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Pollnitz v. University of Alabama Board of Trustees

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 3, 2015

OMARI POLLNITZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA BOARD OF TRUSTEES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, District Judge.

The event that gives rise to this lawsuit occurred while plaintiff Omari Pollnitz was a patient at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital. He was hospitalized for shoulder surgery. Mr. Pollnitz is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair for transportation. While he was recovering from surgery, Mr. Pollnitz refused treatment and attempted to leave his room to go to the hospital's smoking room. His nurse called UAB police. Mr. Pollnitz alleges that when UAB police officers responded to the call, they took control of his chair, pushed him toward his room over his protests, and ultimately dumped him on the hallway floor.

In this action, Mr. Pollnitz asserts various state law and federal constitutional claims against UAB Health System, University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C., UAB Chief of Police Anthony Purcell in his individual capacity, UAB nurse Eva Dancy in her individual capacity, and several fictitious defendants. Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the defendants ask this Court to dismiss Mr. Pollnitz's complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motions to dismiss.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain, "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "To 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must view the allegations in a complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007). A court must accept well-pled facts as true. Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000).

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Mr. Pollnitz's factual allegations, viewed in the light most favorable to him, are these: Mr. Pollnitz is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair for transportation. (Doc. 30, p. 3). On March 17, 2012, Mr. Pollnitz was hospitalized at UAB Hospital, recovering from shoulder surgery. (Doc. 30, p. 3). On that date, registered nurse Eva Dancy had difficulty administering Mr. Pollnitz's IV medication. (Doc. 30, ¶ 17). In pain, Mr. Pollnitz demanded that Ms. Dancy stop the IV and asked that another nurse perform the treatment. (Doc. 30, ¶ 17). Mr. Pollnitz alleges that he told Ms. Dancy that he was going downstairs to smoke. (Doc. 30, ¶ 17). Ms. Dancy left Mr. Pollnitz's hospital room. (Doc. 30, ¶ 17).

Mr. Pollnitz alleges that he got in his wheelchair and proceeded toward the smoking area. (Doc. 30, ¶ 18). As he left his room, Mr. Pollnitz observed Ms. Dancy talking to the police. (Doc. 30, ¶ 18). According to the amended complaint, moments later, a police officer approached Mr. Pollnitz from the rear and began pushing his wheelchair down the hallway. (Doc. 30, ¶ 18). Several other officers also responded. (Doc. 30, ¶ 19). Mr. Pollnitz asked the officers to stop and told them that they were hurting him. (Doc. 30, ¶ 19). The officers allegedly "dumped [Mr. Pollnitz] on the floor exposing him in public view." (Doc. 30, ¶ 19). While Mr. Pollnitz was lying on the ground, unable to get up, the officers berated him and handled him roughly. (Doc. 30, ¶ 25). Ms. Dancy allegedly shouted at him. (Doc. 30, ¶ 20). At some point, Mr. Pollnitz's cell phone fell on the floor, and an officer kicked the phone against the wall, causing it to break into pieces. (Doc. 30, ¶ 24).

Based on these facts, Mr. Pollnitz filed suit against UAB Health System, University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C., UAB Chief of Police Anthony Purcell in his individual capacity, UAB nurse Dancy in her individual capacity, and several fictitious defendants.[1] Mr. Pollnitz amended his complaint three times. (Docs. 22, 24, 30). All of the defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss Mr. Pollnitz's third amended complaint for failure to state a claim under rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. 31). Chief Purcell and Ms. Dancy filed separate motions in which they ask the Court to dismiss Mr. Pollnitz's claims against them based on federal and state immunity principles. (Docs. 32, 33). The parties have briefed the motions. (Docs. 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43).[2] On this record, the Court examines the defendants' motions to dismiss.

III. ANALYSIS

Mr. Pollnitz asserts the following claims: (1) § 1983 "General Allegations"; (2) § 1983 failure to implement appropriate policies, customs, and practices; (3) § 1983 excessive force; (4) § 1983 false arrest; (5) § 1983 deprivation of property without due process of law; (6) § 1983 and state law false imprisonment; (7) negligence; (8) negligent supervision; (9) conspiracy; (10) assault and battery; (11) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (12) negligent entrustment; and (13) conversion. The Court will address each claim in turn.

I. § 1983 General Allegations

In the first count of Mr. Pollnitz's third amended complaint, he identifies at least six different constitutional violations. (Doc. 30, ¶ 46). Under Rule 10(b), a plaintiff's complaint may include only a single claim for relief in each count. See Anderson v. Dist. Bd. of Trustees of Cent. Fla. Cmty. Coll., 77 F.3d 364, 366 (11th Cir. 1996); see also Hickman v. Hickman, 563 Fed.Appx. 742, 743-44 (11th Cir. 2014). Therefore, the Court will dismiss Count One without prejudice.

II. Failure to Implement Appropriate Policies

In Count Two, Mr. Pollnitz makes the following allegations:

51. Defendant Anthony B. Pucell, Chief of Police, in his individual capacity as Chief of Police of the UAB Police Department... implicitly or explicitly adopted and implemented careless and reckless policies, customs, or practices, that included, among other things, allowing employees of the UAB Police Department to confront and punish physically challenged patients in the hospital setting without lawful justification.
52. The Chief of Police, Anthony B. Purcell, ... UAB Health System, [and] University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C., ... failed to adequately train and supervise the Defendants A, B, C, D, and Dancy; such failure amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of the Plaintiff to be free from excessive force and unreasonable seizures under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

(Doc. 30, ¶¶ 51, 52). Mr. Pollnitz has not alleged that UAB Health System and University of Alabama Health Services are responsible for the training of UAB police officers. Mr. Pollnitz also has not alleged facts to support a § 1983 claim against Ms. Dancy for excessive force or unreasonable seizures. Therefore, the Court will dismiss the claim against UAB Health System and University of Alabama Health Services without prejudice.

With regard to Chief Purcell, "[a] supervisory official is not liable under section 1983 for an injury resulting from his failure to train subordinates unless his failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the subordinates come into contact and the failure has actually caused the injury of which the plaintiff complains." Belcher v. City of Foley, Ala., 30 F.3d 1390, 1397 (11th Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Deliberate indifference is a stringent standard of fault" requiring that the supervisor have "actual or constructive notice that a particular omission in their training program causes city employees to violate citizens' constitutional rights." Connick v. Thompson, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1360 (2011) (internal quotations marks omitted). "Deliberate indifference can be established in two ways: by showing a widespread pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees or by showing that the need for training was so obvious that a [supervisor]'s failure to train [his] employees would result in a constitutional violation." Mingo v. City of Mobile, Ala., 592 Fed.Appx. 793, 799-800 (11th Cir. 2014).

Mr. Pollnitz has not alleged facts demonstrating that Chief Purcell had actual or constructive notice that an omission in the UAB Police training program caused officers to violate the constitutional rights of hospital patients. Nor has Mr. Pollnitz alleged facts suggesting that the need for training was so obvious that a failure to train is likely to result in a constitutional violation. See Weiland v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sheriffs Office, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 WL 4098270, at *10 (11th Cir. July 8, 2015) (affirming the district court's dismissal of a § 1983 failure to train claim that arose from a single incident where complaint did not allege facts to support a pattern of constitutional violations); Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1362 (11th Cir. 2003) (affirming the district court's dismissal of a § ...


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