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Stewart v. Neil

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

April 4, 2017

VERONICA STEWART, Administrator of the Estate of Lily Jeanette Francis, deceased, et al ., Plaintiffs,
v.
JIM NEIL, In his official capacity as Hamilton County Sheriff, et al ., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE COUNTY DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (Doc. 5)

          TIMOTHY S. BLACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This civil action is before the Court on the motion to dismiss (Doc. 5) filed by Hamilton County, Ohio (“Hamilton County”), Jim Neil, in his official capacity as the Hamilton County Sheriff (the “Sheriff”), the Board of Commissioners for Hamilton County (the “BOCC”), and the Sheriff's Department of Hamilton County (the “Sheriff's Department”) (collectively, the “County Defendants”), [1] and the parties' responsive memoranda (Docs. 7, 10).

         I. FACTS AS ALLEGED BY THE PLAINTIFFS

         For purposes of this motion to dismiss, the Court must: (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs; and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Tackett v. M&G Polymers, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009).

         On December 31, 2015, Plaintiff Veronica Stewart (“Ms. Stewart”) was appointed administrator of the Estate (“Estate”) of Lily Jeannette Francis, deceased, by the Hamilton County, Ohio, Probate Court, case number 2015005452. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 4). Plaintiff Kelli Moll (“Ms. Moll”) is the surviving parent of Lily Jeanette Francis. (Id. at ¶ 5).

         On or about January 21, 2014, Ms. Moll surrendered herself to the Sheriff's Department at the Hamilton County Justice Center (“HCJC”) pursuant to a pending community-control sanction violation. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 13). At the time, Ms. Moll was a recovering drug addict. (Id.). Ms. Moll was also pregnant with Lily Jeannette Francis and due to give birth on or about February 12, 2014. (Id.).

         On or about January 22, 2014, while in a medical facility at HCJC, Ms. Moll complained that she was in pain with the onset of contractions; however, those complaints were not heeded. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 14). Defendants decided Ms. Moll was dehydrated and gave her some water. (Id.).

         On or about January 23, 2014, Ms. Moll was monitored at HCJC. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 15). No fetal movement or heartbeat was detected. (Id.). Ms. Moll was told the absence of a heartbeat was probably due to the antiquated nature of Defendants' equipment and received no further examination or treatment. (Id.).

         On January 24, 2014, Defendants decided to transport Ms. Moll to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 16). Defendants did not transport Ms. Moll immediately; instead, they waited until a shift change. (Id. at ¶ 17). On the way to the hospital, the transporting deputies made two stops: the first to get a soda at a CVS; the second to get sandwiches. (Id. at ¶ 18).

         Defendants eventually delivered Ms. Moll to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 19). On January 25, 2014, Ms. Moll was induced for a vaginal delivery due to intrauterine fetal demise. (Id.).

         A. The First Lawsuit.

         On January 19, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in this court, case number 1:16-cv-248 (the “First Lawsuit”).

         The First Lawsuit named the Sheriff, the Sheriff's Department, and “Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputies and/or Employees, John/Jane Does 1-4” as Defendants (First Lawsuit, Doc. 1 at 1).[2] The first lawsuit did not name Hamilton County or the BOCC. On August 8, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a stipulation which dismissed the First Lawsuit without prejudice. (First Lawsuit, Doc. 27).

         B. This Lawsuit.

         On November 7, 2016, Plaintiffs filed the Complaint in this action. The Complaint again names the Sheriff in his official capacity, the Sheriff's Department, and John/Jane Does, agents of Hamilton County and/or the Sheriff's Department. The Complaint also names Hamilton County and the BOCC.

         The Complaint alleges that Defendants failed to adequately hire, train and/or supervise officers, agents, deputies, servants, employees, staff or representatives. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 22). The Complaint alleges that Defendants maintain policies, practices and/or customs of: (1) permitting agents to wait until a shift change to transport inmates to outside medical facilities, regardless of the inmate's condition; (2) permitting agents to take stops and/or personal breaks while transporting inmates to outside medical facilities, regardless of the severity of the inmate's medical condition; (3) utilizing nurses, rather than doctors, for medical appointments regardless of the inmate's medical condition; and (4) using antiquated medical equipment. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-37).

         The Complaint alleges that Defendants demonstrated deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of Plaintiffs by, among other things, failing to appropriately monitor Ms. Moll's pregnancy, failing to consult an appropriate specialist, failing to treat Ms. Moll and her unborn child in a timely manner, and failing to timely transport Ms. Moll and her unborn child to the hospital. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 40). The Complaint further alleges Plaintiffs' damages were “proximately caused” by Defendants' policies and customs as well as Defendants' failure to adequately hire, train and/or supervise. (Id. at ¶ 39). Plaintiffs assert a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of their Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-44).

         Ms. Moll asserts an additional claim for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) premised on her allegations that Defendants discriminated against her because of her drug addiction. (Id. at ¶¶ 45-52).[3]

         On January 12, 2016, County Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss. The motion argues: (1) Plaintiffs' claims against Hamilton County and the BOCC are barred by the statute of limitations because neither entity was named in the First Lawsuit (Doc. 5 at 7-8); (2) Hamilton County and the Sheriff's Department are not sui juris (id. at 8-9); (3) Hamilton County and the BOCC do not have authority to control the Sheriff or the HCJC (id. at 9-11); (4) the Complaint does not adequately plead a § 1983 claim against the County Defendants because it does not sufficiently allege that Plaintiffs' injuries were caused by a custom, practice or policy of Hamilton County (id. at 11-13); (5) the Complaint does not adequately plead a claim for violation of the ADA because it does not sufficiently allege that Ms. Moll was treated differently because of her disability (id. at 13-14); and (6) the Sheriff was not personally involved in any of the incidents alleged in the Complaint, and in any event, is entitled to qualified immunity (id. at 15-19).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) operates to test the sufficiency of the complaint and permits dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To show grounds for relief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) requires that the complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”

         While Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Pleadings offering mere “‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In fact, in determining a motion to dismiss, “courts ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation[.]'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265 (1986)). Further, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]” Id.

         Accordingly, “[t]o 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.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A claim is plausible where “plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Plausibility “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief, '” and the case shall be dismissed. Id. (citing Fed. Rule Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiffs' claims against Hamilton County and the BOCC are ...


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