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Aiken v. Jefferson County

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 13, 2019

WILENE P. AIKEN, as Administratrix of the Estate of David E. Aiken, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHY BISSOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. MEMORANDUM

         On April 1, 2019, Plaintiff Wilene Aiken, (“Plaintiff”), as the administratrix of the Estate of David E. Aiken, filed an Amended Complaint (hereinafter “Amended Complaint” or “Am. Compl., ” Doc. 17) against Jefferson County, Humphrey Charcoal Corporation, and John Does Nos. 1-5 (collectively, “Defendants”). On April 15th, Humphrey Charcoal Corporation (“Humphrey”) filed an Answer, (hereinafter “Humphrey Answer, ” Doc. 18), asserting a crossclaim against Jefferson County and the John Doe Defendants. On April 22th, Jefferson County filed a Motion to Dismiss, (hereinafter, “Motion to Dismiss Am. Compl., ” Doc. 19), arguing all counts of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserted against it fail to state a claim. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (hereinafter, “Plaintiff's Response, ” Doc. 22) and Jefferson County filed a Reply, (Doc. 25).

         On May 6th, Jefferson County filed a Motion to Dismiss Humphrey's crossclaim (hereinafter, “Motion to Dismiss Crossclaim, ” Doc. 23). Humphrey opposed the Motion on May 23rd, (hereinafter “Humphrey's Response, ” Doc. 26.)

         After consideration of all briefing by the parties, Jefferson County's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Doc. 19, will be DENIED and Jefferson County's Motion to Dismiss Humphrey's Crossclaim, Doc. 23, will be GRANTED.

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's son, David E. Aiken (“Mr. Aiken”), passed away on July 21, 2017, from heat exhaustion. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 5.) At that time, Mr. Aiken was a participant in a work release program, working at Humphrey while residing at Jefferson County Jail (hereinafter “Jail”). (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 8-9.) Mr. Aiken was not provided with transportation from the Jail to his placement at Humphrey. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.)

         On the date of his death, Mr. Aiken began to suffer from heat stroke while working at Humphrey, and was permitted to sit in a room with an air conditioner to try to alleviate his symptoms. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.) At the close of the workday, Plaintiff states a Humphrey employee contacted the Jail to inquire about whether transportation was available to assist Mr. Aiken. (Id. at ¶ 16.) The Humphrey employee allegedly was told that he should “‘Make him walk'” and no transportation would be provided to Mr. Aiken. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Mr. Aiken began to walk back to the Jail with two other adults, and when he arrived at the bottom of the hill on which the Jail sat, he passed out. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-21.) The two adults with Mr. Aiken ran ahead to alert the Jail of Mr. Aiken's condition. (Id. at ¶ 22.)

         Plaintiff alleges that a “protocol” in place at the Jail required Mr. Aiken's probation officer be alerted prior to the Jail taking action to assist Mr. Aiken. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-26.) Plaintiff alleges that a message sent to Mr. Aiken's probation officer was not marked urgent, did not indicate that the situation was an emergency, and that the message was “ignored and/or disregarded” by the probation officer. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) Mr. Aiken ultimately was life-flighted to the hospital, but died en route. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-28.)

         B. ANALYSIS

         Jefferson County has moved to dismiss claims by Plaintiff and the crossclaim of its co-defendant, Humphrey. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). When faced with a motion to dismiss, a court “must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).

         1. Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff brings two claims pursuant to Section 1983 against Jefferson County, the municipality that runs the Jail. (See Am. Compl. at ¶ 2.) Plaintiff avers at Count I that Jefferson County was deliberately indifferent to Mr. Aiken's medical needs, in violation of its duties under the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendment. (Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 37-48.) At Count II, Plaintiff argues that Jefferson County violated Mr. Aiken's Constitutional rights through its failures to adequately train and supervise its employees to respond to medical emergencies, and that Mr. Aiken's death ...


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