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Steele v. Fisher

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 28, 2019

JACQUELINE STEELE, as Next Kin of MICHAEL STEELE, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
1. DR. ROSS LANE FISHER, M.D., Oklahoma Department of Corrections Physicians and Medical Staff, individually; 2. DR. JOEL BRENT MCCURDY, M.D., Oklahoma Department of Corrections Physicians and Medical Staff, individually; 3. DR. MICHAEL SHAWN HOUSTON, M.D., Oklahoma Department of Corrections Physicians and Medical Staff, individually; 4. CARL BRADLEY “BRAD” JOHNSTON, III, P.A., Oklahoma Department of Corrections Physicians and Medical Staff, individually; 5. John and Jane Doe Employees I-X of DOC; individually 6. John and Jane Doe Physicians and Medical Staff I-X, Defendants.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Defendants Dr. Ross Lane Fisher and Dr. Joel Brent McCurdy's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 57], and Defendants Carl Bradley Johnston, II, and Dr. Michael Shawn Houston's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 61].[1]Plaintiff has filed timely responses [Doc. No. 58] and [Doc. No. 65].[2] Defendants have replied [Doc. Nos. 59 and 66]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.

         BACKGROUND[3]

         Plaintiff is next-of-kin of Michael Steele, deceased, who, at all times relevant to this action, was incarcerated at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center (“LARC”). Mr. Steele was diagnosed with lymphoma in January 2013. In the summer of 2013, OU Medical Center recommended a POMP treatment regimen to prevent a recurrence of cancer. This treatment was delayed by Defendants McCurdy, Houston, Fisher, and Johnston.

         In September 2013, Mr. Steele complained of a knot on the back of his head. His complaints were ignored. No. referral was made to diagnose the knot or provide treatment despite Mr. Steele's history of lymphoma. The knot eventually grew to the size of a tennis ball and caused him constant and severe pain.

         Mr. Steele was placed in isolation from October 27, 2013, until November 4, 2013. During this period in isolation, Mr. Steele was not treated for the knot on the back of his head or provided the medical treatment recommended by OU Medical Center to prevent the recurrence of cancer. After his release from isolation, Mr. Steele's cellmate noticed that he was very weak and had lost a substantial amount of weight. The cellmate placed Mr. Steele in a wheelchair and took him to the LARC medical unit for treatment. When he arrived at the unit, the medical staff told the cellmate that there was nothing wrong with Mr. Steele and to take him back to his cell. Pursuant to the medical staff's instructions, Mr. Steele was returned to his cell, where he died a few hours later.

         Plaintiff alleges Mr. Steele was diagnosed with Lymphoma and the prison's medical staff failed to provide recommended treatment and ignored his obvious symptoms. She asserts claims for denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and violations of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

         Defendants move to dismiss the case for failure to: (1) file her claims within the statute of limitations; (2) state a claim upon which relief can be granted by omitting facts indicating Defendants' personal participation in violation of Steele's Constitutional rights; (3) state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment as she does not recite facts indicating deliberate indifference; and, (4) state a claim for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment as Defendants' actions were not “outrageous and shocking.” Defendants also assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

         STANDARD OF DECISION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that a pleading stating a claim for relief must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “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.

         “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1248 (10th Cir. 2008) (stating that “the degree of specificity necessary to establish plausibility and fair notice, and therefore the need to include sufficient factual allegations, depends on context”) (internal quotation omitted). Therefore, Iqbal and Twombly provide “no indication the Supreme Court intended a return to the more stringent pre-Rule 8 pleading requirements.” also Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         The Tenth Circuit has held that the Iqbal/Twombly pleading standard is “a middle ground between heightened fact pleading, which is expressly rejected, and allowing complaints that are no more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, which the Court stated will not do.” Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191 (quoting Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008)). The pleader's allegations need only provide the “defendant fair notice of what the … claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Id. at 1192 (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted). In ruling on a motion to dismiss a judge must accept all well-pled allegations as true and “may not dismiss on the ground that it appears unlikely the allegations can be proven.” Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247.

         DISCUSSION

         In response to Defendants Motions to Dismiss, Plaintiff asserts: (1) the Fourth Amended Complaint relates back to her original Complaint and therefore her claims against Defendants are timely; (2) she has stated sufficient facts to support her claims; (3) that she withdraws her claim for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; and, (4) Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. Because the Court finds that the Fourth Amended Complaint does not relate back to the original Complaint and ...


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