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Beckwith v. Blair County

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 11, 2018

DEBORAH A. BECKWITH, as Administratrix of the ESTATE of SAMANTHA R. BECKWITH, Plaintiff,
v.
BLAIR COUNTY, operating as BLAIR COUNTY PRISON, MICHAEL JOHNSTON, RANDY POLLOCK and PRIMECARE MEDICAL, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Defendant PrimeCare's partial motion to dismiss and motion to strike (ECF No. 15). The motion has been fully briefed (see ECF Nos. 16, 22) and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT in part, and DENY in part, PrimeCare's motion.

         II. Jurisdiction and Venue

         The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because a substantial portion of the events giving rise to the claims occurred in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

         III. Background

         A. Factual History [1]

         Samantha Beckwith was arrested in late September 2017. (ECF No. 11 at ¶ 15.) After her arrest, she was incarcerated at the Blair County Jail. (Id.) Beckwith had a documented history of psychological problems -she had been diagnosed with manic-depressive/bipolar disorder and took medication for these conditions on a daily basis. (Id. at ¶ 16). When Beckwith did not take her medication she acted erratically and sometimes became suicidal. (Id.)

         The jail employees and medical staff at the Blair County Jail knew about Beckwith's medical conditions, her need for medication, and her suicidal ideations. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Since 2012, Beckwith had been incarcerated at Blair County Jail on ten occasions. (Id. at ¶ 17.) She also had "over 20 reports of various issues, including medical issues" from her previous incarcerations. (Id.)

         Despite their knowledge of Beckwith's medical conditions, Blair County Jail and PrimeCare took no action to address Beckwith's medical needs and psychological problems during her incarceration in the fall of 2017. (Id. at ¶ 20.) They never reviewed her medical history or health records from previous stays at the jail. (Id.) They never evaluated Beckwith to determine whether she required additional testing or medical care. (Id.) And they failed to provide Beckwith with necessary medication.[2] (Id. at ¶ 21.)

         Beckwith informed jail staff that she planned to kill herself. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Beckwith was briefly placed on "suicide watch." (Id. at ¶ 23.) But Blair County Jail and/or PrimeCare subsequently removed Beckwith from "suicide watch" without first making a medical determination that it would be safe to do so. (Id. at ¶ 24.) In fact, despite Beckwith's threat to commit suicide, Blair County Jail and/or PrimeCare never subjected Beckwith to a medical assessment, nor prescribed her necessary medication. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

         Beckwith committed suicide on October 24, 2016 by hanging herself from her bunk using a bedsheet. (Id. at ¶ 27.)

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County (ECF No. 1-2), which Defendants subsequently removed to this Court (ECF No. 1).

         Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11) containing the following counts: (I) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Blair County for violations of the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments; (II) a § 1983 claim against Warden Michael Johnston for violations of the Fourth, Fourteenth, and Eighth Amendments; (III) a § 1983 claim against Deputy Warden Randy Pollock for violations of the Fourth, Fourteenth, and Eighth Amendments; (IV) a § 1983 claim against PrimeCare for violations of the Fourth, Fourteenth, and Eighth Amendments; (V) a professional negligence/survival action claim against PrimeCare; (VI) a professional negligence/wrongful death claim against PrimeCare; (VII) a corporate negligence/survival action claim against PrimeCare; and (VIII) a corporate negligence/wrongful death claim against PrimeCare.[3] (See id.)

         PrimeCare filed a partial motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 15.) PrimeCare seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's corporate negligence claims (Counts VII and VIII) and Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against PrimeCare (Count IV) to the extent it asserts a Fourth Amendment claim. (See id.) PrimeCare also moves to strike several paragraphs from the Amended Complaint. (See id.)

         IV. Standard of Review

         A complaint may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Rule 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016). But detailed pleading is not generally required. Id. The Rules demand only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662 (2009), a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps.[4] First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675. Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679; see also Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc.,662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011) ("Mere restatements of the elements of a claim are not entitled to the assumption of truth.") (citation omitted). Finally, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. "A 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.; see ...


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