United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Based on Qualified
Immunity. Doc. 372. In it, defendants Dr. Catherine Van
Voorn, Ann Slagle, and April Helsel seek to dismiss Count IV of
Plaintiffs' Complaint which asserts a civil-rights claim
against them, specifically deliberate indifference to a known
serious medical need.
Dr. Catherine Van Voorn, the Court has already granted
summary judgment to Dr. Van Voorn on Count IV. Doc. 632.
Therefore, it denies Dr. Van Voorn's Motion to Dismiss as
defendants Slagle and Helsel, the Motion to Dismiss is denied
because the law of the case controls Slagle's request,
and in addition, Plaintiffs pleaded sufficient facts to state
a plausible constitutional violation against Slagle and
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.
Amended Complaint, Doc. 78, alleged in Count IV that the
defendants were employees of Advanced Correctional Health
Care (ACH) and their job was to provide medical services to
prisoners at the Buchanan County Jail. Justin Stufflebean was
incarcerated there for four days and during that time, it is
alleged that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to
Stufflebean's known medical need for daily medication to
treat his chronic diseases. Helsel and Slagle contend that
Plaintiffs did not adequately plead a deliberate indifference
claim against them because there are insufficient facts
alleged and therefore Count IV should be dismissed as to
did not raise the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' pleadings
until trial was imminent, after discovery was completed, and
after extensive briefing on numerous other issues including
motions for summary judgment. Contemporaneously with the
filing of their Motion for Summary Judgement, Slagle and
Helsel filed this Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), claiming that Slagle and Helsel
are entitled to qualified immunity and the case must be
dismissed regardless of the evidence that was developed
during the prelitigation phase of the case.
Court has now denied summary judgment to Slagle and Helsel
finding that there was a contested issue of fact as to
whether these defendants knew Justin Stufflebean had a
serious medical need and with that knowledge intentionally
failed to reasonably address the need. The Court now turns to
Slagle's and Helsel's Motion to Dismiss Based on
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only
“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