Estate of Jaime Morris et al v. Imperial County et al

Filing 23

ORDER denying County Defendants' 6 Motion to Strike Portions of the Complaint; denying County Defendants' 6 Motion to Dismiss Doe Defendants. Signed by Judge Cynthia Bashant on 4/3/2017. (jah)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 11 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 12 13 ESTATE OF JAIME MORRIS, et al., Case No. 16-cv-02334-BAS-PCL Plaintiffs, ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO STRIKE AND MOTION TO DISMISS DOE DEFENDANTS 14 15 16 17 v. [ECF No. 6] IMPERIAL COUNTY, et al., Defendants. 18 19 20 On September 15, 2016, Plaintiffs Diana Alba, Samantha Hammond, Gwenyth 21 Peniche, and the Estate of Jaime Morris initiated this action against Imperial County, 22 Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, California Forensic Medical Group, Sheriff 23 Raymond Loera, Prabhdeep Singh, twenty Doe Sheriff’s Deputies, and twenty Doe 24 employees of California Forensic Medical Group. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs 25 allege various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including unconstitutional medical 26 staff policies and practices, unconstitutional jail staff policies and practices, and 27 failure to train and/or supervise. (Id. ¶¶ 131–46.) 28 On November 4, 2016, Defendants Imperial County, Imperial County Sheriff’s –1– 16cv2334 1 Office, and Sheriff Loera moved to strike portions of Plaintiffs’ Complaint under 2 Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and to dismiss the twenty Doe 3 Sheriff’s Deputies and twenty Doe employees of California Forensic Medical Group 4 under Rule 12(b)(6). (Defs.’ Mot., ECF No. 6.) Plaintiffs oppose. (Pls.’ Opp’n, ECF 5 No. 8.) 6 The Court finds this motion suitable for determination on the papers submitted 7 and without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); CivLR 7.1(d)(1). For the 8 reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendants’ motion to strike portions of 9 the Complaint, and DENIES Defendants’ motion to dismiss Doe Defendants. 10 BACKGROUND 11 Police arrested Jaime Morris on August 29, 2015, for possessing drug 12 paraphernalia and providing false statements to an officer. (Compl. ¶¶ 70–71.) Police 13 transported Morris to Imperial County Jail (“ICJ”) shortly after her arrest. (Id. ¶ 72.) 14 ICJ contracts its medical services to California Forensic Medical Group (“CFMG”). 15 (Id. ¶ 15.) Upon arrival, Morris allegedly informed ICJ and CFMG that she was a 16 heroin addict, and had been using heroin and methamphetamine daily. (Id. ¶¶ 73–74, 17 77.) While ICJ and CFMG took Morris’s vital signs on the day of her arrest, the 18 Complaint alleges that she never saw a physician, nor was given any medical 19 treatment, during her time at ICJ. (Id. ¶¶ 87, 91–93.) 20 Morris was arrested on a Saturday, and by the following Monday, August 31, 21 2015, she was suffering from heroin withdrawal. (Compl. ¶ 99.) Plaintiffs allege that 22 fellow inmates could hear Morris moaning in her cell, that Morris repeatedly 23 complained to correctional officers that she needed medical attention, and that 24 correctional officers ignored her requests. (Id. ¶¶ 100–02.) At 5:00 p.m. on August 25 31, 2015, a correctional officer noticed that Morris appeared unresponsive, and 26 medical officials transported her to the hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 111–13.) Hospital staff 27 pronounced her dead upon arrival. (Id. ¶ 114.) 28 Morris’s mother Diana Alba, in her personal capacity and as successor-in–2– 16cv2334 1 interest to Morris’s estate, along with Morris’s two daughters Samantha Hammond 2 and Gwenyth Peniche, commenced this action against Defendants.1 (Compl. ¶ 7.) 3 Defendants Imperial County, Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, and Sheriff Loera 4 (collectively, “County Defendants”) now move to strike paragraphs 21–46, 55–58, 5 and exhibits B and C of the Complaint under Rule 12(f). (Defs.’ Mot. 5:4–5.) The 6 Court summarizes these portions of the Complaint below. 7 Paragraphs 21–46 of the Complaint can be summarized as follows: 8  Three separate civil grand juries have questioned and/or criticized CFMG’s 9 policies, procedures, and practices in providing medical care to inmates. 10 State Department of Justice statistics demonstrate that the CFMG 11 population adjusted rate for drug overdose deaths is 50% higher than other 12 county jails. (Compl. ¶¶ 22–23.) 13  CFMG was a defendant in a class-action filed on behalf of inmates in 14 Monterey county jails. In that lawsuit, an expert physician evaluated 15 CFMG’s practices and procedures and issued a report finding that clinical 16 care was inadequate, that staffing levels were insufficient, and that drug 17 withdrawal syndromes were managed by officers and nurses without 18 physician oversight. (Id. ¶¶ 24–35.) 19  Based on the report referenced in paragraphs 24–35, the federal magistrate 20 judge granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against CFMG, and 21 CFMG later agreed to settle the lawsuit. Despite the settlement, CFMG and 22 Imperial County made no changes to the way CFMG provided medical care 23 at ICJ. Further, the medical services provided by CFMG in Imperial County 24 suffer from many of the same deficiencies as did the services provided in 25 Monterey County Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 36–46.) Paragraphs 55–58 detail the following: 26 27 28 Morris’s daughters are minors and thus have filed suit by and through duly appointed Guardians Ad Litem, Brandy Hammond and Kimberly Moore. 1 –3– 16cv2334 1  In 2011, Marcia Dau died while in the care of ICJ and CFMG, during which 2 time she was suffering from withdrawal from benzodiazepines. Following 3 her death, her Estate filed and settled a wrongful death claim against CFMG 4 and Imperial County, after which neither CFMG nor Imperial County 5 revised their withdrawal and detoxification policies. (Compl. ¶¶ 55–58.) 6 The exhibits that County Defendants seek to strike relate to documents 7 referenced in the Complaint. Exhibit B is a copy of the “Monterey County Jail Health 8 Care Evaluation” referenced in paragraphs 24–35 (Compl. Ex. B.), and Exhibit C is 9 a copy of the order granting the preliminary injunction referenced in paragraphs 36– 10 46 (Compl. Ex. C). 11 County Defendants also move to dismiss the twenty Doe Sheriff’s Deputies 12 and twenty Doe employees of CFMG (collectively, “Doe Defendants”) under Rule 13 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Defs.’ Mot. 14 8:13–9:7.) 15 LEGAL STANDARD 16 Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court may 17 strike from a pleading “any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous 18 matter.” “‘Immaterial’ matter is that which has no essential or important relationship 19 to the claim for relief or the defenses being pleaded.” Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 20 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted), rev’d on other grounds, Fogerty 21 v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517 (1994). “Impertinent” matter includes “statements that 22 do not pertain, and are not necessary, to the issues in question.” Id. 23 “Motions to strike are generally regarded with disfavor because of the limited 24 importance of pleading in federal practice, and because they are often used as a 25 delaying tactic.” Neilson v. Union Bank of Cal., 290 F. Supp. 2d 1101, 1152 (C.D. 26 Cal. 2003). For that reason, a motion to strike matters simply for being redundant, 27 immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous is granted only when “the matter has no 28 logical connection to the controversy at issue, and may prejudice one or more of the –4– 16cv2334 1 parties to the suit.” McRee v. Goldman, No. 11-cv-00991-LHK, 2012 WL 929825, at 2 *5 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 19, 2012). “If there is any doubt whether the portion to be stricken 3 might bear on an issue in the litigation, the court should deny the motion.” Platte 4 Anchor Bolt, Inc. v. IHI, Inc., 352 F. Supp. 2d 1048, 1057 (N.D. Cal. 2004) (internal 5 citations omitted). DISCUSSION 6 7 A. Motion to Strike 8 County Defendants move to strike paragraphs 21–46, 55–58, and exhibits B 9 and C from the Complaint, on the grounds that the allegations contained in these 10 portions of the Complaint have no bearing on this case. (Defs.’ Mot. 5:5–6.) 11 Specifically, County Defendants point to the fact that the allegations in paragraphs 12 21–46, along with exhibits B and C, involve different counties, different parties, 13 preliminary court orders, and settlements to which the County Defendants were not 14 a party. (Id. at 5:6–8.) Additionally, County Defendants argue that the allegations in 15 paragraphs 55–58 are unrelated and disconnected from the case at hand, and that the 16 Complaint fails to provide context for how these allegations have any bearing on the 17 alleged treatment of Morris. (Id. at 7:5–12.) 18 The Court disagrees. Paragraphs 21–46, 55–58, and exhibits B and C are 19 neither immaterial nor impertinent. The allegations contained in these portions of the 20 Complaint speak directly to elements of the claims that Plaintiffs make against 21 County Defendants regarding alleged deficiencies in CFMG policies and practices. 22 To take one example, Plaintiffs allege in the sixth claim of the Complaint that County 23 Defendants’ failure to train and supervise employees rose to the level of 24 constitutional deliberate indifference. (Compl. at 5:14–20.) Supervisory liability for 25 deliberate indifference under § 1983 requires a showing that the supervisor refused 26 “to terminate a series of acts by others, which [the supervisor] knew or reasonably 27 should have known would cause others to inflict a constitutional injury.” Starr v. 28 Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207–08 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Dubner v. City & Cty. of San –5– 16cv2334 1 Francisco, 266 F.3d 959, 968 (9th Cir. 2001)). The civil grand jury proceedings, the 2 class action lawsuit and subsequent report regarding CFMG’s clinical care practices, 3 the preliminary injunction, as well as the wrongful death suit against Imperial County 4 and CFMG, bear directly on whether County Defendants knew, or should have 5 known, of the alleged deficiencies in CFMG policies. See Starr, 652 F.3d at 1207– 6 08. Thus, these allegations are material and pertinent to the Complaint. 7 That paragraphs 21–46, 55–58, and exhibits B and C speak to the knowledge 8 required under § 1983 is even directly alluded to in the Complaint itself. Paragraph 9 21—the very first paragraph that County Defendants move to strike—states that 10 “Imperial County knew, or should have known, that CFMG has come under 11 increasing scrutiny for failing to provide adequate care in correctional facilities 12 throughout California.” (Compl. ¶ 21.) The Complaint also notes that exhibit B—a 13 report documenting supposed deficiencies in CFMG’s clinical care—was publicly 14 available, and thus County Defendants could have learned of these deficiencies prior 15 to the death of Morris. (See id. ¶ 27.) Likewise, the order granting a preliminary 16 injunction against CFMG, provided as exhibit C, was issued four months prior to 17 Morris’s death and details alleged inadequacies in CFMG’s drug withdrawal policies. 18 (Id. ¶ 37–40.) Both of these exhibits speak directly to the level of notice and 19 knowledge that County Defendants had regarding CFMG policies and practices— 20 elements directly related to the claims at issue. See Starr, 652 F.3d at 1207–08. The 21 threshold for establishing a relationship between the allegations and the underlying 22 claims for a Rule 12(f) motion to strike is a low one, and if there is any doubt as to 23 the nonexistence of the relationship the court should deny the motion. See Platte 24 Anchor Bolt, Inc., 352 F. Supp. at 1057. The doubt raised here is sufficient to warrant 25 denial. 26 Accordingly, because paragraphs 21–46, 55–58, and exhibits B and C have a 27 relationship to the claims for relief and pertain to the issues in question, the Court 28 denies County Defendants’ motion to strike those portions of the Complaint. See, –6– 16cv2334 1 e.g., Fantasy, Inc., 984 F.2d at 1527; Hatamian v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., No. 2 14-cv-00226-YGR, 2015 WL 511175, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 6, 2015) (finding the 3 allegations at issue could not be stricken because they had an important relationship 4 to the elements of the claim that plaintiffs sought to prove). 5 B. Motion to Strike Doe Defendants2 6 County Defendants move to strike Doe Defendants from the Complaint on the 7 ground that ‘Doe’ pleading is improper in federal court. (Defs.’ Mot. 8:13-9:7.) This 8 argument is unconvincing. 9 To be sure, County Defendants are correct that there is no provision in the 10 federal rules of procedure permitting the use of fictitious defendants, see Fifty Assocs. 11 v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 446 F.2d 1187, 1191 (9th Cir. 1970), and that the use 12 of fictitious defendants in federal court is generally disfavored, Gillespie v. Civiletti, 13 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). However, Doe pleading is not expressly prohibited 14 by the federal rules, nor is it always inappropriate. See Lopes v. Vieira, 543 F. Supp. 15 2d 1149, 1152 (E.D. Cal. 2008). Federal courts have routinely allowed the use of 16 fictitious names for defendants—even without discussion. See, e.g., Bivens v. Six 17 Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). 18 Moreover, federal courts have generally approved the use of Doe pleading “where 19 the identity of alleged defendants [is not] known prior to the filing of a complaint,” 20 and where “the plaintiff [may have] an opportunity through discovery to identify the 21 unknown defendants.” Gillespie, 629 F.2d at 642. Gillespie is particularly illustrative. In Gillespie, plaintiff brought a § 1983 22 23 24 2 25 26 27 28 County Defendants move to dismiss Doe Defendants under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Defs.’ Mot. 8:14–18.) This is technically incorrect. County Defendants do not actually challenge the sufficiency of the claims themselves, only the ability of Plaintiffs to name Doe defendants. (See Defs.’ Mot. 9:4–7.) A motion to remove Doe defendants—unrelated to any challenge on the basis of jurisdiction, venue, or a failure to state a claim—is more appropriately made under Rule 12(f) as a motion to strike. See, e.g., Lopes v. Vieira, 543 F. Supp. 2d 1149, 1151–52 (E.D. Cal. 2008). The Court therefore construes County Defendants’ request as a motion to strike rather than a motion to dismiss. –7– 16cv2334 1 claim alleging mistreatment by jail superintendents and guards while being housed 2 in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Kansas City, Missouri. 629 F.2d at 639. The plaintiff 3 in Gillespie was unaware of the names of those superintendents and guards 4 responsible for caring for inmates at the time the complaint was filed, and in their 5 place named Doe defendants. Id. An analogous situation is presented here. In this 6 case, as in Gillespie, Plaintiffs name Doe Defendants allegedly responsible for the 7 care and supervision of Morris while she was in jail—individuals whose exact 8 identities are not likely to have been known at the time the Complaint was field. 9 Morris, who was suffering from symptoms of withdrawal from which she would later 10 die, could not be expected to identify, by name, every individual involved with the 11 policies and procedures that may have been connected to her death. Thus, here as in 12 Gillespie, Plaintiffs should have “an opportunity through discovery to uncover the 13 identities of the ‘John Doe’ defendants and proceed with [their] claims.” See id. at 14 643. Accordingly, County Defendants’ motion to strike Doe Defendants from the 15 Complaint is denied. See Lopes, 543 F. Supp. 2d at 1152. CONCLUSION 16 17 For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES County Defendants’ motion to 18 strike portions of the Complaint, and DENIES County Defendants’ motion to 19 dismiss Doe Defendants. 20 IT IS SO ORDERED. 21 22 DATED: April 3, 2017 23 24 25 26 27 28 –8– 16cv2334

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