United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
ROBERT ALLEN AUTRY, an Incapacitated Person individually, et al., Plaintiffs,
CLEVELAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Joseph
Lester, as Sheriff of Cleveland County [Doc. No. 52], filed
pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Sheriff Lester asserts that
the Second Amended Complaint fails to state a claim against
him under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Robert Allen
Autry or his mother, Plaintiff Sandra Valentine. Plaintiffs
have responded in opposition to the Motion, and Sheriff
Lester has replied. Thus, the Motion is fully briefed and at
and Procedural Background
bring § 1983 claims against Sheriff Lester, in his
official capacity only, for his alleged failure on behalf of
Cleveland County to provide medical care to Mr. Autry while
he was a pretrial detainee in the Cleveland County Detention
Center or jail. Plaintiffs originally sued the sheriff's
department and others who are no longer parties. See
Compl. [Doc. No. 1] at 1 & ¶¶ 7-11. A
scheduling order was entered on June 23, 2016. On January 4,
2017, more than four months after the original deadline,
Plaintiffs added Sheriff Lester and the Board of County
Commissioners of Cleveland County, as well as numerous
medical care providers, as defendants. In February 2017,
Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the sheriff's department
and the Board of County Commissioners pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 41. See Stipulation [Doc. No. 54]. The
Court dismissed the unidentified “John Doe”
defendants for lack of service. See 4/6/17 Order
[Doc. No. 33]; 4/25/17 Order [Doc. No. 65]; 6/1/17 Order
[Doc. No. 82]. The remaining defendants have also filed
motions to dismiss, which will be addressed by separate
assert in Count I that they “communicated to the
Sheriff” and “[t]he Sheriff and the Jail were on
actual notice” of a serious medical need due to Mr.
Autry's pre-existing medical condition from a prior head
injury, but that “[t]he Sheriff intentionally or
deliberately failed to provide required medical
treatment” of a sinus infection, “ignored
requests for proper medical care, ” and delayed
“appropriate medical treatment until it was too
late.” See Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 49],
¶¶ 46-48. The factual allegations of
Plaintiffs' pleading, as well as argument in their brief,
confirm that any communications and notice, as well as any
failure to provide timely medical treatment, occurred through
jail employees and medical staff. See id.
¶¶ 23-28, 30-31; Pls.' Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 62]
at 3-4. Plaintiffs do not contend Sheriff Lester personally
participated in the events involving Mr. Autry. Plaintiffs
allege that the “improper treatment and the delay in
receiving proper treatment resulted in Autry suffering
unneeded pain, suffering, and ultimately in a serious medical
injury resulting in permanent incapacitation where Autry had
portions of his brain removed from an un- or misdiagnosed and
untreated sinus infection that progressed to his brain with
tragic results.” See Second Am. Compl. [Doc.
No. 49], ¶ 49. Plaintiffs claim “[t]he failure to
properly provide medical care after receiving actual notice
of the need as well as the delay in administering proper
care, constituted deliberate indifference to the needs and
rights of a pretrial detainee.” Id. ¶ 50.
Count II, Plaintiffs assert that Sheriff Lester (and the
Board of County Commissioners, which has now been dismissed)
“deprived Plaintiff [Autry] of his federal
constitutional rights by failing to propagate appropriate
standards, policies, training, and procedures to ensure that
pretrial detainees entitled to appropriate and necessary
medical care receive such treatment while in the care and
custody of the Sheriff.” Id. ¶ 53.
Plaintiffs claim that the denial of medical care to Mr. Autry
by jail personnel and medical staff as alleged in Count I was
the result of a deficient medical care policy and a lack of
proper training “to not ignore a serious medical
need” and “to communicate a serious medical need
to appropriate medical care provider[s].” Id.
¶¶ 54, 56-57.
relief on these claims, Plaintiffs seek to recover
“actual damages allowed by law” and punitive
damages. Id. ¶¶ 51, 57. Plaintiffs'
pleading includes an itemized list of damages that includes,
as to both Plaintiffs, lost wages (past and future), medical
expenses, and pain and suffering. Id. ¶ 92. Ms.
Valentine states that her damages include a “loss of
companionship, maintenance, support, advice, counsel,
contribution of both a pecuniary and non-pecuniary nature,
society affection and comfort she would have had with her son
had he not been so grievously and permanenrly [sic] crippled
both physically and mentally.” Id. ¶ 95.
Lester seeks dismissal of Count I on the ground that an
official-capacity claim against him is a claim against
Cleveland County and requires proof of an official policy or
custom that caused the alleged injury to Mr.
Autry. Sheriff Lester asserts that the factual
allegations of the Second Amended Complaint show Plaintiffs
seek to impose liability on Cleveland County for the alleged
acts or omissions of unidentified jail personnel or medical
staff and Plaintiffs fail to allege the existence of any
policy or custom that would support county liability. Sheriff
Lester seeks dismissal of Count II on the ground that the
Second Amended Complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations
to establish § 1983 liability based on a deficient
policy or failure to train jail staff regarding medical needs
of detainees. Sheriff Lester also seeks dismissal of any
claim brought by Ms. Valentine individually, arguing that she
cannot recover under § 1983 for a loss of consortium or
any loss from a violation of Mr. Autry's constitutional
rights, and that she has not alleged any violation of her own
survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)], 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 Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see Robbins v.
Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court
to infer more than the possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' -
‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'”
Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, in
assessing plausibility, a court should first disregard
conclusory allegations and “next consider the factual
allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly
suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 681.
whether a complaint states a plausible claim is a
“context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” See id. at 679; see also
Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1248. “In § 1983 cases,
defendants often include the government agency and a number
of government actors sued in their individual capacities.
Therefore it is particularly important in such circumstances
that the complaint make clear exactly who is alleged
to have done what to whom, to provide each
individual with fair notice as to the basis of the claims
against him or her . . . .” See Robbins, 519
F.3d at 1249-50 (emphasis in original); see also Smith v.
United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1104 (10th Cir. 2009).
“[I]t is incumbent upon a plaintiff to ‘identify
specific actions taken by particular defendants'
in order to make out a viable § 1983 . . . claim.”
Pahls v. Thomas, 718 F.3d 1210, 1226 (10th Cir.
2013) (quoting Tonkovich v. Kan. Bd. of Regents, 159
F.3d 504, 532 (10th Cir. 1998)) (emphasis added by the court
Sheriff Lester's § 1983 Liability ...