United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
KIMBERLY HUGHES, and JENNIFER SMITH, as Co-Administrators of the Estate of Clyde Smith, Jr., Plaintiffs,
THREE FORKS REGIONAL JAIL AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
E. Wier United States District Judge.
Smith, Jr. died after roughly 7 hours in custody at Three
Forks Regional Jail. His daughters, as estate administrators,
allege that unidentified Jail personnel knowingly and
recklessly failed to provide Smith oxygen (and other
medications) that his medical conditions required.
Defendants-the Jail, its tri-county operators (Lee, Owsley,
and Wolfe Counties), and administrator (Harvey
Pelfrey)-contend that Plaintiffs fail to plausibly
allege a basis for their liability, and thus move for
dismissal. For the reasons fully explained below, the Court
finds the Complaint deficient as to the federal claims,
declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
undisposed state claims, and grants Defendants' motion.
Estate bases its claims on the following straightforward
factual allegations.Clyde Smith, Jr., 55 years old, had a
history of serious heart and respiratory conditions that
required continuous oxygen tank access and regular
medication. On March 11, 2018, Breathitt County authorities
arrested Smith for DUI and, at roughly 5:00 p.m., transported
Smith to Three Forks. During two, 6:51 p.m. and 7:32 p.m.,
calls, Smith's daughter Hughes advised unidentified Jail
personnel of the importance of his access to oxygen and other
medications. Unknown Jail staff advised that oxygen was
available and that personnel were aware of Smith's
conditions and would provide for his needs.
after midnight on March 12, Smith died; Plaintiffs allege
this resulted from lack of medical care and attention.
Several hours later, an unknown (male) Jail employee called
Hughes to advise of Smith passing. The employee further
stated that the Jail did not have oxygen on site and that any
prior assurances of oxygen availability “depended on
whether another inmate had oxygen.” DE 1 at ¶ 6.
on these facts, the Estate claims violations of various
constitutional provisions under 42 U.S.C § 1983 and
levels state law theories against all Defendants. DE 1 at
¶¶ 15-16. Defendants pursue Rule 12 dismissal of
all claims. DE 5 (Motion). The motion stands fully briefed
and ripe for review. DE 6 (Response); DE 7 (Reply).
survive a motion to dismiss, “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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127
S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)). “A claim has facial
plausibility 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. However, “a formulaic recitation of a
cause of action's elements will not do[.]”
Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. Courts “must
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff and accept all allegations as true.”
Keys, 684 F.3d at 608. Yet, courts need not accept
“legal conclusion[s] couched as [ ] factual
allegation[s].” Papasan v. Allain, 106 S.Ct.
2932, 2944 (1986). The Court evaluates and tests the
well-pleaded Complaint contents. Peterson v.
Ostrander, No. 17-2160, 2018 WL 4739692, at *2 (6th Cir.
Apr. 6, 2018) (“[T]he court must confine its analysis
to the pleadings and accept all well-pleaded allegations as
“matters outside of the pleadings are not to be
considered” by a court in ruling on a motion to
dismiss. Hammond v. Baldwin, 866 F.2d 172, 175 (6th
Cir. 1989). However, the Court may “consider other
materials that are integral to the complaint, are public
records, or are otherwise appropriate for the taking of
judicial notice.” Ashland, Inc. v. Oppenheimer
& Co., 648 F.3d 461, 467 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
on Rule 8's minimal standards, Twombly and
Iqbal require a plaintiff to “plead facts
sufficient to show that her claim has substantive
plausibility.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135
S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). Where plaintiffs state “simply,
concisely, and directly events that . . . entitle[ ] them to
damages, ” the rules require “no more to stave
off threshold dismissal for want of an adequate
statement[.]” Id.; El-Hallani v.
Huntington Nat. Bank, 623 Fed.Appx. 730, 739
(6th Cir. 2015) (“Although Twombly and
Iqbal have raised the bar for pleading, it is still
proceeding to the disputed claims (and to focus the
analysis), the Court finds it appropriate to thin the claim
herd. First, Plaintiffs concede that certain pleaded claims
lack viability. The Estate acknowledges that pretrial
detainees challenging conditions of confinement are entitled
to Fourteenth Amendment, rather than Eighth Amendment,
protections. See DE 6 at 4; Ingraham v.
Wright, 97 S.Ct. 1401, 1412 n.40 (1977) (“[T]he
State does not acquire the power to punish with which the
Eighth Amendment is concerned until after it has secured a
formal adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process
of law. Where the State seeks to impose punishment without
such an adjudication, the pertinent constitutional guarantee
is the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment.”). Practically, the rubric is the
same. Nonetheless, this point justifies
dismissal of the Eighth Amendment claim. Similarly, the
Estate concedes that “sovereign immunity bars”
its “claims under state tort law against the jail and
Municipal Defendants.” DE 6 at 12. This concession
also forecloses the Estate's state claims against the
Jailer and the “Unknown Agent Employees of Three Forks
Regional Jail” in their official capacities. DE 1 at 1;
see Kentucky v. Graham, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 3105 (1985)
(“[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all respects other
than name, to be treated as a suit against the
entity[.]”). The Court, thus, dismisses such claims.
the Court treats Plaintiffs' failure to oppose several of
Defendants' dismissal arguments as effectively abandoning
the challenged claims. See Humphrey v. U.S. Attorney
Gen.'s Office, 279 Fed.Appx. 328, 331 (6th Cir.
2008) (“[W]here, as here, plaintiff has not raised
arguments in the district court by virtue of his failure to
oppose defendants' motions to dismiss, the arguments have
been waived.”); Scott v. State of Tenn., 878
F.2d 382 (6th Cir. 1989) (“[I]f a plaintiff fails to
respond or to otherwise oppose a defendant's motion, then
the district court may deem the plaintiff to have waived
opposition to the motion. See Elmore v. Evans, 449
F.Supp. 2, 3 (E.D. Tenn. 1976), aff'd, 577 F.2d
740 (6th Cir. 1978) (unpublished per curiam).”);
see also LR 7.1(c). Specifically, the Estate does
not oppose challenges to the Fifth and Tenth Amendment §
1983 theories. See DE 5-1 at 6-7. Accordingly, the
Court dismisses such claims for the reasons the motion
and though Defendants offer only a brief, general argument on
the issue, see DE 5-1 at 1, the Court sees
absolutely no factual allegations in support of the
Complaint's bare Fourth Amendment
assertion. This matter involves no warrant, and
Plaintiffs do not challenge the reasonableness of any search
or Mr. Smith's seizure. Thus, the Court, perceiving no
theory of merit, dismisses the Fourth Amendment challenge.
Court turns to the parties' disputes regarding the
winnowed claim slate, including Plaintiffs': (1)
Fourteenth Amendment § 1983 claims against all
defendants and (2) state-law, individual-capacity claims
against the Jailer.
Fourteenth Amendment Claims
§ 1983 claims fall into two categories: (1) the
individual capacity claim against the Jailer, and (2) the
claims asserted either directly, or via official capacity,
against the County Defendants.
Estate, to survive the instant motion, needed to allege
“facts that, if proven, would show that prison
officials acted with ‘deliberate indifference'
towards conditions at the prison that created a substantial
risk of serious harm. . . . This test involves both an
objective and subjective component.” Brown v.
Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867 (6th Cir. 2000) (internal
citations omitted). Defendants do not, for 12(b)(6) purposes,
dispute the pleading's viability as to the objective
subjective component requires officials to act (or fail to
act, in context) with “deliberate indifference to
inmate health or safety[.]” Farmer, 114 S.Ct.
at 1977 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Per
the cases, deliberate indifference, in turn, has subjective
and objective components. Perez v. Oakland Cnty.,
466 F.3d 416, 423 (6th Cir. 2006). “[T]he deliberate
indifference standard ‘describes a state of mind more
blameworthy than negligence[.]” Brown, 207
F.3d at 867. A plaintiff must plausibly allege that a
defendant knew of and disregarded conditions objectively
posing “an excessive risk to inmate health or safety[,
]” and did so with a sufficiently culpable state of
mind. Id. The objective portion, again (for present
purposes), stands undisputed, i.e., the Estate
plausibly claims that Smith had a sufficiently serious
considering the subjective component, [the Sixth C]ircuit has
emphasized that a plaintiff must produce evidence showing
that the official being sued subjectively perceived facts
from which to infer substantial risk to the prisoner, that he
did in fact draw the inference, and that he then disregarded
that risk.” Perez, 466 F.3d at 424;
Rouster v. Cty. of Saginaw, 749 F.3d 437, 446 (6th
Cir. 2014) (setting out test). Deliberate indifference is
“a stringent standard of fault, requiring proof that a
municipal actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of
his action.” Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct.
1350, 1360 (2011) (quoting Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of
Bryan Cnty., Okla. v. Brown, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 1391
(1997)); see also Farmer, 114 S.Ct. at 1980
(adopting “subjective recklessness” as the test
for deliberate indifference). However, “deliberate
indifference . . . is satisfied by something less than acts
or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with
knowledge that harm will result.” Farmer, 114
S.Ct. at 1978. “[T]he subjective intentions of prison
authorities must be demonstrated by objective manifestations
of such intent, and cannot be proved by factually
unsupported, conclusory opinions of the court or of the
prisoners or their representatives.” United States
v. Michigan, 940 F.2d 143, 154 n.7 (6th Cir. 1991).
However, “courts may infer the existence of this
subjective state of mind from the fact that the risk of harm
is obvious[, ]” Warren, 576 Fed.Appx. at 553
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Hope v.
Pelzer, 122 S.Ct. 2508, 2514 (2002)), or in other
“usual ways, including inference from circumstantial
evidence.” Id. (quoting Farmer, 114
S.Ct. at 1981).
- Failure to Train & Supervisory Liability
Estate does not claim that the Jailer, in his individual
capacity, was directly deliberately indifferent to
Smith's needs. Indeed, the Complaint does not allege that
Pelfrey was even at the Jail or played a direct factual role
on the night in question. The complete pleaded facts specific
to Pelfrey (other than identifying his general function,
see DE 1 at ¶¶ 2 & 13) are as follows:
Defendant Harvey Pelfrey . . . established policies either
formally or by custom for, and was responsible for the
employment, training, supervision and conduct of, the
officers and employees of the jail.
Id. at ¶ 13. In contrast, the Estate
explicitly links Smith's death to “certain acts or
omissions” by “unknown agents of the
jail[.]” Id. at ¶ 2. Thus, the
Estate's theory is that Pelfrey's liability ...