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Pfeifer v. Correctcare-Integrated Health, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

April 17, 2018

MARK PFEIFER, Administrator of the Estate of James Kenneth Embry, Deceased, PLAINTIFF


          Thomas B. Russell, Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon two Motions. First, there is the Motion filed by Defendant Steve Hiland to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for loss of consortium, loss of companionship, grief, and pain and suffering. [DN 171.] Second, Defendant Hope Grisham[1] has filed a Motion for extension of time to file an answer. [DN 180.] These matters are ripe for adjudication, and their merits are discussed below.

         I. Factual Background

         The following Factual Background section is taken largely from this Court's previous Memorandum Opinion and Order docketed at ¶ 127: This action arises out of the death of James Kenneth Embry while he was an inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (“KSP”). Embry died of starvation and dehydration after refusing thirty-five of his final thirty-six meals. Following his death, the Kentucky Department of Corrections (“DOC”) conducted a Critical Incident Review which concluded that Embry's death “occurred as a result of a systemic failure at the Kentucky State Penitentiary.” [DN 105-1, at 19.]

         Embry was a 57-year-old man serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted of drug possession, assault, and wanton endangerment. Embry had a history of mental illness and had been prescribed various medications while at KSP. Embry was also disruptive, having “no less than 25 major disciplinary violations.” [Id. at 3.] This pattern of disruptive behavior ceased on June 22, 2012. On that date Embry was assaulted by another inmate. The assault, which required Embry to be transported to a local hospital for medical care, appeared to have a major impact on Embry. Embry received no further disciplinary reports until shortly before his death, when he was cited multiple times for failing to eat and harming himself. Embry was fearful and believed there was a “contract” on his life. [Id. at 4.]

         Embry was prescribed various medications for his mental health while he was an inmate. On May 7, 2013, Embry informed the medical staff that he did not like how these medications made him feel and would no longer take certain medications. Eventually, all of Embry's medications were discontinued on July 22, 2013, after Embry refused to take them for two weeks. Embry continued to fear for his own safety and on November 29, 2013, he was moved to a segregation unit, Cellhouse Three. On December 3, Embry told Dr. Jeane Hinkebein, a psychologist at KSP, that he wanted to begin taking his medication again. Embry was “anxious and paranoid” and believed he “could not take it on the yard.” [Id.] Embry also repeatedly made statements about wanting to harm himself. These claims were discounted and it was concluded that Embry's actions were goal-driven to influence his housing location. Embry was seen again on December 5 and his request for medication was denied. [Id. at 6.] Embry was placed on a 15-minute watch and put into a suicide smock due to the statements he made to staff.

         Thereafter, Embry began to display a pattern of refusing to eat many of his meals. [Id. at 7.] Embry also continued to make statements about wanting to hurt himself and about how he had nothing to live for. Throughout the end of December 2013 and into January 2014, Embry began to refuse more and more meals. On January 13, 2014, Embry died. His autopsy concluded that he died from “dehydration with contributing starvation, duodenal ulcer, and emphysema with right ventricle hypertrophy.” [Id. at 6.] Embry had lost around 44 pounds in the five months before his death.

         This action was initially filed as two separate lawsuits. Mark Pfeifer was appointed the Administrator of the Estate of James Embry in Daviess County and filed a case on January 12, 2015. Pfeifer v. Thompson, 5:15-cv-7. Robbie Emery Burke was appointed Administrator of the Estate of James Embry in Lyon County and filed a case on January 15, 2015. Burke v. Correct Care Solutions, 5:15-cv-15. The Daviess County case was amended to name Ms. Burke the administrator. The Court consolidated these cases. [DN 86.]

         II. Hiland's Rule 12(c) Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that the plaintiff's complaint include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Rule 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Bloch v. Ribar, 156 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 1998). Crucially, “[w]hen considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court must accept all of the allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff.” Lawrence v. Chancery Court of Tennessee, 188 F.3d 687, 691 (6th Cir. 1999). This means that, “unless it can be established beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, ” the motion should be denied. Achterhof v. Selvaggio, 886 F.2d 826, 831 (6th Cir. 1989). “However, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Blakely v. United States, 276 F.3d 853, 863 (6th Cir. 2002). A “complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Andrews v. Ohio, 104 F.3d 803, 806 (6th Cir. 1997).

         Although a “complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. The concept of “plausibility” demands that a complaint contain sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. The element of plausibility is met “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). However, where the court is unable to “infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but has not show[n]-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Finally, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” The Court analyzes a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings using the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon ...

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