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The Estate of Cummings

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

July 31, 2017

THE ESTATE OF MARQUETTE F. CUMMINGS, JR. and ANGELA GAINES, Plaintiffs,
v.
CARTER DAVENPORT, in his official and individual capacities, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          JOHN E. OTT CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action arises from the death of Marquette F. Cummings, Jr., who was an inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility. (Doc. 29 “Am. Compl.”). Plaintiffs, the Estate of Marquette F. Cummings, Jr., by and through its Executor, Victor Revill, (the “Estate”) and Angela Gaines, Mr. Cummings's mother, (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) assert various state and federal claims against Carter Davenport, the former warden of St. Clair Correctional Facility (“Warden Davenport”), in his official and individual capacities. (Id.). Currently pending before the court is Warden Davenport's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 32). The parties have briefed the motion. (Docs. 32 & 34). Upon consideration, and as discussed below, the court finds the Estate's § 1983 claim against Warden Davenport based on deliberate indifference to Cummings's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment survives the Warden's motion to dismiss, and this claim may proceed. All of Plaintiffs' remaining claims are due to be dismissed.

         I. PROCEDURAL POSTURE

         Plaintiffs initiated this action on December 15, 2015, asserting various federal and state claims against the following defendants: Kim Thomas and Jefferson Dunn, Commissioners for the Alabama Department of Corrections (“ADOC”); Warden Davenport; the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital (“UAB Hospital”); Dr. Sherry Melton, a medical supervisor at UAB Hospital; and various unnamed defendants associated with the ADOC or UAB Hospital. (Doc. 1). In their Complaint, Plaintiffs asserted the following claims against Warden Davenport in his individual and official capacities: (1) § 1983 claims for deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (2) a § 1983 claim for failure to train and negligent supervision based on the failure to protect Cummings from harm; and (3) a state law wrongful death claim. (Doc. 1).

         The original defendants in this action filed motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims against them. (Docs. 8, 12 & 14). For his part, Warden Davenport argued that the claims against him were due to be dismissed under rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because Plaintiffs failed to state plausible claims against him and because the claims were barred by sovereign immunity and qualified immunity. (Doc. 8).

         Upon consideration of the defendants' motion, the court found that all of Plaintiffs' claims were due to be dismissed, with the exception of the Estate's § 1983 claim against Warden Davenport in his individual capacity based on deliberate indifference to Mr. Cummings's serious medical needs. (Doc. 28). Accordingly, the court entered an order granting in part and denying in part the ADOC defendants' motion to dismiss, and dismissing the following claims asserted against Warden Davenport: (1) all of the claims asserted by Ms. Gaines; (2) all of the claims asserted against the Warden in his official capacity; (3) a § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment based on the failure to protect Cummings from harm; (4) a § 1983 claim for failure to train and negligent supervision based on the failure to protect Cummings from harm; and (5) a state law wrongful death claim. (See id.).

         After the court entered its order dismissing most of Plaintiffs' claims, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on October 5, 2016, asserting claims against only Warden Davenport. (Doc. 29). The Amended Complaint includes several new allegations regarding ADOC policies and Warden Davenport's knowledge of a threat to Cummings's safety. (See id., ¶¶ 5-6, 29-30, 36, 38). In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs reassert claims against the warden that the court previously dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).[2] (See Docs. 28 & 29). Thus, Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint implicitly seeks partial relief from, or reconsideration of, the court's Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part the ADOC Defendants' motion to dismiss. Therefore, to the extent that Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint includes new allegations and reasserts claims against Warden Davenport that were previously dismissed with prejudice, the court construes the Amended Complaint as a motion to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and treats the new allegations as newly-discovered evidence. On that basis, the court will reconsider the issues raised by Warden Davenport's motion to dismiss and Plaintiffs' opposition to the motion.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that 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). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 & 557 (2007).

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To meet the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) and survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Adinolfe v. United Tech. Corp., 786 F.3d 1161, 1169 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & 570). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement needs only ‘give the defendant fair notice of the claim . . . and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). When deciding a motion to dismiss, the court must assume the truth of the factual allegations in the complaint and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable factual inferences. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Hazewood v. Found. Fin. Grp., LLC, 551 F.3d 1223, 1224 (11th Cir. 2008). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not entitled to the same assumption of veracity. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of an action when the court finds that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). “Rule 12(b)(1) motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction can be asserted on either facial or factual grounds.” Carmichael v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Services, Inc., 572 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Morrison v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 925 n.5 (11th Cir. 2003). Facial challenges to subject matter jurisdiction, such as the challenges presented in this action, are based solely on the allegations in the complaint. Id. “When considering such challenges, the court must, as with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, take the complaint's allegations as true.” Id.

         Finally, the decision to alter or amend a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) is within the sound discretion of the district court. See Arthur v. King, 500 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing Drago v. Jenne, 453 F.3d 1301, 1305 (11th Cir. 2006). “While, as a rule, parties are not entitled to two bites at the apple, there are occasions in which reconsideration should be entertained.” Lussier v. Dugger, 904 F.2d 661, 667 (11th Cir. 1990) (quotation and internal quotation marks omitted). “The only grounds for granting a rule 59 motion are newly-discovered evidence or manifest errors of law or fact.” Arthur, 500 F.3d at 1343 (quoting In re Kellogg, 197 F.3d 1116, 1119 (11th Cir. 1999) (alteration in original omitted).

         III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Marquette F. Cummings, Jr. was an inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama (“St. Clair”). (Am. Compl. ¶ 3). During the weekend of January 3-5, 2014, Cummings witnessed “a physical altercation” between Timothy Gayle[3] and another inmate at St. Clair. (Id. ¶ 4). “Following that altercation, Cummings and Gayle were involved in an incident that required that both inmates [to] be separated by St. Clair Correctional Officers.” (Id.).

         Plaintiffs allege that pursuant to ADOC Administrative Regulation 300 (“AR-300”) and ADOC Administrative Regulation 302 (“AR-302”), officers completed a report about the first altercation involving Gayle and a report about the altercation between Cummings and Gayle. (Id. ¶ 5). According to Plaintiffs, both reports were given to Warden Davenport immediately after the altercations. (Id.). Plaintiffs also allege that after the altercations and “administratively required reporting, ” Gayle and Cummings were not put into protective custody, put in separate dorms, or otherwise separated from one another. (Id. ¶ 6).

         Following the weekend incident or altercation, Gayle stabbed Cummings in the eye with a shank at approximately 7:40 a.m. on Monday, January 6, 2014, causing Cummings to bleed profusely. (Id. ¶ 7; Doc. 29-1 at 1). Other inmates helped Cummings to the infirmary at St. Clair, and he was quickly airlifted to UAB Hospital for treatment. (Id.). After Angela Gaines learned her son had been stabbed and where he was taken for treatment, she went to UAB Hospital to be with Cummings sometime during the afternoon of January 6. (See Id. ¶¶ 9-13).

         Dr. Sherry Melton, a medical supervisor at UAB Hospital, changed Cummings's code status to Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) at about 9:17 p.m. on January 6, 2014 without authorization from Gaines or any other family member and without notifying Gaines and Cummings's family of the decision. (Id. ¶ 17; Doc. 1 ¶ 3(h)). Plaintiffs allege that Dr. Melton relied upon statements from Warden Davenport to change Cummings's code status to DNR even though Gaines and several other family members were at the hospital. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18 & 20). Plaintiffs further allege that “Warden Davenport authorized UAB medical personnel to stop giving Cummings medication and to disconnect the life support machine.” (Id. ¶ 21).

         Plaintiffs allege that contrary to Gaines's wishes, and “[b]ased on [the] directive from Warden Davenport, Cummings was taken off of life support . . . .” (Id. ¶ 24). Cummings passed away at 7:05 p.m. on January 7, 2014, just hours after UAB medical personnel removed his life support. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25).

         IV. ...


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