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Raybourn v. Corizon Health, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division

December 1, 2016

CONNIE RAYBOURN, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON HEALTH, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATRICIA L. COHEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Correctional Officer Susan Woodrow's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and motion to stay discovery (ECF Nos. 33 & 61). The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Woodrow's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part and the motion to stay discovery is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Connie Raybourn is an inmate at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, Missouri. Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of her Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendants' treatment of her was negligent under state law. With respect to her Section 1983 claim, Plaintiff asserted that Defendants Corizon Medical Services[1] and various medical and correctional personnel at WERDCC, including Woodrow, were deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs by ignoring her request for medical care and denying proper treatment for colon cancer and complications relating to colon cancer.

         Plaintiff alleged two counts against Woodrow in her individual and official capacity. In Count 5, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff alleged that Woodrow violated her Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when she confiscated from Plaintiff, who was undergoing chemotherapy, “a high quality hat, scarf and gloves” that Plaintiff's oncologist had provided her to “protect [P]laintiff from exposure to the cold and the risk of permanent nerve damage.” (ECF No. 23 at 20). In addition, Plaintiff stated that Woodrow “also denied [P]laintiff's requests for the partition window to be open to allow heat into the inmate area of the van during transports for chemotherapy. . . .” (Id.).

         In support of her Section 1983 claim, Plaintiff asserted that Woodrow acted “pursuant to an unconstitutional pattern, practice, policy, procedure, custom or regulation…to deny items and recommendations not typically thought of as medical without regard to [P]laintiff's serious medical needs and risks of harm or her doctor's recommendations.” (Id.). Plaintiff further alleged that Woodrow “knew or should have known of the objective, substantial risk of pain, suffering and serious harm from a failure to adequately protect [P]laintiff from the elements” and, “with deliberate indifference, ” confiscated and refused Plaintiff's “doctor's recommendations for a high quality hat, scarf, gloves and [P]laintiff's requests for an open partition window[.]” (Id. at 20-21).

         In Count 7, Plaintiff's state law negligence claim, she alleged that Woodrow breached her “duty to take reasonable care in supervising, directing, overseeing, approving and denying medical care, recommendations and orders from [Plaintiff's] health care providers” when she failed or refused to “provide adequate measures to protect against the elements during chemotherapy.” (ECF No. 23 at 23). Plaintiff stated that Woodrow's negligence caused her “to suffer pain and emotional distress from being exposed to the cold without sufficient protection from the elements along with the risk and potential for contribution to permanent nerve damage.” (ECF No. 23 at 21, 24).

         Woodrow filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and a memorandum in support of her motion (ECF Nos. 33 & 34). Woodrow argued that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for relief and, even if Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to establish a violation of a constitutional right or negligence, Woodrow is protected from state and federal claims by the doctrines of sovereign, official, and qualified immunity. (ECF No. 34 at 1-2).

         II. Legal standard

          Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the …claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A viable complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547.

         When considering a motion to dismiss, the reviewing court must accept the Plaintiff's factual allegations as true and construe them in the Plaintiff's favor. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A motion to dismiss should be granted ‘as a practical matter…only in the unusual case in which a plaintiff includes allegations that show, on the face of the complaint, that there is some insuperable bar to relief.” Strand v. Diversified Collection Serv., Inc., 380 F.3d 316, 317 (8th Cir. 2004) (quoting Frey v. Herculaneum, 44 F.3d 667, 671 (8th Cir. 1995)). “At the very least, however, the complaint must contain facts which state a claim as a matter of law and must not be conclusory.” Id. “The issue in determining a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present evidence in support of the claim.” Schuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1976) (overruled on other grounds, see Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Count 5 - Section 1983 claim against Woodrow in her official capacity

          Woodrow asserts that Plaintiff's Section 1983 damage claims against her in her official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. (ECF No. 34). Woodrow further argues that Plaintiff did not request injunctive and declaratory relief and, even if she did, Plaintiff is not entitled to such relief because she failed to allege an ongoing violation of federal law. (Id.). In response, Plaintiff contends that she properly limited her Section 1983 claims against Woodrow in her official capacity to requests for prospective and injunctive relief. (ECF No. 44).

         The Eleventh Amendment generally bars suits by private citizens against a state and its agencies in federal court. Balogh v. Lombardi, 816 F.3d 536, 544 (8th Cir. 2016). Nevertheless, plaintiffs may seek prospective injunctive relief against a state, its agencies, and its officers when sued in their official capacities to prevent either continuing or future violations of the Constitution or other federal law. 281 Care Comm. v. Arneson, 638 F.3d 621, 632 (8th Cir. 2011). See also Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908). “In determining whether this exception applies, a court conducts ‘a straightforward inquiry into whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective.” Id. ...


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