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Thompson v. Hedrick

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

May 24, 2019


          DRELL JUDGE



         Before the Court are virtually identical Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Concordia Parish Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick (“Sheriff Hedrick”), Concordia Parish Deputy Sheriff Brown (“Brown”), and Concordia Parish Deputy Sheriff Brock (“Brock”) (collectively referred to as “Defendants”). (Docs. 22, 36). Plaintiff James Thompson (“Thompson”) opposes the motions. (Docs. 29, 38).

         Because Thompson fails to state a plausible claim for relief against Defendants in both their individual and official capacities under § 1983, and because Brown and Brock are entitled to qualified immunity, Defendants' motions (Docs. 22, 36) should be GRANTED IN PART. Because Sheriff Hedrick is subject to vicarious liability under state law, Defendants' motions (Docs. 22, 36) should be DENIED IN PART. And because the undersigned recommends dismissal of all federal claims, the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Thompson's state law claims.

         I. Background

         Thompson filed this civil rights action, in forma pauperis, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting violation of his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care while housed at both the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility (the “Correctional Facility”) and Concordia Parish Work Release Facility (the “Work Release Facility”). (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson also asserts supplemental state law claims under La. R.S. 9:2798.1. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson names as Defendants Sheriff Hedrick, Brown, Brock, and Concordia Parish Deputy Sheriff Deborah Cowan (“Cowan”), in their individual and official capacities. (Docs. 1, 35).[1]

         Thompson has a history of high blood pressure, acid reflux, and asthma, for which he takes daily medications. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson was sentenced to ninety days following a probation revocation hearing on July 11, 2016. (Docs. 1, 35). After being incarcerated for one week at the Rapides Parish Detention Center (“RPDC”), he was transferred to the Correctional Facility. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson asserts he inquired about his medications and was initially told by a staff member that they were with his belongings. (Docs. 1, 35). After a couple of days, Thompson claims he did not find his medications with his belongings and inquired again. (Docs. 1, 35). He was told by an unknown staff member that the Correctional Facility never received his medications. (Docs. 1, 35). He was then transferred to the Work Release Facility. (Docs. 1, 35).

         Upon arrival at the Work Release Facility, Thompson asked again for his medications without success. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson claims he was eventually assessed by Cowan, a nurse, who gave him ibuprofen, an unidentified blood pressure pill (not resembling his own), and acid reflux medication. (Docs. 1, 35). Despite some relief, Thompson asserts he asked Cowan to pull his pharmacy records from any CVS Pharmacy to obtain the names of his medications and primary physicians. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson claims his request was ignored. (Doc. 1, 35). Thompson further asserts he recommended that Cowan contact the RPDC to locate the medications, and that request was also ignored. (Docs. 1, 35).

         While at the Work Release Facility, Thompson admits he received asthma treatment two times a day and had his blood pressure checked three times a day. (Docs. 1, 35). The asthma treatment was effective, but Thompson claims his blood pressure remained elevated at every check. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson asserts Cowan did not believe Thompson needed his prescribed blood pressure medication. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson asserts that over the next 20 days, Thompson asked Cowan for the correct medication daily but was told “you will get your medicine.” (Doc. 35). Thompson claims he never received the correct medication, and was instead forced to take the blood pressure medication given to him. (Doc. 35). Thompson complained daily to Cowan that the medication she was giving him was not working because he was constantly at a loss of breath, the right side of his body was numb, and had a constant dull headache. (Doc. 35). Thompson asserts that, during this same twenty-day period, he asked to see a doctor three to four times a week. (Doc. 35).

         Thompson began having chest pains on August 14, 2016, and informed Brown he believed he was having a heart attack and needed to go to the hospital immediately. (Docs. 1, 35). Brown responded that Thompson needed a nebulizer treatment. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson claims that, immediately thereafter, he lost his bowels and asked Brown for assistance to the restroom. (Docs. 1, 35). Brown refused. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson contends Brock, upon witnessing the incident and instead of calling 911, transported Thompson to Riverland Medical Center. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson was then transferred to Rapides Regional Medical Center for treatment of a heart attack. (Docs. 1, 35).

         Thompson asserts he had a heart attack due to not taking the proper medication and that, after an uneventful stent surgery, he remained hospitalized for six days. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson claims he had approximately 45 days remaining on his sentence and expected to be brought back to the Correctional Facility. (Doc. 35). But he was told he was free to go. (Doc. 35). Thompson asserts Sheriff Hedrick has a policy of keeping operation costs down by providing “cheap” medical care, jeopardizing inmate safety. (Doc. 35). Thompson claims Sheriff Hedrick released him to avoid responsibility for follow-up treatment, or additional medical treatment of possible complications. (Doc. 35). Thompson contends Brown and Cowan were still under a duty to provide adequate medical treatment to him after he was released from the hospital, if needed. (Doc. 35).

         Thompson contends Sheriff Hedrick was the responsible decisionmaker and policymaker for the Concordia Parish Sheriff's Department (“CPSD”). (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson asserts Sheriff Hedrick employed Brown, Brock, and Cowan as full-time sheriff deputies for the CPSD. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson claims Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs leading to, and after, a heart attack, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson contends Sheriff Hedrick is also liable under state law, La. R.S. 9:2798.1, for Defendants' “tortuous, criminal, fraudulent, malicious, intentional, willful, outrageous, reckless, and flagrant acts, ” while in the course and scope of their employment for Sheriff Hedrick. (Docs. 1, 35). Thompson further asserts claims under § 1983 against Sheriff Hedrick for the actions of Brown, Brock, and Cowan, due to lack of training. (Docs. 1, 35).

         In response, Defendants seek dismissal of Thompson's claims. (Docs. 22, 36). Thompson responded to the first motion seeking leave to amend, which the Court granted. (Docs. 27, 34). Thompson's First Supplemental and Amended Complaint corrects the mis-naming of Cowan, as noted above, and alleges more specific factual allegations regarding Defendants' alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, as set forth above. (Doc. 35). Thompson also opposes both motions to dismiss. (Docs. 29, 38).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Standards governing the 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         A court may grant a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A pleading states a claim for relief when, inter alia, it contains a “short and plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         To withstand 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) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when it contains sufficient factual content for the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Plausibility does not equate to possibility or probability; it lies somewhere in between. Id. Plausibility simply calls for enough factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence to support the elements of the claim. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The court must view all well-pleaded facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Yumilicious Francise, L.L.C. v. Barrie, 819 F.3d 170, 174 (5th Cir. 2016).

         Although the court must accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the complaint, the same presumption does not extend to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading comprised of labels and conclusions, a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement, will not stand. Id. Similarly, where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the Court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but not “shown” - that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 679.

         In determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief, a court draws on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. In considering a motion to dismiss, a court can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. Id.

         Generally, a court should not dismiss an action for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) without giving plaintiff “at least one chance to amend.” Hernandez v. Ikon Ofc. Solutions, Inc., 306 Fed.Appx. 180, 182 (5th Cir. 2009); accord Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 329 (5th Cir. 2002). However, that general rule does not apply if an amendment would be futile. Townsend v. BAC Home Loans Serv'g, L.P., 461 Fed.App'x. 367, 372 (5th Cir. 2011); Jaso v. The Coca Cola Co., 435 Fed.App'x. 346, 351-52 (5th Cir. 2011). Futility in this context means “that the amended complaint would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted . . . [Thus, ] to determine futility, we will apply the same standard of legal sufficiency as ...

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