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Wells v. Turlich

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 11, 2019




         This is principally[1] a prisoner civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) by plaintiff Chris Wells against Sheriff Gerald A. Turlich, Orbon Tinson, Warden Denise Narcisse and Egan Medical Staffing, LLC (“Egan”). This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings and entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) upon written consent of all parties. Record Doc. No. 18. Wells's complaint alleges constitutionally inadequate medical care in that defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs during his incarceration at Plaquemines Parish Detention Center in Davant, Louisiana. Record Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 2, 43-65. Wells seeks compensatory damages, attorneys' fees and costs. Id. at p. 9.

         Defendant Egan filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss all of plaintiff's claims against it. Record Doc. No. 15. Plaintiff filed a timely opposition memorandum. Record Doc. No. 20. Having considered the complaint, the record, the written submissions of counsel and applicable law, and for the following reasons, IT IS ORDERED that the motion is DENIED.


         Egan moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim for constitutionally inadequate medical care. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under Rule 12(b)(6), as clarified by the Supreme Court,

“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” A claim for relief is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” A claim for relief is implausible on its face when “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.”

Harold H. Huggins Realty, Inc. v. FNC, Inc., 634 F.3d 787, 796 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007))).

         “The Supreme Court's decisions in Iqbal and Twombly . . . did not alter the long-standing requirement that when evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept[ ] all well-pleaded facts as true and view[ ] those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id. at 803 n.44 (quotation omitted); accord Murchison Capital Partners, L.P. v. Nuance Commc'ns, Inc., 625 Fed.Appx. 617, 618 n.1 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056, 2065 n.5 (2014)).

         “With respect to any well-pleaded allegations ‘a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Jabary v. City of Allen, 547 Fed.Appx. 600, 604 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Maloney Gaming Mgmt., L.L.C. v. St. Tammany Parish, 456 Fed.Appx. 336, 340 (5th Cir. 2011) (quotations omitted) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 696; Elsensohn v. St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Ofc., 530 F.3d 368, 371 (5th Cir. 2008); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 n.10 (5th Cir. 2007)).

         Prison officials are obligated under the Eighth Amendment to provide prisoners with adequate medical care, regardless whether the medical care is provided by governmental employees or by private medical staff under contract with the government. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976); West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 57-58 (1988); Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399 (1997). Before the Fifth Circuit's decision in Hare v. City of Corinth, 74 F.3d 633 (5th Cir. 1996), it appeared that prison officials must provide pretrial detainees with reasonable medical care unless the failure to provide it was reasonably related to a legitimate government interest. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 539 (1979); Cupit v. Jones, 835F.2d 82, 85 (5th Cir. 1987); Mayweather v. Foti, 958 F.2d 91 (5th Cir. 1992). The inquiry was “whether the denial of medical care . . . was objectively reasonable in light of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of reasonable medical care and prohibition on punishment of pretrial detainees.” Pfannstiel v. City of Marion, 918 F.2d 1178, 1186 (5th Cir. 1990), abrogated on other grounds as recognized in Martin v. Thomas, 973 F.2d 449, 455 (5th Cir. 1992).

         In Hare, however, the Fifth Circuit held

(1) that the State owes the same duty under the Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment to provide both pretrial detainees and convicted inmates with basic human needs, including medical care and protection from harm, during their confinement; and (2) that a state jail official's liability for episodic acts or omissions cannot attach unless the official had subjective knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm to a pretrial detainee but responded with deliberate indifference to that risk.

74 F.3d at 650. For the Bell “reasonable relationship” test to be applicable, the pretrial detainee must be able to state a claim that a prison official's act either “implement[s] a rule or restriction or otherwise demonstrate[s] the existence of an identifiable intended condition or practice” or that the “official's acts or omissions were sufficiently extended or pervasive, or otherwise typical of extended or pervasive misconduct by other officials, to prove an intended condition or practice.” Id. at 645. If the pretrial detainee is unable to plead either, the incident will be considered to be an episodic act or omission, and the deliberate indifference standard enunciated in Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104, will apply. Shepherd v. Dallas County, 591 F.3d 445, 452 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 539; Scott v. Moore, 114 F.3d 51, 53 (5th Cir. 1997); Hare, 74 F.3d at 649); Tamez v. Manthey, 589 F.3d 764, 769-70 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Scott, 114 F.3d at 53; Hare, 74 F.3d at 649).

         Under Estelle, a convicted prisoner states a claim for relief under Section 1983 for inadequate medical care only if he alleges that there has been “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs” by prison officials or other state actors. Only deliberate indifference, “an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain . . . or acts repugnant to the conscience of mankind, ” constitutes conduct proscribed by the Eighth Amendment. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06; accord Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 182-83 (1976); Tamez, 589 F.3d at 770; Hare, 74 F.3d at 650. “Deliberate indifference” means that a prison official is liable “only if he knows that the inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and [he] disregards that ...

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