Phillips v. Correct Care Solutions, Inc., et al
ORDER & REASONS that the Defendant's 8 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Eldon E. Fallon on 1/25/17. (dno)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, INC
SECTION “L” (2)
ORDER & REASONS
Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. R. Doc.
8. Plaintiff opposes the motion. R. Doc. 10. The Court scheduled the Motion for oral argument,
but Plaintiff’s counsel failed to appear for the hearing. Thus, the Court took the matter under
consideration on the briefs. Having reviewed the parties’ arguments and the applicable law, the
Court now issues this Order & Reasons.
This personal injury case involves a dispute over damages that Plaintiff seeks as a result
of injuries he allegedly suffered while working in Orleans Parish Prison. Plaintiff filed his
Petition in Civil District Court in New Orleans on July 25, 2016. R. Doc. 1 at 1. Defendant
timely removed the matter to federal court, and argues this Court has diversity jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332. R. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiff is a Louisiana citizen, while Defendant,
Correct Care Solutions, LLC (“Defendant”) is a Kansas corporation with its principal place of
business in Nashville, Tennessee. R. Doc. 1 at 3.
Plaintiff alleges that while employed as a Sheriff’s Deputy in Orleans Parish, he was
assigned to oversee the inmates on the D-3 and D-4 tiers of the Orleans Parish Prison. R. Doc. 11 at 2. Defendant was the independent medical provider who managed the inmates’ medical
treatment. R. Doc. 1-1 at 3. Plaintiff alleges that on the day of his injury, Defendant asked him to
bring designated inmates to the medical unit, despite the fact it was the medical deputy’s
responsibility to complete these transfers. R. Doc. 1-1 at 3. While transferring these inmates,
Plaintiff contends he injured his knees and back because he had to repeatedly go up and down
the stairs from the tiers to the medical unit. R. Doc. 1-1 at 3.
According to Plaintiff, his injuries were a direct result of Defendant’s negligence,
including its failure to use reasonable care, properly train its staff, or modify its demands based
on the limited staff at the prison. R. Doc. 1-1 at 4. Plaintiff claims he sustained severe and
disabling injuries to his knees and back, and seeks to recover damages for past, present, and
future pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress, medical expenses, lost wages
and loss of earning capacity, as well as any other losses that are proven at trial. R. Doc. 1 at 2.
II. PRESENT MOTION
Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim against Correct Care Solutions under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), on the grounds that Plaintiff’s petition fails to state a
cognizable claim. R. Doc. 8 at 1. Defendant avers that Plaintiff’s claim is based on the solely on
the fact Defendant asked him to escort an inmate to the medical unit, and that these allegations
do not state a claim for a breach of any duty the Defendant owed Plaintiff. R. Doc. 8 at 1. Thus,
Defendant contends Plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed with prejudice. R. Doc. 8 at 1.
A. Defendant Correct Care Solution’s Motion to Dismiss (R. Doc. 8)
Defendant argues it did not breach any duty it could have possibly owed to Plaintiff. R.
Doc. 8-1 at 1. Defendant reports that according to Plaintiff, he was working as an Orleans Parish
Sheriff’s Deputy when Defendant asked him to bring certain inmates to the medical unit. R. Doc.
8-1 at 1. Defendant admits that Plaintiff indicated the medical deputy should complete the
transfers, but maintains Plaintiff “voluntarily transported inmates to the medical area.” R. Doc.
8-1 at 1. Defendant avers Plaintiff was not required or compelled to make this transfer, and any
alleged injury to his back and knees from going up and down the stairs was not the result of the
Defendant’s alleged negligence. R. Doc. 8-1 at 2.
Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s claim does not meet Louisiana’s duty-risk requirements
for negligence. R. Doc. 8-1 at 3. According to Defendant, to prevail on a negligence claim
Plaintiff must demonstrate “(1) the conduct in question is a cause-in-fact of the alleged harm; (2)
the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff; (3) the defendant breached that duty; and (4) the risk
and harm caused were within the scope of protection afforded by the duty breached.” R. Doc. 8-1
at 3 (citing Millet v. Treasure Chest Casino L.L.C., 00-1843 (La. App. 5 Cir. 5/30/01), 788 So.
2d 713, 715). Defendant contends Plaintiff cannot meet any of these elements.
First, Defendant argues it was not Plaintiff’s employer and did not have any other
relationship with him that would create any duty under Louisiana law. R. Doc. 8-1 at 4 (citing
Palermo v. Port of New Orleans, 2004-1804 (La. App. 4 Cir. 3/15/06), 933 So.2d 168, 176)
(holding non-employer did not have duty to provide employee a safe workplace). Plaintiff does
not allege Defendant acted with willful or wanton negligence, or created an unsafe workplace.
Thus, he cannot demonstrate Defendant owed any duty to Plaintiff. R. Doc. 8-1 at 4. Second,
Defendant argues that even if it somehow owed Plaintiff a duty, Plaintiff has not made any
allegations that Defendant breached that duty. R. Doc. 8-1 at 5.
Third, if there was no duty, or in the alternative, that duty was never breached, Plaintiff
cannot demonstrate the alleged harm was within the scope of protection the duty provided. R.
Doc. 8-1 at 4 (citing Brodnax v. Foster, 47,079 (La. App. 2 Cir. 4/11/12), 92 So.3d 427, 433
(“[R]isk may not be within the scope of a duty where the circumstances of the particular injury to
the plaintiff could not be reasonably foreseen or anticipated, because there was no ease of
association between that risk and the legal duty.”). Finally, Defendant avers that Plaintiff’s
injuries were not foreseeable as a result of Defendant’s request asking Plaintiff to help walk
inmates to the medical unit. R. Doc. 8-1 at 5. Because Plaintiff has not pled facts which entitle
him to relief, Defendant argues that his claims against it should be dismissed.
B. Plaintiff’s Response (R. Doc. 10)
Plaintiff timely responds and objects to Defendant’s motion on the grounds that
Defendant “had a responsibility to assign a designated medical deputy” to assist with transferring
inmates to the medical units. R. Doc. 10 at 1. Plaintiff alleges that he was a correctional officer,
who did not have experience transferring inmates. R. Doc. 10 at 1. He alleges “but for”
Defendant’s request, he would not have been injured. R. Doc. 10 at 1.
III. LAW AND ANALYSIS
A. Failure to State a Claim under 12(b)(6)
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit a defendant to seek a dismissal of a
complaint based on the “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(b)(6). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim “unless it appears
beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). Generally, when evaluating a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court should not look past the pleadings.
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The
district court must construe facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must
accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. “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.” Id. A court
“do[es] not accept as true conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal
conclusions.” Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005).
Here, Plaintiff’s claims sound in negligence. Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss,
Plaintiff must “plead factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for [negligence].” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. A federal court sitting in
diversity must apply the substantive law of the state in which it sits. See Erie v. Tompkins, 304
U.S. 64, 71–77 (1938). Thus, the law of the state of Louisiana is the substantive law applicable to
this negligence claim.
To establish Defendant’s negligence under Louisiana law Plaintiff must show that 1) the
defendant was the cause-in-fact of the resulting harm; 2) the defendant owed a duty of care to the
plaintiff; 3) defendant breached that duty; and 4) the risk of harm caused was within the scope of
protection afforded by the duty breached. See Peterson v. Gibraltar Savings & Loan, 733 So. 2d
1198, 1203-04 (La. 1999).
The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate Defendant owed him any duty
beyond “reasonable care under the circumstances.” Because this was the only duty Defendant
owed, it did not breach this duty by asking Plaintiff, a Sheriff’s Deputy, to help escort inmates to
the medical unit—particularly in light of the fact Plaintiff was escorting inmates from the tiers he
had already been assigned to monitor. Further, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate Defendant was
the cause-in-fact of the resulting harm, even under the more lenient standard of 12(b)(6).
Defendant asked Plaintiff—a Sheriff’s Deputy who had been assigned to monitor two tiers of
inmates—to walk up and down some stairs. It is not foreseeable that he would suffer debilitating
injuries to his back and knees as a result of that request. Because Plaintiff has not stated a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face, Defendant’s motion is GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s claims
against Defendant Correct Care Solutions shall be dismissed with prejudice.
For the aforementioned reasons, IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss
for Failure to State a Claim, R. Doc. 8, is hereby GRANTED.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 25th day of January, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?