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Williams v. Cleveland County Board of County Commissioners

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 8, 2017



          ROBIN J. CAUTHRON United States District Judge

         Now before the Court are three Motions: the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Board of County Commissioners for Cleveland County (Dkt. No. 9); the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Joseph K. Lester, in his Official Capacity (Dkt. No. 10); and the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Joseph K. Lester, Individually (Dkt. No. 11). Plaintiff has responded to each Motion and they are now at issue.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff brings this case as the personal representative of the estate of Austin Vance, a deceased individual. On April 26, 2016, at about 12:30 p.m., law enforcement officers found Vance hallucinating and dancing in a street in Norman, Oklahoma. The officers arrested Vance for public intoxication and took him to the hospital to determine whether he was fit for incarceration. Plaintiff claims Vance told the officers he had ingested Adderall and was sweating, overly animated, hallucinating, and twitching and moving his limbs rapidly.

         Although a meaningful health evaluation was not completed, Vance was declared fit for incarceration and taken to the Cleveland County Detention Center where he was placed in the sheriff's department's custody. Plaintiff alleges that although Vance was clearly not healthy, jail personnel, rather than providing medical care, used excessive force by strapping Vance to a chair for an unknown amount of time, placed a hood over his head, and left him in a room with video camera monitoring. Vance later suffered cardiac arrest and died.

         Plaintiff filed this case in the District Court of Cleveland County, Oklahoma, on March 6, 2017, and the Defendants removed the case to this Court on October 2, 2017. Plaintiff claims the actions and policies of the sheriff's department personnel and John Doe emergency room physicians deprived Vance of his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article 2, § 30 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Plaintiff also brings tort claims and requests punitive damages. Defendants Lester and the Board of County Commissioners for Cleveland County (“BOCC”) request dismissal of the Amended Petition.

         II. Standard

         The standard for consideration of motions to dismiss brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is set forth in the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and the subsequent decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). In those cases, the Supreme Court made clear that to survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading must contain enough allegations of fact which, taken as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Plaintiffs must “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible” to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. Thus, the starting point in resolving the Motions is to examine the factual allegations supporting each claim that Defendants wish the Court to dismiss. The Court will accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the Amended Petition as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Peterson v. Grisham, 594 F.3d 723, 727 (10th Cir. 2010). However, conclusory allegations need not be accepted as true. Kansas Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011).

         III. Discussion

         The Amended Petition (Dkt. No. 1-3) suffers numerous deficiencies, the sum of which make it impossible for the reader to know which facts are attributed to each Defendant, therefore preventing the parties from filing proper answers. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend, provided that each deficiency described herein is corrected and the amended document is filed within fourteen (14) days of the date of this Order.

         A. Global Amendments

         The Amended Petition suffers from a global comma deficiency, with the worst outcome being that the reader cannot discern whether Plaintiff claims the BOCC is responsible for Norman Regional Hospital's actions, or whether Plaintiff alleges both acted independently. The Amended Petition also alleges the City of Norman operates and controls the Norman Regional Hospital. Plaintiff shall make clear who is to answer for the hospital's operation or omit language as to the hospital's liability if the hospital is no longer a Defendant.

         Next, the first cause of action implicates the City of Norman Police Department and its agents and one of Plaintiff's responses again discusses claims against the “City” (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 23, p. 14). The City of Norman is not named and Plaintiff shall remedy these errors. For the sake of clarity, Plaintiff shall remove each Defendant subject to the Stipulation of Dismissal (Dkt. No. 18) if it is still her intention to dismiss them from the case.

         B. ...

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