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Estate of Walter v. Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 3, 2017

THE ESTATE OF JOHN PATRICK WALTER, by and through its personal representative, DESIREE' Y. KLODNICKI, Plaintiff,
CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE COMPANIES, INC.; CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC; CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE PHYSICIANS, P.C.; CHC COMPANIES, INC.; THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF FREMONT; JAMES BEICKER, individually and in his official capacity as Fremont County Sheriff; TY MARTIN, individually; RAYMOND HERR, M.D., individually; THE ESTATE OF ROY D. HAVENS, by and through its personal representative, Linda Havens; STEPHANIE REPSHIRE, LPN, individually; KATHLEEN MAESTAS, LPN, individually; SHARON ALLEN, M.D., individually; JOHN RANKIN, individually; CARRIE HAMMEL, individually; MICHAEL GIRTEN, individually; MICHAEL ULRICH, individually; ROBERT MILLER, individually; JUSTIN GREEN, individually; GREG OWEN, individually; DUSTIN MAAS, individually; RICHARD SALANO, individually; BILLIE BELL, individually; ANTHONY TURNER, individually; BALEY SANDEFUR, individually; ELOYSA TRUJILLO, individually; LILA CLEMMERSON, individually; BRAXTON BUFFINGTON, individually; CHARLENE COMBS, individually; JORDAN PENN, individually; SARA LIGHTCAP, individually; DAVID GREEN, individually; JOSHUA POHL, individually; MACKENZIE ROQUEMORE, individually; ASHLEY RAMEY, individually; RANDALL CULLEN, individually; PERRY BURFORD, individually; CAMERON GONZALES, individually; LEE COOK, individually; JAMES WHEATON, individually; JOHN DOES 1-10, individually; JANE DOES 1-10, individually; and DOE CORPORATIONS 1-10, Defendants.



         By way of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, this lawsuit alleges that John Patrick Walter (“Walter”) received unconstitutionally deficient medical care while in pretrial detention in Fremont County, Colorado, eventually causing his death. The Estate of Walter through its personal representative (“the Walter Estate”) therefore sues numerous individuals and entities that are allegedly responsible for Walter's death in some way.

         Currently before the Court are two motions to dismiss challenging the Walter Estate's Second Amended Complaint (“Complaint”). (ECF No. 84.) The first motion to dismiss is brought by Defendants Correctional Healthcare Companies, Correctional Care Solutions, Correctional Healthcare Physicians, and CHC Companies (collectively, “CHC”). (ECF No. 92.) The second motion is brought by Defendant Estate of Roy D. Havens through its personal representative (“the Havens Estate”). (ECF No. 114.) For the reasons explained below, both motions are denied.

         I. CHC'S MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No. 92)

         A. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim in a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The 12(b)(6) standard requires the Court to “assume the truth of the plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). In ruling on such a motion, the dispositive inquiry is “whether the complaint contains ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Granting a motion to dismiss “is a harsh remedy which must be cautiously studied, not only to effectuate the spirit of the liberal rules of pleading but also to protect the interests of justice.” Dias v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 567 F.3d 1169, 1178 (10th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Thus, ‘a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         B. Factual Allegations

         The Court assumes the following to be true for purposes of resolving CHC's Motion to Dismiss.

         For reasons not explained anywhere in the record, on April 2, 2014, Walter was arrested by Fremont County sheriff's deputies and taken to the Fremont County Detention Center (“Detention Center”). (ECF No. 84 ¶ 64.) Medical matters at the detention center are handled by CHC, a private organization with whom Fremont County has contracted for this purpose. (Id. ¶¶ 15-19.)

         At the time of his arrest, Walter lawfully possessed on his person “several bottles of prescription medication.” (Id. ¶ 66.) Among those medications were methadone and Klonopin. (Id.) Klonopin is a drug in the benzodiazepine family. (Id. ¶ 59.) It is used to “treat anxiety disorders and various other mental and physical conditions.” (Id.) It is also highly addictive and can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms-commonly known as “benzo withdrawal”-if discontinued too quickly. (Id. ¶¶ 59-60.)

         Walter had been prescribed Klonopin for several years previous to his arrest and was “physiologically dependent” on it, putting him “at serious risk for benzo withdrawal should it be abruptly discontinued or the dosage reduced too quickly.” (Id. ¶ 63.) On a medical intake form at the Detention Center, Walter specified that he had been prescribed Klonopin, as well as methadone. (Id. ¶ 68.) His bottles of medication were then confiscated. (Id. ¶ 70.)

         On April 3, 2014, the day after Walter's arrest, Physician Assistant Roy Havens “issued a provider's order, which included a tapering schedule for the Methadone and directions to initiate the corporate clinical protocol for benzodiazepine dependent detainees.” (Id. ¶ 72.) This clinical protocol “would have required taking an appropriate history and initiating a tapering schedule with either Klonopin or a substitute benzodiazepine.” (Id. ¶ 73.) The protocol would have also required close medical monitoring for the signs of benzo withdrawal. (Id.)

         For unexplained reasons, the clinical protocol “was not followed.” (Id.) In particular, Defendant Maestas, a LPN, “decided to disregard the benzo withdrawal protocol, and the other medical provider defendants went along with her decision.” (Id. ¶ 75.) Walter's Klonopin was therefore abruptly discontinued, with no tapering or substitute. (Id. ¶ 74.) Walter then began experiencing benzo withdrawal, including the following symptoms: “acute gastrointestinal distress, lack of appetite and dramatic weight loss, incontinence, confusion, disorientation as to time and place, bizarre behavior, severe anxiety and panic, rapid mood swings, extreme restlessness and agitation, profound insomnia, delusional thinking, paranoia, hallucinations, delirium, tremors, twitching, incontrollable [sic] shaking, and seizures.” (Id. ¶ 76.)

         Between April 3 and 12, 2014, Walter made multiple requests to various defendants to be given Klonopin, but all such requests were ignored or rejected. (Id. ¶ 77.) By April 13, Walter “was hallucinating and talking to the walls about nonsensical things. He was constantly shaking and twitching. Detention staff reported to the nursing staff . . . that [he] was confused and speaking of conversations and events that never took place.” (Id. ¶ 78.)

         On April 14, 2014, detention personnel moved Walter into a single cell, away from other inmates. (Id. ¶ 79.) On April 15, Fremont County detention personnel,

repeatedly used extreme and objectively unreasonable force on Mr. Walter. This included, but was not limited to, pepper spraying him, shocking him with a Taser, forcibly strapping him into a restraint chair (on at least two separate occasions), and using multiple forms of hands-on physical force-including pressure points, joint locks, and other pain compliance techniques-as well as severe physical beatings that caused subcutaneous contusions, numerous broken bones, and internal bleeding.

(Id. ¶ 80.) Detention personnel employed this force on account of some unexplained noncompliance with orders. (Id. ¶ 82.)

         Also on April 15, 2014, Walter was moved into “one of the front facing holding cells located across from the booking area. . . . Through one or more large windows in his observation holding cell, Mr. Walter was plainly visible to anyone at or near the booking area.” (Id. ¶ 83.) Thus, for the next five days that Walter occupied that cell, “[e]very single [Fremont County] detention supervisor and officer and every single corporate medical provider who entered the [Detention Center] . . ., including all of the individual defendants named in this complaint (with the possible exception of Defendant Herr), saw Mr. Walter and saw that he was obviously in need of immediate medical attention.” (Id.) In particular, any observer could see that Walter:

• was severely malnourished and dehydrated (id. ¶ 84);
• “was incontinent and had lost bowel and/or bladder control, likely defecating and/or urinating on himself or in his surroundings” (id. ¶ 85);
• was “sweating, twitching, trembling, and lying on the floor while uncontrollably shaking and, most likely, suffering from repeated seizures” (id.);
• was disoriented, talking to persons not present, and speaking about events that never happened (id. ¶ 86);
• often went without sleep, paced his cell, rolled around on the floor while yelling, removed his clothes and writhed naked on the floor (id.);
• at times kicked, punched, and clawed at the walls and door of his cell, apparently attempting to escape imaginary people (id.).

         All the while, medical and other personnel were watching his symptoms but doing nothing. (Id. ¶¶ 87-93.)

         On April 19, 2014, Defendant Lightcap, a detention officer, documented excessive bruises and unhealed wounds all over Walter's body. (Id. ¶ 96.) She also documented his weight loss, his tremors, and that his sleeping mat smelled like urine. (Id.) Other detention officers witnessed the same things that day. (Id. ¶ 97.)

         Also on April 19, CHC's Chief Medical Officer, Defendant Herr, received a report of Walter's “dire medical condition.” (Id. ¶ 99.) Herr responded that “nothing could be done for Mr. Walter.” (Id.)

         On the morning of April 20, 2014, Maestas visited Walter and saw him “lying on the ground, naked, severely injured, manifestly malnourished and dehydrated, shaking, and unable to even sit up on his own.” (Id. ¶ 100.) Maestas still took no action. (Id.) For the rest of the morning, Walter was “lying naked on the floor, twitching, shaking, seizing, and convulsing.” (Id. ¶ 101.) Various detention officers saw him in that state. (Id.)

         Later that day, Walter was found dead in his cell. (Id. ΒΆ 102.) A ...

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