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Staten v. Lackawanna County

January 29, 2008

SHAKIRA STATEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND SHAKIRA STATEN, NATURAL MOTHER OF SAMIYAH STATEN, A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LACKAWANNA COUNTY, ET. AL. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND

On July 23, 2007, Sharkira Staten, individually and as the natural mother of Samiyah Staten, a minor, initiated this lawsuit by the filing of a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants: 1) Lackawanna County; 2) Lackawanna County Prison; 3) Warden Janin Donate; 4) Corrections Office John Doe; 5) Corrections Officer Jane Doe One; 6) Corrections Officer Jane Doe Two; 7) Correction Care, Inc.; 8) Dr. Edward Zaloga; and 9) Nurse Jane Doe. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of both herself and her child with respect to the child's birth in a cell at the Lackawanna County Prison.

On September 28, 2007, defendants Zaloga, Corrections Care, and Nurse Jane Doe (collectively "defendants") filed a motion to dismiss. (Rec. Doc. No. 13.) No opposing brief has been filed and the motion is therefore deemed to be unopposed. Rule 7.6 of the Local Rules for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Now, for the following reasons, we will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Although defendants' motion is deemed unopposed due to plaintiff's failure to file an opposition brief, we must nevertheless consider the merits of defendants' motion in order to determine whether plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Stackhouse v. Mazurkiewicz, 951 F.2d 29, 30 (3d Cir. 1991) (ruling that a motion to dismiss should not be granted simply because it is unopposed).

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000). A complaint should be dismissed only if the court, from evaluating the allegations in the complaint, is certain that under any set of facts relief cannot be granted. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Markowitz v. Northeast Land, Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1994).

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) "streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a "dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed "without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one." Id. at 327.

II. Statement of Relevant Allegations

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that in April of 2007, she was taken into custody by federal authorities. (Rec. Doc. No. 1, ¶ 21.) On April 25, 2007, pursuant to an agreement between defendant Lackawanna County and the United States Government, defendant was placed in the Lackawanna County Prison. (Id. ¶¶ 22-24.) At this time, she was six months pregnant and she advised medical staff that she was a high risk pregnancy. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.)

On July 8, 2007, plaintiff complained of pressure in her pelvic area and was taken to the medical ward for an evaluation. (Id. ¶ 37.) Medical staff informed her that the pressure she was feeling was normal and placed her back in the general population. (Id. ¶ 38.) Late on July 9, 2007, plaintiff again began experiencing pain and as it persisted, she informed a corrections officer that she thought she was in labor. (Id. ¶¶ 40-42.) The correctional officer took her to the medical ward where she was attended to by defendant Nurse Jane Doe. (Id. ¶ 44.) Nurse Jane Doe felt her stomach, took her blood pressure, and directed the corrections officer to time and document her contractions. (Id. ¶¶ 44, 46.) Plaintiff remained in the medical ward for one hour whereby Nurse Jane Doe advised plaintiff that she did not believe that plaintiff was in labor because her contractions were not consistent enough. (Id. ¶ 50.) Plaintiff replied that she was in labor and requested to be taken to a hospital. (Id. ¶ 53.) Nurse Jane Doe then sent plaintiff to a camera cell where she could be monitored. (Id. ¶¶ 51, 52.)

While in the camera cell, she was observed by defendants Correctional Officers Jane Doe One, Jane Doe Two, and John Doe (collectively "defendant correctional officers"). (Id. ¶ 55.) She continued to experience pain and pleaded to be taken to the hospital. (Id. ¶ 54.) At some point, her water broke and she informed prison staff. (Id. ¶ 63-64.) Defendant correctional officers ignored her and informed her she would have to stay in the cell. (Id. ¶ 65.) Plaintiff then felt the baby "crown" and went to the door to plead for help. (Id. ¶ 67.) Once at the door, she found that it was open and she crawled into the walkway adjacent to the cell. (Id. ¶ 68.) She was then carried back into the cell by the defendant correctional officers. (Id. ¶ 69.) She advised the defendant correctional officers that the baby had "crowned" but nothing was done. (Id. ¶ 71.) The baby's head began to emerge and still nothing was done. (Id. ¶ 72.) Finally, she stood and pleaded at the cell door and at that time, she gave birth to Samiyah Staten, who fell from plaintiff to the floor of the cell. (Id. ¶ 73.)

The complaint further alleges that defendant Correctional Care is under a contract to provide medical services at the Lackawanna County Prison. (Id. ¶ 15.) It alleges that defendant Zaloga is the owner of Correctional Care, the medical director of the Lackawanna County Prison, and an agent of the county and prison. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 90.) It also alleges that defendant Nurse Jane Doe is an employee of Correctional Care and an agent of the county and prison. (Id. ¶ 89.) Finally, the complaint alleges that there is no ...


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