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Hall v. Lengerich

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 2, 2018

SHERROL HALL, PERSONALLY, AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE ESTATE OF TERRENCE JOSEPH EDWARD HUNT, AND ON BEHALF OF THE WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES FOR TERRENCE JOSEPH EDWARD HUNT, Plaintiffs,
v.
JASON LENGERICH, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, ROBERT TUCKER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DANA JOHNSON, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, RENEE JORDAN, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, PATSY HARTLEY, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, JOHN HENDRYX, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, SANDY JONES, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, KERRI BARONI, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, Defendants.

          ORDER FOR DISMISSAL OF THIRD, FOURTH AND FIFTH CLAIMS FOR RELIEF WITH PREJUDICE AND FIRST, SECOND AND SIXTH CLAIMS WITHOUT PREJUDICE

          Richard P. Matsch, Senior Judge

         The amended complaint (Doc. 10), filed October 13, 2017, by Sherrol Hall, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Terrence Hunt, alleges six claims for relief arising from the suicide of her son, Terrence Joseph Edward Hunt (Terrence or Terry Hunt) on June 20, 2015, while he was an inmate in the Buena Vista Correctional Facility (BVCF), an institution of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC). The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Claims for Relief seek damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution with jurisdiction provided by 28 U.S.C. § § 1331 and 1343. The First, Second and Sixth Claims are based on Colorado law for which supplemental jurisdiction is requested pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         All defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and defendant Sandy Jones also moved for summary judgment of dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.

         A response in opposition and brief in support of it were filed on January 30, 2018. (Doc. 30 and 31).

         The core of the factual allegations is that on June 11, 2015, Terrence Hunt wrote a letter to his mother which she received on June 15, 2015. Sherrol Hall perceived the letter as expressing an intent to either kill himself or seriously hurt or kill a corrections officer. Accordingly, on June 16 she called several times to the BVCF to alert someone about the contents of the letter. After attempting to reach the case manager she was transferred to Mental Health and stressed to the person answering the phone that she needed to hear from someone immediately.

         Ms. Hall filed an affidavit in which she included the following:

At 4:00 p.m. on June 16, 2015, I was driving home from work, when Sandy Jones in Mental Health called me back. She told me that it took her so long to get back to me because TJ hadn't been in his unit all day. She said that he was in the yard doing what he does. She then told me that he was fine and that he certainly wasn't acting like anything was going on. She claimed that he only sent a request to Mental Health to try to get moved out of Buena Vista. I stressed to her repeatedly that I didn't trust that reason. His letter to me was very painful and explicit and I truly believed he would hurt himself. I explained to her what TJ said in the letter. I begged her not to leave him alone. She assured me that he was fine.

         Sandy Jones submitted a declaration (Exhibit C) saying that she spoke with Ms. Hall who told her that Terrence Hunt had written a letter claiming to be suicidal and Jones assured her that she would contact him and evaluate him. Ms. Jones further declared that she did talk to Terry Hunt who denied being suicidal and explained that he wrote the letter because he was upset because he was unable to see his grandmother who could not travel to BVCF. Jones said Hunt denied a need for medications or mental health assistance. Jones said she then called Ms. Hall and reassured her that her son did not seem suicidal.

         All of the defendants filed declarations denying that they had seen Terry Hunt's letter.

         The plaintiff has requested discovery to challenge these declarations. Ms. Jones filed a clinical note documenting her contact with Terry Hunt on June 16, 2015 (Ex. B).

         The plaintiff has claimed that the defendants violated established DOC policy in Administrative Regulations attached to the Amended Complaint which, if followed, would have prevented this suicide.

         Individual liability for a violation of the constitutional protections of Terrence Hunt depends upon a showing that the defendant personally participated in the unlawful conduct or omission and that the defendant should have been aware that he or she was acting contrary to clearly established law. Qualified immunity protects a government actor in the absence of such proof.

         Under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments Terence Hunt was entitled to mental health treatment if there was a showing of a substantial risk of suicide. If an official having responsibility to provide that treatment is aware of that risk and is deliberately indifferent to it, and that is a cause of the death, there would be liability in damages.

         Deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of suicide has both objective and subjective components. Calahan v. Poppell,471 F.3d 1155, 1159 (10th Cir. 2006). Death clearly satisfies the objective component. ...


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