Andrews v. Wayne County et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting 11 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Signed by District Judge Paul D. Borman. (DTof)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
JACOB ANDREWS, as Personal
Representative of the Estate of Angela
WAYNE COUNTY; SHERIFF
BENNY N. NAPOLEON, Wayne
County Sheriff; and DR. MOUHANAD
HAMMAMI, Director of Health,
Veterans & Community Wellness for
Case No. 17-11684
Paul D. Borman
United States District Judge
Mona K. Majzoub
United States Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS NAPOLEON AND
HAMMAMI’S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS
Two days after Angela White was taken into custody at the Wayne County
Jail, she died from an overdose of medication that she had been allowed to keep with
her by the jail’s staff. Plaintiff Jacob Andrews, Ms. White’s appointed personal
representative, now sues Defendants Wayne County, Sheriff Benny N. Napoleon,
and Dr. Mouhanad Hammami under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that their deliberate
indifference to Ms. White’s medical needs violated her rights under the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings,1
which seeks dismissal of the two individual Defendants Napoleon and Hammami.
Plaintiff has sued Defendants Napoleon and Hammami in their official capacities
only, and because Plaintiff has also sued Wayne County directly, his claims against
the individuals are duplicative of his claims against Wayne County. For that reason,
the Court will grant the individual Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and dismiss Defendants Napoleon and Hammami from the action.
Plaintiff’s Factual Allegations
Plaintiff Jacob Andrews is the personal representative of Ms. White’s estate,
having been appointed as such by the Wayne County Probate Court, and he brings
this action in that capacity. (ECF No. 1, Compl. ¶ 3.) He alleges that Defendant
Benny Napoleon was at all relevant times the Sheriff of Defendant Wayne County,
and that Defendant Mouhanad Hammami was at all relevant times the Director of
Health, Veterans and Community Wellness, Chief Medical Officer for Wayne
Defendants’ Motion is captioned as a “Motion to Dismiss,” but it is really a motion
for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). A
“motion to dismiss” may only be made “before pleading” under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and all three Defendants have already answered the
complaint in this action. (ECF Nos. 5, 8.) A motion for judgment on the pleadings,
by contrast, can be filed “[a]fter the pleadings are closed[,] but early enough not to
delay trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). Indeed, both parties identify Rule 12(c) as the
applicable Rule in their briefs. In any event, as set forth below, the same standard
applies to both types of motions.
County, and the Health Services Director for the Wayne County Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.)
According to the Complaint, Ms. White was admitted on May 14, 2014 to the
Henry Ford Kingswood adult psychiatric hospital for anxiety and depression. She
was placed on suicide precautions there, and stayed on an inpatient basis for three
days and two nights. (Id. ¶ 7.) A few days later, from May 21 to May 28, 2014, Ms.
White was hospitalized at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor,
Michigan “for a variety of conditions including headache, depression, epilepsy
evaluation and psychiatric evaluation.” (Id. ¶ 8.) During that hospital stay, Plaintiff
alleges, Ms. White received a “nerve block” as treatment for a type of headache
referred to in the medical records as “trigeminal autonomic cephalgia.” (Id.)
On June 5, 2014, a little over a week after she was discharged from the
University of Michigan Hospital, the Complaint alleges that Ms. White “was
arrested in Canton Township, Michigan for allegedly attacking her boyfriend
(Plaintiff) with scissors, and she was charged with domestic violence.” (Id. ¶ 9.) At
that time, she was taking a variety of medications that she had been prescribed during
her two recent hospital stays. (Id. ¶ 9.) Ms. White was arraigned the following day
in the 35th District Court in Plymouth, Michigan on a felony charge of assault with
a dangerous weapon. (Id. ¶ 10.) The same day, while in the custody of the Canton
Police Department, she was taken to a hospital for evaluation of chest pains and a
headache. There, she was “treated with Reglan, Benadryl, Totadol and Ativan. She
was ordered to continue to use her medication upon her return to jail.” (Id. ¶ 11.)
Plaintiff alleges that later in the same day—June 6, 2014—Ms. White was
transported along with her personal belongings (including her medications) from the
Canton Police Department to the Wayne County Jail. (Id. ¶ 12.) At approximately
9:20 that night, Ms. White was evaluated by medical personnel at the Wayne County
Jail, who assigned her in the early hours of June 7, 2014 “to the Division I Infirmary
cell #2, bed #1.” (Id. ¶ 13.) At some time on June 7, Ms. White took a large overdose
of the prescription drug Verapamil, which depressed her blood pressure, induced
cardiac arrest, and ultimately resulted in her death on June 8, 2014. (Id. ¶ 18.)
Plaintiff further alleges that on and prior to June 7, 2014, Defendants
maintained a formal policy and procedure allowing Wayne County Jail inmates to
self-administer medications in certain circumstances. More specifically, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants, acknowledging “that many persons in the jail were on a
regular regimen of prescribed medications,” created a policy and procedure that
contemplated “two classes of medications. The first class of medications had to be
administered to an inmate by the jail nurse one dose at a time; the second class of
medications were those that an inmate could have in the cell and could self
medicate.” (Compl. ¶ 14.) A copy of a Wayne County Jail Health Services Division
Policy Directive entitled “Medication– Self Medication Program” is attached as the
sole exhibit to the Complaint. (Compl. Ex. 1, Policy Directive.)
It was pursuant to this policy, according to the Complaint, that Defendants
withheld various medications from Ms. White’s possession but still allowed her to
take Verapamil with her to her cell. That drug, an anti-hypertensive that is taken to
reduce elevated blood pressure, was not on the policy’s list of drugs that could only
be administered to inmates by nurses. That list did, however, include the drug
Catapres, which Plaintiff alleges serves the same blood-pressure reduction function
as Verapamil. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-17, 19; Policy Directive at Pg ID 15.)
Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action on May 26, 2017. (ECF No. 1,
Compl.) Pled under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Complaint asserts that by including
Catapres in the list of restricted drugs in the Self Medication Program but failing to
include Verapamil, Defendants created an official policy or procedure that enabled
and facilitated overdoses on dangerous prescription medications by inmates with
emotional or mental health problems. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) The Complaint further alleges
that Defendants were on notice of the danger of allowing an inmate to self-administer
Verapamil because they included Catapres on the list, and were also on notice of the
specific hazard in Ms. White’s case because they retained the psychotropic drugs
she had been prescribed for the treatment of depression and anxiety. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.)
In addition, the Complaint asserts that Defendants were “deliberately
indifferent and demonstrated a conscious disregard to the known, serious health
needs of [Ms. White], their prisoner, by implementation and enforcement of their
‘Medication– Self Medication Program’” in various respects that include
Defendants’ facilitation of prescription-drug abuse, their failure to update the list of
restricted drugs under the policy for over a decade, and their failure to place Ms.
White in the mental ward of the Wayne County Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 25-29.) This conduct,
the Complaint asserts, “deprived [Ms. White] of her right to adequate and necessary
medical care while a prisoner of Defendants” in violation of the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. (Id. ¶ 30.) The Complaint then
states that a wrongful death action has accrued to Plaintiff as the personal
representative of Ms. White’s estate, as well as Ms. White’s two children and other
relatives, under Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.2922. (Id. ¶¶ 32-34.) Plaintiff seeks
damages including compensation for medical and funereal expenses, compensation
for Ms. White’s pain and suffering, consortium damages for Ms. White’s next of
kin, economic damages for pecuniary injuries, and other damages as may be fair and
equitable. (Id. ¶ 35.)
Defendants Wayne County and Hammami answered the Complaint and
asserted affirmative defenses on June 27, 2017. (ECF No. 5.) Defendant Napoleon,
who was not served until August 7, 2017 (ECF No. 7), answered the Complaint and
asserted affirmative defenses on August 11, 2017 (ECF No. 8).
The parties filed a Joint Rule 26(f) Discovery Plan on September 15, 2017.
(ECF No. 10.) Ten days later, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings. (ECF No. 11, Defs.’ Mot.) After the Court extended the briefing
deadlines, Plaintiff filed a timely Response to Defendants’ Motion on November 6,
2017 (ECF No. 14, Pl.’s Resp.), and Defendants filed a timely Reply on November
27, 2017 (ECF No. 15, Defs.’ Reply). The Court held a hearing on Defendants’
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, and now
issues the following ruling.
“Motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(c) are analyzed under the same de novo standards as motions to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).” Sensations, Inc. v. City of Grand Rapids, 526
F.3d 291, 295 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Penny/Ohlmann/Nieman, Inc. v. Miami Valley
Pension Corp., 399 F.3d 692, 697 (6th Cir. 2005)). Indeed, “the legal standards for
adjudicating Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c) motions are the same.” Lindsay v.
Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 437 n.5 (6th Cir. 2007). Therefore, “all well-pleaded material
allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the
motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to
judgment.” Poplar Creek Dev. Co. v. Chesapeake, 636 F.3d 235, 240 (6th Cir.
2011) (citation omitted). The Sixth Circuit has explained that
[a]lthough a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations,”
it does require more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).
Thus, a complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it “contain[s]
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, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). And, “[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.” Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603,
609 (6th Cir.2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).
Reilly v. Vadlamudi, 680 F.3d 617, 622–23 (6th Cir. 2012).
The scope of Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is limited in
one important respect: the Motion makes no argument for dismissal of Plaintiff’s §
1983 claim as pled against Wayne County, and only seeks to have the two individual
Defendants Napoleon and Hammami dismissed from the action.
A preliminary issue, then, is whether Plaintiff has asserted his claims against
Defendants Napoleon and Hammami in their official capacities, their individual
capacities, or both. “An individual-capacity claim is distinct from a claim against a
defendant in his official capacity. The former claim may attach personal liability to
the government official, whereas the latter may attach liability only to the
governmental entity.” Essex v. Cty. of Livingston, 518 F. App'x 351, 354 (6th Cir.
2013) (internal citations omitted) (citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165–
67 (1985)). “In other words, an official-capacity claim is merely another name for a
claim against the municipality.” Id. (internal citations omitted) (citing Cady v.
Arenac Cnty., 574 F.3d 334, 342 (6th Cir. 2009)); see also Russell v. LunderganGrimes, 784 F.3d 1037, 1046 (6th Cir. 2015) (explaining that an action premised on
an official-capacity claim “is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against
the official's office”) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Will v. Mich. Dep't
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989)).
The Complaint in this action does not expressly state the capacity in which
Defendants Napoleon and Hammami have been sued. The Sixth Circuit has held that
“while it is clearly preferable that plaintiffs explicitly state whether a defendant is
sued in his or her ‘individual capacity,’ failure to do so is not fatal if the course of
proceedings otherwise indicates that the defendant received sufficient notice” that
he or she was being sued as an individual. Moore v. City of Harriman, 272 F.3d 769,
772 (6th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The “course of
proceedings” test “considers such factors as the nature of the plaintiff's claims,
requests for compensatory or punitive damages, and the nature of any defenses
raised in response to the complaint, particularly claims of qualified immunity, to
determine whether the defendant had actual knowledge of the potential for
individual liability.” Id. at 772 n.1 (citing Biggs v. Meadows, 66 F.3d 56, 61 (4th Cir.
1995)). And, significantly for present purposes, “[t]he test also considers whether
subsequent pleadings put the defendant on notice of the capacity in which he or she
is sued.” Id. With that last principle in mind, the Sixth Circuit in Moore concluded
that in the case at bar, “[e]ven assuming the complaint itself failed to provide
sufficient notice, [the plaintiff’s] response to the [defendants’] motion to dismiss
clarified any remaining ambiguity” by expressly stating that the defendants were
being sued in their individual capacities. Id. at 774. The converse is true here. The
Complaint does not allege individual conduct on Napoleon or Hammami’s part with
any degree of specificity, and although it is arguably ambiguous on the capacity issue
because it does not expressly plead capacity one way or the other, any ambiguity
arising from this omission is resolved by Plaintiff’s clarification in his Response that
the individual Defendants are “sued in their official capacities.” (Pl.’s Resp. at 10,
14, Pg ID 124, 128.) See Moore, 272 F.3d at 774 (“Subsequent filings in a case may
rectify deficiencies in the initial pleadings.”); see also Goodwin v. Summit Cty., 703
F. App'x 379, 383 (6th Cir. 2017) (holding that county officials had not been sued in
their individual capacities where the officials had moved to dismiss the action
because they had been sued in their official capacities only, and the plaintiff “voiced
no objection to the County officials’ capacity argument” in his response).
Accordingly, there is little question that Plaintiff’s claims as pled against
Defendants Napoleon and Hammami are solely official-capacity claims. For this
reason, they are duplicative of Plaintiff’s claim against Wayne County because, as
noted, “official capacity claims are essentially claims against the entity itself.” Frost
v. Hawkins Cty. Bd. of Educ., 851 F.2d 822, 827 (6th Cir. 1988) (citing Brandon v.
Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471 (1985)). Defendants do not in fact challenge Plaintiff’s
claim as pled against Wayne County, and even state in their Reply that “the Sheriff
is not a proper party. The County is the proper party.” (Defs.’ Reply at 3, Pg ID 158.)
Courts within the Sixth Circuit consistently dismiss official-capacity claims
against municipal officials that are duplicative of claims asserted by the plaintiff
against the municipal entity itself.2 See, e.g., Doe v. Claiborne Cty., Tenn. By &
Through Claiborne Cty. Bd. of Educ., 103 F.3d 495, 509 (6th Cir. 1996) (“We
will . . . affirm the dismissal of the official capacity claims against [three municipal
officials] because a suit against an official of the state is treated as a suit against the
municipality.”) (citing Graham, 473 U.S. at 165–66); Cavanaugh v. McBride, 33 F.
Supp. 3d 840, 848–49 (E.D. Mich. 2014) (“[B]ecause [the plaintiff] has raised claims
against Otsego County, the claims against [the county’s sheriff and undersheriff] in
their official capacities are duplicative and will be dismissed.), aff'd (Dec. 12, 2014);
In fact, this practice is not unique to the Sixth Circuit. District courts in at least 25
different federal districts have, in published decisions concerning lawsuits brought
against both municipalities and municipal officials in their official capacities,
dismissed the official-capacity claims as duplicative of the entity claims. See M.
Schwartz & J. Kirklin, Section 1983 Litigation: Claims, Defenses, and Fees § 6.05
n.248 (4th ed. Supp. 2018) (collecting cases). See also Jungels v. Pierce, 825 F.2d
1127, 1129 (7th Cir. 1987) (“Actually there is one defendant—the city—not two;
for the complaint names the mayor as a defendant in his official capacity only, which
is the equivalent of suing the city. This makes no practical difference; the city is
liable for the official actions of its senior policy-making official. But nothing was
added by suing the mayor in his official capacity.”).
Swartz Ambulance Serv., Inc. v. Genesee Cty., 666 F. Supp. 2d 721, 726 (E.D. Mich.
2009) (“[C]laims brought against Genesee Board of Commissioners and individual
Commissioners pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are duplicative of the claim against
Genesee County because official capacity suits are the equivalent of a suit against
the municipality. Accordingly, the Court dismisses the Board and individual
Commissioners from those claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” (internal citation
omitted) (citing Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994)).
Citing the Sixth Circuit’s decisions in Marchese v. Lucas, 758 F.2d 181 (6th
Cir. 1985), and Leach v. Shelby Cty. Sheriff, 891 F.2d 1241 (6th Cir. 1989), Plaintiff
argues that Defendant Napoleon, as Wayne County Sheriff, can in fact incur liability
in this case based on his ultimate oversight and responsibility for the policy that
allegedly caused Ms. White’s death. To any extent that Plaintiff relies on Marchese
and Leach with regard to the duplicative-claims issue that is presently before this
Court, however, that reliance is misplaced.
The issue that the Sixth Circuit confronted in Marchese, at least as it relates
to this matter, was “[w]hether Wayne County should have been dismissed as a
defendant” to a § 1983 action concerning violent jailhouse misconduct by agents of
the sheriff, “based either on an immunity conferred by Art. 7, Section 6 of the
Michigan Constitution,3 or because the County cannot generate policy affecting
Sheriff's Department operations under Michigan statutes.” Marchese, 758 F.2d at
188. It was in order to answer both prongs of this question in the negative that the
Marchese court made the finding that Plaintiff now cites in support of his argument:
The Sheriff is . . . the law enforcement arm of the County and makes
policy in police matters for the County. The County, through its Board
of Supervisors, appropriates funds and establishes the budget for the
Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff is elected by the voters of Wayne
County. No doubt he is responsible for enforcing state law and
presumably federal law as well. But equally clearly he is not an official
of the State of Michigan or of the federal government. He is, under the
Constitution of Michigan, the law enforcement officer for the County
of Wayne with extraordinary power to select his deputies and enforce
We believe that the relationship between the County and the Sheriff's
Department is so close as to make the County liable for the Sheriff's
failure to train and discipline his officers and his ratification of the use
of wanton brutality by members of his force which we have spelled out
Id. at 188-89 (internal citations omitted).
Marchese thus addressed the question of whether the sheriff’s officialcapacity liability could be imputed to the county notwithstanding provisions of
Michigan statutory and constitutional law that appeared to keep the sheriff and the
Here, the Marchese court was referring to a provision of the Michigan Constitution
which states that a “county shall never be responsible for [the county sheriff’s] acts,
except that the board of supervisors may protect him against claims by prisoners for
unintentional injuries received while in his custody.” MI CONST Art. 7, § 6.
county separate. Here, there is no challenge to the appropriateness of Wayne
County’s party status, and Marchese has no relevance to the issue of the sheriff’s
redundancy as a Defendant. This is even truer of Leach, a decision that addressed a
§ 1983 action against a sheriff and a mayor sued in their official capacities in which
the plaintiff did not name the municipal entity as a defendant at all. See Leach, 891
F.2d at 1245-46 (“Leach's suit against the Mayor and the Sheriff of Shelby County
in their official capacities is, therefore, essentially and for all purposes, a suit against
the County itself. The issue, therefore, is whether there was a policy or custom so
attributable to the municipality as to render it responsible for payment of the
Neither Marchese nor Leach provides guidance as to the proper course of
action here, but the other decisions discussed above do. Plaintiff’s claims against
Defendants Napoleon and Hammami are clearly (and concededly) official-capacity
claims only, and are thus duplicative of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Wayne
County. For that reason, the Court will grant Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings and dismiss the two individual Defendants from this case.
For the reasons stated above, Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings (ECF No. 11) is hereby GRANTED, and Defendants Napoleon and
Hammami are dismissed from this action. The County of Wayne continues to remain
a Defendant in this case.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Paul D. Borman
Paul D. Borman
United States District Judge
Dated: February 8, 2018
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that a copy of the foregoing order was served upon
each attorney or party of record herein by electronic means or first class U.S. mail
on February 8, 2018.
Deborah Tofil, Case Manager
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