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Estate of Lobato v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 30, 2017

ESTATE OF JENNIFER LOBATO, by and through its personal representative Paul Montoya, PAUL MONTOYA, individually, ANGELICA DELGADO, A.Z., a minor, by and through his father, Paul Montoya, J.M., a minor, by and through her father, Paul Montoya, V.M., a minor, by and through her father, Paul Montoya, L.F., a minor, by and through his father, Luciano Fresquez, A.F., a minor, by and through her father, Luciano Fresquez, and I.F., a minor, by and through his father, Luciano Fresquez, Plaintiffs,
v.
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC, CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE COMPANIES, INC., JEFFERSON COUNTY, COLORADO, JESSICA ROMERO, in her individual capacity, CAROLINE RYAN, in her individual capacity, BRIANNA WHINNERY, in her individual capacity, and ESME ZIEGELMAN, in her individual capacity, Defendants.

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants CCS and CHC's Partial Motion to Dismiss the Second Claim of Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint [Docket No. 117]. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On March 2, 2015, Jennifer Lobato died as a result of untreated withdrawal from methadone while detained in the Jefferson County Detention Facility in Jefferson County, Colorado (“JCDF”). Docket No. 109 at 28-29, ¶¶ 147, 152-54. Plaintiffs are Ms. Lobato's husband, her children, and the estate of Ms. Lobato. Id. at 9, ¶¶ 16-17. Ms. Lobato was arrested on March 1, 2015 for allegedly shoplifting. Id. at 11, ¶ 55. While being transported to JCDF, Ms. Lobato told Officer Wendy Trentaz of the Lakewood Police Department that “she was a heroin user and that she was concerned about going to jail because of her fear of withdrawing from the drug.” Id., ¶ 56.

         Ms. Lobato arrived at JCDF at around 5:00 p.m. on March 1, 2015 for booking and processing. Id. at 13, ¶ 72. During the booking process, Emergency Medical Technician (“EMT”) Jessica Romero and EMT Bryan Muscutt performed an intake on Ms. Lobato. Id. at 14, ¶ 79. Romero and Muscutt were employed by the CCS defendants.[2] Id. at 8, ¶¶ 37-38. The CCS defendants contract with Jefferson County to provide medical care to inmates and detainees at JCDF. Id. at 11, ¶ 57. The purpose of the intake process is “to determine whether an inmate needs medical attention.” Id. at 14, ¶ 79. Romero and Muscutt both stated that, during the intake process, “Ms. Lobato never admitted to any drug use and did not exhibit signs of withdrawal.” Id.

         The CCS defendants' policy requires that, “if an inmate affirmatively confirms drug usage or exhibits any signs of withdrawal, ” the medical staff is required to initiate the opiate withdrawal protocol. Id., ¶ 80. The opiate withdrawal protocol requires the EMT staff to check the inmate's vital signs and for a nurse to screen the inmate for “clinical indications of withdrawal.” Id., ¶ 81. Plaintiffs allege that, although “Ms. Lobato was showing visible signs of withdrawal, including but not limited to sweating and shaking, JCDF's written opiate withdrawal protocol was ignored by EMT Romero and EMT Muscutt and Ms. Lobato was never screened for any clinical indications of withdrawal.” Id. at 14-15, ¶ 82. Ms. Lobato was then placed in a cell in Unit 6A. Id. at 15, ¶ 84.

         At approximately 8:30 a.m. on March 2, 2015, Nurse Caroline Ryan, another employee of the CCS defendants, id. at 9, ¶ 39, conducted her morning medication disbursement to the inmates in Unit 6A. Id. at 17, ¶ 94. Numerous inmates attempted to inform Nurse Ryan about plaintiff's withdrawal symptoms, but Nurse Ryan did not examine Ms. Lobato or take any action based on the inmates' descriptions of Ms. Lobato's symptoms. Id., ¶ 95. Throughout the morning, Ms. Lobato and other inmates informed deputies working at JCDF that Ms. Lobato was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Id. at 16-20, ¶¶ 96-107. Ms. Lobato informed the deputies that she was withdrawing from “meth.” Id. at 19, ¶ 103. One deputy, after hearing Ms. Lobato complain about withdrawal, reviewed Ms. Lobato's intake records and spoke to EMT Romero about Ms. Lobato's intake. Id. at 20, ¶ 107-08. EMT Romero informed the deputy that Ms. Lobato had not provided any information related to withdrawal and stated that “they don't really have a protocol for meth anyway.” Id., ¶ 108. EMT Romero did not try to clarify what “meth” referred to. Id.

         Nurse Ryan returned to Unit 6A between 11:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. to do another medication distribution. Id. at 20, ¶ 111. By this time, Ms. Lobato had been vomiting for several hours. Id. at 17, ¶ 97. Numerous inmates alerted Nurse Ryan that Ms. Lobato was in withdrawal, but Nurse Ryan did not evaluate Ms. Lobato or take any other actions in response to the inmates' statements. Id. at 21, ¶ 112. Throughout the afternoon, Ms. Lobato and the other inmates continued to inform the deputies on duty that Ms. Lobato was in withdrawal, was vomiting, and was in need of medical attention. Id. at 21-23, ¶¶ 113-126. Instead of providing Ms. Lobato with treatment, the deputies on duty ignored Ms. Lobato's pleas and harassed the inmates who tried to get Ms. Lobato help. Id. at 24-26, ¶¶ 129-133.

         Nurse Ryan returned for a third time to Unit 6A at approximately 4:30 p.m. to distribute medication. Id. at 26, ¶ 134. One of the deputies informed Nurse Ryan that Ms. Lobato was withdrawing from “meth” and that Ms. Lobato had not mentioned this during the intake process. Id. Nurse Ryan stated that “they could not give any medications for meth withdrawal, and if she had her way, everyone would withdraw from meth because it was the best [drug to] withdraw from.” Id., ¶ 135. Nurse Ryan did not attempt to clarify the meaning of “meth, ” inquire about Ms. Lobato's physical condition, or attempt to examine Ms. Lobato. Id. at ¶ 136.

         At approximately 5:00 p.m., Ms. Lobato's cellmate returned to the cell. Id., at 26-27, ¶ 137. She was “overcome by the smell of vomit” and informed the deputies that “Ms. Lobato was extremely sick and needed help.” Id. at 27, ¶ 138. The deputies instructed Ms. Lobato's cellmate to clean the cell and did not ask about Ms. Lobato's condition. Id. Ms. Lobato's cellmate refused to clean the cell and left. Id., ¶ 139. The deputy told Ms. Lobato “that she would only receive medical attention after the cell had been cleaned.” Id. At that time, Ms. Lobato informed one of the deputies that she was withdrawing from methadone. Id. at 27, ¶ 140. The deputy contacted Nurse Brianna Whinnery, id., another employee of the CCS defendants. Id. at 9, ¶ 40. Nurse Whinnery told the deputy that Ms. Lobato would be put on the list for the evening medication rounds. Id. at 27, ¶ 142. Nurse Whinnery did not inquire as to Ms. Lobato's condition, send medical staff to evaluate Ms. Lobato, or “otherwise follow the established protocol.” Id. Nurse Whinnery gave Ms. Lobato's medical information, including that she was withdrawing from methadone, to Nurse Esme Ziegelman, the charge nurse for the night shift. Id. at 28, ¶ 143. Nurse Ziegelman did not attempt to get any additional information about Ms. Lobato's physical condition. Id.

         The medication rounds for the evening did not begin until 7:30 p.m. Id., ¶ 144. At approximately 7:00 p.m. on March 2, 2015, Ms. Lobato pressed the intercom button in her cell and “pleaded for medical attention.” Id. at 29, ¶ 148. The deputies on duty told Ms. Lobato she would have to wait for the nurse's evening medication rounds. Id. At approximately 7:19 p.m., Ms. Lobato's cellmate pressed the intercom button and told the deputies that she did not think Ms. Lobato was breathing. Id., ¶ 149. The deputies called for paramedics, who arrived at approximately 7:30 p.m. Id., ¶ 151. At 7:45 p.m., Ms. Lobato was pronounced dead. Id., ¶ 152. Ms. Lobato died of “cardiac arrest due to probable electrolyte abnormalities, due to repeated vomiting.” Id., ¶ 153.

         According to an expert retained by plaintiffs, Ms. Lobato's death was preventable “by simple medical care and treatments, and even up until the immediate time of her death, her treatments with IV fluids and electrolyte replacements would have saved her life.” Id. at 30, ¶ 156.

         The third amended complaint alleges five claims for relief: first, the estate of Ms. Lobato seeks damages against all defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a failure to provide medical care and treatment in accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment; second, the estate of Ms. Lobato seeks damages against the CCS defendants and Jefferson County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; third, plaintiffs Paul Montoya, Angelica Delgado, A.Z., J.M., V.M., L.F., A.F., and I.F. seek damages against the CCS defendants, Caroline Ryan, Brianna Whinnery, Jessica Romero, and Esme Ziegelman for medical negligence causing wrongful death; fourth, plaintiffs Paul Montoya, Angelica Delgado, A.Z., J.M., V.M., L.F., A.F., and I.F. seek damages for negligent operation of the jail resulting in the wrongful death of Ms. Lobato[3]; and fifth, all plaintiffs seek damages from all defendants as heirs to Ms. Lobato's estate. Docket No. 109 at 38-48, ¶¶ 199-261.

         The CCS defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' second claim for relief. Docket No. 117.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must allege enough factual matter that, taken as true, makes the plaintiffs' “claim to relief . . . plausible on its face.” Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (internal quotation marks and alteration marks omitted). Thus, even though modern rules of pleading are somewhat forgiving, “a complaint still must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Bryson, 534 F.3d at 1286 (alteration marks omitted).

         III. ...


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