United States District Court, D. Colorado
THE ESTATE OF MICHAEL SCOT MANUEL, Deceased, by and through Julie Christine Skaggs-Manuel, Personal Representative, JULIE CHRISTINE SKAGGS-MANUEL, individually, Plaintiffs,
BRETT SCHROETLIN, individually and in his capacity as the Sheriff for the Grand County Sheriff's Department, HEATHER GISH, individually and in her capacity as a Deputy for the Grand County Sheriff's Department, MARLAN ANDERSON, individually and in his capacity as a Deputy for the Grand County Sheriff's Department, SUSAN JAMES, individually and in her capacity as a Deputy for the Grand County Sheriff's Department, JACOB FISHER, individually and in his capacity as a Corporal for the Grand County Sheriff's Department, WAYNE SCHAFER, individually and in his capacity as Undersheriff for the Grand County Sheriff's Department, KYNDRA GORE, individually and in her capacity as a Lieutenant for the Grand County Sheriff's Department, and COLORADO WEST REGIONAL MENTAL HEALTH, INCORPORATED, d/b/a MIND SPRINGS HEALTH, INC., a Colorado corporation, Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
Y. Wang United States Magistrate Judge.
matter comes before the court on Defendants Brett Schroetlin,
Heather Gish, Marlan Anderson, Susan James, Jacob Fisher,
Wayne Schafer, and Kyndra Gore's (collectively,
“Grand County Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss (or
“Motion”). [#49, filed December 18, 2017]. The
undersigned considers the Motion to Dismiss pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b), the Order Referring Case dated August
23, 2017 [#25], and the Memorandum dated December 19, 2017
[#50]. This court concludes that oral argument will not
materially assist in the resolution of this matter.
Therefore, upon careful review of the Motion and related
briefing, applicable case law, and the entire docket, this
court respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Dismiss be
following facts are drawn from the Complaint and are taken as
true for the purposes of this Motion. On July 5, 2016,
Michael Scot Manuel (“Mr. Manuel”), a
fifty-year-old engineer, was arrested on domestic violence
charges and detained at the Grand County Jail. See
[#1 at ¶¶ 1, 26]. At the time of his booking Mr.
Manuel allegedly informed jail personnel that he was
suicidal; jail personnel then allegedly placed Mr. Manuel on
suicide watch. See [id. at ¶¶ 1,
30-34]. Rather than place Mr. Manuel in one of the two
unoccupied cells designated for suicidal detainees, jail
personnel placed Mr. Manuel in cell V1-“a visiting cell
with a kiosk for video telephone conferencing.”
[Id. at ¶¶ 1, 35-40]. The kiosk in cell V1
comes equipped with a “43-inch steel cable connecting
the receiver to the video phone[, ]” and the light in
the cell was not operating properly the night Mr. Manuel was
placed in the cell. See [id. at
¶¶ 44-45]. Cell V2, the unoccupied, adjoining cell,
did not contain a similar video kiosk, nor was it having
issues with its lighting. [Id. at ¶¶ 43,
following morning, at approximately 8:00 a.m., jail personnel
checked Mr. Manuel's blood alcohol level, but did not
move Mr. Manuel to a suicide prevention cell despite the
continued suicide watch. See [id. at
¶¶ 55-57]. Though Jail personnel allegedly
contacted Defendant Colorado West Regional Mental Health,
Incorporated, d/b/a Mind Springs Health, Inc. (“Mind
Springs Health”) at approximately 8:30 a.m., no Mind
Springs Health employee “had yet arrived to evaluate,
counsel, or treat Mr. Manuel” as of 10:50 a.m.
[Id. at ¶¶ 59-60]. It was at this time,
10:50 a.m., that Defendant Jacob Fisher conducted a suicide
check on Mr. Manuel only to find Mr. Manuel “sitting
oddly on the floor by the kiosk” with the steel phone
cord tied around his neck. [Id. at ¶¶
69-71]. Mr. Manuel was nonresponsive, and was flown on life
support to St. Anthony's North Hospital in Denver,
Colorado. [Id. at ¶¶ 72, 85]. Mr.
Manuel's life support was later removed; he passed away
on July 10, 2016, from anoxic brain injury, asphyxiation, and
ligature hanging. [Id. at ¶ 86].
the Estate of Michael Scot Manuel, Deceased, by and through,
Julie Christine Skaggs-Manuel (the “Estate”) and
Julie Christine Skaggs-Manuel (“Ms.
“Plaintiffs”) initiated this action on July 5,
2017. See [#1]. Plaintiffs asserted claims against
the Grand County Defendants for violations of Mr.
Manuel's Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (Claims 1-7); state law negligence claims
against the Grand County Defendants (Claims 8-14) and Mind
Springs Health (Claim 15); and a Colorado wrongful death
claim against the Grand County Defendants (Claim 16). See
generally [id.]. Plaintiffs have since
dismissed their negligence claims against the Grand County
Defendants, see [#31], and the Grand County
Defendants filed their Answer to Claims 1-7 and 16 on
September 13, 2017. [#32].
Grand County Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss
on December 18, 2017. [#49]. Plaintiffs have since filed
their Response and the Grand County Defendants their Reply.
[#52; #54]. The Motion to Dismiss is now ripe for
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, as such,
“are duty bound to examine facts and law in every
lawsuit before them to ensure that they possess subject
matter jurisdiction.” The Wilderness Soc. v. Kane
Cty., Utah, 632 F.3d 1162, 1179 n.3 (10th Cir. 2011)
(Gorsuch, J., concurring); accord 1mage Software, Inc. v.
Reynolds & Reynolds Co., 459 F.3d 1044, 1048 (10th
Cir. 2006) (noting that courts have an independent obligation
to satisfy themselves that subject matter jurisdiction
exists, even in the absence of a challenge by either party).
Under Article III of the United States Constitution, federal
courts have jurisdiction to hear only certain
“cases” and “controversies.”
Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 2334,
2341 (2014). To satisfy Article III's case or controversy
requirement, Plaintiffs must establish: (1) an injury in
fact; (2) a sufficient causal connection between the injury
and the conduct complained of; and (3) a likelihood of
redressability by a favorable decision. New Mexico v.
Dep't of Interior, 854 F.3d 1207, 1214-15 (10th Cir.
2017). Indeed, standing cannot be assumed “in order to
proceed to the merits of the underlying claim, regardless of
the claim's significance.” Colo. Outfitters
Ass'n v. Hickenlooper, 823 F.3d 537, 543 (10th Cir.
to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
party may either facially or factually attack the court's
subject matter jurisdiction. See generally Pueblo of
Jemez v. United States, 790 F.3d 1143, 1147 n.4 (10th
Cir. 2015). When, as here, a party levies a factual attack
the court may not presume the truthfulness of the
complaint's factual allegations and may consider
affidavits or other documents to resolve jurisdictional
facts. Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002-03
(10th Cir. 1995). Like standing, the burden of establishing
jurisdiction rests with the party asserting it. Basso v.
Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir.
Grand County Defendants argue for dismissal of Claims 1-7
because no Estate existed at the time the Complaint was
filed, and Ms. Skaggs-Manuel, as Mr. Manuel's surviving
spouse, lacks standing to sue on Mr. Manuel's behalf for
violations of his constitutional rights. See [#49 at
6-7; #54 at 2-6]. The Grand County Defendants further contend
that in the absence of a constitutional violation there can
be no associated municipal liability claim and, without a
federal cause of action, this court should decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state
law claims. [#49 at 8-9].
respond that the constitutional claims are properly brought
on behalf of the Estate through Ms. Skaggs-Manuel as personal
representative, such that subject matter jurisdiction is
proper over Claims 1-7. [#52 at 1-3]. Plaintiffs also
indicate that, although Ms. Skaggs-Manuel was only recently
appointed as personal representative of the Estate, Colo.
Rev. Stat. § 15-12-701 relates that appointment back to
the time Plaintiffs filed the Complaint; thus, all
requirements of standing were satisfied at the time of
filing. [Id.]; see also [#52-1]. I
respectfully conclude that federal subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims is proper.
start, as both Parties acknowledge, any § 1983 wrongful
death action must be brought as a survival action by the
“estate of the deceased victim, in accord with
§ 1983's express statement that liability is to the
injured party.” Berry v. City of Muskogee,
Oklahoma, 900 F.2d 1489, 1506-07 (10th Cir. 1990)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis
added). As such, the Grand County Defendants are correct in
their assertions that Ms. Skaggs-Manuel individually
lacks standing to assert constitutional claims on behalf of
Mr. Manuel. See A.B., by Ybarra v. City of Woodland
Park, 174 F.Supp.3d 1238, 1246-47 (D. Colo. 2016)
(concluding the plaintiffs, as individuals, lacked standing
to assert claims alleging violations of the decedent's
constitutional rights). But as Plaintiffs clarify, Claims 1-7
are brought by Ms. Skaggs-Manuel as personal representative
of the Estate, not by Ms. Skaggs-Manuel individually.
See [#52 at 3 (“To be clear, Mrs. Manuel