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Cartwright v. Christian County

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

June 20, 2018

JUDY CARTWRIGHT, as Administratrix of the Estate of Triston Lamark Taylor, PLAINTIFF
v.
CHRISTIAN COUNTY, KENTUCKY, et al., DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          THOMAS B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter comes before the Court upon Motion by Plaintiff Judy Cartwright, (“Plaintiff”), as Administratrix of the Estate of Triston Lamark Taylor, for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. [DN 49.] Defendants[1] have filed a Response, [DN 53], and Plaintiff has filed a Reply. [DN 54.] This matter is ripe for adjudication and, for the reasons that follow, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion, [DN 49], is GRANTED.

         A. Background

         This case arises out of events which transpired at the Christian County Jail from September 2016 until April 2017. [DN 26, at 9-10.] Triston Lamark Taylor, (“Taylor”), was arrested on September 29, 2016 and charged with second degree assault. [Id. at 9.] As a result, he was taken to the Christian County Jail. [Id.] Thereafter, due to his mental health issues, Taylor was twice sent to the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center, (the “Psychiatric Center”), in La Grange, Kentucky for the purpose of receiving psychiatric evaluations. [Id.] According to Plaintiff's first Amended Complaint, “[a]t approximately 8:37 a.m. on April 17, 2017, the Hopkinsville Ambulance Service received a call and was dispatched to the Christian County Jail” and, upon arrival, the “paramedics found [Taylor] lying supine on the floor, unresponsive…He was transported by ambulance to Jennie Stuart Medical Center. The hospital called his time of death at 9:10 a.m. on April 17, 2017.” [Id. at 10.] Apparently, when Taylor first arrived at the Christian County Jail, he weighed approximately 350 pounds and, on the day he died, he weighed 258 pounds. [Id. at 9-10.] In her Reply, Plaintiff indicates that the postmortem examination of Taylor, conducted “by the Western Kentucky Regional Medical Examiner's Office, indicated [Taylor] died of malnutrition/starvation…. [DN 54, at 2-3.] Additionally, the examination uncovered “injuries consistent with [Taylor] having been sexually assaulted. A sexual assault kit was collected at the time of the autopsy.” [Id. at 3.] Finally, Plaintiff's first Amended Complaint also indicates that, while Taylor was housed at the Christian County Jail, one of the Defendants, Christopher Marlar, “shocked [Taylor] with a Taser device at least two times.” [DN 26, at 15.]

         As Administratrix of Taylor's Estate, Plaintiff, who is also Taylor's mother, filed the instant lawsuit on December 7, 2017. [DN 1.] Thereafter, she filed her first Amended Complaint on April 13, 2018. [DN 26.] Therein she lays out six claims: (1) deliberate indifference to serious medical needs; (2) deliberate indifference for failure to protect; (3) wrongful death; (4) survival; (5) negligence; and (6) excessive force and failure to protect. [See Id. at 11-16.] Named in the first Amended Complaint are nineteen Defendants. Now, Plaintiff seeks leave of the Court to file a second Amended Complaint, which would add twenty-seven more individuals to the case. The merits of this Motion are discussed below.

         B. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) permits parties to amend their pleadings “as a matter of course, ” that is, without leave of the court, within “(A) 21 days after serving it, or (B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(A)-(B). Where such time has passed, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The rule instructs that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id.

         The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that “the thrust of Rule 15 is to reinforce the principle that cases ‘should be tried on their merits rather than the technicalities of pleadings.'” Moore v. City of Paducah, 790 F.2d 557, 559 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting Tefft v. Seward, 689 F.2d 637, 639 (6th Cir. 1982)). Factors the district court may consider in reaching its determination include the following: “[u]ndue delay in filing, lack of notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment….” Coe v. Bell, 161 F.3d 320, 341 (6th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Importantly, “[t]he decision as to whether justice requires the amendment is committed to the district court's sound discretion.” Moore, 689 F.2d at 639 (citations omitted). A district court will only be found to have abused its discretion where it “fails to state the basis for its denial or fails to consider the competing interests of the parties and likelihood of prejudice to the opponent.” Id. (citations omitted).

         C. Discussion

         In the present case, Plaintiff's proposed second Amended Complaint does not seek to add any new claims, but rather, is an attempt by Plaintiff to add new Defendants. Specifically, Plaintiff seeks to add the following individuals as Defendants: Jacob Chesher, John Scott Renshaw, Matthew Newby, Peter Scherm, Alan Rick Erickson, Ethan Davis, Adam Plock, Brandon Plesha, Cody Terry, David Clark, Adam Ellison, Lora Moore, Bradley Woosley, Bryan Smith, Kelli Carter Olenick, Jeremy Berg, Jason Brooks, Jonathan Davenport, Barbara Missey, Kimberly Pacheco, J.L. Hendricks, Dana Cherie Oldham, Anthony McIntosh, Caleb Hargrove, Levi Robinson, Cynthia Ellis, and Kayla Brown. [See generally DN 49-29.] Plaintiff alleges that all twenty-seven of these individuals were, during the relevant time period, working as employees and/or agents of either Christian County, Kentucky, Christian County Fiscal Court, or Christian County Jailer Brad Boyd (all three are already Defendants in this action). [See id.] Plaintiff's proffered reason for this Motion, and the necessity of these additional proposed Defendants, is as follows: “Plaintiff has moved to file a Second Amended Complaint to add additional jail personnel as defendants, whose identities were not known to Plaintiff at the time of the filing of the initial Complaint, based on discovery produced by the Defendants.” [DN 54, at 1 (emphasis added).]

         Defendants have filed a Response to Plaintiff's Motion and argue the following points: first, Plaintiff should have (or could have) included these twenty-seven individuals in her first Amended Complaint; second, only four of the twenty-seven proposed new Defendants “were indicated on the Surveillance Log on April 17, 2017, the day of [Taylor's] death;” third, the proposed second Amended Complaint lacks specific factual allegations and is therefore futile; and fourth, Defendants claim prejudice because of undue delay in filing the Motion. The Court will analyze each of these arguments in turn. [See DN 53.]

         Plaintiff asked for leave of the Court to file her first Amended Complaint on March 16, 2018, [DN 24], and this Court granted that Motion on April 13, 2018. [DNs 25, 26.] Defendants contend that Plaintiff should have included all or at least some of the newly proposed Defendants at that time. [See DN 53.] Notably though, the relevant discovery documents to which Plaintiff refers in her instant Motion contain certificates of service dated March 8, 2018 and March 9, 2018, respectively. [See DNs 53-1, at 10, 15 (Answers to Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories, and Requests for the Production of Documents, respectively).] Thus, even assuming that these documents were received by Plaintiff the next day, this would have left only a few days until the date on which Plaintiff filed her Motion to amend her Complaint the first time. In other words, although it appears that Plaintiff may have been in receipt of discovery naming these proposed individuals immediately prior to filing that first Motion, the Court finds no evidence of bad faith or any sort of dilatory tactics on behalf of Plaintiff, and Defendants do not appear to argue anything other than minor neglect. This small overlap is insufficient for the Court to consider denying Plaintiff's instant Motion.

         The second argument advanced by Defendants is that only four of the twenty-seven proposed new Defendants were mentioned in the relevant Surveillance Log from April 17, 2017. Setting this aside, though, Plaintiff is explicit in her reasoning as to why she wishes to have these twenty-seven individuals added to the case: their names were disclosed in discovery and were not theretofore known to her. Indeed, upon review of Defendants' answers to Plaintiff's first set of interrogatories, the Court finds all twenty-seven individuals' names listed therein. [See DN 53-1, at 2-5.] And as noted above, these answers to Plaintiff's first set of interrogatories were not sent out until March of 2018. [Id. at 10.] Moreover, while most of these individuals might not have signed the Surveillance Log on the day Taylor died, Plaintiff's lawsuit stems from actions and inactions during the course of Taylor's period of incarceration at the Christian County Jail, and not just the day he died while in Defendants' custody. Accordingly, this argument must fail.

         The third argument advanced by Defendants relates to the actual allegations Plaintiff has set forth in her proposed second Amended Complaint. Specifically, Defendants argue that “Plaintiff's proposed Second Amended Complaint does not include factual allegations against any of the 27 additional named Defendants, ” and that the statements which are given are “vague and do not refer to specific actions or inactions of the individuals Plaintiff attempts to name as defendants.” [DN 53, at 2.] One of the factors a district court may consider in deciding whether to grant a motion for leave to amend complaint is whether the proposed amendment is futile. See Coe, 161 F.3d at 341. It is Defendants' position that the amendments included in Plaintiff's proposed second Amended Complaint are futile, because these portions of the proposed Complaint could not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, and so the Court should not allow her to so amend. By way of response, Plaintiff argues that “Defendants are proceeding as if they had filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, ” and not merely a Response to a Motion to amend complaint. [DN 54, at 3-4.] Further, Plaintiff argues that she has pleaded, with ...


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