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Newsome-Goudeau v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 10, 2018





         This matter arises from the custodial death by apparent suicide of Plaintiff's husband, Terrence Goudeau (“Goudeau”). Before the Court is a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction filed by the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (the “DOC”), and David Wade Correctional Center (“DWCC”) (collectively, the “State Defendants”). [Record Document 28]. Jerry Goodwin (“Goodwin”), DWCC's warden, has filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. [Record Document 30]. Because this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against the State Defendants, it SEVERS those claims and REMANDS them to the state court; the motion to dismiss [Record Document 28] is DENIED AS MOOT. Goodwin's motion [Record Document 30] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Goodwin's motion is GRANTED on Plaintiff's claims against Goodwin in his official capacity and her claims that he was subjectively deliberately indifferent in light of actual knowledge of Goudeau's condition, but DENIED on her state-law tort claims and her 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim that Goodwin created a constitutionally insufficient suicide prevention policy.

         I. Background

         Goudeau was found dead in his cell at DWCC on June 12, 2016. [Record Document 20 at 5]. 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 Goudeau's surviving spouse, Plaintiff brings a wrongful death action, a survival action, and a § 1983 claim against the State Defendants, Goodwin, unnamed DWCC employees, and an unnamed insurance company. [Id. at 2, 7-8]. Plaintiff also alleges an alternative theory that “foul play or criminal violation” caused Goudeau's death because his body was allegedly bruised when delivered to the undertaker. [Id. at 10].

         Plaintiff filed suit in Louisiana's Second Judicial District. [Record Document 1-1 at 2]. One of the original defendants, Dr. William Mark Haynes (“Haynes”), removed the action. [Record Document 1]. The Court previously granted Haynes's motion to dismiss. [Record Documents 24 and 38].

         II. Claims Against the State Defendants

         A. Standard of Review

         Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to assert that a plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed for a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). If a court lacks either statutory or constitutional authority to hear a case, dismissal is proper under this rule. Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187 (2d Cir. 1996)). When evaluating subject-matter jurisdiction, courts are to accept the veracity of the facts and accusations set forth in a complaint. Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir. 1980).

         B. Sovereign Immunity

         The State Defendants argue that state sovereign immunity requires their dismissal. [Record Document 28 at 1]. Plaintiff's opposition fails to address sovereign immunity, which the State Defendants re-urge in their reply memorandum. [Record Documents 37 and 40].

         The Eleventh Amendment bars suits in federal court against a state unless that state has consented or Congress has validly abrogated state sovereign immunity. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-99 (1984). Louisiana has not waived its sovereign immunity from suit in federal court, and § 1983 does not abrogate state sovereign immunity. See La. Stat. Ann. § 13:5106(A) (2012); Champagne v. Jefferson Par. Sheriff's Off., 188 F.3d 312, 314 (5th Cir. 1999). (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979)). Therefore, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim against the state of Louisiana.

         Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state agencies. Richardson v. S. Univ., 118 F.3d 450, 452-53 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Delahoussaye v. City of New Iberia, 937 F.2d 144, 146 (5th Cir. 1991)). Although Plaintiff has named the “Department of Public Safety and Corrections Wade Correctional Center” as a defendant, the DOC operates DWCC, but is not coextensive with it. As an arm of the state, the DOC is immune from suit in federal court. Champagne, 188 F.3d at 314. Because a “suit against any state correctional center would be a suit against the state, ” this Court also lacks jurisdiction over claims against DWCC. Citrano v. Allen Corr. Ctr., 891 F.Supp. 312, 320 (W.D. La. 1995) (citing Anderson v. Phelps, 655 F.Supp. 560 (M.D. La. 1985); Building Eng'g Servs. Co. v. Louisiana, 459 F.Supp. 180 (E.D. La. 1978)).

         When a district court discovers that it “lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (2012). This “language is mandatory, not optional.” Powers v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., No. 16-31021, 2016 WL 10703735, at *2 (5th Cir. Dec. 19, 2016) (per curiam); see Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) (“[W]hen a federal court concludes that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the complaint in its entirety.”). To comply with this statutory mandate, the Court exercises its ...

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