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Burke v. Regalado

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 26, 2019

ROBBIE EMERY BURKE, as Special Administratrix for the Estate of MITCHELL LEE GODSEY, deceased, Plaintiff,



         This civil rights action arises from the death of Mitchell Lee Godsey during his detention at the Tulsa County Jail. Before the court are three motions: the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 17] of defendant Angela McCoy, LPN; the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 21] of defendant Curtis McElroy, D.O.; and the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 26] of defendant Seth Whitman. Each movant seeks dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons set forth below, McCoy's motion is granted, McElroy's motion is granted, and Whitman's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Allegations in the Amended Complaint

         The Amended Complaint contains the following factual allegations. In 2013, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office (“TCSO”) retained defendant Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. (“Armor”) to provide medical care to inmates at the Tulsa County Jail. During the relevant period, Armor employed McElroy as a physician and McCoy and Whitman as nurses at the jail.

         On July 29, 2016, Godsey was brought to the jail. On the evening of July 30, he began experiencing a loss of consciousness and seizures, and EMSA was called. When EMSA arrived at the jail around 7:40 p.m., the EMT observed that Godsey had “altered mentation possibly due to hypoglycemia.” Nurse McCoy reported that Godsey had an abnormal gait, slurred speech, could not talk, was “clammy” and had been dry heaving. He was taken to OSU Medical Center, where his blood sugar level was recorded at 60.

         Godsey was returned to the jail later that evening around 10:00 p.m. The OSU discharge instructions state that Godsey was to be evaluated by the jail physician. Around midnight, McCoy conducted an intake screening. In the intake screening form, she reported that Godsey had been to the hospital earlier that day due to “low blood sugar” and that he suffered from diabetes. She approved him for general population housing. At approximately 12:09 a.m. on July 31, she recorded his blood sugar level as 79. She noted that he vomited up the food and glucose he was given.

         Godsey was transferred to the jail's infirmary during the early morning hours of July 31. At 11:34 a.m. on July 31, Nurse Whitman recorded Godsey's blood sugar level as 50, which is acutely hypoglycemic. Whitman failed to notify Dr. McElroy and, without a physician's order, administered two glucose tabs. Thereafter, Whitman performed blood sugar tests at 1:39 p.m. with a result of 284 and at 6:24 p.m. with a result of 306. He administered four units and eight units of insulin respectively utilizing a sliding scale.

         At around 11:30 p.m. on July 31, TCSO officers discovered Godsey face down on his bed and nonresponsive. He was not breathing and had no pulse. Nurse McCoy and others arrived at his cell. His blood sugar was recorded at 24, which is markedly hypoglycemic.

         Based on these and other related allegations, plaintiff asserts three causes of action against McCoy, McElroy, and Whitman in the Amended Complaint: (1) a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of Godsey's rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) a negligence claim under Oklahoma's common law; and (3) a claim for failure to provide adequate medical care in violation of Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution.

         II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

          In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. A complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility requirement “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” of the conduct necessary to make out the claim. Id. at 556. “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The court “must determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.” Lane v. Simon, 495 F.3d 1182, 1186 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, 478 F.3d 1149, 1160 (10th Cir. 2007)).

         III. Analysis

         The court first addresses plaintiff's claims under Oklahoma law and then addresses her claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         A. Claims under Oklahoma Law

         Defendants McCoy, McElroy, and Whitman argue that plaintiff fails to state a claim against them under Oklahoma law because, as statutory employees of the state, they are immune from tort liability under the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act ...

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