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Ball v. McCoullough

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

January 22, 2018

JIM HENRY BALL, JR., Plaintiff,
R. MCCOULLOUGH, et al., Defendants.



         This case is before the court on Defendant Fowler's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 135). The parties have fully briefed the Motion. (Docs. # 135, 142, 144). For the reasons explained below, Defendant Fowler's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 135) is due to be granted.

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this action in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County on May 20, 2016. (Docs. # 1-1, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-7, 1-8, 1-9, 1-16, 1-17, 1-18, 1-19, 1-20, 1-21, 1-22). On July 7, 2016, Defendants removed this case to the Middle District of Alabama. (Doc. # 1-1). The case was transferred to the Northern District of Alabama on August 29, 2016. (Doc. # 1). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 9, 2017. (Doc. # 43).

         After the court appointed an attorney to represent Plaintiff “for the limited purpose of drafting a second amended complaint, ” Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint on June 19, 2017. (Docs. # 73, 74). The claims in the Second Amended Complaint relate to (1) Plaintiff's confinement in the Birmingham City Jail from November 2014 through February 2015 and (2) Plaintiff's treatment by Defendant Callahan while at Grandview Medical Center in January 2015. (Doc. # 74). On June 22, 2017, Defendants (including Defendant Fowler) who were identified in the Complaint and First Amended Complaint but were not included in the Second Amended Complaint were dismissed from the proceeding. (Doc. # 76). After the court gave Plaintiff leave to amend the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 88), Plaintiff filed a Third Amendment to Complaint, which added claims against Defendant Fowler. (Doc. # 97). Defendant Fowler filed a Motion to Dismiss Third Amended Complaint on August 25, 2017. (Doc. # 106).

         On October 17, 2017, the court severed Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Callahan into a separate case, dismissed Plaintiff's federal claims against Defendant Callahan, and remanded Plaintiff's case against Defendant Callahan to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County. (Doc. # 118). On the same day, the court denied without prejudice Defendant Fowler's Motion to Dismiss Third Amended Complaint (Doc. # 106) because Plaintiff's Third Amendment to Complaint (Doc. # 97) did not clearly state the facts which Defendant Fowler relied upon in her motion. (Docs. # 117, 118). The court granted Defendant Fowler's Motion for More Definite Statement (Doc. # 123) on November 6, 2017. (Doc. # 124). On November 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Fourth Amended Complaint, which more clearly laid out his allegations against Defendant Fowler. (Doc. # 127). Defendant Fowler has now filed another motion to dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint (on December 1, 2017). (Doc. # 135).

         II. Relevant Facts

         “A Rule 12(b)(6) motion questions the legal sufficiency of a complaint; therefore, in assessing the merit of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must assume that all the factual allegations set forth in the complaint are true.” Mays v. U.S. Postal Serv., 928 F.Supp. 1552, 1557-58 (M.D. Ala. 1996). Thus, for the purpose of resolving Defendant Fowler's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 135), the court treats the facts alleged in the Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. # 127) as true. The court also liberally construes documents filed pro se, such as Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. # 135). Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         On May 13, 2014, a Birmingham City Jail officer escorted Plaintiff to Cooper Green Mercy Health Services (“Cooper Green”) for a pain management treatment appointment stemming from a pre-detention automobile accident. (Doc. # 127 at p. 2-3). Plaintiff alleges that he was a pre-trial detainee at Birmingham City Jail at this time. (Id. at p. 2). Upon arrival to Cooper Green, Plaintiff told Defendant Fowler, a medical clerk at Cooper Green, that he was experiencing excruciating pain; however, Defendant Fowler allegedly denied Plaintiff access to Cooper Green's services. (Id. at p. 3). Plaintiff claims this denial of services exacerbated his condition. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were “violated as a result of Plaintiff not receiving any opportunity to receive any form of needed medical treatment” from Cooper Green and Defendant Fowler. (Id. at p. 2). In the Fourth Amended Complaint's jurisdictional statement, Plaintiff states that this action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights. (Id. at p. 3). However, the only count in Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint asserts a medical malpractice claim. (Id. at p. 4-5). More specifically, Count One of Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant Fowler had a legal and contractual duty to allow Plaintiff access” to Cooper Green's services, that “Defendant Fowler breached her duty to allow Plaintiff access, ” that this “breach constituted medical malpractice, wanton conduct that was the proximate cause of Plaintiff's physical and psychiatric injuries and damages, ” and that this “breach fell below the standard of care for similarly situated medical facilities.” (Id.).

         III. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). 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. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the 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). Additionally, courts must liberally construe documents filed pro se. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94.

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 F. App'x. 136, 138 (11th Cir. 2011) (unpublished) (quoting Am. Dental Assn. v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” I ...

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