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Brashear v. Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

August 5, 2019

PATSY ANN BRASHEAR, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

         (District Court of Oklahoma County No. CJ-19-42)

          ORDER

          STEPHEN P. FRIOT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Two motions to dismiss are before the court. The first is brought by the Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County (the board) and Sheriff P. D. Taylor (the sheriff) in his official capacity. Doc. no. 3. Plaintiff filed a response brief. Doc. no. 9. Defendants filed a reply brief. Doc. no. 10. The second motion is brought by Sheriff Taylor in his individual capacity. Doc. no. 4. Plaintiff filed a response brief. Doc. no. 8. Defendant filed a reply brief. Doc. no. 11. The only other defendants are non-moving Doe defendants.

         The amended complaint alleges a federal claim as well as a state law claim against all defendants. Moving defendants ask the court to dismiss them from both of these claims under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P. As will be seen, this order grants the motion in part, granting it to the extent that it asks the court to dismiss the federal claim. With the federal claim dismissed, this order declines supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim and remands this action, leaving the state court to determine the sufficiency of the state law claim.

         I. Standards

         The inquiry under Rule 12(b)(6) is whether the complaint contains enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir., 2007), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must nudge his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible. Id. The mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims. Ridge at Red Hawk, 493 F.3d at 1177. In conducting its review, the court assumes the truth of the plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations and views them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. Pleadings that are no more than legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth; while legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.662, 664 (2009). When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. The court will disregard mere “labels and conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action” to determine if what remains meets the standard of plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         II. The Claims

         The amended complaint[1] alleges a state law assault and battery claim, as well as a federal claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         A. The State Law Claim

         The “First Cause of Action” in the amended complaint is a state law claim for assault and battery which appears to be alleged against all defendants. This claim alleges that plaintiff was assaulted while she was in the custody of the Oklahoma County Jail as a pre-trial detainee, as a result of which plaintiff suffered a fractured ankle.

         B. The Federal Claim

         The only federal claim is a civil rights claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This claim is alleged against the board and the sheriff (in both of his capacities), as well as the Doe defendants.

         The § 1983 claim alleges that in violation of plaintiff's rights under the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, [2]defendants failed to protect plaintiff from the assault which occurred while she was in the custody of the Oklahoma County Jail as a pretrial detainee, as a result of which plaintiff suffered a fractured ankle. See, doc. no. 1-4, ¶¶ 14-15, 52, 53. As evidence of defendants' deliberate indifference to their constitutional duty to protect plaintiff from an assault, the amended complaint further alleges that defendants allowed jail recordings (which presumably showed plaintiff while she was at the jail) to be destroyed after such recordings were requested by plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 59 (film, videotape or recordings).

         The amended complaint also appears to allege a § 1983 claim premised on failure to provide plaintiff with medical care and treatment while she was a pre-trial detainee at the jail. This aspect of the § 1983 claim will be dismissed without prejudice for two reasons. First, plaintiff's briefing expressly states that this action is not about failure to provide medical care.[3] Second, defendants' motions challenge the plausibility of every aspect of plaintiff's § 1983 claim, including the part that is premised on a failure to provide medical care or treatment. Plaintiff's response briefs do not defend the viability of this aspect of her § 1983 claim, arguing, instead, that lack of medical care is not what this action is about, and focusing on defendants' alleged failure to protect her from an assault. As plaintiff has not defended the plausibility of a § 1983 claim premised on failure to provide medical care or treatment, the court deems that aspect of the § 1983 claim confessed, [4] and the court will dismiss that aspect of the § 1983 claim, without prejudice, under Rule 12(b)(6).

         III. The Motions

         A. The Board's Motion to Dismiss it From the § 1983 Claim

         The amended complaint seeks to hold the board liable on plaintiff's § 1983 claim as “a political subdivision of the State of Oklahoma” which is “responsible for the Oklahoma County Jail.” Id. at ¶ 4.[5] The allegation that the board is responsible for the Oklahoma County Jail is incorrect as a matter of law. Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1528 (10th Cir. 1988), abrogated in part on other grounds, [6] is a § 1983 case which held that “Under Oklahoma law, the Board has no statutory duty to hire, train, supervise or discipline the county sheriffs or their deputies.” Id. Then, in Meade's discussion of official capacity claims, the court stated that “For a county to be held responsible, it must have caused the harm through the execution of its own policy or custom or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy.” Id. at 1529. Under these principles, Meade affirmed the district court's dismissal of the board members in both their individual and official capacities.

         The Oklahoma Supreme Court confirmed this understanding of Oklahoma law in Estate of Crowell v. Board of County Commissioners of County of Cleveland, 237 P.3d 134, 142 (Okla. 2010). (Crowell's estate alleged a § 1983 claim after Crowell died of an asthma attack while in the county jail.) Crowell states that it was the sheriff as the final policymaker for a county jail, and not the Board of County Commissioners of Cleveland County, who was responsible for medical care at the jail. Id. The Court reasoned that the board has no statutory duty to hire, train, supervise, or discipline county sheriffs or deputies. Accordingly, Crowell upheld summary judgment in favor of the board. Crowell at 142, n.14, citing Meade, 841 F.2d 1512, at n.16.

         In Jantzen v. Hawkins, 188 F.3d 1247, 1259 (10th Cir. 1999), the court of appeals affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Canadian County Board of County Commissioners, noting that “The ...


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