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Colbert v. City of Baton Rouge

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 15, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 68) filed by Defendant, Dr. Robert Blanche ("Dr. Blanche") and the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 71) filed by Defendant, Dr. Charlie H. Bridges ("Dr. Bridges") seeking 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. Plaintiffs filed an Opposition to each Motion to Dismiss. (Docs. 78, 80). The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331. Oral argument is not necessary. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 68) fxled by Dr. Blanche is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 71) filed by Dr. Bridges is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs 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, City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge ("EBR"), which is the political entity responsible for funding operations and maintenance of the prison; Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux, who is responsible for running the prison; Warden Dennis Grimes, who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the prison; Prison Medical Services ("PMS"), which is the entity responsible for administering healthcare to the inmates; Rintha Simpson, who was the Interim Director of PMS; and "J. Does, " who are unknown sheriffs deputies and PMS staff. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 3-9).

         On 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. Bridges, who is the "EBRPP Medical Director;" Dr. Blanche, who is the psychiatrist for the mental health program at EBRPP; as well as, Sargent (J rani and Sargent Cage. who are employees oft lie East Baton Rouge Sheriffs Office.[1] (Doc. 40 at ¶¶ 8-11).

         Particularly, Plaintiffs allege that Dr. Bridges and Dr. Blanche were deliberately indifferent to the serious medical and mental health needs of Colbert, which continued until Colbert's murder. (Id. at ¶¶ 97, 103). Plaintiffs further allege that Dr. Bridges and Dr. Blanche's "policies, patterns or 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.).

         On January 9, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Voluntary Dismissal of State Claims (Doc. 81), which dismissed all state law claims brought against Dr. Bridges and Dr. Blanche, that is, Counts 8, 10, 11, and 12 of the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 83). As such, Plaintiffs bring only § 1983 violations against Dr. Bridges and Dr. Blanche in their official capacities, as well as their individual capacities. (Doc. 40 at ¶¶ 96, 101).

         A. Colbert's Detention At EBRPP

         Plaintiffs allege that on or about November 6, 2015, Colbert was arrested at his school, [2] and subsequently detained at the EBRPP. (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 IPs M01 and N01 wings.[3] (Id. at ¶ 16). Three days later, Colbert reported hearing voices and having hallucinations, and he informed Defendant PMS staff that he needed help. (Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiffs assert that on the same day, Dr. Blanche, the prison psychiatrist, 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. (Id.).

         On November 17, 2015, after an EBRPP deputy allegedly found Colbert rocking back and forth, talking to the wall, and shaking in his cell on the juvenile wing, Dr. Blanche conducted another assessment "through the bars of [Colbert's] cell." (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23). During this assessment, Colbert allegedly informed Dr. Blanche that he had not been sleeping, and Dr. Blanche reportedly noted that Colbert "may be responding to internal stimuli, " that he seemed "very anxious, " that he had an "imaginary friend, " and that he had lost weight due to being rushed. (Id. at ¶ 23). Plaintiffs assert that Dr. Blanche then prescribed Colbert several psychotropic medications, such as, "Ativan and Haldol."[4] (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24).

         On November 24, 2015, Dr. Blanche purportedly saw Colbert during a follow-up examination, "again through the bars of [Colbert's] cell, " and noted that Colbert had "IMPROVED [sic]." (Id. at ¶ 25). The next day, on November 25th, Colbert reported to PMS staff that he had been sexually assaulted by another prisoner. (Id. at ¶ 26).

         On 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.). 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).

         On 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 PMS staff spoke with Colbert, he "stared" and did not respond, prompting PMS staff 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 month" causing him to be "placed on lockdown." (Id. at ¶ 33). On January 27th, Colbert's scheduled appointment with a social worker was allegedly rescheduled because the social worker was out of the office. (Id. at ¶ 34). And on January 28th, Colbert was purportedly taken off suicide watch. (Id. at ¶ 35).

         Thereafter, EBRPP security staff placed Colbert in a two-person cell on the juvenile wing with another 17 year old male, Kermitious Thomas ("Thomas").[5] (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).

         B. Medical and Mental Health Care at the EBRPP

         Defendant 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 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 ¶ 46).

         HMA found, inter alia, that acutely mentally ill and suicidal patients like Colbert are housed on Unit II's M01 and N01 where Dr. Blanche performs "rounds and interviews patients through the open bars due to the difficulty of moving such patients, not for a valid medical reason." (Id. at ¶ 53). Additionally, HMA found that M01 and N01, which is "frequently loud with inmates who are shaking bars [and] throwing feces, " provided a "woefully inadequate physical environment for the most unstable mentally ill at" the EBRPP. (Id. at ¶ 54). HMA further found that Dr. Blanche had not provided health care staff "suicide training" in over a year, and that neither Dr. Bridges nor Dr. Blanche prepared mortality reports for the deaths of prisoners at EBRPP despite the fact that the mortality rates in the EBRPP have been substantially above the national average since 2012. (Id. at ¶¶ 55, 59-63).


         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 Atl. 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.

         "[F]acial 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).

         III. ...

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