United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
CAROLYN STRICKLAND, as the personal representative of the estate of her son, Cody Strickland, Plaintiff,
HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY OF CULLMAN COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action arises out of the tragic death of Carolyn
Strickland's son, Cody Strickland. According to Ms.
Strickland, Cody died because the defendants denied him his
right to basic medical care while he was incarcerated at the
Cullman County Jail. She asserts claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Dr. Adam Harrison, the jail's medical
director; Harrison Medical Consulting, LLC
(“HMC”), the jail's medical provider; Mike
Hale, a nurse employed by HMC who treated her son at the
jail; the Health Care Authority of Cullman County
(“HCACC”); Cullman Regional Medical Center
(“CRMC”); and several officers at the jail,
alleging deliberate indifference to her son's serious
medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Doc. 29.
Ms. Strickland also asserts state law medical malpractice
claims against Hale, Dr. Harrison, HMC, HCACC, and CRMC based
on her allegations that they failed to meet the relevant
standard of care regarding her son's treatment.
case is currently before the court on Hale's, Dr.
Harrison's, and HMC's motions to dismiss, docs. 34;
47, and motion to stay discovery, doc. 52. In their motions
to dismiss, the movants argue that Ms. Strickland failed to
state a plausible claim for deliberate indifference and that
her complaint is an impermissible shotgun pleading. The
motions, which are fully briefed and ripe for review,
see docs. 34; 37; 38; 47; 49; 50, are due to be
granted solely as to the § 1983 claims against Dr.
Harrison and HMC and the medical malpractice claim against
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). Mere “‘labels and
conclusions'” or “‘a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action'”
are insufficient. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.'” Id.
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. When evaluating a motion brought under Rule
12(b)(6), the court accepts “the allegations in the
complaint as true and construe[s] them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Hunt v. Aimco Props.,
L.P., 814 F.3d 1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2016). However,
“[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must . .
. ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A complaint states a
facially plausible claim for relief “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. In other words, the
complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. See
also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Strickland was a work release inmate housed in the Cullman
County Jail when he became ill. Doc. 29 at 3. On February 24,
2017, Mr. Strickland “requested to go to medical,
” where Hale treated him. Id. at 4. By the
next afternoon, Mr. Strickland's condition had severely
deteriorated, and Betty Johnson, a jailer, took him to see
Hale again. Id. At that time, Mr. Strickland
“was pale, lethargic, barely responsive, and having
difficulty breathing, ” and he “reported being
nauseous, recent vomiting, coughing up blood, diarrhea, and
chest pain.” Id. Johnson “made sure Hale
understood all of [Mr. Strickland's] severe symptoms
despite [Mr. Strickland's] limited ability to fully
communicate them.” Id. Allegedly, Hale
observed that Mr. Strickland had a fever, rapid breathing, an
elevated heart rate, and an oxygen saturation level of
Id. According to Ms. Strickland, her son's
symptoms “clearly indicated sepsis, ” and the
standard of care required evaluation and treatment in a
hospital, or, at a minimum, contacting Dr. Harrison,
Hale's supervisor, for guidance. Id. And, Ms.
Strickland alleges that Hale and Johnson recognized that her
son needed to go to the hospital. Id. at 5. Despite
the severe symptoms, Hale sent Mr. Strickland “back to
his housing in work release, ” and did not contact Dr.
Harrison or take any other action to obtain medical care.
Strickland's condition deteriorated further. Id.
at 6-7 Other inmates informed jail staff that Mr. Strickland
“needed to go to the hospital due to severe nausea and
vomiting, severe difficulty breathing, general weakness and
non-responsiveness, and other symptoms.” Id.
at 7. But, the overnight jail staff did not check on Mr.
Strickland, or call Hale or Dr. Harrison. Id.
took Mr. Strickland to see Hale again the following morning
before 8:00 a.m. Id. At that time, Mr. Strickland
“was in se[ver]e respiratory distress and was cyanotic
with low blood pressure, rapid breathing, and high pulse,
” which Hale and Johnson recognized “as a
life-threatening medical emergency.” Id. at
7-8. Rather than calling for emergency help, however, Hale
called Dr. Harrison, who authorized Hale to send Mr.
Strickland to the hospital. Id. at 8. Hale then
“merely instructed sheriff personnel to arrange for
[Mr. Strickland] to be driven to the hospital, ” and he
did not tell them that Mr. Strickland's condition was an
emergency, which delayed medical treatment by fifteen to
thirty minutes. Id. In addition, Hale allegedly did
not “provide sheriff personnel with necessary
information regarding [Mr. Strickland's] condition,
” resulting in further delays in treatment at the
hospital. Id. Tragically, Mr. Strickland died that
morning at the hospital. Id.
Dr. Harrison, and HMC have moved to dismiss, arguing that Ms.
Strickland fails to plead a plausible deliberate indifference
against them or a plausible medical malpractice claim against
Dr. Harrison, and that the Third Amended Complaint is an
impermissible shotgun pleading. Docs. 34 and
The court addresses these contentions in turn.
Whether Ms. Strickland Pleads a Plausible Deliberate
Indifference Claims Against the Moving
Strickland asserts § 1983 claims against Hale, Dr.
Harrison, and HMC for deliberate indifference to her
son's medical needs. Doc. 29 at 9. “Deliberate
indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs is a
violation of the Eighth Amendment.” Goebert v. Lee
Cnty., 510 F.3d 1312, 1326 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). But,
“[m]edical malpractice does not become a constitutional
violation merely because the victim is a prisoner.”
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Accordingly, allegations
of negligence in diagnosing or treating a prisoner's
medical condition are not sufficient to state a claim for
deliberate indifference. Id. Rather, to properly
state a claim, a plaintiff must allege facts showing (1)
“an objectively serious medical need” and (2)
that the defendant “acted with ...