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Masterson v. County of Alameda

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 22, 2019

TIFFANY MASTERSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, Re: Dkt. Nos. 44, 52

          PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants Melynda Logan, Jane Mwangi, and Savitha Quadros's (the “CFMG Nurses”) motion to dismiss came on for hearing before this court on July 17, 2019. Dkt. 44. Defendants Gregory J. Ahern, Carol Burton, Bobbie Cook, Kim Curtis, Hayley Holland, Nicholas Lagorio, and Joshua Pape's (the “Alameda Defendants”) motion to strike came on for hearing before this court on the same date. Dkt. 52. Plaintiffs appeared through their counsel, Jamie Goldstein. The CFMG Nurses appeared through their counsel, Peter Bertling. The Alameda Defendants appeared through their counsel, Denise Billops-Slone. Having read the papers filed by the parties and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby rules as follows, for the reasons stated at the hearing and for the following reasons.

         BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit is brought by the survivors of Logan Masterson (“Masterson” or the “decedent”), who committed suicide while an inmate at the Santa Rita Jail (“SRJ”). See Compl., Dkt. 1 ¶ 1.[1]

         Plaintiffs Tiffany Masterson (in her personal capacity, and as executor of decedent's estate), and her minor children, Bentley, Bella, Hailey, and Chloe Masterson (through their respective guardians ad litem), bring claims against the County of Alameda (the “County”); Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern; Deputy Nicholas Lagorio; Sergeant Joshua Pape; Carol Burton, Interim Director of the Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services Agency (“BHCS”); Social Worker Kim Curtis; Therapist Hayley Holland; Therapist Bobbie Cook (Curtis, Holland, and Cook are the “BHCS Providers”);[2] the California Forensic Medical Group (“CFMG”) and three of its nurses, Savitha Quadros, Jane Mwangi, and Melynda Logan (Quadros, Mwangi, and Logan are the “CFMG Nurses”); and Doe defendants employed by the County of Alameda and CFMG.

         Plaintiffs assert eight causes of action: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Failure to Provide Medical Care in Violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (alleged against all defendants); (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Failure to Protect from Harm in Violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (alleged against all defendants); (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Deprivation of Substantive Due Process in Violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments (alleged against all defendants); (4) medical malpractice under California law (alleged against the County, Burton, BHCS Providers, CFMG, CFMG Nurses, and Doe defendants); (5) failure to furnish medical care under California law (alleged against all defendants);[3] (6) negligent supervision under California law (alleged against the County, Ahern, CFMG, and Doe defendants); (7) wrongful death under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.60 (alleged against all defendants); and (8) negligence under California law (alleged against all defendants).

         The County of Alameda contracts with CFMG to provide medical and mental health services for SRJ's inmates. Compl. ¶ 27. “At all relevant times” during his detention, CFMG was responsible for the “health services” provided to Masterson. Id. Quadros, Mwangi, and Logan were registered nurses and CFMG employees during decedent's detention. Id. ¶¶ 28-30.

         When a prisoner is newly booked into SRJ, as a general matter the first step of the intake process involves “custody or medical staff completing a brief” health screening by conducting a “cursory interview” with the prisoner. Id. ¶ 69. After the initial screening, newly booked prisoners are typically interviewed by medical staff. Id. “Mental health staff from BHCS play no role in this process.” Id.

         Defendants had “policies and practices of locking prisoners in isolation, including prisoners with psychiatric disabilities[.]” Id. ¶ 43. As a result, prisoners with psychiatric disabilities lacked “meaningful access” to SRJ programs and services. Id. ¶ 52. Defendants also allegedly failed to provide mentally disabled prisoners with “adequate mental health care.” Id. ¶ 64. Mental health care was “provided by or through Defendant Alameda County.” Id. ¶ 65. Defendants controlled prisoners' access to psychotropic medication, therapy, and suicide intervention. Id. ¶ 66. They failed to adequately train custody, mental health, and medical care staff on “how to provide appropriate and timely mental health care.” Id. ¶ 67. As a result, “custody and health care staff” as a general matter failed to provide appropriate mental health screening (id. ¶ 68), adequately identify, track, and respond to prisoners at risk for suicide (id. ¶¶ 75-77), properly administer psychotropic medications (id. ¶ 67), and house prisoners with serious mental illness in the least restrictive setting (id.).

         Masterson was arrested and brought to SRJ on April 4, 2018. Id. ¶¶ 1, 87. He was initially placed in a safety cell on suicide watch. Id. ¶ 88. Suicide watch was discontinued, and on the morning of April 6, 2018, he was rehoused in Administrative Segregation in Housing Unit 02, which contained a bunk bed and “hanging points.” Id. ¶ 89. There, he asked for mental health assistance, but no one responded. Id. ¶ 90.

         On April 8, 2018, at about 2:45 PM, custody officers observed decedent engage in “strange” behavior-“flooding his cell by clogging the toilet and/or sink” and “partially cover[ing] the window into his cell” with toilet paper. Id. ¶¶ 1, 92. Instead of contacting mental health staff or otherwise intervening, they ordered the water to be turned off in his cell. Id. At 3:20 PM, Logorio performed Masterson's last welfare check before his suicide, which was “cursory and superficial” because Logorio had only an obstructed view inside the cell. Id. ¶ 93. Over an hour passed without a subsequent welfare check, and at 4:29 PM, Masterson was found dead in his cell. Id. ¶¶ 1, 94.

         The CFMG Nurses now bring a motion to dismiss claims one, two, and three asserted against them. The Alameda Defendants bring a motion to strike the portions of the complaint claiming punitive damages against them.

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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