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Brown v. Alabama Department of Corrections

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

September 30, 2019

RYAN D. BROWN, Plaintiff,



         Before the court is a motion to dismiss (Doc. # 11), filed by Defendants Jefferson S. Dunn, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections (“ADOC”), and Ruth Naglich, Associate Commissioner of ADOC’s Health Services. Plaintiff Ryan D. Brown filed a response in opposition to the motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 15.) This case exemplifies the impracticality of resolving a qualified immunity defense when bad briefing intersects with bad pleading. For the reasons to follow, Defendants’ motion to dismiss will be denied, and Mr. Brown will be required to replead his shotgun complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2017, Mr. Brown was an inmate at ADOC’s Kilby Correctional Facility. In January of that year, he went to the infirmary at Kilby because he was experiencing “lower quadrant abdominal pain and the onset of appendicitis.” (Doc. # 1, at 7, ¶ 13.) He continued to make “numerous complaints of abdominal pain, ” including one painful episode where, on a scale of one to ten, he reported that “he was experiencing pain at the level of 50.” (Doc. # 1, at 8, ¶ 14.) In response to at least one of these complaints, Mr. Brown was “given Tylenol as opposed to being referred to a general surgeon.” (Doc. # 1, at 8, ¶ 14.) When he was finally hospitalized, on January 28, 2017, he required treatment in the intensive care unit. There, he “experienced respiratory failure; renal failure; [and] several operating and life[-]saving procedures, including, but not limited to, [a] tracheotomy.” (Doc. # 1, at 7, ¶ 13.)

         Mr. Brown brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He sues Commissioner Dunn, Associate Commissioner Naglich, Kilby’s warden, and Kilby’s director of nursing.[1] Mr. Brown’s § 1983 claim alleges that Dunn and Naglich were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, but the claim does not delineate what acts or omissions were committed by which Defendant. Mr. Brown names Dunn and Naglich in their individual capacities. He also sues Naglich in her official capacity, but it is unclear whether Mr. Brown also names Dunn in his official capacity. Mr. Brown seeks declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against “defendants” collectively. (Doc. # 1, at 4, ¶ 7.)

         Dunn and Naglich move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). They assert qualified immunity, which is a defense to the § 1983 claim against them in their individual capacities. (Doc. # 11.)


         The court has subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue.


         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim must be dismissed if it does not “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. The law “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Offering mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If a claim is not plausible, it “does not unlock the doors of discovery.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         B. Shotgun Pleading

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, 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). So-called “shotgun pleadings” violate Rule 8 “by failing to one degree or another to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests.” Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1295 (11th Cir. 2018) (cleaned up). “Courts in the Eleventh Circuit have little tolerance for shotgun pleadings.” Id. When faced with a shotgun pleading, a defendant should move for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e). Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff’s Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1321 n.10 (11th Cir. 2015); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e) (“A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.”). A court may also order repleading on its own motion. See Wagner v. First Horizon Pharm. Corp., 464 F.3d 1273, 1280 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Given the district court’s proper conclusions that the complaint was a shotgun pleading and that plaintiffs[] failed to connect their causes of action to the facts alleged, the proper remedy was to order repleading sua sponte.”).

         IV. ...

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