Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Belcher v. Lopinto

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 8, 2018

JAYNE BELCHER ET AL.
v.
SHERIFF JOSEPH LOPINTO, III, ET AL.

         SECTION: “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Jefferson Parish's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 18). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Jayne and Jimmy Belcher filed this lawsuit following the August 2017 suicide of their son, Joshua Belcher, at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility (“JPCC”) in Gretna, Louisiana. Defendants in the suit include Jefferson Parish; its current sheriff, Joseph P. Lopinto, III; its former sheriff, Newell Normand, III; JPCC's health care provider, CorrectHealth Jefferson, L.L.C. (“CorrectHealth”); and CorrectHealth's insurer, Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Louisiana law by failing to prevent Joshua Belcher's suicide.

         On October 1, 2018, Jefferson Parish filed a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' claims against it.[1] Plaintiffs' oppose.[2] The Court heard Oral Argument on this Motion on November 1, 2018.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[3] A claim is “plausible on its face” when the pleaded facts allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[4]A court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and must “draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.”[5] The Court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[6]

         To be legally sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claims are true.[7] “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action''' will not suffice.[8] Rather, the complaint must contain enough factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiff's claim.[9]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Jefferson Parish violated § 1983 and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution by hiring CorrectHealth to provide medical care at JPCC despite knowing that the company provided subpar services, and that it was CorrectHealth's subpar services that caused their son's suicide.[10] Plaintiffs also claim Jefferson Parish committed the state law tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress.[11]Jefferson Parish argues in its Motion that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim against it under Rule 12(b)(6).[12] The Court will consider the federal claims against Jefferson Parish before turning to the state law claim.

         I. Plaintiffs Fail to State a Federal Claim Against Jefferson Parish

         Plaintiffs concede in their opposition to Jefferson Parish's Motion that the parish is not vicariously liable for anything the Sheriffs or CorrectHealth allegedly did to cause Joshua Belcher's death.[13] Plaintiffs maintain, however, that Jefferson Parish is directly liable under § 1983 for hiring CorrectHealth because the parish allegedly knew the company would provide “grossly negligent and unconstitutionally infirm” medical care to inmates at JPCC.[14]Plaintiffs allege that this conduct by Jefferson Parish violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, which in turn constituted a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to provide adequate medical care to their inmates.[15] A violation occurs “when a prison official's failure to act amounts to deliberate indifference to the prisoner's rights.”[16]Similarly, the Fourteenth Amendment provides inmates a constitutional right “not to have their serious medical needs met with deliberate indifference on the part of the confining officials.”[17] In either case, then, liability does not attach without “deliberate indifference” on the part of the jail or its governing authority.[18]

         “Deliberate indifference is an extremely high standard to meet.”[19] “To demonstrate deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show that public officers were aware of facts from which an inference of a substantial risk of serious harm to an individual could be drawn; that they actually drew the inference; and that their response indicates subjective intention that the harm occur.”[20]

         Here, Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to show that Jefferson Parish acted with deliberate indifference in hiring CorrectHealth to provide medical care at JPCC. Plaintiffs allege in their Complaint that Jefferson Parish hired CorrectHealth in 2015 and then renewed the contract in February 2017.[21] Plaintiffs further allege that CorrectHealth's conduct contributed to three suicides at JPCC between August and September in 2017, including Joshua Belcher's suicide on August 17, 2017.[22] But the Complaint fails to allege that Jefferson Parish was aware of particular facts from which an inference of a substantial risk of serious harm to a particular individual could be drawn.[23] The conclusory allegation in the last paragraph of Plaintiffs' Complaint that Jefferson Parish was “aware of CorrectHealth's derelict policies and did nothing to correct them” is insufficient to meet the high standard required for a showing of deliberate indifference. Moreover, even though Plaintiffs mention suicides that occurred at other correctional facilities managed by CorrectHealth in other states both before and after Jefferson Parish renewed its contract with the company, the Complaint fails to allege that Jefferson Parish knew of any such suicides when it hired CorrectHealth. In any event, even assuming Jefferson Parish did know about such suicides, such knowledge would not show a substantial risk of serious harm to any individual inmate at JPCC. There is no allegation that the problems encountered at the other facilities were systematic throughout CorrectHealth.

         As the Fifth Circuit explained in Sanchez v. Young County, an inmate's “decision to take her own life is tragic. [A parish], however, cannot be held responsible for fatal decisions [the inmate] made that were, under all the circumstances, not obvious to government employees.”[24] Plaintiffs, therefore, fail to state ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.