United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Dr. Covillo's Motion to Dismiss Based
on Qualified Immunity. Doc. 360. In it, he seeks to dismiss
Count IV of Plaintiffs' Complaint,  which asserts a
civil-rights claim against him, specifically deliberate
indifference to a known serious medical need. After careful
review of the record, the Court denies Dr. Covillo's
motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs pleaded sufficient facts to
state a plausible constitutional violation against Dr.
October 26, 2015, Justin Stufflebean, son of plaintiffs
Brenda Davis and Frederick Stufflebean, was sentenced for a
sex crime. Immediately following his sentencing, Stufflebean
was held at the Buchanan County Jail until he was transferred
on October 29, 2017 to the Western Reception Diagnostic and
Correctional Center (“WRDCC”). Prior to and
during his incarceration, he suffered from two endocrine
disorders: Addison's disease and hypoparathyroidism.
Addison's disease is a disorder that occurs when the
adrenal glands fail to produce sufficient amounts of
cortisol, an essential hormone that helps the body cope with
stress and is critical to maintaining blood pressure and
cardiovascular function. Without his medication for the
disease, Stufflebean was at risk of dying in a short time.
Amended Complaint, Doc. 78, alleges in Count IV that Dr.
Covillo was an employee of Corizon and that his job was to
provide medical services to prisoners at WRDCC. It also
alleges that Dr. Covillo was deliberately indifferent to
Stufflebean's known medical need for daily medication to
treat his chronic diseases and that, as a result, Stufflebean
died. Dr. Covillo now contends that these allegations are not
enough to state a plausible claim against him because there
are insufficient facts pointing to specific acts he did or
did not do, and therefore, Dr. Covillo contends, he is
entitled to qualified immunity.
Covillo did not file this motion to dismiss until trial was
imminent, after discovery was completed, and after extensive
briefing on numerous other issues. Indeed, he filed the
motion to dismiss, raising qualified immunity for the first
time, contemporaneously with the filing of his motion for
Court now has denied summary judgment to Dr. Covillo, finding
that there is a contested issue of fact about whether he knew
Justin Stufflebean had a serious medical need and with that
knowledge intentionally failed to reasonably address the
need. Doc. 633.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief, ” which places
defendants on “fair notice of what the . . . claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). Rule 8 does
not require “detailed factual allegations, ” but
it “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. at 555 (citations omitted).
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme
Court found that, absent a plausible constitutional claim, a
public official entitled to qualified immunity should not be
subjected to discovery. The Supreme Court recognized that
“in [the] pleading context, . . . we are impelled to
give real content to the concept of qualified immunity for
high-level officials who must be neither deterred nor
detracted from the vigorous performance of their duties.
Id. at 686.
“Twombly and Iqbal did not abrogate
the notice pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2).”
Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d 816, 817 (8th Cir. 2010).
A claim is sufficiently plausible when it sets forth
“factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Gomez v. Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A., 676 F.3d 655, 660 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678).
officials “are protected from §1983 suits by the
affirmative defense of qualified immunity.” Water
v. Madson, 921 F.3d 725, 734 (8th Cir. 2019) (internal
citations omitted).Qualified immunity shields public officials
from liability for civil damages if “their conduct does
not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).
There are two factors a court must consider in analyzing the
issue of qualified immunity pursuant to § 1983: (1)
whether the facts alleged show that the public official's
conduct violated a constitutional right; and (2) whether the
constitutional right was clearly established at the time of
the alleged misconduct. Pearson v. Callahan, 555
U.S. 223, 232 (2009). “Qualified immunity is
appropriate only if no reasonable factfinder could answer yes
to both of these questions.” Hess v. Ables,
714 F.3d 1048, 1051 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Nelson v.
Corr. Med. Servs., 583 F.3d 522, 528 (8th Cir. 2009)).
dismissal stage, defendants “must show that they are
entitled to qualified immunity on the face of the
complaint.” Dadd v. Anoka Cty., 827 F.3d 749,
754. (8th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Bradford v. Huckabee, 394 F.3d 1012, 1015
(8th Cir. 2005)). Courts addressing qualified immunity in a
motion to dismiss “must consider ‘whether the
plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for violation of a
constitutional or statutory right and whether the right was
clearly established at the time of the alleged
infraction.'” Id. at 754-55 (quoting
Hager v. Ark. Dep't of Health, 735 F.3d 1009,
1013 (8th Cir. 2013)). “On the merits, to defeat a
qualified immunity defense, plaintiff has the burden of
proving that defendant's conduct violated a clearly
established constitutional right, ” but at the
dismissal stage, “the issue is whether plaintiff
‘pleads factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.'” Stanley v. Finnegan,
899 F.3d 623, 626 n.2 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (citing Hess v.
Ables, 714 F.3d 1048, 1051 (8th Cir. 2013)).
state a claim for deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must
show that he was suffering from an objectively serious
medical need, and that prison officials knew of the need but
deliberately disregarded it. Saylor v. Nebraska, 812
F.3d 637, 637-44 (8th Cir. 2016). An objectively serious
medical need is “one that has been diagnosed by a
physician as requiring treatment, or one that is so obvious
that even a layperson would easily recognize the necessity
for a doctor's ...