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The Estate of Lovern v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

July 3, 2019

THE ESTATE OF DENNY LOVERN, by and through its personal representative Darla Dailey, and DARLA DAILEY, individually, Plaintiffs,
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC, BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS FOR THE COUNTY OF ARAPAHOE, COLORADO, TYLER BROWN, in his official capacity as Arapahoe County Sheriff, JENNA WALTER, RN, individually, HEIDI LANTZ, LPN, individually, CHERYL THOMPSON, RN, individually, and RON WAITS, NP individually, Defendants.


          Kristen L. Mix, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Board of County Commissioners for the County of Arapahoe, Colorado, and Tyler Brown's[1] (collectively the “County Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint [#26][2] (the “Motion”). Plaintiffs timely filed a Response [#33] in opposition to the Motion [#26], and Defendants filed a Reply [#39]. The Court has reviewed the Motion [#26], the Response [#33], the Reply [#39], the entire case file, and the applicable law, and is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#26] is DENIED.

         I. Background [3]

         In the Motion [#26], the County Defendants assert that Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint [#49] fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Motion [#26] at 1. This action arises out of the death of Denny Lovern (“Lovern”), who died on April 8, 2017, at the Arapahoe County Detention Facility (“ACDF”) as a result of a heart attack at the age of 59. First Am. Compl. [#49] at ¶¶ 1-2. Medical care at ACDF was provided by Defendant Correct Care Solutions (“CCS”) pursuant to a contract with Arapahoe County. Id. at ¶ 15.

         The relevant factual allegations contained in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [#49][4] are summarized as follows. Mr. Lovern's incarceration at ACDF began on April 3, 2017. Id. at ¶ 23. Mr. Lovern “had an extensive medical history of cardiac-related conditions, including previous heart attacks and stent-placement surgery, ” conditions for which Mr. Lovern was prescribed Plavix, “a critically important drug for patients with heart problems.” Id. at ¶¶ 24, 28. Plaintifs allege that “Mr. Lovern was not administered his prescribed Plavix for several days . . . because ACDF did not have or promptly secure his necessary prescribed medication.” Id. at ¶ 31. Mr. Lovern first began experiencing chest pain on the evening of April 6, 2017, and reported to a CCS nurse that he felt as though he might be having a heart attack. Id. at ¶¶ 40-43. However, no CCS nurse called a doctor or further reported Mr. Lovern's concern that he might be having a heart attack, and instead diagnosed Mr. Lovern with esophageal problems. Id. at ¶¶ 49, 50, 55, 62. On April 7, 2017, a CCS nurse provided Mr. Lovern with his first dose of Plavix since the start of his incarceration. Id. at ¶ 77. However, she did not take his vitals or administer an EKG test, despite Mr. Lovern's continued complaints of abdominal pain and regular vomiting of bile, dismissing his symptoms as those of “just normal heartburn.” Id. at ¶¶ 79, 81-82, 86. Around 1:45 a.m. on April 8, 2017, Mr. Lovern's cellmate reported to ACDF deputies that Mr. Lovern had collapsed on the toilet. Id. at ¶ 89. Responding deputies “found Mr. Lovern unresponsive, not breathing, and without a pulse” in his cell, where he died. Id. at ¶ 91-92.

         Plaintiffs assert that “CCS controls all aspects of health care available to inmates” and maintains “unconstitutional policies, customs and training” in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at ¶ 95. Such alleged policies, customs, and training include:

(1) a written contractual policy of deliberately indifferent low staffing and under-budgeting inmate medical care; (2) under-stocking or not timely securing inmates' necessary prescription medications; (3) a custom of disregarding inmates' medical complaints as faked or exaggerated without ruling out serious medical conditions that could lead to substantial injury or death, and training regarding the same; (4) allowing nurses and EMTs to practice outside their licensure scope rather than having inmates be seen by higher level medical providers in part to save money; and (5) a widespread custom of disregarding or ignoring serious medical conditions.

Id. Plaintiffs further allege “an affirmative causal link between the deliberate indifference of the individual health care workers towards Mr. Lovern's medical needs and the policies, practices, customs, and training” described in their First Amended Complaint. Id. at ¶ 166. Accordingly, Plaintiffs assert their Second Claim for Relief against both CCS and the County Defendants. Id. at ¶¶ 163, 169-70. Because the County Defendants contracted with CCS to provide medical services to inmates at ACDF, see id. at ¶ 162, Plaintiffs seek to hold the County Defendants “non-delegably liable for the constitutional violations of the CCS Defendant” through the doctrine set forth in Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Id. at 163. The County Defendants seek to dismiss only the Monell claim pursuant to this Motion [#26].

         II. Legal Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test “the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true.” Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340 (10th Cir. 1994); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (stating that a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted”). “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Sutton v. Utah State Sch. for the Deaf & Blind, 173 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Shero v. City of Grove, Okla., 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007) (“The complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide ‘plausible grounds' that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff's allegations.” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (brackets in original; internal quotation marks omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Christy Sports, LLC v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 555 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” a factual allegation has been stated, “but it has not show[n] that the pleader is entitled to relief” as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (first alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation omitted).

         III. Analysis

         Monell holds that “a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the ...

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