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Estate of Blodgett v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 12, 2018

ESTATE OF DILLON BLODGETT, and ADRIENNE LEONARD, personally and as personal representative of the Estate of Dillon Blodgett, Plaintiffs,
v.
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC; CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE COMPANIES, LLC. d/b/a “CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT, INC.”; MONTROSE COUNTY, COLORADO, a government entity; SHERIFF RICK DUNLAP, sued in his official capacity; UNDERSHERIFF ADAM MURDIE, sued in his official capacity; COMMANDER ALAN MILLER, in his individual and official capacities; SERGEANT ROGELLE STROLE, in her individual and official capacities; SERGEANT DEAN MCNULTY, in his individual and official capacities; SERGEANT BOBBY STRAIT, in his individual and official capacities; SERGEANT GARYN IVERSON, in his individual and official capacities; NANCY KLIENAPFEL, in her individual capacity; UNK Counselor, in his/her individual capacity; UNK LCSW, in his/her individual capacity; UNK NURSE, in his/her individual capacity; and UNK NURSE, in his/her individual capacity; Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          William J Martínez, United States District Judge.

         This lawsuit alleges that Dillon Blodgett received constitutionally deficient medical care while in pretrial detention at the Montrose County Detention Center (“MCDC”) in Montrose, Colorado, resulting in Blodgett taking his own life. Adrienne Leonard (“Plaintiff”), personally and as the personal representative of the Estate of Blodgett (“the Blodgett Estate”), sues numerous individuals and entities that are allegedly responsible for Blodgett's death in some way.

         Currently before the Court are two motions to dismiss challenging the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 54). The first motion to dismiss is brought by Defendants Correct Care Solutions, LLC, and Correctional Healthcare Companies, LLC (collectively, “CHC”). (ECF No. 59.) The second motion is brought by “Montrose County, Colorado, ” Sheriff Rick Dunlap, Undersheriff Adam Murdie, Commander Alan Miller, and Sergeants Garyn Iverson, Dean McNulty, Bobby Strait, and Rogelle Strole (collectively, “the Montrose County Defendants”). (ECF Nos. 61 & 70.) Sheriff Dunlap and Undersheriff Murdie are sued in their official capacities. (ECF No. 54.) Commander Miller and Sergeants Iverson, McNulty, Strait, and Strole are sued in their official and individual capacities. (Id.) For the reasons explained below, the motions to dismiss are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. 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 Rule 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).

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Court assumes the truth of the following facts pled in the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 54), documents attached thereto, and documents embraced by the pleadings for purpose of resolving the motions.[1]

         This case arises from the tragic and untimely death of Blodgett while in MCDC custody. On November 18, 2015, Blodgett was booked into MCDC. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 38.) Blodgett reportedly refused to speak to anyone for two days. (ECF No. 84-1 at 1.) On November 20, 2015, Blodgett completed the intake and screening process and was placed in solitary confinement in cell C-401. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) It is unclear from the facts before the Court why Blodgett was placed in solitary confinement.

         The Montrose County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) maintains the “MCSO Justice Center Detention Facility Standard Operating Procedure, ” which contains procedures for addressing suicidal inmates. (Id. ¶ 92; ECF No. 54-1.) Section 23.107(A) states

When an arrestee is brought into the Detention Facility, the booking staff will complete a screening form, which includes asking the arrestee if he/she has ever had a history of suicide attempts, (Ask only when not intoxicated). Positive responses and/or unusual behavior are immediately brought to the attention of all the detention deputies. If the response or unusual behavior is determined to be enough to warrant calling the Mental Health Center, the Booking Deputy should do so.

(ECF No. 54-1.) Section 23.107(B) commands that “[i]nmates that are potentially suicidal shall be searched thoroughly, and then segregated from the general population for close observation. Necessary measures will be taken to prevent or eliminate any immediate danger.” (Id.)

         On the afternoon of November 20, 2015, Blodgett completed an intake questionnaire. He answered the following questions about his mental health and thoughts of suicide:

19. Are you or have you been receiving mental health counseling? (If yes enter note below.)
No
20. Have you ever thought about committing suicide? (If yes enter note below.)
Yes
21. Are you thinking about now? (If yes enter note below.)
No
22. Has anyone in your immediate family committed or attempted suicide? (If yes enter note below.)
No
26. Does the person's wrist have any scars? (If yes enter note below.)
No . . .
44. Suicidal? (If yes enter note below.)
No

(ECF Nos. 54 ¶ 41; 84-2 at 3.) In addition, the intake form beneath the signature line says “Yes states in ‘alright' health as of 11/20/15 @ 1350.” (Id.)

         On November 21, 2015, Sergeant Strole asked Nancy Klienapfel[2] of Midwestern Colorado Mental Health to talk with Blodgett. (ECF Nos. 54 ¶ 44; 84-1 at 1.) Klienapfel was at MCDC to assess another inmate, but agreed to examine Blodgett at Sergeant Strole's request. (ECF No. 84-1 at 1.) Klienapfel recommended to Sergeant Strole and Blodgett that Blodgett “be able to see Miranda ASAP.” (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff construes this statement as a recommendation that Blodgett receive counseling through Jail Based Behavioral Services. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 45.) Klienapfel also assessed Blodgett for suicide risk and stated that he was not a risk. (ECF No. 84-1 at 2.) On the “Pre Test Suicide Likert” scale and the “Post Test Suicide Likert” scale, Klienapfel rated Blodgett as “0. No. thoughts about suicide. This is how an average person feels about suicide.” (Id. at 1, 9.) She also commented that Blodgett was “at low risk of self harm but in need of SA counseling and f/u while in the jail.” (Id. at 3.)

         Blodgett sent written requests for mental health services on November 24, 2015, December 15, 2015, and January 11, 2016. (ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 46, 53, 58.) In response to each request, within one day, an unnamed nurse (identified in the First Amended Complaint as “UNK Nurse” and a CHC employee) informed Blodgett that he was “on the list.” (Id. ¶¶ 47, 53, 59; ECF No. 54-4.)

         In addition to Blodgett's own written requests for mental health services, his public defender Kristen Hindman sent an e-mail to Commander Miller on November 30, 2015, “indicating that Mr. Blodgett had a history [of] being on suicide watch while in custody and could benefit from counseling.” (ECF No. 54 ¶ 49.) It is unclear exactly what Hindman conveyed to Commander Miller because the e-mail is merely summarized in the First Amended Complaint and not in the record before the Court. Commander Miller responded that same day stating that Blodgett had submitted two requests: one for mental health treatment and another for medical care. (Id. ¶ 50.) He told Hindman that Blodgett received medical care that day and was “on the list” to see the mental health provider. (Id.)

         While in custody, MCDC provided Blodgett with three sessions of mental health services. On December 2, 2015, Blodgett saw a counselor allegedly employed or contracted by CHC (“CHC Counselor”). (Id. ¶ 51; ECF No. 54-2.) Blodgett reported to the CHC Counselor that a friend had committed suicide and Blodgett himself was having occasional thoughts of suicide. (ECF No. 54-2 at 1.) CHC Counselor diagnosed Blodgett with depression, anxiety, and some suicide ideation but determined not to start suicide precautions at that time. (Id.)

         On January 2, 2016, Blodgett saw another mental health provider, identified in the First Amended Complaint as “UNK LCSW” and alleged to be a CHC employee. (ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 54-55; see ECF No. 54-3.) UNK LCSW diagnosed Blodgett with major depressive disorder and anxiety. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 56.) Under “prior self-harm, ” UNK LCSW noted “hanging - 2 mo[ths] ago-while in DOC.” (Id.; ECF No. 54-3 at 1.) UNK LCSW did not, however, mark “suicidal” under “thought content.” (ECF No. 54-3 at 1.)

         On January 14, 2016, Blodgett again saw CHC Counselor, after requesting to see “Mental Health, Brett if possible, for personal mental health-related issues.” (ECF Nos. 54 ¶ 60; 54-4; 54-5.) CHC Counselor noted that Blodgett had escaped prior custody at Montrose County Community Corrections “because he was feeling suicidal and needed to get to his parents” and noted that Blodgett had “occasional thoughts” of suicide. (ECF No. 54-5 at 1; ECF No. 54 ¶ 61.) CHC Counselor diagnosed Blodgett with depression and anxiety but determined that suicide precautions were “not applicable at this time.” (ECF No. 54-5 at 1; ECF No. 54 ¶ 62.)

         On the evening of January 20, 2016, Blodgett was provided a second towel. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 65.) Following a security check around 11:00 p.m., Blodgett was found hanging by his neck from a towel in his cell in solitary confinement. (Id. ¶ 66.) MCDC staff was unable to revive Blodgett. (Id. ¶ 67.) Three days later, Blodgett was declared dead at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. (Id. ¶ 68.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         Before addressing CHC and Montrose County Defendants' motions to dismiss, the Court first clarifies the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims at issue. Claim 1 against all defendants alleges that CHC and Montrose County Defendants deprived Blodgett of his rights by their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. (ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 100-10.) For pretrial detainees such as Blodgett, the source of the constitutional right to adequate medical care is the Fourteenth Amendment, not the Eighth. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 & n.16 (1979).

         Claim 2 against all defendants states that CHC and Montrose County Defendants deprived Blodgett of life without due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. CHC contends that Claim 2 is duplicative of Plaintiff's § 1983 deliberate indifference claim. (ECF No. 59 at 11-12.) Plaintiff appears to concede that her Fourteenth Amendment claim is premised on deliberate indifference to medical needs. (ECF No. 73 at 8-9.) Thus, it appears that Claim 2 duplicates Claim 1 and may be dismissed. Alternatively, Plaintiff could be attempting to assert a procedural or substantive due process claim. However, there are no allegations or facts to support a claim that any defendant provided “inadequate process” prior to taking the life of Blodgett or that any challenged governmental action would “shock the conscience of federal judges.” See Zwygart v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs, 483 F.3d 1086, 1093 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted); Tonkovich v. Kansas Bd. of Regents, 159 F.3d 504, 528 (10th Cir. 1998). Absent any allegations plausibly related to procedural or substantive due process allegations, the Court finds it appropriate to dismiss Claim 2.

         Claim 4 against Montrose County Defendants also alleges “Fourteenth Amendment Violations.” (ECF No. 54 at 27.) That claim appears to challenge Blodgett's conditions of confinement and access to medical care while in solitary confinement. (Id. ¶ 138.) To the extent that Plaintiff challenges Blodgett's access to adequate medical care, this claim is part and parcel of Plaintiff's § 1983 deliberate indifference claim of Claim 1. However, Plaintiff may also be challenging Blodgett's conditions of confinement before his death. That challenge is addressed in the analysis below.

         A. CHC Motion to Dismiss ...


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