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Bryant v. County of Cape Girardeau

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

November 21, 2019

COUNTY OF CAPE GIRARDEAU, et al, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon three pending motions: a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 106), a motion to intervene (ECF No. 109), and a motion for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 110). For the reasons discussed below, these motions will all be denied.

         The Court recognizes the other pending motions in this matter: plaintiffs motion for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 123) and defendant Ned Boyd's motion to compel plaintiffs signature on records release authorizations (ECF No. 124). Although pro se plaintiff seeks appointment of counsel in this matter, the Court reminds him that his pending motion does not negate his responsibility to respond to motions directed at him in this case. Any brief in response to defendant Boyd's motion, must be filed within fourteen (14) days of this Order.


         Pro se plaintiff brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, alleging constitutional violations arising out of a lack of adequate medical care (including mental health care) while he was a pretrial detainee at the Cape Girardeau County Jail. Plaintiff named many defendants in his complaint including twenty-four (24) Jail officials; the company which provides medical care to inmates at the Jail (Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc.); two medical employees (Dr. Charles Pewitt and Nurse Charla Earnheart (improperly named in complaint as 'Nurse Charlotte Unknown')); Cape Girardeau County, Missouri; and U.S. Marshal Ned Boyd.

         On November 29, 2018, the Court granted plaintiff in forma pauperis status and reviewed his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). As a result of that initial review, the Court directed the Clerk to issue process upon the complaint as to twenty-seven (27) defendants, including: the three defendants related to medical care, Cape Girardeau County, and U.S. Marshal Boyd. ECF No. 9. As of May 21, 2019, twenty-six (26) of the defendants had filed answers and the Court issued a Case Management Order. ECF No. 90. The remaining defendant, U.S. Marshal Boyd, filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 68), that was denied on June 25, 2019. ECF No. 95. By July 9, 2019, all defendants had filed answers to the complaint.

         On August 27, 2019, the Court granted plaintiffs request for a sixty (60) day extension of all deadlines in this matter and issued an Amended Case Management Order. ECF Nos. 119, 120. The Court also denied two motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 97, 115) filed by defendants based on plaintiff missing case management deadlines, and a motion against plaintiff for failure to notify the Court of a change in address (ECF No. 101).

         Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 106)

         7. Legal Standard for Dismissal

         On July 30, 2019, defendants Dr. Pewitt, Nurse Earnheart, and Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc. (hereinafter "medical defendants"), filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. ECF No. 106. Although medical defendants' motion is captioned as a "motion to dismiss," it is actually a motion for judgment on the pleadings because medical defendants filed an answer prior to filing the motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), ECF No. 43. "Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when there is no material issue of fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Country Preferred Ins. Co. v. Lee, 918 F.3d 587, 588 (8th Cir. 2019) (internal citation omitted). However, when deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court applies the same standard used for a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Edwards v. McSwain, 2018 WL 4679735, at *3 (E. D. Mo. Sept. 28, 2018).

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff s allegations must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The reviewing court accepts the plaintiffs factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Torti v. Hoag, 868 F.3d 666, 671 (8th Cir. 2017). But "[c]ourts are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, and factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present evidence in support of his claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 583 (quoted case omitted).

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), but they still must allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). The Court must weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). "If the essence of an allegation is discernible ... then the district court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the lay person's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework." Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quotations and citation omitted). The task of a court then is "to review the plausibility of the plaintiffs claim as a whole, not the plausibility of each individual allegation." Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Grp., 592 F.3d 893, 896 n.4 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (noting "the complaint should be read as a whole, not parsed piece by piece to determine whether each allegation, in isolation, is plausible")).

         II. Plaintiff's Complaint Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that Nurse Earnheart and Dr. Pewitt refused to prescribe him medication for his mental health disorders. Plaintiff states that he had been taking the medications Depakote, Xanax, Zoloft, and Adderall for many years prior to his incarceration, but that he was refused these medications and refused treatment by Nurse Earnheart and Dr. Pewitt upon entering the Cape Girardeau County Jail. Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly told the individual defendants that he suffered from anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder in his requests for mental health medications. He also informed Nurse Earnheart of the medical symptoms he was experiencing, including withdrawal ...

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