United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
STEPHANIE TROUTMAN, as Administratrix of the Estate of Charles Troutman, Jr., Plaintiff,
LOUISVILLE METRO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. Hale, Judge
Troutman, Jr. died by suicide while in the custody of the
Louisville Metro Department of Corrections. (Docket No. 111)
Plaintiff Stephanie Troutman, as administratrix of her
father's estate, alleges that his death was the result of
negligence by the LMDC and its medical staff. (Id.)
Defendants Kimberly Brown and Donna Smith have moved to
dismiss the claims against them on the ground that those
claims are duplicative of the claims against their employer,
Correct Care Solutions. (D.N. 116) For the reasons set forth
below, the Court will deny the motion to dismiss.
following facts are set forth in the third amended complaint
and taken as true for purposes of the present motion. See
Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478,
488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551
F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009)).
December 21, 2014, a neighbor attacked Troutman, severely
injuring him. (D.N. 111, PageID # 746) Troutman “was in
a coma for an extended period of time and suffered a
traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of the
attack.” (Id.) After the injury, Troutman
increasingly abused drugs, and he was arrested for
drug-related offenses on November 12, 2015. (Id.,
PageID # 746- 47) Troutman was taken to Louisville Metro
Department of Corrections, which contracted with Correct Care
Solutions to provide the facility's medical services.
(Id., PageID # 745, 747) LMDC placed Troutman in a
single, barred holding cell after the arrest and, while
there, he attempted to strangle himself with medical gauze.
(Id., PageID # 747) After the incident, Dr. Donna
Smith, an employee of Correct Care Solutions, evaluated
Troutman “for thirty minutes.” (Id.)
Smith released him back to the general population, despite
“not[ing] the history of TBI, drug abuse[, ] and prior
self-harm.” (Id.) After this event, Stephanie
Troutman called LMDC to make them aware of “her
father's very fragile and depressed state, ”
telling them about his prior suicide attempts. (Id.,
PageID # 748)
Troutman had several altercations with other inmates, which
led to a disciplinary citation and necessitated a hearing
before the disciplinary body. (Id.) Inmates awaiting
a hearing are removed from the general population and placed
in the same type of single, barred holding cell in which
Troutman had previously attempted suicide. (Id.) In
order to prevent suicides, inmates are typically evaluated
for suicide risk before being placed in these cells.
(Id.) Nurse Kimberly Brown, an employee of Correct
Care Solutions, received a medical clearance request for
Troutman but never performed the appropriate evaluation.
(Id., PageID # 749) LMDC again placed Troutman in a
single, barred cell, and on November 24, 2015, he died by
suicide. (Id., PageID # 743)
behalf of her father's estate, Stephanie Troutman alleges
that the defendants deprived Charles Troutman of his rights
under the Constitution and Kentucky law. (D.N. 111) Troutman
asserts claims against the employer entities, LMDC and
Correct Care Solutions, as well as the employees, James Cox,
Mark Bolton, Kimberly Brown, and Donna Smith, in both their
individual and official capacities. (Id.) Defendants
Brown and Smith moved to dismiss the official-capacity claims
against them. (D.N. 116)
order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim,
“a complaint must 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 is
plausible on its face “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. If “the well-pleaded facts
do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, ” the plaintiff has not
shown that she is entitled to relief. Id. at 679.
The complaint need not contain “detailed factual
allegations, ” but it must provide “more than an
accusation.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, “a
district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded
factual allegations as true.” Tackett, 561
F.3d at 488 (citing Gunasekera, 551 F.3d at 466).
only argument that Brown and Smith raise in their motion to
dismiss is that the claims against them in their official
capacities are duplicative of the claims against their
employer, Correct Care Solutions. (D.N. 116, PageID # 789)
Stephanie Troutman responds that the claims against Brown and
Smith are not necessarily duplicative because, at this early
stage of the litigation, it is not clear that Correct Care
Solutions is the proper defendant. (D.N. 119, PageID #
820-21) The Court agrees that dismissal is inappropriate at
this stage of the litigation.
claims arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.N. 111) A §
1983 claim consists of two elements: “1) the defendant
acted under color of state law; and 2) the defendant's
conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights secured under
federal law.” Arabo v. Greektown Casino, LLC,
533 Fed.Appx. 492, 493 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Fritz v.
Charter Twp. of Comstock, 592 F.3d 718, 722 (6th Cir.
2010)). While state action is a requirement, “it is
clear that a private entity which contracts with the state to
perform a traditional state function such as providing
medical services to prison inmates may be sued under §
1983 as one acting ‘under color of state
law.'” Hicks v. Frey, 992 F.2d 1450, 1458
(6th Cir. 1993) (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42, 54 (1988)); see also Braswell v. Corr. Corp. of
Am., 419 Fed.Appx. 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2011) (“A
private corporation that performs the traditional state
function of operating a prison acts under color of state law
for purposes of § 1983.” (citation omitted)).
Therefore, Correct Care Solutions and its employees are
susceptible to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(See D.N. 115, PageID # 784-85 (“The
Defendants admit . . . that Defendant Correct Care Solutions
has a contract with Louisville Metro Government and that it
is responsible for providing care to the LMDC inmates . . .
employees of the private entity are sued in their official
capacities, the Court treats the official-capacity claims as
claims against the employer. See Kentucky v. Graham,
473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985) (“Official-capacity suits . .
. ‘generally represent . . . another way of pleading an
action against an entity of which an officer is an
agent.'”) (quoting Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't
of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978);
Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439-40 (6th Cir.
2008); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th
Cir. 1994); Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't,
743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990). For this reason, judges
in the Western and Eastern Districts of Kentucky “have
adopted the practical approach of dismissing the official
capacity claims” when the case also includes a claim
against the employer. Baar v. Jefferson Cty. Bd. of
Educ., 686 F.Supp.2d 699, 704 (W.D. Ky. 2010). But this
practice commonly occurs at the summary-judgment stage.
See, e.g., id.; Thorpe ex rel. D.T. v.
Breathitt Cty. Bd. of Educ., 932 F.Supp.2d 799 (E.D. Ky.
2013). Here, Brown and Smith do not dispute that they are
employees of Correct Care Solutions (D.N. 117, PageID # 797),
and Stephanie Troutman has also sued Correct Care Solutions.
(D.N. 111) While the defendants argue that the Court may
dismiss the official-capacity claims as duplicative at this
stage of the litigation, the Court reads the Sixth
Circuit's decision in Baar v. Jefferson County Board
of Education, 476 Fed.Appx. 621');">476 Fed.Appx. 621 (6th Cir. 2012), as
discouraging that approach.
Baar, the plaintiff, a public-school teacher, sued
the Jefferson County Board of Education and several of its
employees in their official capacities. Id. at 623.
On a summary-judgment motion by all defendants, the district
court dismissed the official-capacity claims as duplicative
before determining that the school board was not liable under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at 634. Although it
ultimately affirmed the district court, the Sixth Circuit
seemed to note that dismissal of the official-capacity claims