United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
RONNIE E. VANHECK, By and Through His Legal Guardian and Father, Ronnie Vanheck Plaintiff
MARION COUNTY, KENTUCKY, ET AL. Defendants
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Rebecca Grady Jennings, District Judge.
Ronnie E. Vanheck, by and through his guardian and father
Ronnie Vanheck, sues Defendants Marion County, Kentucky,
Washington County, Kentucky, J. Barry Brady, and Brad
Langford alleging negligence and/or gross negligence (Count
I) and cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the
Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Count II). [DE 1 at ¶ 32-37;
DE 64 at ¶¶ 34-39]. Defendants move to dismiss all
claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [DE
65]. Briefing is complete, and the motion is ripe. [See DE
68; DE 74]. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS IN PART
and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion.
Vanheck was incarcerated in the custody of the Marion County
Detention Center (the “MCDC”), the MCDC took
Vanheck to work at the Washington County Recycling Center
(the “WCRC”) as part of the Class D Community
Service Work Program. [DE 64 at ¶ 9]. Langford, the WCRC
Coordinator, and employees who worked under his supervision,
ordered Vanheck to climb on top of and work around a large
piece of machinery that baled cardboard (the
“Machine”). [Id. at ¶ 10]. Langford
and his employees did not train Vanheck on how to safely
operate the Machine, provide Vanheck with safety equipment to
use when operating it, or supervise Vanheck after ordering
him to climb onto the Machine. [Id. at ¶¶
11-13]. Vanheck had diagnosed mild mental retardation and
attention deficit disorder. [Id. at ¶¶
14-15]. Langford, Brady (the Marion County Jailer), and their
employees knew of Vanheck's limited abilities.
working on the Machine, Vanheck injured his hand.
[Id. at ¶ 16]. Surgeons sought to reattach the
fourth and fifth left-hand fingers that Vanheck lost while
operating the Machine, but Vanheck aspirated, went into
cardiac arrest, and entered a comatose state. [Id.
at ¶ 17]. The reattachment surgery was stopped without
Vanheck's fingers being reattached. [Id.].
Vanheck awoke several days later permanently disfigured and
suffering from permanent brain damage. [Id. at
¶ 18]. He has since been found to have lost significant
intellectual and physical abilities. [Id.]. Vanheck
continues to experience pain from his injuries and has had a
legal guardian appointed to manage his affairs. [Id.
at ¶¶ 19-20].
through his guardian, sued Marion County, Washington County,
Brady, and Langford alleging negligence and/or gross
negligence (Count I) and cruel and unusual punishment in
violation of the Eighth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of
1871 (Count II). [DE 1 at ¶¶ 32-37; DE 64 at
¶¶ 34-39]. Defendants answered [DE 7] and later
filed a third-party complaint against Waste Processing
Equipment, Inc., Marathon Reduction Solutions, LLC, and Osage
Express, Inc. [DE 62]. It alleges that the third-party
defendants' “improper installation, service,
maintenance, distribution, sale, and/or failure to adequately
warn foreseeable users of the foreseeable dangers when the
subject baler was used as it was intended” caused
Vanheck's injuries. [DE 62 at ¶ 7]. Defendants now
move to dismiss Vanheck's claims under Rule 12(b)(6). [DE
65]. Vanheck filed a timely response [DE 68], and Defendants
filed a timely reply [DE 74].
parties disagree about the appropriate legal standard for
Defendants' motion. Vanheck asserts that Defendants'
motion is untimely under Rule 12(b) because Defendants have
already filed an answer to his initial complaint. [DE 68 at
668]. Vanheck also asserts that the Court should not construe
the motion as a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings because the pleadings are not closed as long as the
third-party defendants have not filed responsive pleadings
[Id. at 669-70]-an argument that is moot since the
third-party defendants have now filed answers [See DE 67; DE
71; DE 77]. Meanwhile, Defendants argue that they have
not filed an answer to Vanheck's amended complaint, and
their motion is thus properly analyzed under Rule 12(b)(6).
[DE 74 at 711-12].
12(b) requires that a motion asserting a 12(b)(6) defense
“be made before pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b).
Even so, as a matter of practice, a 12(b)(6) motion
erroneously filed after an answer “may be properly
considered as one for judgment on the pleadings under [Rule
12(c)], and evaluated, nonetheless, under the standards for
dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).” Scheid v. Fanny
Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 n.1 (6th
Cir. 1988) (citing Republic Steel Corp. v. Pennsylvania
Engineering Corp., 785 F.2d 174, 182 (7th Cir. 1986);
Amersbach v. City of Cleveland, 598 F.2d 1033, 1038
(6th Cir. 1979); 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal
Practice & Procedure § 1367 at 688-89 (1969);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(2)). Thus, the same standard applies
whether Defendants' motion is analyzed under Rule
12(b)(6) or Rule 12(c).
12(b)(6) requires a court to dismiss a complaint if the
complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a
claim, a complaint must contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When considering a
motion to dismiss, courts must presume all factual
allegations in the complaint to be true and make all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross
& Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008)
(citation omitted). “But the district court need not
accept a bare assertion of legal conclusions.”
Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d
478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “A
pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.
Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]
devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Traverse Bay
Area Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Mich. Dep't of
Educ., 615 F.3d 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim becomes
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“A complaint will be dismissed pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6) if no law supports the claim[s] made, if the facts
alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or if the face of
the complaint presents an insurmountable bar to
relief.” Southfield Educ. Ass'n v. Southfield
Bd. of Educ., 570 Fed.Appx. 485, 487 (6th Cir. 2014)
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561-64).
Negligence and/or Gross Negligence (Count I)
asserts negligence claims against Brady and Langford in both
their official and individual capacities. [DE 64 at
¶¶ 34-36]. Brady and Langford respond that they are
entitled to both ...