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Hanna v. County of Fresno

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 26, 2014

DOMINIC HANNA, by and through his guardian ad litem, KATHY HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF FRESNO, et al., Defendants

For Dominic Hanna, Kathy Henderson, Guardian Ad Litem, Plaintiffs: Carolyn D. Phillips, LEAD ATTORNEY, Carolyn Phillips Attorney at Law, Fresno, CA; Robert Navarro, Attorney at Law, Fresno, CA.

For County of Fresno, Magaret Mims, individually and her official capacity as Sheriff of the County of Fresno, Edward Moreno, M.D., individually and in his official capacity as Director of the Department of Public Health, Pratap Narayen, M.D., individually and in his official capacity as the Medical Director of the Division of Correctional Health, Karen Nunez, individually and in her official capacity as Nursing Services Manager of the Division of Correctional Health, Rick Hill, individually and in his official capacity as Captain of Detention in the Fresno County Adult Detention Facilities, Marilynn Weldon, individually and in her official capacity as the Captain of Inmate Programs and Contracts, Tricia Nekola, individually and in her official capacity as LVNII at the Fresno County Jail, Thayin Vu, individually and in his official capacity as LMHC at the Fresno County Jail: Michael Robert Linden, LEAD ATTORNEY, Fresno County Counsel's Office, Fresno, CA.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 41)

Lawrence J. O'Neill, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. INTRODUCTION

Dominic Hanna, by and through his guardian ad litem, Kathy Henderson (" Plaintiff"), brings this case against Defendants[1] for their alleged violation of his constitutional rights. Doc. 39, Third Amended Complaint (" the TAC"), at 1. Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss[2] the TAC in its entirety under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the ground it fails to state a claim for relief against Defendants. Doc. 41 at 2. The Court has reviewed the papers and determined that the matter is suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[3]

Plaintiff was at all relevant times a pre-trial detainee at the Fresno County Adult Detention Facility (" the jail") in Fresno, California. TAC ¶ 4. Plaintiff brings this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" § 1983") on the ground the County of Fresno (" the County") and various County employees involved in his detention violated his constitutional rights. Id. ¶ 2. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' actions " were a direct and legal cause of the permanent mental and physical injuries which result in Plaintiff's physical and mental incapacity" in violation of his constitutional rights. Id. ¶ ¶ 2, 4.

Plaintiff names the County, eight individuals, and Does 1-through 50, inclusive, as Defendants. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sheriff Margaret Mims " is ultimately responsible for the health care and safety of prisoners in the jail, but she has failed to meet this responsibility." Id. ¶ 7. Defendant " Edward Moreno, Director of the Department of Public Health, is responsible for the provision of health care services including mental health care to all prisoners in the jail." Id. ¶ 9. " His responsibilities include, but are not limited to, approving all policies and procedures for the delivery of health care in the Jail." Id. Defendant " Pratap Narayen, the Medical Director of the Division of Correctional Health in the Fresno County Department of Public Health, was at all times responsible for the delivery of health care services to all prisoners in the Jail, including mental health care." Id. ¶ 10. Defendant " Karen Nunez, Nursing Services Manager of the Division of Correctional Health in the Fresno County Department of Public Health, is and . . . was responsible for supervising the operation and administration of health care services in the Jail, including mental health care." Id. ¶ 11. Defendant " Rick Hill, the Captain of Detention in the Jail, is and . . . herein was responsible for custody operations, prisoner classification, correctional officer training, security emergency response, and prisoner grievances." Id. ¶ 12. Defendant " Marilynn Weldon, Captain of Inmate Programs and Contracts, is and . . . was responsible for oversight of the contract with the Department of Public Health for the delivery of health care in the Jail." Id. ¶ 13. Defendant " Tricia Nekola, was . . . a Licensed Vocational Nurse II, at the Jail." Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff sues all individually named Defendants in their official and individual capacities.[4]

The Doe Defendants " include Jail Psychiatric Services staff, from February 6, 2012 through February 9, 2012, Fresno County employees, employees of Fresno County Department of Public Health, administrators and other personnel." Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiffs allege Doe Defendant 21, the main jail Lieutenant (" the Doe Lieutenant Defendant"), is the individual " who approved the removal of [P]laintiff . . . from the Main Jail Suicide Cell, February 8, 2012 at 3:30 a.m." Id. ¶ ¶ 14.

Plaintiff was booked into the jail around 9:30 P.M. on February 6, 2012. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff was noted to suffer from " a bipolar disorder, for which he required medications, treatment and periods of hospitalization for suicidal ideation, severe depression, and psychosis." Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff " had previously been incarcerated both in Kings County, 2011, and Fresno County, 2009, " and " his custodial and medical records were replete with information regarding his severe and debilitating mental health problems, and suicide attempts." Id. " A release of information was signed and faxed to the pharmacy at Target in Hanford . . . regarding the medications, Lamictal, [P]laintiff . . . had been prescribed, and had brought with him to the Jail." Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff alleges that " [a] suicide and mental health assessment was completed by intake staff without qualifications or licensure to do so." Id.

Information in Plaintiff's " 'BMED booking Sheet' . . . listed Lamictal as one of [P]laintiff's prescription medication" and " was attached to [his] 'chart' and placed in Jail Psychiatric Services 'Unverified BMed Bucket.'" Id. ¶ 27. The BMED booking sheet " was 'Received' by Jail Psychiatric Services on February 7, 2012." Id. Plaintiff " was never provided Lamictal or any other similar medication" while housed in the jail. Id.

Plaintiff " was housed at the South Annex Jail [(" SAJ")], third floor (" AJ3"), as a pre-trial detainee." Id. ¶ 28. The SAJ " was built in 1947 and is the oldest facility in the jail." Id. " According to a Fresno County Jail Needs Assessment and Master Plan, dated September 24, 2008, 'this facility is no longer functional for the housing of inmates.'" Id. The " conditions in the [SAJ] make it extremely difficult for officers to timely observe, prevent and respond to emergencies, and to transport injured prisoners." Id. ¶ 30. A 2006 report from the U.S. Department of Justice (" the DOJ Report") found that " construction design and crowing . . . created a risk of harm to prisoners." Id. ¶ 31. Specifically, its " visibility problems, the antiquated door control systems, and the small doorframes" created a risk of harm to prisoners. The DOJ Report further found that the " obsolete 'linear type' construction" of the SAJ is " very staff intensive and unsafe." Id.

On February 7, 2012, Plaintiff " repeatedly pounded the back of his head against the bars of his cell, " which caused " a hematoma the size of a tennis ball on the back of his head." Id. ¶ 32. Plaintiff was observed by " B. Welch" regarding the incident, who found that Plaintiff had suffered " trauma--Self inflicted." Id. Plaintiff " was provided 800mg of ibuprofen" and " was evaluated by [Jail Psychiatric Services] and placed in [a suicide cell]." Id.

Later that day, Defendant Thayin Vu noted that he " responded to a call from [a correctional officer] on AJ3 stating that [an inmate] fell of his bunk." Id. ¶ 33. The correctional officer told Vu that Plaintiff " does not want to go to trial [because] he wants to end it." Id. The correctional officer further relayed

that custody staff saw [Plaintiff] take something out??? of his mouth or throat that looked like socks, as if he had been trying to gag or choke himself with the socks. Custody staff had also seen plaintiff write a letter he chewed up leaving a portion of the letter with the word " final" on it.

Id. Defendant Vu " assessed [P]laintiff's mental health status while he was in a holding cell on the second floor of the Main Jail." Id. Defendant Vu knew that Plaintiff stated orally and in writing that he wanted to end his life, " and had used his own socks in an attempt to assure asphyxiation and had flung himself against the hard surfaces of his cell in order to lose consciousness." Id. ¶ 42. Plaintiff denied wanting to hurt himself or wanting to commit suicide. Id. Defendant Vu noted that Plaintiff " appeared evasive in answering questions and presented as if nothing had happened." Id. ¶ 33. " [D]espite [P]laintiff's denial that he wanted to hurt himself or wanted to commit suicide, " Defendant Vu determined that " [P]laintiff was a danger to himself." Id. " Plaintiff was placed into a suicide cell in the Main Jail for his own safety." Id.

At approximately 3:30 A.M. on February 8, 2012, Defendant Nekola " determined that [P]laintiff . . . no longer met suicide cell criteria and recommended that he be removed." Id. ¶ 34. " The [Doe] Lieutenant [Defendant] agreed. Jail Psychiatric Services was to follow up 'if scheduled' and as needed for crisis. Plaintiff . . . was returned to AJ3." Id.

Plaintiff was arraigned around 1:30 P.M. on February 8, 2012. Id. ¶ 35. Defendant Vu assessed Plaintiff around 8:41 P.M. the same day. Id. Plaintiff told Defendant Vu that he was " alright" and that he had no suicidal ideation. Id. Plaintiff further stated that " he had taken Lamictal previously when he was incarcerated in the Kings County Jail from February 2011 until January 19, 2012, or 20 days before he was booked in Fresno County Jail." Id. Defendant Vu knew that Plaintiff " was still without his prescribed or other medication." Id. ¶ 42. Defendant Vu determined that Plaintiff " was not a danger to himself, " and " [a] release for [Plaintiff's] Kings County Jail records was obtained." Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff " was allowed to remain in his cell on AJ3 with access to socks, a top bunk, but no prescribed or other psychiatric medication, and no mental health follow up." Id. ¶ 36.

Around 2:30 P.M. on February 9, 2012, Plaintiff attempted to commit suicide by stuffing two socks down his throat and ramming his head into the cell wall. Id. ΒΆ 37. Medical personnel did not arrive for two to three minutes, during which Plaintiff was unresponsive. Id. " CPR was administered for seven minutes before spontaneous circulation began." Id. Plaintiff was then " transported by ambulance to Community Regional Medical Center emergency where he was intubated, " during which medical personnel removed a sock from his throat. Id. " As a result of this suicide attempt, " Plaintiff suffered severe physical and mental injuries. Id. ¶ 38.

Plaintiff claims that he never received his Lamictal " or any other similar medication" from the time he was booked until his attempted suicide. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff alleges that

Defendants had in place a policy implemented for the purpose of eliminating the provision of psychiatric prescription medications to inmates with known mental health diagnoses, and/or with current psychiatric medication prescriptions. Defendants knew that this policy placed mental health patients at risk of harm, yet [D]efendants deliberately enforced this policy during [Plaintiff's] detention at the Fresno County Jail.

Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants followed this policy despite Plaintiff's " history of mental illness . . . the prescription medications he had brought with him to the jail, and . . . [his] two serious suicide attempts and explicit statements of an intent to commit suicide all within the first 24 hours of his detention." Id. ¶ 40.

Plaintiff alleges that neither Defendant Nekola nor the Doe Lieutenant Defendant, both under the supervision of Defendant Hall, " had [the] expertise, training, or qualifications to conduct a mental health assessment of [Plaintiff], nor were they qualified to determine whether [Plaintiff] was no longer a danger to himself." Id. ¶ 41. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Nekola and the Doe Lieutenant Defendant " released [Plaintiff] from the suicide cell, and returned him to his regular cell in AJ3, without consulting a psychiatrist or other qualified personnel." Id. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants " knowingly placing [Plaintiff] at risk of harm" because " [t]hese actions were done with the [D]efendants' knowledge that they did not have the expertise or qualification to properly assess [Plaintiff's] mental status." Id.

Plaintiff argues that " [t]he supervisory [D]efendants' deliberate policy of permitting unqualified and untrained personnel to make assessments and decisions regarding the custody and treatment of detainees with serious mental illness" demonstrates that those Defendants " knowingly denied, delayed and interfered with the adequate medical needs of such inmates, including [Plaintiff]." Id.

III. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this suit on February 3, 2014. Doc. 2. Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on May 8, 2014 (Doc. 20) and a second amended complaint (" the SAC") on May 20, 2014. Doc. 21. In the SAC, Plaintiff alleged claims against Defendants under § 1983 for (1) denial of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment based on Defendants' deliberate indifference to his mental health needs; (2) for Defendants' failure to train, supervise, and discipline employees; and (3) Monell [5] liability. Id. at 12-19.

Defendants moved to dismiss the SAC under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Doc. 29. On July 8, 2014, the Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss with leave to amend. Doc. 38.

On July 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed the TAC. Doc. 39. Plaintiff alleges the same three causes of action against Defendants under § 1983 as alleged in the SAC. See id . at 15-23. Plaintiff's first cause of action is alleged against all Defendants, his second cause of action is alleged against the Supervisor ...


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