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Davis v. Buchanan County

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.

July 8, 2019

BRENDA DAVIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BUCHANAN COUNTY, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants Buchanan County, Missouri, Natalie Bransfield, Brian Gross, Dan Hausman, Ron Hook, Jody Hovey, Dustin Nauman, Harry Roberts, and Mike Strong (the “Buchanan County Defendants”) move to dismiss Count I of the Amended Complaint alleging wrongful death under Missouri law. Doc. 263. In response, plaintiffs Brenda Davis and Frederick Stufflebean move for leave to amend their First-Amended Complaint. Doc. 279. For the following reasons, the Court grants the Buchanan County Defendants' motion to dismiss with leave to amend.

         I. Background

         In Count I of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the Buchanan County Defendants failed to provide Justin Stufflebean appropriate medical care during the three-day period he was incarcerated at Buchanan County Jail awaiting transfer to the Missouri Department of Corrections, resulting in his death. Doc. 78 (Amended Complaint), ¶¶ 78-82. Plaintiffs assert their claims against defendants Roberts, Hausman, and Hook in their official capacities, id. at ¶ 6.b, and defendants Strong, Hovey, Gross, Bransfield, and Nauman in their individual and official capacities, id. at ¶¶ 7.e, 8.d, 9.e, 10.d, 11.d.

         On July 17, 2017, as part of its Rule 26 initial disclosures, Buchanan County produced insurance policy 791-00-02-72-0005 issued by Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company (the “Atlantic Specialty Policy”). Doc. 278 (Plaintiffs' Suggestions in Opposition to Buchanan County's Motion to Dismiss), p. 2; Doc. 278-1 (Atlantic Specialty Policy). The Atlantic Specialty Policy contains the following language, which has been recognized as preserving an entity's sovereign immunity[1]:

We have no duty to pay damages on your behalf under this policy unless the defenses of sovereign and governmental immunity are inapplicable to you.
This policy and any coverages associated therewith does not constitute, nor reflect an intent by you, to waive or forego any defenses of sovereign and governmental immunity available to any Insured, whether based upon statute(s), common law or otherwise, including Missouri Revised Statute Section 537.610 or any amendments; or Missouri Revised Statute Section 71.185 or any amendments.

Doc. 278-1, p. 2.

         On September 26, 2017, defendant Advanced Correctional Healthcare (“ACH”) made its Rule 26 disclosures, producing a declaration page which did not provide a policy number and contained no reference to additional insureds. Doc. 278-5 (Arch Insurance Declaration). On February 9, 2018, in response to Plaintiffs' first request for production of documents, Buchanan County again indicated that the Atlantic Specialty Policy was the only applicable insurance policy which might provide coverage. Doc. 278-2 (Buchanan County Responses and Objections to Plaintiffs' First Request for Production of Documents), p. 5.

         On January 4, 2019, ACH produced insurance policy #UFL0059924-00 issued by Arch Specialty Insurance Company (the “Arch Policy”). Doc. 278-6 (ACH Arch Policy).

         On April 16, 2019, the Buchanan County Defendants filed a motion seeking partial dismissal of Count I of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, Doc. 78, as barred by sovereign immunity. Then on April 23, 2019, Buchanan County produced a certificate of liability insurance applicable from August 1, 2015 to August 1, 2016 (“Certificate”), pursuant to Plaintiffs' Sunshine Request. Doc. 278-9 (Certificate of Liability). The Certificate revealed the following coverage: Commercial General Liability coverage for $1, 000, 000 and Umbrella Liability coverage for $10, 000, 000 under policy #S1997699, issued by Selective Insurance Group, and “Medical Professional Liability including Civil Rights” coverage for $1, 000, 000 under policy #MM-825711, issued by Essex Insurance Company. Id. The Certificate stated that “Buchanan County, MO and the Sheriff of Buchanan County, MO are included as additional insured under the General Liability and Professional Liability coverage if required by contract in writing.” Id.

         On April 26, 2019, Buchanan County produced the Request for Proposal #13-0032 for Inmate Health Care Services (“RFP”) pursuant to Plaintiffs' Sunshine Request. The RFP mandates that the successful vendor for inmate health care services, in this case ACH, provide a certificate of insurance showing a $10, 000, 000 umbrella liability policy and medical professional coverage of $5, 000, 000 per occurrence. Doc. 278-3 (RFP), p. 4, § 2.4. The contract between Buchanan County and ACH states:

5.11.4 ADDITIONAL INSUREDS. ACH agrees to name the SHERIFF and the COUNTY as an additional insured under the Commercial Automobile, Commercial General, and Professional Liability portions of insurance and provide the COUNTY with a Certificate of Insurance specific to correctional facilities ...

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