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Hammonds v. Dekalb County

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

October 16, 2017

STEPHEN HAMMONDS, Plaintiff,
v.
DEKALB COUNTY, AL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the court on motions to dismiss Plaintiff Stephen Hammonds's Second Amended Complaint (doc. 39) filed by Defendants DeKalb County (doc. 45), Sheriff Jimmy Harris (doc. 47), and Robert Theakston and Matthew Martin (doc. 49). Mr. Hammonds alleges violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights through § 1983 and discrimination through the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. While a pretrial detainee at the DeKalb County jail, Mr. Hammonds, a Type-I diabetic, suffered a serious medical crisis, which, Mr. Hammonds claims, Defendants caused or failed to timely address.

         For the reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion, the court will GRANT the County's and Sheriff Harris's motions to dismiss and GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Dr. Theakston and Mr. Martin's motion to dismiss. Specifically, the court will DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Count I against all Defendants, Count II against the County, and Count III against Sheriff Harris. However, Mr. Hammonds may proceed with his claims in Counts IV and V that Dr. Theakston and Mr. Martin, respectively, personally participated in the alleged constitutional deprivations.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mr. Hammonds brought this action pursuant to the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants moved to dismiss Mr. Hammonds's original complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Docs. 9, 11). This court granted the motions to dismiss as to Mr. Hammonds's ADA and Rehabilitation Act allegations and ordered Mr. Hammonds to provide a more definite statement as to his § 1983 claims. (Doc. 27). Although the court originally dismissed Mr. Hammonds's ADA and Rehabilitation Act allegations with prejudice, it reconsidered and permitted Mr. Hammonds to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 38). Mr. Hammonds filed his Second Amended Complaint (doc. 39) and Defendants responded with their second round of motions to dismiss (docs. 45, 47, 49), which are now fully briefed and under submission.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The court incorporates and adopts the standard of review outlined in its prior Memorandum Opinion (doc. 26) addressing Defendants' first motions to dismiss.

         FACTS

         Because the facts alleged by Mr. Hammonds in his Second Amended Complaint are substantially the same as those in the original complaint, the court adopts its factual statement from the prior Memorandum Opinion (doc. 26). The court likewise adopts its finding that it will consider the July 2014 Department of Homeland Security report (“DHS Report”) referenced by Mr. Hammonds's complaints. Furthermore, the court adopts its previous findings about the DHS Report's weight with respect to Mr. Hammonds's allegations.

         Briefly stated, Mr. Hammonds, who suffers from Diabetes Mellitus Type I, alleges that the County, Sheriff Harris, Dr. Theakston, and Mr. Martin denied him access to the necessary medical treatment for his condition while they detained him at the DeKalb County jail. As a result, Mr. Hammonds suffered multiple diabetes-related complications, including diabetic ketoacidosis (“DKA”), anemia, leukocytosis, and acute renal and kidney failure. Mr. Hammonds alleges that he informed Defendants of his condition, but they failed to treat him properly. Specifically, he contends that Dr. Theakston, a physician, placed him on a treatment regime for Type-II diabetes patients. That regime was inadequate to treat Type-I diabetes and led to Mr. Hammonds's complications. Further, while Mr. Hammonds's condition was deteriorating, Mr. Hammonds's family called 911 to report his condition. Mr. Martin got wind of the call and threatened Mr. Hammonds's family members with arrest and jail.

         In Count I of the Second Amended Complaint, Mr. Hammonds alleges that all four Defendants violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act by denying him proper care. In Count II, Mr. Hammonds alleges that the County violated § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving him of his fundamental right to adequate medical care. In Counts III, IV, and V, Mr. Hammonds alleges that Sheriff Harris, Dr. Theakston, and Mr. Martin, respectively, acted to deprive him of his fundamental right to adequate medical care. Mr. Hammonds appears to allege that Sheriff Harris, Dr. Theakston, and Mr. Martin acted both personally and as supervisors to injure him. Mr. Hammonds asks the court to enter a declaratory judgment that Defendants' practices violate the Constitution, the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act. Mr. Hammonds also asks that the court enjoin Defendants' practices, order the development and implementation of appropriate practices, and award monetary damages and punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees, costs, and interest.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Count I: ADA and Rehabilitation Act

         According to Mr. Hammonds, Defendants violated Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by failing to accommodate his Type-I diabetes and by discriminating against him on the basis of his Type-I diabetes. Specifically, Mr. Hammonds states that Defendants discriminated against him by placing him in administrative segregation and by failing to provide a diabetes-compliant diet and space and permission to exercise. Mr. Hammonds further alleges that Defendants discriminated against him because of his diabetic condition by refusing to allow him access to “basic inmate services; regular mealtimes; the opportunity to exercise; the ability [to] access [] the inmate kiosk and known needs for his diabetic condition.” (Doc. 39 ¶ 163).

         Defendants argue that Mr. Hammonds has failed to state a claim for relief because the Second Amended Complaint fails to provide facts sufficient to draw a discriminatory connection between the alleged denial of services and Mr. Hammonds's condition. The court agrees.[1]

         “To state a claim under Title II of the ADA, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that he is a ‘qualified individual with a disability;' (2) that he was excluded from participation in or . . . denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity' or otherwise ‘discriminated [against] by such entity;' (3) ‘by reason of such disability.'” Shotz v. Cates, 256 F.3d 1077, 1079 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12132). Similarly, a prima facie case for discrimination under the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires a plaintiff to show (1) that he is “handicapped” within the meaning of the Act and relevant regulations; (2) that he is “otherwise qualified” to participate in the program or activity; (3) that the program or activity received federal financial assistance; and (4) that he was adversely treated solely because of his handicap. See Jackson v. Veterans Administration, 22 F.3d 277, 278 (11th Cir. 1994).

         For the same reasons as discussed in the court's prior Memorandum Opinion (doc. 26 at 12-16), Mr. Hammonds has failed to state a claim for relief under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. A defendant does not violate the ADA or Rehabilitation Act merely because it failed to provide medical care to disabled prisoners or detainees. See Cash v. Smith, 231 F.3d 1301, 1305 & n.2 (11th Cir. 2000) (observing that discrimination claims under the Rehabilitation Act are governed by the same standards used in ADA cases and that cases decided under the Rehabilitation Act are precedent for cases under the ADA); see also Bryant v. Madigan, 84 F.3d 246, 249 (7th Cir. 1996) (“The ADA does not create a remedy for medical malpractice.”); Fitzgerald v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 403 F.3d 1134, 1144 (10th Cir. 2005) (holding that “purely medical decisions” do not ordinarily fall within the scope of the ADA).

         To state a claim under the ADA and or Rehabilitation Act Mr. Hammonds would need to bring non-conclusory allegations that Defendants treated him worse than other prisoners because of Mr. Hammonds's Type-I diabetes. Mr. Hammonds identifies a potential disability (diabetes) and several adverse actions (e.g., the misdiagnosis, the placement of Mr. Hammonds in administrative segregation, and his restriction from using the prisoner-services kiosk), but he does not allege facts that suggest Defendants chose to mistreat him because he had diabetes.

         Accordingly, the court finds that Count I is due to be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE in favor of all Defendants. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (stating that a claim must contain enough facts that “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”).

         B. Count II: § 1983 Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs (DeKalb County)

         Mr. Hammonds bases his first § 1983 claim on the County's alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs as a pretrial detainee, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. He states that “[p]ursuant to DeKalb County's jail policy and long-standing policy” he “was not identified” as a Type-I diabetic and did not receive the appropriate treatment or management. (Doc. 39 ¶ 176). Mr. Hammonds repeats his contention that the County has such a policy several times. Mr. Hammonds also alleges that the County “owns and funds the operation of the jail, its personnel, including medical staff, and employs Dr. Theakston for the part time provision of medical care for persons incarcerated there.” (Doc. 39 ¶ 170). Mr. Hammonds further ...


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