United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER RE MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 14
DONATO United States District Judge
alleged in the first amended complaint (“FAC”),
Candace Steel was left alone in a jail cell to give birth to
her child, Baby H, while in the pretrial custody of the
Alameda County Sheriff's Office. Dkt. No. 10. Steel was
not given any assistance or care during the delivery. Baby H
was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and
Steel had to stick her fingers into Baby H's mouth to
start respiration. Sheriff's deputies went into
Steel's cell only after they heard Baby H cry.
and Baby H are the plaintiffs in this civil rights action.
Defendants are the Sheriff's Office, certain individuals,
the California Forensic Medical Group (“CFMG”),
which is under contract with Alameda County to provide
medical services at the jail, and the County itself. CFMG
answered the complaint and is not a party to the pending
motion. Dkt. No. 17.
Alameda County defendants have challenged the sufficiency of
the allegations in the FAC under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 14. Their main argument is that
the FAC does not plausibly allege that plaintiffs'
injuries were the result of a government pattern, practice,
or custom under Monell v. Department of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). “Monell is
a case about responsibility.” Pembaur v. City of
Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 478 (1986). It requires
“a plaintiff seeking to impose liability on a
municipality under [Section] 1983 to identify a municipal
‘policy' or ‘custom' that caused the
plaintiff's injury” to “ensure that a
municipality is held liable only for those deprivations . . .
[that] may fairly be said to be” its own. Bd. of
Cty. Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403-04 (1997)
standards are amply satisfied here as a pleading matter.
Plaintiffs allege that their injuries arose out of the
Sheriff's Office's contract with CFMG, which
contained financial terms that discouraged adequate medical
care, including procedures such as labor and delivery, for
detainees. These allegations are sufficiently specific and
concrete to plausibly state a policy or practice under
outcome is different for the California state law claims of
intentional infliction of emotional distress
(“IIED”) and negligence per se. These claims are
not adequately supported by the facts and applicable law, and
are dismissed with leave to amend.
the FAC's nonconclusory allegations as true for the
motion to dismiss, see Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007), the salient facts are
straightforward. Steel was arrested on misdemeanor charges by
local police officers, and jailed at the Santa Rita facility
in July 2017. Dkt. No. 10 ¶ 37. The charges were
time of arrest, Steel was visibly pregnant. Before going to
the jail, the police officers took her to a hospital
“for the purpose of medical clearance.”
Id. ¶ 38. Steel told the attending hospital
staff that she had used controlled substances during the
pregnancy, had not received any prenatal care, and did not
know her due date. Id. ¶¶ 40, 42. She also
said that she had had seizures and a spontaneous delivery in
a previous pregnancy. Id. ¶ 41. Doctors
evaluated Steel as at least 8 months pregnant and suffering
from a urinary tract infection (“UTI”), which the
FAC alleges is a condition associated with early delivery.
Id. ¶¶ 39, 43-44.
was surrendered to the Sheriff's Office and booked into
Santa Rita Jail shortly after midnight on July 21, 2017.
Id. ¶ 37. The jail intake form noted the
medical information from the hospital -- Steel's overall
condition, lack of prenatal care, recent substance use,
history of pregnancy-related seizures, UTI diagnosis, and the
fact that she was not sure about her due date. Id.
¶ 45. Later in her first day at the jail, Steel reported
painful uterine cramping and contractions to the jail's
medical staff from CFMG. Id. ¶¶ 47-48. She
was taken back to the hospital, where she tested positive for
fetal fibronectin, which the FAC alleges is also associated
with preterm delivery, like the UTI. Id.
went into labor on July 23, 2017, approximately 60 hours
after she arrived at the jail. She told jail personnel that
she was experiencing severe cramping and pain, and could not
stand or walk, but only crawl on hands and knees.
Id. ¶¶ 51-52. Other inmates who saw
Steel's distress told the jailers that there was a
medical emergency. Id. ¶ 53. A CFMG nurse
examined Steel, and concluded that her cervix was not dilated
and that she was experiencing nothing but a stomach ache.
Id. ¶ 54. The FAC alleges that the nurse also
said Steel was exaggerating her distress. Id. After
hearing the nurse's report, sheriffs deputies removed
Steel to an isolation cell. Id. ¶ 55.
went into labor and delivery in the isolation cell. She
alleges that she spent hours screaming in pain, alone and
unattended, before giving birth to Baby H. Id.
¶¶ 57-58. In addition to the obvious physical
travails from giving birth without any modern palliatives or
a physician's care, Steel was distraught and terrified
that she and her child could die in the cell. Id.
was born with the umbilical cord around her neck.
Id. ¶ 61. Steel noticed Baby H was not
breathing and stuck her fingers in Baby's H mouth to try
to stimulate respiration. Id. Only when deputies
heard Baby H crying did they enter Steel's cell to attend
to the mother and newborn child. Id. ¶ 62.
states that Alameda County had outsourced medical care of
detainees at Santa Rita jail to CFMG. Id.
¶¶ 24-36. Plaintiffs allege that the contract with
CFMG made it liable for all costs associated with hospital
stays and services, without any compensation from Alameda
County. Id. ¶¶ 25-28. They contend this
arrangement created “a financial incentive and
imperative for CFMG to refuse and withhold inpatient
hospitalization services to all inmates, including inmates in
active labor.” Id. ¶ 33.
pleading requirements in Rule 8, as construed in
Twombly and Iqbal, apply to Section 1983
claims against local government entities. AE ex rel.
Hernandez v. Cty. of Tulare,666 F.3d 631, 636-37 (9th
Cir. 2012). Under these familiar standards, the complaint
must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), including “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing