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Cook v. Corizon, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

May 10, 2019

EMMA D. COOK, et al., Plaintiffs,
CORIZON, LLC, et al., Defendants.




         This lawsuit arises from the death of a State prisoner, John S. Cook (“Cook”), due to allegedly inadequate medical care. Plaintiffs, the personal representatives of Cook's estate, bring personal capacity constitutional and state-law wrongful death claims against, among others, three Alabama Department of Corrections' (“ADOC”) supervisory officials: ADOC Commissioner Jefferson Dunn, ADOC Associate Commissioner for Health Services Ruth Naglich, and Warden of the Kilby Correctional Facility Phyllis Billups. Plaintiffs' amended complaint (Doc. 26) pleads no facts showing that these ADOC supervisory officials had any personal involvement in Cook's allegedly inadequate medical care, and their constitutional and state-law claims against these ADOC supervisory officials are due to be dismissed for failure to state a claim. In addition, plaintiffs' claims against fictitious defendants A-L are dismissed because fictitious-party practice is generally prohibited in federal court.


         Plaintiffs allege that Cook was Bipolar and suffered from Hepatitis C. Amd. Compl. (Doc. 26) ¶¶ 26-28. In April 2013, Cook was transferred to Bullock Correctional Facility. Id. at ¶ 29. In April 2014, Cook presented to the medical staff at Bullock and was noted to have a hernia. Id. at ¶ 31. On August 15, 2015, Cook complained of severe abdominal pain to medical staff at Bullock Correctional Facility, and he was transferred to Bullock County Hospital for evaluation. Id. at ¶¶ 43-44. The Emergency Room at Bullock County diagnosed Cook with an incarcerated umbilical hernia and transferred him to Jackson Hospital for surgery. Id. at ¶ 44. Jackson Hospital staff performed hernia surgery on August 16, 2015, and removed a gangrenous loop of small intestine noting that Cook had a long history of umbilical hernia. Id. at ¶ 45.

         Jackson Hospital discharged Cook to ADOC with instructions for proper wound care. Id. at ¶ 45. On or about August 20, 2015, Cook was admitted to a ward at Kilby Correctional Facility. Id. at ¶ 47. Cook's wound was not properly cared for, he had a significant mental status change, and his nutritional state deteriorated. Id. at ¶¶ 48-53. On September 10, 2015, Defendant Dr. Rahming noted that there might be sepsis and suggested that Cook be referred to a hospital. Id. at ¶ 54.

         On or about September 13, 2015, Cook was transferred to the Jackson Hospital Emergency Room where he presented with malnutrition and acute renal failure with electrolyte abnormalities in addition to advanced Hepatic Cirrhosis. Id. at ¶ 57. Jackson Hospital staff performed surgery and noted that Cook's intestine was ischemic. Id. Jackson Hospital kept Cook in the ICU for several days and treated his severe metabolic acidosis and sepsis along with treatment of the surgical wound. Id.

         On or about October 1, 2015, Cook returned from Jackson Hospital to the infirmary at Kilby Correctional Facility. Id. at ¶ 58. On October 4, 2015, after several bouts of vomiting coffee ground emesis, Cook was transferred back to Jackson Hospital where he died on October 5, 2015. Id. at ¶¶ 60-61.


         Plaintiffs filed this action in State court on March 8, 2017, asserting claims for negligence/wantonness, medical malpractice, and violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. State Court Complaint (Doc. 1) Attachment 1. Defendants removed on the basis of federal question jurisdiction (Doc. 1), and defendants ADOC, Dunn, Naglich, and Billups moved to dismiss. (Doc. 12). The court then sua sponte entered an order instructing plaintiffs to file an amended complaint to clarify whether they were pursuing a wrongful death claim and denying defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice to refile. (Doc. 25). Plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint (Doc. 26), which is the operative pleading now before the court, and defendants ADOC (Doc. 28), Billups (Doc. 29), Dunn (Doc. 30), and Naglich (Doc. 31) each filed separate motions to dismiss. By separate Order filed contemporaneously with this Order, the court granted ADOC's motion to dismiss.


         The amended complaint pleads four counts against the ADOC supervisory officials. Count III is a state-law wrongful death claim against Commissioner Dunn and Associate Commissioner Naglich in their individual capacities alleging that they negligently or wantonly violated a duty to ensure that Corizon provided constitutionally adequate medical care to inmates. Amd. Compl. (Doc. 26) at ¶¶ 81-86. Count IV is a state-law wrongful death claim against Associate Commissioner Naglich in her individual capacity alleging that she negligently or wantonly breached her duties as required by ADOC AR 700. Amd. Compl . (Doc . 26) at ¶¶ 87-90 . Count V is a state - law wrongful death claim against Warden Billups in her individual capacity alleging that she negligently or wantonly breached her duties under ADOC AR 700. Amd. Compl. (Doc. 26) at ¶¶ 91-95. Count VI is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against all defendants for deliberate indifference to Cook's serious medical needs resulting in his death. Amd. Compl. (Doc. 26) ¶¶ 96-105.


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against Rule 8's pleading standard which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint fails to satisfy this standard “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct[.]” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (internal quotes and citations omitted). The Supreme Court instructs that, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain ...

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