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Glenn v. Myers

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

June 7, 2018

AGNES GLENN, in her capacity as the personal representative of the estate of Roderick Darius Rayshon Bolton, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
WALTER MYERS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          CALLIE V. S. GRANADE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant, MHM Correctional Services, Inc.'s (“MHM”) Motion for Summary Judgment or alternatively, a partial judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 90), Plaintiff's opposition (Doc. 92), and MHM's reply (Doc. 93). For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that MHM's motion for summary judgment should be DENIED as premature. Further, MHM's Motion for Partial Judgement on the Pleadings is due to be GRANTED with respect to Plaintiff's § 1983 claim (Count 2) and DENIED with respect to Plaintiff's state law claims (Count 3 and 5).

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This action arises from an incident at Holman Correctional Facility (“Holman”) on September 12, 2015, wherein Roderick Bolton (“Bolton”), an inmate, committed suicide. (Doc. 75, generally). Bolton was a practicing Muslim who prior to September 12, 2015, was involved in a number of instances resulting in his being punished by being placed in segregation for insubordination and/or failure to follow direct orders as a result of his refusal to shave, which he maintained was required by his religious beliefs. (Id. at 6-9). One of these instances occurred on September 11, 2015, which resulted in Bolton being placed in segregation at approximately 9 a.m. (Id. at 10). Plaintiff alleges that following his placement in segregation and prior to his suicide, Bolton informed Defendants, including Shelia Brown (“Brown”) that he was having suicidal thoughts and ideation. Plaintiff's Complaint also identifies numerous other individuals who were allegedly in contact with or present before, during, or after Bolton's death. The individuals identified in Plaintiff's Complaint are allegedly employed by Corizon Health Inc., Corizon, LLC (hereinafter collectively “Corizon”), the Alabama Department of Corrections (“ADOC”), or MHM.[1]

         On May 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action against fifteen Defendants (Doc. 1) and has since amended her complaint three times resulting in this action now being pending against twenty named Defendants, including MHM (Doc. 75). The Fourth Amended Complaint alleges claims against MHM for a violation of Bolton's Eighth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and negligence and wantonness under Alabama law based on the conduct of Brown and other MHM supervisors and employees who were involved in the care of Bolton. (Doc. 75; Doc. 92 at 2, 4-5). The claims against MHM stem from the fact that MHM provides mental health care services to inmates incarcerated in facilities operated by the ADOC, including Holman and the fact that Plaintiff was informed by another Defendant, Corizon Health, that Brown was an employee of MHM. (Doc. 92 at 2, 4; Doc. 92-2).

         On June 2, 2017, MHM filed its Answer denying that Brown was an employee of MHM during the relevant period (Doc. 35; Doc. 92 at 6). Brown filed her Answer the same day and denied being employed by either Corizon or MHM, but did not identify her employer. (Doc. 33; Doc. 92 at 6). MHM reiterated that it did not employ Brown to Plaintiff at the Rule of Parties Planning Meeting on July 28, 2017. The same day, Plaintiff sought permission from MHM to file an amended complaint in order to correct a typo and in that correspondence acknowledged MHM's position, but again stated it needed time to perform due diligence on the issue of Brown's employment. (Doc. 92 at 7; Doc. 92-3). On August 3, 2017, counsel for MHM sent Plaintiff's counsel a letter restating there was no valid claim against MHM because Brown had not been employed by MHM since 2012. (Doc. 92 at 6; Doc. 90-4). Plaintiff responded to MHM that it would need to conduct discovery to determine the correct parties before dismissing MHM voluntarily. (Doc. 92 at 6). On August 21, 2017, MHM filed its Answer (Doc. 60) to the Second Amended Complaint denying Brown was an employee during the relevant time and on August 24, 2017, Brown filed her Answer repeating she was neither employed by Corizon or MHM, but not identifying her employer (Doc. 61). On August 28, 2017, MHM propounded its initial disclosures to Plaintiff which stated that Brown was employed by ADOC. (Doc. 92-4). On September 4, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel notified counsel for all Defendants that they were still trying to determine which Defendants belonged in the case, but that discovery was needed in order to do so. (Doc. 92-5). Thereafter, Plaintiff discovered that additional medical records existed and that additional medical personnel needed to be named as Defendants resulting in Plaintiff filing another motion for leave to amend the complaint (Doc. 63) to add those individuals. (Doc. 92 at 8). The Court granted the motion, and the Third Amended Complaint was filed on September 20, 2017 (Doc. 65). On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff moved to again amend the complaint to correct the identity of one of the individuals added in the Third Amended Complaint. (Doc. 92 at 9). MHM answered the Third Amended Complaint on October 3, 2017, denying Brown was employed during the relevant time. (Doc. 72). The Court then granted Plaintiff's motion for leave and the Fourth Amended Complaint was filed on October 16, 2017 (Doc. 75). On October 19, 2017, Brown answered the Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. 80) which stated that Brown was an employee of ADOC during the relevant time period. MHM filed its answer to the Fourth Amended Complaint on October 30, 2017, again denying that it employed Brown during the relevant time period (Doc. 82).

         On November 27, 2017, Plaintiff responded to MHM's interrogatories admitting that the only information Plaintiff had indicating that MHM was liable under Counts 2, 3, and 5, was Bolton's prison records which showed that he consulted with Brown prior to his death, that MHM provided mental health services to Holman prison in 2015, and that Brown was probably a MHM employee, despite being told otherwise by MHM's counsel. (Doc. 92 at 9-10). Plaintiff additionally informed MHM that it would engage in discovery on the issue of employment and would voluntarily dismiss the action against MHM if it was warranted. (Id.)

         On December 14, 2017, MHM filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 90). The parties have briefed the issues fully (see Doc. 92 and 93) and the motion is now ripe before this Court.

         DISCUSSION

         MHM asserts dismissal is warranted on two grounds: (1) because Plaintiff can prove no set of facts that MHM employed Brown at the time of Bolton's death such that it could potentially be vicariously liable for the actions of Brown on any claim, and (2) because even if summary judgment is premature, MHM is due partial judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) with regard to any supervisors and/or employees other than Brown because Plaintiff has not identified any other potential employees on which MHM's liability may be based with respect to Plaintiff's state law claims (Counts 3 and 5) and because Plaintiff's § 1983 action (Count 2) based on vicarious liability fails as a matter of law. (Doc. 90 at 1-2). This Court will address each argument in turn.

         I. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted: “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The trial court's function is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “The mere existence of some evidence to support the non-moving party is not sufficient for denial of summary judgment; there must be ‘sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.'” Bailey v. Allgas, Inc., 284 F.3d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, at 249-250. (internal citations omitted).

         The basic issue before the Court on a motion for summary judgment is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-252. The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists. O'Ferrell v. United States, 253 F.3d 1257, 1265 (11th Cir. 2001). In evaluating the argument of the moving party, the court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in its favor. Burton v. City of Belle Glade, 178 F.3d 1175, 1187 (11th Cir. 1999). “If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary judgment.” Miranda v. B&B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975 F.2d 1518, 1534 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Mercantile Bank & Trust v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 750 F.2d 838, 841 (11th Cir. 1985)).

         Once the movant satisfies his initial burden under Rule 56(c), the non-moving party "must make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of each essential element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Howard v. BP Oil Company, 32 F.3d 520, 524 (11th Cir. 1994)(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Otherwise stated, the non-movant must “demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment.” See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The non-moving party “may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response .... must be by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule be set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Vega v. Invsco Group, Ltd., 2011 WL 2533755, *2 (11th Cir. 2011). “A mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the [non-moving] party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). “[T]he nonmoving party may avail itself of all facts and justifiable inferences in the record taken as a whole.” Tipton v. Bergrohr ...


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