Shaffer v. DeKalb County Sheriff et al
OPINION AND ORDER: GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART 30 MOTION to Dismiss the Crossclaim-Plaintiffs' Crossclaim by Cross Defendants Nurse Blair, Quality Correctional Care LLC, Defendants Nurse Blair, Quality Correctional Care LLC. Cross Defendant Nurse Blair Lipely is DISMISSED from this case. Signed by Chief Judge Theresa L Springmann on 7/27/2017. (lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
JEFF P. SHAFFER,
DEKALB COUNTY SHERIFF, et al.,
ANGIE IRELAND, Lieutenant,
and DEKALB COUNTY SHERIFF,
NURSE BLAIR and QUALITY
CORRECTIONAL CARE, LLC,
CAUSE NO.: 1:17-CV-70-TLS
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss Crossclaim [ECF No. 30],
filed by Cross Defendants Nurse Blair and Quality Correctional Care, LLC (collectively “the
Cross Defendants”) on May 24, 2017. The Cross Defendants move to dismiss the Crossclaim
filed by Cross Claimants Angie Ireland and DeKalb County Sheriff (collectively “the Cross
Claimants”) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), asserting that it fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. The Cross Claimants filed their Response [ECF No. 33] on June 7, 2017, and the
Cross Defendants’ Reply [ECF No. 34] was entered on June 14, 2017. For the reasons stated
below, the Court grants the Motion in part and denies the Motion in part.
On February 18, 2017, Plaintiff Jeff. P. Shaffer, an inmate at the DeKalb County Jail,
filed a Complaint [ECF No. 1] against the DeKalb County Sheriff, Quality Correctional Care,
Nurse Blair, and Lieutenant Ireland, asserting claims pursuant to § 1983. The Plaintiff alleges
that he was placed in solitary confinement and subjected to unconstitutional conditions therein.
In addition, the Plaintiff alleges that he was denied access to adequate medical care while in
confinement, another constitutional violation.
On May 8, 2017, the Cross Claimants answered the Plaintiff’s Complaint and filed a
Crossclaim against the Cross Defendants. The Crossclaim asserts that Quality Correctional Care
and DeKalb County Jail entered into a Service Agreement on July 13, 2015, “to provide health
care related services including, but not limited to, medical and mental health services to inmates,
as well as related services for management and training for the jail.” (Crossclaim ¶¶ 1–2, ECF
No. 26.) Under the Service Agreement, Quality Correctional Care is required “to indemnify,
defend, and provide insurance coverage to [the Cross Claimants] for claims made against
DeKalb arising from [the Cross Defendants’] performance under the contract.” (Id. ¶ 3.) 1
The Cross Claimants assert that the Plaintiff’s allegations “implicate [Quality
Correctional Care’s] duty to defend and indemnify . . . under the service agreement.” (Id. ¶ 9.)
Specifically, the Service Agreement states that:
[Quality Correctional Care] shall indemnify, defend, and hold SHERIFF, County Elected
Officials AND, their officers and employees from any claims, costs (Including reasonable
attorney’s fees and court costs), expenses, direct or indirect, causes of action, penalties,
liabilities, losses and damages (“Claims”) actually sustained and incurred by SHERIFF or
for which SHERIFF is legally liable, to the extent such claims are caused by
negligent acts, errors or omissions or willful misconduct of [Quality
Correctional Care], its officers, employees, agents and subcontractors
[Quality Correctional Care’s] breach of any term or provision of this
(Serv. Agreement 13, ECF No. 26-1.)
On March 28, 2017, the Cross Claimants first tendered their defense to Quality Correctional
Care, and Quality Correctional Care initially agreed to defend them but upon “further
clarification regarding indemnity . . . changed its mind.” (Id. ¶ 10.) A subsequent request for
indemnity was also rejected on April 25, 2017. (Id. ¶ 11.) Accordingly, the Cross Claimants
assert that Quality Correctional Care “has breached the terms of the . . . service agreement.” (Id.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of the pleading and not the merits of the suit. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d
1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). A court presumes all well-pleaded allegations to be true, views them
in the light most favorable to a plaintiff, and accepts as true all reasonable inferences to be drawn
from the allegations. Whirlpool Fin. Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc., 67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir.
The Supreme Court has articulated the following standard regarding factual allegations
that are required to survive dismissal:
While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the “grounds” of his
“entitlement to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must
be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption
that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation marks, ellipsis, citations, and
footnote omitted). A complaint or crossclaim must contain sufficient factual matter to “state a
claim that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded
factual content 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 Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 556). Although a court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw all permissible
inferences in a plaintiff’s favor, it need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of
a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly at 555).
Legal conclusions can provide a pleading’s framework, but unless well-pleaded factual
allegations move the claims from conceivable to plausible, they are insufficient to state a claim.
Id. at 680. Determining whether a complaint or crossclaim states a plausible claim for relief
requires a reviewing court to “draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.
The Cross Defendants argue in their Motion that the Crossclaim should be dismissed
because it fails to state a claim against either Quality Correctional Care or Nurse Lipely. First,
the Cross Defendants argue that the Plaintiff’s claims are for inadequate medical care and failing
to provide non-medical services, like clothing in solitary confinement, “personal hygiene
supplies,” and being able “to take a shower or brush his teeth.” (Mot. Dismiss 5, ECF No. 31
(citing Compl. ¶¶ 5, 7, 11–12, ECF No. 1).) Because “the contractual terms clearly articulate
[that] the DeKalb County Sheriff is responsible for these non-medical services,” the Cross
Defendants claim that they have no duty to indemnify or defend the Cross Claimants. (Id.)
Second, the Cross Defendants argue that the Crossclaim fails as to Nurse Lipely because she is
not a party to the Service Agreement and, therefore, she cannot be in breach of that Agreement.
In response, the Cross Claimants note that the Cross Defendants conflate the “duty to
defend” with the “duty to indemnify.” (See Resp. 5–8, ECF No. 33.) They claim that the former
is a question of a complaint’s allegations, whereas the latter requires an underlying judgment of
liability. (Id. at 6.) The Service Agreement obligates Quality Correctional Care “to provide
medical services and care for inmates . . . as well as healthcare management and training,” and to
defend the Cross Claimants “for claims that were caused by ‘negligent acts, errors or omissions
or willful misconduct” by Quality Correctional Care or its agents. (Id.) As the allegations
concern the negligent provision of medical care at the jail, “the duty to defend is triggered by the
allegations contained in the Plaintiff’s Complaint.” (Id.) 2
Indiana courts permit individual parties, even where they are not an insurance provider,
to contract to defend or indemnify against negligent acts committed against another party, and
will analyze those agreements using insurance contract principles. See Tom Raper Inc. v. Safari
Motor Coaches, Inc., No. IP 99-1188, 2001 WL 13299, at *5 (S.D. Ind. Jan. 4, 2001) (citing
Ogilvie v. Steele by Steele, 452 N.E.2d 167, 170 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983)); cf. Medline Indus., Inc. v.
Ram Med., Inc., 892 F. Supp. 2d 957, 965 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (noting that Illinois courts generally
apply the principles governing insurance contracts to contracts to defend or indemnify). The duty
to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. Walton v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 844 N.E.2d
143, 146 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006); Trisler v. Ind. Ins. Co., 575 N.E.2d 1021, 1023 (Ind. Ct. App.
1991). Although an insurer can limit its duty to defend, cf. Walton, 844 N.E.2d at 147 (stating
that if the pleadings reveal that a claim is excluded under the policy, then no defense is required),
an insurer is generally obligated to defend its insured against suits alleging facts that might fall
within the coverage of the policy, Fed. Ins. Co. v. Stroh Brewing Co., 127 F.3d 563, 566 (7th Cir.
1997). Whether a party has a duty to defend is determined from the allegations of the complaint
and from those facts known to or ascertainable by that party after reasonable investigation.
Trisler, 575 N.E.2d at 1023.
The Cross Claimants do not specifically respond to the Cross Defendants’ argument that Nurse
Lipley is not a party to the Service Agreement.
In their Motion, the Cross Defendants acknowledge that the Plaintiff “alleges
unconstitutional medical care during his incarceration at the DeKalb County Jail.” (Mot. Dismiss
5.) The Court’s own review of the Plaintiff’s Complaint shows that this is the case, as the
Plaintiff specifically alleges that he “developed sores on his back,” “vomit[ed] and . . .
experienced diarrhea” as a result of medication, and was “subject to sleep deprivation,” among
other allegations related to medical care. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6, 9.) The terms of the Service
Agreement expressly state that Quality Correctional Care “agrees to provide medical treatment
for the inmates of the DeKalb County Jail . . . [and] agrees to comply with all current or as may
be amended in the future medical standards as detailed in the Indiana Jail Standards.” (Serv.
Agreement 1.) Also, the terms state that Quality Correctional Care was responsible for the
training of correction officers in proper medical care techniques. (Id. at 3–4.) Accordingly, the
Court finds that the Plaintiff’s underlying claim for unconstitutional medical care may fall within
Quality Correctional Care’s duty to defend under the Service Agreement. Fed. Ins. Co., 127 F.3d
Be that as it may, the Cross Defendants nevertheless argue that they have no duty to
defend because, in addition to the Plaintiff’s medical claims, the Plaintiff also alleges claims that
are not related to medical care, and thus are not within the ambit of the Service Agreement’s
terms. The Service Agreement states that “the SHERIFF shall provide for all other (non-medical)
needs of the inmates of the DeKalb County Jail including but not limited to: daily housekeeping
services, dietary services, building maintenance services, personal hygiene supplies and linen
supplies.” (Serv. Agreement 10.) But the Cross Defendants offered no legal authority, and the
Court is unaware of none, that requires all of the claims to possibly fall within the scope of the
duty in order to activate the duty to defend. Rather, the standard is only that an insurer must
defend “against suits alleging facts that might fall within the coverage of the policy.” Fed. Ins.
Co., 127 F.3d at 566 (emphasis added). The Court already found that the Plaintiff’s claims for
unconstitutional medical care might fall within the Service Agreement’s duty to defend, and the
Cross Defendants suggested as much in briefing. Whether or not some of the Plaintiff’s claims
implicate non-medical needs like “personal hygiene supplies and linen supplies” does not affect
the analysis. 3
Although the Court finds that the Plaintiff’s suit alleges facts that “might fall” within the
terms of the Service Agreement for purposes of the duty to defend, Id., the Cross Defendants
contend that Nurse Lipely, who is not a signatory to the Service Agreement, may not be sued for
breach of it. “The unambiguous language of a contract is conclusive upon the parties to the
contract and upon the courts.” Peoples Bank & Tr. Co. v. Price, 714 N.E.2d 712, 716 (Ind. Ct.
App. 1999) (emphasis added). “It goes without saying that a contract cannot bind a nonparty.”
Northbound Grp., Inc. v. Norvax, Inc., 795 F.3d 647, 650 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting EEOC v.
Waffle House, Inc., 534 U.S. 279, 294 (2002)). Here, only the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office
and Quality Correctional Care signed the Service Agreement. Because Nurse Lipely did not sign
the contract, she is not a party to the Service Agreement and thus has no duty to defend the Cross
Claimants against allegations that the Cross Defendants were negligent in providing medical
care. Accordingly, Nurse Lipely is dismissed from the Crossclaim.
Moreover, factual discovery will likely show which of the Plaintiff’s claims involve medical
care and which involve non-medical care. All that is required at this stage is a determination of
“plausibility,” rather than the resolution of these factual question, and thus another reason why the Cross
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss should be denied.
For the reasons stated above, the Cross Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Crossclaim is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART [ECF No. 30]. Cross Defendant Nurse Lipely is
DISMISSED from this case.
SO ORDERED on July 27, 2017.
s/ Theresa L. Springmann
CHIEF JUDGE THERESA L. SPRINGMANN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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