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Phillips v. PTS of America, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division

September 12, 2017

ROSE M. PHILLIPS, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
PTS OF AMERICA, LLC, et al, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CANDACE J. SMITH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on: 1) Motion of Defendants Louisville Metro Government (“LMG”) and Mark E. Bolton, in his individual capacity, to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (R. 37); and 2) Motion of Defendants Mississippi County, Missouri (“Mississippi Co.”) and William Dorris to dismiss for lack of venue (R. 40). Plaintiffs have filed Responses to the Motions (R. 44; R. 45). Defendants LMG and Bolton have filed a Reply (R. 47). Defendants Mississippi Co. and Dorris have not filed a Reply and their time to do so has expired. These Motions have been referred to the undersigned for preparation of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). (R. 9). For the reasons that follow, it will be recommended that the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Mississippi Co. and Dorris (R. 40) be denied. It will be further recommended that this matter be transferred to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and that the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants LMG and Bolton (R. 37) be adjudicated by that court after transfer.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         In their Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs Rose M. Phillips, administrator of the estate of William Culpepper, Jr.; Michelle Meyer, as parent and next friend of W.C., minor daughter of William Culpepper, Jr. (“Culpepper”); and Brandon Green, the adult son of Culpepper, who was a minor at the time of William Culpepper, Jr.'s death, claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that Defendants violated Culpepper's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (R. 29, at 3) . Plaintiffs also allege several state law claims. (Id.).

         Culpepper was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky on December 20, 2015, on an outstanding warrant issued by the State of Mississippi. (Id. at 8). He was housed at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (“LMDC”) pending transport to Mississippi. (Id.) At approximately 10:00 a.m. on January 29, 2016, a PTS of America, LLC (“PTS”) van arrived at LMDC to transport Culpepper. (Id.). PTS is a company that provides prisoner transportation services. (Id. at 4). The van was operated by three PTS employees, Defendants Richard Haskins, James Crook, and Elva Earnhart. (Id. at 8). While Culpepper's intended destination was Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi, there was one overnight stop planned at the Mississippi County Detention Center (“MCDC”) located in Mississippi County, Missouri. (Id.).

         Before Culpepper was released from LMDC custody into the custody of PTS for transport, Culpepper allegedly reported to Defendants Haskins, Crook, and Earnhart that he had a bleeding ulcer and was experiencing abdominal pain. (Id.). Defendants Haskins, Crook, and Earnhart spoke with Defendant McKinney, a LMDC nurse and employee of Defendant Correct Care Solutions, LLC, regarding Culpepper's complaints. (Id.). Nurse McKinney responded that Culpepper had no medical history to support his complaint and directed Culpepper be given antacids during the trip. (Id. at 8-9). Defendants Haskins, Crook, and Earnhart were also informed, prior to transport, that Culpepper was a diabetic and had been non-compliant with his medications. (Id. at 9).

         During transport to MCDC, Culpepper continued to complain about abdominal pain. (Id.). At one point, Defendants Haskins, Crook, and Earnhart claim they contacted a nurse at LMDC about Culpepper's complaints, who allegedly directed them to continue to administer antacids. (Id.). Defendants also took Culpepper's blood sugar twice during the trip and, on both occasions, his blood sugar was high-in excess of 600 mg/dl. (Id.).

         The PTS van arrived at MCDC around midnight that night. (Id.). Defendants Haskins, Crook, and Earnhart escorted two other inmates from the van into MCDC, wherein they told an officer and employee of the Jail, Defendant Dorris, and other MCDC employees that Culpepper was still in the van, “refusing to come in.” (Id.). Defendant Dorris went to the van to help move Culpepper into the jail and found Culpepper barely responsive. (Id.).

         After Culpepper was taken inside MCDC around 12:18 a.m., Dorris and the Administrator at MCDC, Defendant Cory Hutcheson, refused to admit Culpepper to the Jail “until he was stable and medically cleared.” (Id. at 10). By approximately 12:25 a.m., Culpepper was unconscious. (Id.). An ambulance was called at approximately 12:40 a.m. and Defendants Hutcheson, Dorris, and other MCDC employees placed Culpepper into a wheelchair and transported him to the MCDC lobby to await arrival of the ambulance. (Id.). When the ambulance arrived at 12:50 a.m., Culpepper was unresponsive, had no pulse, and could not be revived. (Id.). The coroner subsequently determined that Culpepper died due to a perforated duodenal ulcer. (Id.).

         II. Analysis

         As pointed out above, Defendants LMG and Bolton, in his individual capacity, have now filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (R. 37) and Defendants Mississippi Co. and Dorris have filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of venue (R. 40). In the Motion to Dismiss for lack of venue, Defendants submit that the Eastern District of Kentucky is not the proper venue for this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 and, as a result, the Court should dismiss the Second Amended Complaint against Defendants Mississippi Co. and Dorris. (Id. at 2). The Court's analysis reveals that venue is improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391, but as explained below, transfer rather than dismissal is the appropriate remedy under the circumstances here.

         A. Venue in the Eastern District of Kentucky is Improper

         There is no special venue statute for § 1983 civil rights actions. Gamble v. Whitmer, No.3:12-cv-P481-H, 2012 WL 4460460, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 25, 2012); Schaeffer v. Kentucky, No. 3:11-cv-P516-R, 2011 WL 5975380, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 21, 2011). Looking therefore to the general venue statute, a civil action may be brought in:

(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.

         28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). Based on the above language, subsection (3) of the venue statute is not applicable unless both subsections (1) and (2) do not provide a judicial district in which an action may be brought. Schultz v. Ary, 175 F.Supp.2d 959, 965 (W.D. Mich. 2001) (stating “subsection (3) only applies ‘if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought'”); see alsoMaisano v. Corizon Health, Inc., No. 3:13-cv-0947, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137502, at *8 (M.D.Tenn. Sept. 25, 2013) (referring to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(3) as a “last-resort venue provision”). “Once venue is challenged by a defendant, plaintiff has the burden of ...


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