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Renfro v. Smith

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 6, 2018

KEVIN RENFRO, Plaintiff,
ART SMITH, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Correct Care, Heather Stanford (Hanvey), and Denise Vanalstyne (collectively “CCS” Defendants) (ECF # 90), [1] Plaintiff's response (ECF #102) and Defendants' reply (ECF #108). The motion has been referred to this Magistrate Judge for recommendation (ECF #91).[2] The Court has reviewed the pending motion, response, reply and all attachments. The Court has also considered the entire case file, the applicable law, and is sufficiently advised in the premises. Oral argument has not been requested and the Court finds that it is not necessary in this circumstance. This Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that the motion be DENIED.

         The CCS Defendants move to dismiss on the basis that: (1) Plaintiff has failed to establish a direct and causal link between a custom or policy and the violation alleged (ECF #90, pp. 7-8). See Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). (a) The CCS Defendants argue that, to the extent there may be a policy promulgated by the Mesa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) and set forth in the inmate handbook, that policy is attributable to Mesa County and not the CCS Defendants thus not establishing liability (ECF #90, p. 10). (b) The CCS Defendants further argue that, to the extent that state law sets forth requirements in this area, CCS is further insulated from any assertion that CCS promulgated any policy in this regard (ECF #90, p. 10). (c) The CCS Defendants argue that the assertion that CCS is essentially part and parcel of this policy due to financial incentives built into CCS' contract with Mesa County is “wholly conclusory” thus not meeting the Monell pleading requirements (ECF #90, pp. 11-12); (2) Defendants assert that the 8th and 14th Amendment claims against Stanford and Vanalstyne need be dismissed for failure to establish “the requisite personal participation” as each was bound by the MCSO policies and inmate handbook, thus having no control over the possibility of off-site treatment (ECF #90, p. 12); and (3) Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently assert a civil conspiracy, basically asserting that allegations of parallel conduct are insufficient to show the meeting of the minds necessary (ECF #90, pp. 21-22).

         Standard of Review

         The Court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may also be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory. See Golan v. Ashcroft, 310 F.Supp.2d 1215, 1217 (D. Colo. 2004). To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact, which, taken as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012). Although allegations of fact are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). Mere “labels and conclusions” and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. Accordingly, the Court disregards conclusory statements and looks only to whether the remaining factual allegations plausibly suggest the defendant is liable. Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1190-91.

         Where the allegations in a complaint “are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted) (“The nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary based on context . . . [and] requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Kansas Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214-15 (10th Cir. 2011)).

“The mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.”

Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original).

         As was noted in Robbins, “context matters.” Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1248 (citation removed). “A simple negligence action based on an automobile accident may require little more than the allegation that the defendant negligently struck the plaintiff with his car while crossing a particular highway on a specified date and time.” Id. “[I]t is particularly important . . . that the complaint make clear exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom, to provide each individual with fair notice as to the basis of the claims against him or her, as distinguished from collective allegations . . .” Id. at 1250 (emphasis in original) (continuing on to determine that collective allegations against defendants as a whole makes it impossible to ascertain what any specific defendant may have done). At the pleading stage, factual assertions may proceed upon information when later investigation and discovery will likely support such contentions. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(3).

         Rule 8

         The twin purposes of a complaint are to give the opposing parties fair notice of the basis for the claims against them so that they may respond and to allow the Court to conclude that the allegations, if proven, show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Monument Builders of Greater Kansas City, Inc. v. American Cemetery Ass'n of Kansas, 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989). The requirements of Rule 8 are designed to meet these purposes. See TV Communications Network, Inc. v. ESPN, Inc., 767 F.Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991), aff'd, 964 F.2d 1022 (10th Cir. 1992). Rule 8(a) provides that a complaint “must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, . . . (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought.” The philosophy of Rule 8(a) is reinforced by Rule 8(d)(1), which provides that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” “At some point the factual detail in a complaint may be so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled under Rule 8.” Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT & T Mobility L.L.C., 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007) (emphasis mine).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         The current operative complaint is Plaintiff's second amended complaint (ECF #80). Therein, Plaintiff alleges the following as is relevant to this issue and that the Court must accept as true in this posture:

         Plaintiff was an inmate in the Mesa County Detention Facility (MCDF) from 7/17/15 to 7/28/17 (mostly pre-trial with the final 5 days post-conviction) (ECF #80, p. 2). Defendant Correct Care (CCS) is a for profit corporation contracted to provide medical health services for the MCDF. (ECF #80, p. 4). CCS helps develop and administer policies relating to such care (ECF #80, p. 4). CCS acted in “concert [with the Mesa County Defendants] to adopt, form and enforce policies and customs . . .” (ECF #80, p. 4). Defendant Hanvey supervised medical services at the MCDF (ECF #80, p. 5). Hanvey denied Plaintiff medical care (ECF #80, p. 5). Defendant Vanalstyne is the off-site medical scheduler and denied Plaintiff access to necessary off-site care (ECF #80, p. 5).

         Plaintiff suffered an arm/wrist injury prior to entry into the MCDF, had a fracture, and had that casted (ECF #80, pp. 6-7). Plaintiff was jailed at the MCDF, believed that he could not protect himself while casted and believed that the arm was healed, and thus decided to and did remove the cast (ECF #80, p. 7). Plaintiff, subsequent to removing his cast, had discomfort, pain, and swelling (ECF #80, p. 7). Plaintiff, on 12/16/15, submitted a medical kite regarding the wrist, was seen by medical staff on 12/18/15, had an x-ray showing a displaced fracture and other fractures on 12/22/15, and received no further treatment at the recommendation of medical staff on 12/26/15 (ECF #80, p. 7). During January and February, 2016, Defendant continued to request treatment, complaining of continued pain, and ultimately had an ...

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