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Estate of Morris v. Imperial County

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 3, 2017

ESTATE OF JAIME MORRIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
IMPERIAL COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Cynthia Bashant United States District Judge.

         On September 15, 2016, Plaintiffs Diana Alba, Samantha Hammond, Gwenyth Peniche, and the Estate of Jaime Morris initiated this action against Imperial County, Imperial County Sheriff's Office, California Forensic Medical Group, Sheriff Raymond Loera, Prabhdeep Singh, twenty Doe Sheriff's Deputies, and twenty Doe employees of California Forensic Medical Group. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs allege various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including unconstitutional medical staff policies and practices, unconstitutional jail staff policies and practices, and failure to train and/or supervise. (Id. ¶¶ 131-46.)

         On November 4, 2016, Defendants Imperial County, Imperial County Sheriff's Office, and Sheriff Loera moved to strike portions of Plaintiffs' Complaint under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and to dismiss the twenty Doe Sheriff's Deputies and twenty Doe employees of California Forensic Medical Group under Rule 12(b)(6). (Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 6.) Plaintiffs oppose. (Pls.' Opp'n, ECF No. 8.)

         The Court finds this motion suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); CivLR 7.1(d)(1). For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion to strike portions of the Complaint, and DENIES Defendants' motion to dismiss Doe Defendants.


         Police arrested Jaime Morris on August 29, 2015, for possessing drug paraphernalia and providing false statements to an officer. (Compl. ¶¶ 70-71.) Police transported Morris to Imperial County Jail (“ICJ”) shortly after her arrest. (Id. ¶ 72.) ICJ contracts its medical services to California Forensic Medical Group (“CFMG”). (Id. ¶ 15.) Upon arrival, Morris allegedly informed ICJ and CFMG that she was a heroin addict, and had been using heroin and methamphetamine daily. (Id. ¶¶ 73-74, 77.) While ICJ and CFMG took Morris's vital signs on the day of her arrest, the Complaint alleges that she never saw a physician, nor was given any medical treatment, during her time at ICJ. (Id. ¶¶ 87, 91-93.)

         Morris was arrested on a Saturday, and by the following Monday, August 31, 2015, she was suffering from heroin withdrawal. (Compl. ¶ 99.) Plaintiffs allege that fellow inmates could hear Morris moaning in her cell, that Morris repeatedly complained to correctional officers that she needed medical attention, and that correctional officers ignored her requests. (Id. ¶¶ 100-02.) At 5:00 p.m. on August 31, 2015, a correctional officer noticed that Morris appeared unresponsive, and medical officials transported her to the hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 111-13.) Hospital staff pronounced her dead upon arrival. (Id. ¶ 114.)

         Morris's mother Diana Alba, in her personal capacity and as successor-in- interest to Morris's estate, along with Morris's two daughters Samantha Hammond and Gwenyth Peniche, commenced this action against Defendants.[1] (Compl. ¶ 7.) Defendants Imperial County, Imperial County Sheriffs Office, and Sheriff Loera (collectively, “County Defendants”) now move to strike paragraphs 21-46, 55-58, and exhibits B and C of the Complaint under Rule 12(f). (Defs.' Mot. 5:4-5.) The Court summarizes these portions of the Complaint below.

         Paragraphs 21-46 of the Complaint can be summarized as follows:

• Three separate civil grand juries have questioned and/or criticized CFMG's policies, procedures, and practices in providing medical care to inmates. State Department of Justice statistics demonstrate that the CFMG population adjusted rate for drug overdose deaths is 50% higher than other county jails. (Compl. ¶¶ 22-23.)
• CFMG was a defendant in a class-action filed on behalf of inmates in Monterey county jails. In that lawsuit, an expert physician evaluated CFMG's practices and procedures and issued a report finding that clinical care was inadequate, that staffing levels were insufficient, and that drug withdrawal syndromes were managed by officers and nurses without physician oversight. (Id. ¶¶ 24-35.)
• Based on the report referenced in paragraphs 24-35, the federal magistrate judge granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against CFMG, and CFMG later agreed to settle the lawsuit. Despite the settlement, CFMG and Imperial County made no changes to the way CFMG provided medical care at ICJ. Further, the medical services provided by CFMG in Imperial County suffer from many of the same deficiencies as did the services provided in Monterey County Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 36-46.)

         Paragraphs 55-58 detail the following:

• In 2011, Marcia Dau died while in the care of ICJ and CFMG, during which time she was suffering from withdrawal from benzodiazepines. Following her death, her Estate filed and settled a wrongful death claim against CFMG and Imperial County, after which neither CFMG nor Imperial County revised ...

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