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Landry v. Louisiana Correctional Institute

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 26, 2019

TIFFANY B. LANDRY, PATRICIA WASHINGTON, and TASCO GILMORE
v.
LOUISIANA CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE FOR WOMEN, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          JUDGE JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings by Defendants, Former Warden Jim Rogers, Warden Fredrick Boutte, Dr. John F. Prejean, Medical Director Doe, and Nurse Practitioner Pamela B. Ross, (collectively “Defendants”).[1] (Doc. 67). Plaintiffs, Tiffany B. Landry, Patricia Washington, and Tasco Gilmore (collectively “Plaintiffs”) oppose the motion. (Doc. 74). Oral argument is not necessary. After carefully considering the law, the allegations of the operative complaint, and the arguments of the parties, Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is granted in part and denied as moot in part.

         I. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Plaintiffs’ Allegations

         Plaintiff Landry became incarcerated at LCIW from June 16, 2015 to June 6, 2016. (Doc. 52, p. 5, ¶¶ 15-16). During Landry’s incarceration, she became ill and alleges that she “began informing the prison personnel and/or authorities of her serious medical condition and problems … and need for immediate … medical attention”. (Doc. 52, p. 5, ¶ 16). Plaintiffs allege that the “initial notification” of illness was on or about May 30, 2016, at which time Landry allegedly experienced “complaints of speech and/or writing difficulty, generalized weakness including arm weakness, and complaints of bilateral lower extremity tingling … coupled with walking difficulty”. (Doc. 52, p. 5, ¶ 17).

         Plaintiffs claim that Landry was treated by Dr. Prejean and Nurse Practitioner Ross, for injuries commencing May 30, 2016, until she was released from LCIW. (Doc. 52, pp. 4-5, ¶¶ 12-13). Plaintiffs allege that Medical Unit Director Doe was the unit head of the medical division at LCIW at the time Landry was treated. (Doc. 52, p. 5, ¶ 14). Nurse Practitioner Ross allegedly “ignored” the initial complaints of Landry on May 30, 2016, and allegedly “refused” to allow Landry to be taken to the infirmary. (Doc. 52, p. 6, ¶ 18).

         Landry was taken to the infirmary on May 31, 2016 and was informed that she had suffered a “stroke and/or stroke-like symptoms”. (Doc. 52, p. 6, ¶ 19). Plaintiffs claim that Landry was not brought to an emergency medical facility apart from LCIW for further medical treatment, despite her “repeated complaints and requests”. (Doc. 52, p. 6, ¶ 21).

         On or about June 1, 2016, Dr. Prejean conducted an EKG, lab work and x-rays of Landry. Plaintiffs allege that Landry’s blood pressure was “abnormally high”. (Doc. 52, p. 6, ¶ 22). Plaintiffs claim that Landry requested additional medical care but was told that there was nothing that the LCIW prison staff could do for Landry, and “she was ignored, causing her symptoms and condition to manifest and become more severe, resulting in her increased suffering, pain and damage to her brain, nervous system, and ability to ambulate correctly”. (Doc. 52, pp. 6-7, ¶¶ 23-24). Plaintiffs claim that Landry’s condition progressively worsened until her release on June 6, 2016, when LCIW advised Landry’s family that Landry was unable to walk without assistance. (Doc. 52, p. 7, ¶¶ 25-26).

         Plaintiff Washington (Landry’s mother) and Plaintiff Gilmore (Landry’s brother) picked Landry up from LCIW and “observed [her] severe and serious medical condition”, and they allegedly suffered mental anguish or emotional distress. (Doc. 52, pp. 1, 7, ¶¶ 4, 27).

         After her release from LCIW, Landry was treated at St. Bernard Parish Hospital. Plaintiffs claim that the hospital told them that LCIW did not properly treat Landry and that she had suffered a stroke. (Doc. 52, p. 8, ¶ 28). According to Plaintiffs’ complaint, due to Landry’s “altered mental status”, she was transferred to University Medical Center (“UMC”) in New Orleans for evaluation and treatment. (Doc. 52, p. 8, ¶ 29). Plaintiffs plead that UMC diagnosed Landry with a “brain tumor” and that she underwent a craniotomy. (Doc. 52, p. 8, ¶ 30). Plaintiffs claim that the inadequate medical treatment by Dr. Prejean, Nurse Practitioner Ross and others was the “proximate cause which disabled [Landry]”, inhibited proper medical care for a “stroke victim”, and which ultimately resulted in more significant impairment. (Doc. 52, p. 9, ¶ 32). Plaintiffs also plead that is was the “pattern and practice” of LCIW to “ignore and disregard” medical requests, that the wardens “knew or should have known” that the constant disregard for Landry’s stroke symptoms would further damage her neurological system, that the wardens made a conscious decision not to allow additional medical treatment outside the prison, and that Dr. Prejean, Nurse Practitioner Ross and Medical Unit Director Doe decided not to recommend and to block medical treatment offsite. (Doc. 52, pp. 9-10, ¶¶ 33-38).

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as Louisiana state law due to acts of negligence. (Doc. 52, pp. 10-16). Plaintiffs’ claims against LCIW were dismissed on January 8, 2018, based on sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. (Doc. 30). Plaintiffs’ claims against ORM were voluntarily dismissed on January 25, 2019. (Doc. 72). Plaintiffs’ claims against the remaining Defendants in their official capacity only were dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction on May 23, 2018. (Doc. 40). Defendants bring the instant motion seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs’ remaining claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, dismissal of Washington and Gilmore’s claims under La. Civ. Code art. 2315.6 for bystander damages, and for the Court to decline supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ other state law claims. (Doc. 67).

         B. Present Motion

         1. Defendants’ Argument

         Defendants first seek dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendants in their official capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 67-1, pp. 6-7). Defendants acknowledge that “LCIW and all official capacity claims have already been dismissed by this Court. (See Rec. Doc. 30). However, Plaintiffs mistakenly included the same claims in their Second Amended Complaint. Out of [an] abundance of caution, Defendants respond accordingly.” (Doc. 67-1, p. 7, n. 49).

         Defendants next seek dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims under Section 1983 against Defendants in their individual capacities. (Doc. 67-1, p. 7). Defendants address Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendants in their individual capacities by grouping the Defendants into three groups: (a) Former Warden Rogers, Warden Boutte, and Medical Unit Director Doe, (Doc. 67-1, pp. 7-10); (b) Dr. Prejean and Nurse Practitioner Ross, (Doc. 67-1, pp. 10-17); and (c) Former Warden Rogers, Warden Boutte, Dr. Prejean, Medical Unit Director Doe, and Nurse Practitioner Ross, (Doc. 67-1, pp. 17-20).

         With regard to the first group of Defendants (Former Warden Rogers, Warden Boutte, and Medical Unit Director Doe), Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed because these Defendants are supervisors, and supervisors are not liable for the acts of their subordinates under Section 1983. (Doc. 67-1, p. 7). In support, Defendants argue that the first group of Defendants (1) can not be found liable for any acts or omissions of the LCIW medical employees who directly treated Plaintiff Landry, and (2) because they did not treat and were not qualified to treat Plaintiff Landry directly. (Doc. 67-1, p. 8).

         Further, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have not sufficiently developed the facts indicating that the first group of Defendants had any personal involvement with Plaintiff Landry. (Doc. 67-1, pp. 8-9). Defendants argue that it is insufficient for Plaintiffs to allege a “pattern and practice” of LCIW to “ignore and disregard summarily virtually every single medical request” and that this “callous disregard” was “directed by, sanctioned by, and encouraged by” the first group of Defendants. (Doc. 67-1, p. 8 (citing Doc. 52, p. 9, ¶¶33-35)).

         Defendants conclude that the allegations against the first group of Defendants “rest upon nothing more” than their supervisory positions. In order for the first group of Defendants to be found liable under Section 1983, they must have been personally involved in the alleged conduct adverse to Landry. Any allegations related to the acts of their subordinates or co-employees is insufficient to state a claim under Section 1983. (Doc. 67-1, pp. 9-10).

         Regarding the second group of Defendants (Dr. Prejean and Nurse Practitioner Ross), Defendants argue that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because Plaintiffs’ allegations “do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation by demonstrating deliberate indifference to a serious medical need of Plaintiff Landry’s”. (Doc. 67-1, p. 12). Defendants argue that in order for the second group of Defendants’ actions to qualify as “deliberate medical indifference”, Plaintiffs must show (1) that the inmate had a serious medical need; (2) that the prison officials showed deliberate indifference to the inmate’s serious medical need; and (3) the deliberate indifference caused the inmate’s injury.” (Doc. 67-1, p. 10 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976))). Defendants argue that “negligent or mistaken medical treatment or judgment” does not qualify as “deliberate indifference” and does not implicate a violation of constitutional rights. (Doc. 67-1, p. 11). In particular, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to show that the second group of Defendants “refused to treat Landry, ignored Landry’s complaints, intentionally treated Landry incorrectly, or engaged in any similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs”. (Doc. 67-1, p. 12).

         Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ complaint with regard to Landry’s medical care is that “attention has been inadequate or improper”, that Landry is “unhappy with the care that was provided”, and that Landry believes “additional care was warranted”. (Doc. 67-1, pp. 14-15). Defendants argue that these types of complaints-of dissatisfaction and questioning medical judgment-do not support a claim of deliberate medical indifference. (Doc. 67-1, p. 15). Defendants conclude that Plaintiffs have failed to allege that the second group of Defendants demonstrated deliberate indifference to a serious medical need and, therefore, failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 67-1, p. 17).

         Defendants’ third group includes all Defendants, and, as to them, Defendants argue qualified immunity. (Doc. 67-1, p. 17). Defendants assert the “two step method” to determine whether they are entitled to qualified immunity. The first step is to consider whether, taking the facts as alleged in the light most favorable to the inmate, Defendants’ conduct violated the inmate’s constitutional rights. (Doc. 67-1, p. 18 (citing Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009))). The second step is for the court to determine whether the right allegedly violated was clearly established at the time of the infraction. (Id.).

         Defendants argue that their conduct did not violate Landry’s constitutional rights. (Doc. 67-1, p. 18). Plaintiffs allege that Landry “was ignored and abandoned and therefore, she was furthermore forced to suffer in pain and with no adequate medical treatment whatsoever at LCIW”. (Doc. 67-1, p. 19 (citing Doc. 52, p. 7, ¶ 24)). But Defendants respond that these allegations are “nothing more than unsupported, conclusory allegations that Plaintiff Landry’s rights were violated by Defendants because she had a disagreement over the diagnostic measures and methods of treatment that were afforded to her by prison officials”. (Doc. 67-1, p. 19). Because there is “no violation of a clearly established law and Defendants’ conduct does not violate an established constitutional right”, Defendants are entitled to immunity. (Doc. 67-1, p. 20).

         Even if Plaintiffs establish the first prong of the qualified immunity analysis, Defendants argue that they are still entitled to qualified immunity under the second prong because any violation “was not objectively contrary to clearly established law”. (Id.). Plaintiffs allege that despite the treatment that Landry received, she should have been brought to a medical facility separate and apart from the prison. Defendants maintain that it would not have been clear to a reasonable officer that it was unlawful to obey Landry’s requests. Defendants also contend that there was no “reckless disregard” for a “clearly established law”. (Doc. 67-1, p. 20).

         Defendants third and final argument in their motion is that Plaintiffs have alleged various state law claims, and Defendants suggest that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. (Doc. 67-1, p. 20). Defendants argue that the Court is authorized to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction if: (1) the claims raise novel or complex issues of state law; (2) the claims would substantially predominate over the claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction; (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it had original jurisdiction; or (4) for any other compelling reason. (Doc. 67-1, p. 21). Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss the claims over which it has original jurisdiction and, therefore, should elect not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. In the alternative, Defendants argue that the state law claims will predominate over the Plaintiffs’ remaining federal claims. (Doc. 67-1, p. 21).

         Defendants also specifically seek dismissal of Washington and Gilmore’s “bystander damages” claims under La. Civ. Code Art. 2315.6. (Id.). “Bystander” claims are those where the claimant suffers serious mental anguish and emotional distress from witnessing or coming upon the scene of an event soon thereafter. La. Civ. Code Art. 2315.6. Here, Washington and Gilmore claim that they suffered mental anguish and emotional distress when they retrieved Landry from LCIW and observed her “severe and serious” medical condition. (Doc. 67-1, p. 22 (citing Doc. 52, p. 7, ¶ 27)). Defendants argue that because Washington and Gilmore did not witness a specific event or specify a traumatic or shocking occurrence that injured Landry, their claim must fail. (Doc. 67-1, pp. 22-23).

         2. Plaintiffs’ Argument

         In response to Defendants’ first argument regarding Plaintiffs’ claims under Section 1983 against Defendants in their official capacities only, Plaintiffs concede that Defendants “were dismissed in their official capacity”. (Doc. 74, p. 1 (citing Doc. 32 and 40)). Plaintiffs further acknowledge that their claims against Defendants in their individual capacities have been retained. (Doc. 74, p. 2).

         Plaintiffs deny that the Defendants are entitled to immunity “under federal or Louisiana law”. (Doc. 74, p. 2). Plaintiffs first argue that Dr. Prejean, Nurse Practitioner Ross, and Medical Unit Director Doe were directly involved with Landry’s treatment and are “necessary to the proper prosecution of this complaint”. (Doc. 74, p. 3). Plaintiffs rely upon Dauzat v. Carter, Civ. A. No. 14-0239, 2015 WL 2066472 (E.D. La. Apr. 30, 2015), where an adult male inmate “kept getting ignored” and was not referred for treatment despite signs of needed medical attention. Plaintiffs argue that in Dauzat the claims against the members of the medical team were allowed to proceed and that the same should be allowed here. (Doc. 74, pp. 3-4).

         Regarding Plaintiffs’ claims adverse to Former Warden Rogers and Warden Boutte, Plaintiffs argue that they are “not entitled to qualified and/or sovereign immunity”. (Doc. 74, p. 4 (citing Price v. Louisiana et al, Civ. A. No. 16-00402, 2017 WL 4686035 (M.D. La. Oct. 18, 2017))). Little argument is provided as to the applicability of Price. Plaintiffs then argue that there are “exceptions to sovereign immunity”. (Doc. 74, p. 4 (citing Thompson v. Belt, 828 F.2d 298 (5th Cir. 1987))). Plaintiffs argue that Former Warden Rogers and Warden Boutte are “necessary” for the “proper adjudication” of their “wrongdoing” and are “essential” to the “explicit pattern and practice that occurred at LCIW”. (Doc. 74, p. 4). Lastly, Plaintiffs argue that “the wardens receive no sovereign immunity, because the Plaintiffs averred that the warden[s’] erroneous actions in denying access to urgently needed medical care actually became a policy”, which the medical team carried out. Plaintiffs contend that this satisfies the pleading requirements under the Monell line of cases. (Doc. 74, p. 5 (citing Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of the City of N.Y., 463 U.S. 658 (1978))).

         Plaintiffs continue by arguing that “no dismissal of the wardens are proper at this juncture” because: (1) of their direct actions in not allowing patients to be seen off-site; and (2) of their pattern and practice rising to the level of an actual policy. (Doc. 74, p. 6). Plaintiffs aver that Landry “repeatedly and consistently sought medical relief for a period of seven days” but was ignored. Plaintiffs characterize this seven-day period as the “policy, systematic pattern and practice, as well as the direct acts and inaction of the wardens”. (Id.).

         Plaintiffs then address Defendants’ argument that this Court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. Plaintiffs argue that the claims derive from the same case or controversy seeking the “’economy, convenience, fairness, and comity’ mandated to include the pendant state law claims”. (Doc. 74, p. 7). Also, Plaintiffs argue that their state law claims of negligence, assault, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bystander liability will not predominate over the federal claims. (Doc. 74, p. 8). Lastly, Plaintiffs argue that the federal claims, such as “the deliberate medical indifference claim”, replicate the state law claims, such as the “negligent and ...


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