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Holland v. Glanz

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

September 30, 2019

DESTINY HOLLAND, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Ralph Hal Holland, Jr., Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
STANLEY GLANZ, et al. Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. DOWDELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff, Destiny Holland, Administrator of the Estate of Ralph Hal Holland, Jr., brings this suit against Stanley Glanz in his individual capacity, Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, the Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), and Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. (Armor). All defendants have moved to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         I. Dismissal Standard

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The standard requires “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” and the factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555‒56, 570 (citations omitted). Twombly articulated the pleading standard for all civil actions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). A court must accept all the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true, even if doubtful, and must construe the allegations in the light most favorable to claimant. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Ralph Hal Holland, Jr. was arrested in November, 2013. (Doc. 2 at 8, ¶ 14). Prior to his arrest, Mr. Holland had been prescribed medication both for blood pressure and for combatting depression and hip pain. (Doc. 2 at ¶ 14). These medications can cause severe side-effects when use is halted abruptly. Id. One of the side-effects is increased suicidal tendencies. Id. Upon Mr. Holland's arrest, Plaintiff informed the arresting officers that he needed his medications and was suicidal. (Id. at ¶ 16(a)). Mr. Holland was brought to the Tulsa County Jail, where Plaintiff informed officials at the jail that Mr. Holland needed his medications and was suicidal. (Id. at ¶ 16(b)). At some point, Plaintiff requested the keys to Mr. Holland's vehicle so that she could retrieve his medications, but jail officials refused to give them to her. (Id. at ¶ 14).

         Throughout Mr. Holland's detention, Plaintiff made several attempts to get Mr. Holland his medications, but “each attempt was refused by Tulsa County Jail officials despite warnings that abrupt discontinuance of said medications had severe side effects, specifically including increased suicidal tendencies.” (Id. at ¶ 16(c)). On the evening of November 30, Mr. Holland was severely depressed and expressed to his ex-wife, Charlotte Inge, that he could no longer endure the pain. (Id. at ¶ 16(d)). She immediately contacted Tulsa County Jail officials and advised them of his statements and suicidal condition. Id. That night, Mr. Holland was left alone in his cell. (Id. at ¶ 18). He hung himself and was discovered and pronounced dead on the morning of December 1, 2013. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that, throughout Mr. Holland's detention, defendants “ignored Mr. Holland's mental condition and failed to provide any care or take any precautions to prevent Mr. Holland from taking his own life.” (Id. at ¶ 19). She alleges Mr. Holland “was denied his prescription medications and was not put on suicide watch at any time prior to his death.” (Id. at ¶ 17).

         Plaintiff further alleges that the “deliberate indifference to Mr. Holland's medical and mental health needs was in furtherance of and consistent with the policies” for which then-Sheriff Glanz and Armor had responsibility. (Id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff lists three respects in which the policies were inadequate. First, the defendants allegedly “failed to promulgate and implement adequate medical and mental health policies responsive to the serious medical needs” of inmates. (Id. at ¶ 21). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that “there were deficient guidelines in place as to the standard of care specific to inmates' mental health needs.” Id. This allegedly constitutes a failure to train and failure to supervise the nurses at the Tulsa County Jail. Id. Plaintiff also alleged “failures to conduct appropriate psychiatric assessments, create and implement appropriate mental health treatment plans, [and] promptly evaluate and transfer to an appropriate psychiatric treatment facility” inmates who are a potential danger to themselves. (Id. at ¶ 22).

         Plaintiff secondly alleges that “the communication policies and procedures for inmates seeking medical treatment” were “inadequate to ensure the timely assessment and treatment of inmates with serious medical needs.” (Id. at ¶ 23). Plaintiff alleges that Armor and the Sheriff's Department had “a pattern and practice of understaffing” the medical treatment facility. Id. The Sheriff's Department allegedly promoted “a policy of having too few personnel on duty at the Tulsa County Jail” to provide adequate treatment for inmates' serious medical and mental health needs. Id. Plaintiff thirdly alleges that the Tulsa County Sheriff “restricts [Armor] to very tight budgetary restrictions, creating substantial risks to inmate safety.” (Id. at ¶ 24).

         Plaintiff is suing all defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. She is additionally suing Armor for negligence.

         III. Claim under § 1983 against Mr. Glanz in his individual capacity

         Mr. Glanz argues that he cannot be liable under § 1983 because he is entitled to qualified immunity and lacked actual knowledge of Mr. Holland's risk of suicide. In a § 1983 action, an official sued in his individual capacity is entitled to qualified immunity unless he both violated a constitutional right and that right was clearly established. Cox v. Glanz, 800 F.3d 1231, 1246 (10th Cir. 2015). To be clear, “when confronting individual capacity § 1983 claims, ” a court's “focus must always be on the defendant-on the . . . injury he inflicted or caused to be inflicted, and on his motives.” Id. at 1254 (quoting Porro v. Barnes, 624 F.3d 1322, 1327 (10th Cir. 2010)) (emphasis in the original). Therefore, Mr. Glanz is entitled to qualified immunity unless his individual conduct deprived Mr. Holland of a constitutional right and that right was clearly established.

         Mr. Glanz supports his argument that he is entitled to qualified immunity by arguing that there is no clearly established right to be screened for suicidal tendencies. (Doc. 15 at 5-7). Although Plaintiff does indeed mention the failure to provide a mental health evaluation, Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is primarily based not on a failure to screen for suicide but on a failure to provide adequate medical care, inclusive of mental health care. (Doc. 2 at ¶¶ 29‒30) (“Defendants failed to provide an adequate mental health evaluation, timely or adequate treatment and/or adequate supervision . . . . [F]ailure to provide Mr. Holland with adequate and timely medical or psychiatric care . . . [constitutes] deliberate indifference . . . .”). Plaintiff specifically alleges that Mr. Holland's arresting officers and officials at the Tulsa County Jail were informed that he was suicidal. (Id. at ¶ 14). She further alleges that she “made several attempts to give Mr. Holland” his medications but “each attempt was refused by Tulsa County Jail officials despite warnings that abrupt discontinuance” could increase his suicidal tendencies (Id. at ¶ 16(c)). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Holland's ex-wife told jail officials that he was suicidal but the officials did nothing to protect him. (Id. at ¶ 16(d)). These allegations make it clear that Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is based on jail officials repeatedly refusing to give Mr. Holland his medication even as they knew he was suicidal.

         “[C]laims based on a jail suicide are considered and treated as claims based on the failure of jail officials to provide medical care for those in their custody.” Barrie v. Grand Cty., 119 F.3d 862, 866 (10th Cir. 1997). The Tenth Circuit recognizes that prison officials are required to provide adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment. Tafoya v. Salazar, 516 F.3d 912, 916 (10th Cir. 2008). Eighth Amendment protection extends to pretrial detainees under the Fourteenth Amendment. Martinez v. Beggs, 563 F.3d 1082, 1088 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Garcia v. Salt Lake Cty., 768 F.2d 303, 307 (10th Cir. 1985)).

         However, in order for Plaintiff's suit against Mr. Glanz to succeed against his claim of qualified immunity, it is not sufficient that a clearly established right was violated by just anyone. Mr. Glanz specifically must have violated that right. Plaintiff provides two rationales under which Mr. Glanz might have contributed to Mr. Holland's denial of medical care. First, she alleges personal involvement on his part. Second, she argues under a theory of supervisory liability that Mr. Glanz “promulgated, created, implemented and/or possessed responsibility for” the “customs, practices and policies” that resulted in Mr. Holland's death. (Doc. 2 at ¶ 34).

         For personal involvement on Mr. Glanz's part, Plaintiff states that “Defendants knew or reasonably should have known there was a strong likelihood that Mr. Holland was in danger of serious personal harm and that he would try to harm himself.” (Id. at ¶ 28). She further states that “Defendants failed to provide . . . timely or adequate treatment.” (Id. at ¶ 29). These allegations are insufficient to state a claim against Mr. Glanz. Although a court must accept all the well-pleaded factual allegations of a complaint as true, a complaint still must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Plaintiff's allegations about Mr. Glanz's personal involvement are merely conclusory. Nowhere in her Amended Petition does Plaintiff allege that Mr. Glanz himself had any personal knowledge of Mr. Holland at all. Rather, she alleges that “the arresting officers” and “Tulsa County Jail officials” were made aware of ...


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