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Ferencz v. Medlock

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 17, 2012

Shannon FERENCZ, Administratrix of the Estate of Cade Stevens, and Shannon Ferencz, individually, Plaintiff,
v.
Larry MEDLOCK, et al., Defendants.

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Noah Geary, Washington, PA, for Plaintiff.

Marie Milie Jones, Jones Passodelis, PLLC, Suzanne B. Merrick, Thomas P. McGinnis, Jeffrey D. Truitt, Karin Romano Galbraith, Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP, Pittsburgh, PA, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LISA PUPO LENIHAN, United States Chief Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, or alternatively, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Fayette County and Louis Krukowski [1] (ECF No. 39); the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Defendants Timmee Burnsworth, Carol Younkin, and PrimeCare Medical, Inc. (ECF No. 44); and Plaintiff's Briefs in Opposition to both pending Motions (ECF Nos. 47, 50). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, the Motion filed by Fayette County and Krukowski will be denied and the Motion filed by Burnsworth,

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Younkin, and PrimeCare Medical will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Procedural Background

As Administratrix of the Estate of Cade Stevens, Plaintiff, through counsel, initiated this action on September 7, 2011, by filing a Complaint pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint identified the following Defendants: Larry Medlock (" Medlock" ), Warden of the Fayette County Prison; Brian Miller (" Miller" ), Deputy Warden of the Fayette County Prison; Geary O'Neil (" O'Neil" ), Barry Simon (" Simon" ), and John Does # 1-# 4, Correctional Officers at the Fayette County Prison; John Doe # 5, Counselor at the Fayette County Prison; and PrimeCare Medical, Inc. (" PrimeCare Medical" ), the medical provider at the Fayette County Prison. (ECF No. 1.) All individuals were named as Defendants in both their official and individual capacities. (ECF No. 1.)

In response to a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Medlock, (ECF No. 10), Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on November 24, 2011 (ECF No. 13). The Amended Complaint added Defendant Louis Krukowski (" Krukowski" ), who was substituted for John Doe # 5; Defendant Fayette County; and Defendants Carol Younkin (" Younkin" ) and Timmee Burnsworth (" Burnsworth" ), employees of PrimeCare Medical. (ECF No. 13.) Again, all individuals were named as Defendants in both their official and individual capacities. (ECF No. 13.) Also in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff added herself as a Plaintiff in her individual capacity as the mother of the decedent Cade Stevens. (ECF No. 13.)

Without leave of Court and beyond the time permitted by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, a Second Amended Complaint was filed on February 29, 2012. (ECF No. 38.) The Second Amended Complaint avers three Counts: Count I is for multiple civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Count II is a survival action under Pennsylvania state law; and Count III is a wrongful death action under Pennsylvania state law. In response to the Second Amended Complaint, Defendants Fayette County and Krukowski filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39). Similarly, Defendants Burnsworth, Younkin, and PrimeCare Medical filed an Answer (ECF No. 42) along with a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 44). Answers were also filed by Defendants Medlock and Miller (ECF No. 41) and Defendants O'Neil and Simon (ECF No. 43).

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

According to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Cade Stevens (" Stevens" ) was lodged in the Fayette County Prison (" jail" ) as a pre-trial detainee on September 10, 2009. (ECF No. 38 at ¶¶ 33, 35.) Upon admittance into the jail, PrimeCare Medical employee Defendant Younkin conducted a medical evaluation of Stevens, and Stevens was diagnosed as going through drug withdrawal. Id. at ¶ 38. The medical evaluation also included a mental health assessment, which involved a point system. Id. at ¶¶ 39-40. If a pre-trial detainee scored an eight (8) or higher on the scale, he or she was required to be classified as suicidal pursuant to the jail's inmate classification policy. Id. at ¶ 40. Suicidal pre-trial detainees are immediately placed on a documented suicide watch, wherein they are checked every 15 minutes by Corrections Officers. Id. at ¶ 42. Stevens scored a twelve (12) on his mental health assessment, and was thus required to be classified as suicidal pursuant to the jail's inmate classification policy. Id. at ¶ 41, 45.

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Following his medical evaluation, the Prison Inmate Classification Committee, consisting of Defendants Younkin, Miller, and Krukowski, met to discuss Stevens and appropriately classify him based on the information obtained during his medical evaluation. Id. at ¶¶ 43-45. The Committee did not classify Stevens as suicidal, as they were required to do under jail classification policy, and no member of the Committee communicated to PrimeCare Medical staff or the Correctional Officers in B Range responsible for monitoring Stevens, that he was suicidal and going through drug withdrawal. Id. at ¶ 46. Nevertheless, despite learning that Stevens was suicidal and going through drug withdrawal, PrimeCare Medical employee Defendant Burnsworth failed and/or delayed in assessing Stevens and in giving Stevens medication for the drug withdrawal he was experiencing. Id. at ¶ 48. Defendant Burnsworth also failed to communicate to Corrections Officers in B Range that Stevens was both suicidal and going through drug withdrawal. Id.

Stevens was lodged on B Range without a cell mate. Id. at ¶ 47. At the time, the jail was equipped with an operational and working video surveillance system and there was a video camera in Stevens' cell. Id. at ¶¶ 49, 51. The video surveillance of Stevens' cell was broadcast on four different television monitors throughout the jail, all of which were working and manned by Correctional Officers. Id. at ¶ 51. Additionally, the B Range work station was located around the corner from Stevens' cell, approximately 20 feet away. Id. at ¶ 52. This station was equipped with one of the four television monitors, which broadcast the video surveillance of Stevens' cell. Id. at ¶ 53. The monitor was situated on the wall above the desk at the work station, such that it would be directly in front of the Correctional Officer manning the B Range station if he was sitting facing his desk. Id. at ¶ 54.

On the morning of September 12, 2009, Defendant Simon was stationed at the B Range work station. Id. at ¶ 55. His shift that day was from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Id. At approximately 9:32 a.m., Stevens attempted suicide by trying to hang himself with his bed sheet from the top of the cell bars. Id. at ¶ 56. The suicide attempt took several minutes and was unsuccessful. Id. at ¶¶ 57-58. After the attempt, however, Stevens left the bed sheet hanging from the top of his cell bars and started to pace in his cell in visible mental distress. Id. at ¶ 58. This suicide attempt was viewable from the B Range work station video surveillance monitor as well as the other three monitors throughout the jail. Id. at ¶ 59. Also viewable on the monitors was the hanging bed sheet from the top of Stevens' cell bars. Id. at ¶ 60.

A few minutes later, at approximately 9:37 a.m., Stevens attempted to commit suicide a second time by hanging himself with his bed sheet from the top of his cell bars. Id. at ¶ 61. Again, this suicide attempt took several minutes, was unsuccessful, and was viewable from the B Range work station video surveillance monitor as well as the other three monitors throughout the jail. Id. at ¶¶ 62-64. Stevens, however, once again left the bed sheet hanging from the top of his cell bars after the attempt and began to pace in his cell in visible mental distress. Id. at ¶ 64. This too was visible on the video surveillance monitors. Id. at ¶ 65.

A few minutes later, at approximately 9:40 a.m., Stevens attempted to commit suicide a third time by hanging himself with his bed sheet. Id. at ¶ 66. This time, Stevens hung himself from his bed sheet for over twenty minutes, without being noticed by any of the four Correctional Officers who were manning the four video surveillance monitors. Id. at ¶ 67. In fact, Defendant O'Neil, who had temporarily

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replaced Defendant Simon at the B Range work station, was asleep at his work station. Id. at ¶¶ 68-69. Defendant O'Neil in no way tried to conceal that he was sleeping on the job because he knew that he too was viewable by the jail's video surveillance system. Id. at ¶ 69. At approximately 10:07 a.m., an unknown Correctional Officer who was walking by the B Range work station viewed the monitor and saw Stevens hanging. Id. at ¶ 70. At that point, Stevens had been hanging for almost half an hour. Id. at ¶ 71. Stevens was cut down and transported to local Uniontown Hospital where he was subsequently pronounced dead due to asphyxiation by hanging. Id. at ¶ 74.

III. Standards of Review

Defendants Krukowski and Fayette County have filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or alternatively, a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a).[2] Defendants Younkin, Burnsworth, and PrimeCare Medical have filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

A. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed but within such time as to not delay the trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Because Defendants Younkin, Burnsworth, and PrimeCare Medical had already filed an answer to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, their Motion was appropriately filed pursuant to Rule 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings. Judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) may be granted " only if, viewing all the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, no material issue of fact remains and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Knepper v. Rite Aid Corp., 675 F.3d 249, 257 (3d Cir.2012) (citing Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir.2008)). " A motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the defense that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim is analyzed under the same standards that apply to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion." Revell v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 598 F.3d 128, 134 (3d Cir.2010) (citing Turbe v. Gov't of the Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir.1991)). Thus, in this regard the standard of review is identical to that of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Turbe, 938 F.2d at 428 (citations omitted). The only notable difference is that a court, for a motion on the pleadings, may review not only the complaint but also the answer and written instruments attached to the pleadings. Brautigam v. Fraley, 684 F.Supp.2d 589, 591-92 (M.D.Pa.2010). Despite this difference, courts in this circuit have consistently stated that the distinction between the two standards is " merely semantic." Christy v. We The People Forms & Serv. Ctrs., 213 F.R.D. 235, 238 (D.N.J.2003); see Smith v. City of Phila., 345 F.Supp.2d 482, 485 (E.D.Pa.2004).

B. Motion to Dismiss

When deciding whether the grant or deny a 12(b)(6) motion the Supreme Court has held:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual ...

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