist also said that “inconsistent dispensation of
antiretroviral HIV medication leads to viral resistance which
compromises Plaintiff's ability to stave off full-blown
AIDS.” (Doc. 37 at 10.)
2014, Plaintiff was not given any of his medicines
“anywhere from three to six times per month[.]”
(Doc. 37 at 10.) “At one point, Plaintiff did not
receive any medications for nearly two and a half
weeks.” (Doc. 37 at 10.)
mid-2014, Plaintiff filed his first ARP against LSP
“for failing to consistently provide [him] with his
antiretroviral medications.” (Doc. 37 at 10.) LSP
eventually changed Plaintiff's medications “to a
different ‘class group' (three pills once a day) as
his initial antiretroviral medications failed because of
inconsistent dosing.” (Doc. 37 at 10.)
2015, Plaintiff was transferred to a different part of the
prison. (Doc. 37 at 10.) “It took approximately one
week for his medications to arrive at Main Prison.”
(Doc. 37 at 10.)
2015, Plaintiff was returned to the last part of the prison.
(Doc. 37 at 11.) “In late November through December,
Plaintiff was again denied his medications for numerous days
in a row.” (Doc. 37 at 11.)
to Plaintiff, “Plaintiff continues to receive
inconsistent doses of his antiretroviral medications. As
recently as August 25, 2016, Plaintiff failed to receive the
necessary daily doses of his life-sustaining
medications.” (Doc. 37 at 11.)
claims are broadly divided into two categories. As to the
Warden Defendants, Plaintiff's claims mainly relate to
their handling of his ARPs. Plaintiff's allegations
against the Medical Defendants focus on their allegedly
improper provision of care. The specific allegations against
each defendant will be set forth below.
Rule 12(b)(6) Standard
Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 135 S.Ct. 346
(2014), the Supreme Court explained: “Federal pleading
rules call for a ‘short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, '
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); they do not countenance dismissal of a
complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory
supporting the claim asserted.” Id., 135 S.Ct.
at 346-47 (citation omitted).
Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Fifth
Circuit has explained:
The complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual
matter (taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or
expectation (4) that discovery will reveal relevant evidence
of each element of a claim. “Asking for [such]
plausible grounds to infer [the element of a claim] does
not impose a probability requirement at the pleading
stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal [that the elements of
the claim existed].”
Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257
(5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965
the above case law, the Western District of Louisiana has
Therefore, while the court is not to give the
“assumption of truth” to conclusions, factual
allegations remain so entitled. Once those factual
allegations are identified, drawing on the court's
judicial experience and common sense, the analysis is whether
those facts, which need not be detailed or specific, allow
“the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
[Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1949 (2009)]; Twombly, 55 U.S. at 556. This
analysis is not substantively different from that set forth
in Lormand, supra, nor does this jurisprudence
foreclose the option that discovery must be undertaken in
order to raise relevant information to support an element of
the claim. The standard, under the specific language of
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), remains that the defendant be given
adequate notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it is
based. The standard is met by the “reasonable
inference” the court must make that, with or without
discovery, the facts set forth a plausible claim for relief
under a particular theory of law provided that there is a
“reasonable expectation” that “discovery
will reveal relevant evidence of each element of the
claim.” Lormand, 565 F.3d at 257;
Twombly, 55 U.S. at 556.
Diamond Servs. Corp. v. Oceanografia, S.A. De C.V.,
No. 10-00177, 2011 WL 938785, at *3 (W.D. La. Feb. 9, 2011)
Fifth Circuit further explained that all well-pleaded facts
are taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Thompson v. City of Waco, Tex., 764
F.3d 500, 502-03 (5th Cir. 2014). The task of the Court is
not to decide if the plaintiff will eventually be successful,
but to determine if a “legally cognizable claim”
has been asserted.” Id. at 503.
Defendants seek dismissal of all claims for monetary damages
against the Defendants in their official capacity as barred
by the Eleventh Amendment. Defendants assert that the most
recent complaint “again does not specify whether
[Plaintiff] is seeking damages against each defendant in
their personal or official capacities[, ]” so,
“[o]ut of an abundance of caution, ” Defendants
request dismissal on Eleventh Amendment grounds.
responds that he “seeks declaratory and injunctive
relief to ensure he will receive his life-sustaining
medication without interruption for the duration of his
incarceration. For his claim of declaratory and injunctive
relief, he sues the defendants in their official capacities,
which is not precluded by the Eleventh Amendment.”
(Doc. 46 at 3.)
Court agrees with Plaintiff. “The Eleventh Amendment
bars claims against a state brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983.” Aguilar v. Texas Dep't of
Criminal Justice, 160 F.3d 1052, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998)
(citing Farias v. Bexar Cty. Bd. of Trustees for Mental
Health Mental Retardation Servs., 925 F.2d 866, 875 n. 9
(5th Cir. 1991)). “Section 1983 does not waive the
states' sovereign immunity[.]” Id. (citing
Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 338 n. 7, 99 S.Ct.
1139, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979)).
“[i]n Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct.
441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908), the Supreme Court carved out an
exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity.”
Aguilar, 160 F.3d at 1054. “The [Ex Parte
Young] Court held that enforcement of an
unconstitutional law is not an official act because a state
can not confer authority on its officers to violate the
Constitution or federal law.” Id. (citing
American Bank & Trust Co. of Opelousas v. Dent,
982 F.2d 917, 920-21 (5th Cir. 1993)). “To meet the
Ex Parte Young exception, a plaintiff's suit
alleging a violation of federal law must be brought against
individual persons in their official capacities as agents of
the state, and the relief sought must be declaratory or
injunctive in nature and prospective in effect.”
Id. (citing Saltz v. Tenn. Dep't of
Emp't Sec., 976 F.2d 966, 968 (5th Cir. 1992)).
Plaintiff satisfies the Ex Parte Young exception. In
his prayer, Plaintiff asks for “[a]n immediate order
for injunctive relief requiring all necessary personnel
within the Department of Corrections to ensure that Mr.
Henderson receives his daily dosages of life-sustaining
medications[.]” (Doc. 37 at 22.) Plaintiff also
acknowledges in his opposition that he sues the Defendants in
their official capacity for this injunctive relief. (Doc. 46
at 3.) Lastly, Plaintiff alleges that his problem is ongoing,
as the Second Amended Complaint states that
Plaintiff “continues to receive inconsistent doses of
his antiretroviral medications” and that, “[a]s
recently as August 25, 2016, Plaintiff failed to receive the
necessary daily doses of his life-sustaining
medications.” (Doc. 37 at 11.) Accordingly,
Defendants' motion to dismiss on Eleventh Amendment
grounds is denied.
Claims Against the Warden Defendants 1. Parties'
also seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for damages.
Defendants focus on two aspects of Plaintiff's claims
against the Warden Defendants: Plaintiff's ARP and the
Warden Defendants' role as supervisors.
the first, Defendants rely on Geiger v. Jowers, 404
F.3d 371, 374 (5th Cir. 2005), which, according to
Defendants, held that an inmate has no “federally
protected liberty interest in having . . . grievances
resolved to his satisfaction”, so there can be no due
process violation arising from an official's failure to
investigate a grievance. (Doc. 44-1 at 5 (quoting
Geiger, 404 F.3d at 374).) Defendants maintain:
In this instant matter, plaintiff's only claims against
defendant Stephanie Lamartiniere are that defendant
Lamartiniere responded to plaintiff's ARP grievance
stating in the response the reasons for her decision. In
addition, plaintiff's only claims against defendants,
Vannoy and Dupont, are that they also signed off or approved
the response provided by defendant Lamartiniere to the
plaintiff regarding his ARP grievance. Finally,
plaintiff's only claims against defendant James LeBlanc
relate to a second step response from his office related to
plaintiff's ARP grievance. According to the clear
jurisprudence from the ...