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Luann Gillespie Shultz, As Administratrix of the Estate of Amy L. Gillespie, Deceased v. Allegheny County

December 16, 2011

LUANN GILLESPIE SHULTZ, AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF AMY L. GILLESPIE, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY;
ALLEGHENY CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC.; RAMON C. RUSTIN;
DANA PHILLIPS;
JOHN AND JANE DOES NUMBERS 1 THROUGH 5, INDIVIDUALS EMPLOYED AS MEDICAL STAFF AT THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL WHOSE IDENTITIES CANNOT PRESENTLY BE DETERMINED; AND JOHN AND JANE DOES NUMBERS 6 THROUGH 10, INDIVIDUALS EMPLOYED AS CORRECTIONS OFFICERS AND SUPERVISORS AT THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL WHOSE IDENTITIES CANNOT PRESENTLY BE DETERMINED, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Luann Gillespie Shultz ("plaintiff") commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking redress for the alleged deprivation of her deceased daughter‟s constitutional rights. Compl. at ¶¶ 1, 6. Plaintiff is the court-appointed administratrix of decedent Amy Gillespie‟s ("Gillespie") estate. Id. at ¶ 6. She brings this suit pursuant to the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa. C. S. § 8301, and the Survival Act, 42 Pa. C. S. § 8302, against the following defendants: Allegheny County ("the County"), Allegheny Correctional Health Services Inc. ("ACHS"), Ramon C. Rustin ("Rustin"), Dana Phillips ("Phillips"), John and Jane Does Numbers 1 through 5 as medical staff at ACJ, and John and Jane Does Numbers 6 through 10 as Corrections Officers and Supervisors at ACJ.

Gillespie, a 27 year-old woman, was incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail ("ACJ"). Id. at ¶ 13. Defendants allegedly violated Gillespie‟s rights by ignoring her serious medical problems, refusing to provide her with appropriate, necessary medical treatment, and demonstrating a deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs. Id. at ¶ 45. These actions and inactions ultimately led to Gillespie‟s death. Id. ACHS and its senior policy makers, Rustin and Phillips, are directly responsible for this violation. Id. at ¶ 50.

Presently before the court is Allegheny County and Rustin's ("the moving defendants") motion to dismiss. They contend that the complaint fails to state a claim because it does not identify any policy or custom that resulted in a violation of a constitutional right. Rustin also asserts a lack of personal involvement and invokes qualified immunity. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

It is well-settled that in reviewing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) A[t]he applicable standard of review requires the court to accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.@ Rocks v. City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). Under the Supreme Court‟s decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007), dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is proper only where the averments of the complaint plausibly fail to raise directly or inferentially the material elements necessary to obtain relief under a viable legal theory of recovery. Id. at 544. In other words, the allegations of the complaint must be grounded in enough of a factual basis to move the claim from the realm of mere possibility to one that shows entitlement by presenting Aa claim to relief that is plausible on its face.@ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, B U.S. B, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

AA 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.@ Id. In contrast, pleading facts that only offer A>labels or conclusions= or >a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do,=@ nor will advancing only factual allegations that are merely consistent with a defendant=s liability. Id. Similarly, tendering only Anaked assertions@ that are devoid of Afurther factual enhancement@ falls short of presenting sufficient factual content to permit an inference that what has been presented is more than a mere possibility of misconduct. Id. at 1949-50; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n. 8 (A complaint states a claim where its factual averments sufficiently raise a A>reasonably founded hope that the [discovery] process will reveal relevant evidence= to support the claim.@) (quoting Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005) & Blue Chip Stamps v. Manor Drug Stores, 421 U.S. 723, 741 (1975)).

This is not to be understood as imposing a probability standard at the pleading stage. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (AThe plausibility standard is not akin to a >probability requirement,= but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.@); Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 235 (3d Cir. 2008) (same). Instead, A[t]he Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: >stating ... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element ... [and provides] enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.=@ Phillips, 515 F.3d at 235; see also Wilkerson v. New Media Technology Charter School Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (AThe complaint must state >enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.=@) (quoting Phillips, 515 F.3d at 235) (citations omitted). AOnce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.@ Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563.

1983

Gillespie was incarcerated at the ACJ due to a violation of her work release. The violation was that she was pregnant. When admitted to the ACJ, Gillespie was approximately twelve to fourteen weeks pregnant Compl. at ¶ 15. Upon admission on December 2, 2009, Gillespie received an initial physical and mental health screening which showed her to be in good health. Id. at ¶ 16.

Gillespie spoke to plaintiff and Roger Mullarkey, a close friend, "on several occasions before December 22, 2009, stating that she had complained of being ill to Defendant Jane Doe Number 6, a female Corrections Officer, who had instructed her to 'stick it out.'" Id. at ¶ 19. Gillespie knew for some time prior to December 29, 2009, that something was wrong with her health, and she repeatedly attempted to communicate this to Jane Doe Number 6 and other corrections officers. Id. at ¶ 20. Additionally, Gillespie feared that she and/or her baby would die as a result of the defendants' failure to treat her symptoms, and she communicated this fear to others. Id. Specifically, she complained of an inability to breathe and a discharge from her lungs. Id. at ¶ 21.

On December 22, 2009, the ACJ performed another standard medical assessment which again showed Gillespie was in good health. Id. at ¶ 18. On December 29, 2009, she was admitted to the ACJ infirmary, presenting with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, aches, fever, upset stomach, and sleeplessness, which symptoms had been present for several days. Id. at ¶¶ 22, 23. The medical staff treated her for influenza with IV fluids, Tylenol and Benadryl. Id. at ¶¶ 25, 26. Gillespie remained nauseous and her fever continued to fluctuate. Id. at ¶ 26.

At 5:30 a.m. on January 1, 2010, a medical staff employee took note of Gillespie's inability to breathe and also wrote that she appeared to rest comfortably. Id. at ¶ 29. Later that day Gillespie was transported via ambulance to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy Hospital ("Mercy Hospital") and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. Id. at ¶¶ 30, 31. The Mercy Hospital medical staff took cultures and determined that Gillespie had no virus or immune system failure that might have contributed to such a rapid decline in her health; instead, she suffered from bacterial pneumonia. Id. at ¶32. The condition required the medical staff to put her in an oxygen mask and then to intubate her because she could no longer breathe on her own. Id. at ¶ 33. She also required a catheter, and developed skin edema. Id. at ¶¶ 35-36.

The fetal heart tones of Gillespie's unborn baby remained normal until January 12, 2010, when they escalated dramatically. Id. at ¶ 37. On January 13, 2010, Gillespie's condition worsened. Id. at ¶ 38. Her mother and brother were called to her bedside, and they chose to withdraw care. Id. She passed away at ...


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