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Deroche v. Hancock County

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

October 18, 2018

SHAYLYNN DEROCHE, Individually and as Wrongful Death Beneficiary and as Survivor of Wendy Caspolich PLAINTIFF
v.
HANCOCK COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, HANCOCK MEDICAL CENTER, and JOHN DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER CONCERNING HANCOCK COUNTY'S MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          LOUIS GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STTES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT are the [10] Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to State Law Claims and the [12] Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Certain Federal Claims filed by the defendant Hancock County, Mississippi. The parties fully briefed the Motions. After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the plaintiff's state law claim for failure to train and supervise subordinates should be dismissed, but all other state law claims should remain pending at this time. Therefore, Hancock County's Motion concerning the plaintiff's state law claims is granted in part and denied in part. The Court further finds that the plaintiff's federal claim for denial of the due process right to family association should be dismissed. In addition, the plaintiff's attempt to assert Section 1983 claims based on respondeat superior is without merit. As a result, the Court finds that Hancock County's Motion concerning the plaintiff's federal law claims should be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 27, 2017, the plaintiff's mother, Wendy Caspolich, was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over by Hancock County deputies. Ms. Caspolich attempted to hide narcotics that were located in the vehicle “by placing them in her mouth and eventually swallowing them.” (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1-2.) The Hancock County deputies arrested Ms. Caspolich and the other occupants of the vehicle for possession of paraphernalia. According to the Complaint, “[p]rior to, during, and after being booked into the Hancock County Jail, Ms. Caspolich and others informed the deputies that Ms. Caspolich had swallowed the narcotics and that she was in need of medical assistance.” (Id. at 4.) The plaintiff claims that Hancock County's employees did not respond to Ms. Caspolich's request for medical assistance even though she was in and out of consciousness during booking.

         County employees placed Ms. Caspolich in a holding cell, and the plaintiff claims that Ms. Caspolich's condition continued to deteriorate, causing her cellmate to bang on the cell door and ask for medical assistance. The plaintiff claims that County employees ignored the cellmate's request and told the cellmate to quit making so much noise. Eventually, County employees attempted to take Ms. Caspolich's blood pressure but were unable to get a reading. They then left Ms. Caspolich in the cell. County employees moved Ms. Caspolich's cellmate to another location, because she continued to make noise while asking for medical assistance for Ms. Caspolich.

         At approximately 2:24 a.m., jail employees released Ms. Caspolich for medical reasons and drove her to Hancock Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead as a result of a drug overdose.

         The plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Hancock County and Hancock Medical Center.[1] She has attempted to assert Section 1983 claims against Hancock County for infliction of cruel and unusual punishment by denying medical care and for violation of her due process right to family association. She asserts that her Section 1983 claims are to some extent based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. She also attempts to assert the following state law claims: negligence, gross negligence, infliction of emotional distress, negligence per se, and failure to train and/or supervise subordinates. Hancock County filed the present Motions to Dismiss all of the plaintiff's state law claims as well as the plaintiff's federal claim for denial of the due process right to family association and plaintiff's federal claims based on respondeat superior.

         DISCUSSION

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) provides, “After the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial -- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Courts evaluate Rule 12(c) motions using the same standard as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008). “‘[T]he central issue is whether, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid claim for relief.'” Id. (quoting Hughes v. Tobacco Inst., Inc., 278 F.3d 417, 420 (5th Cir. 2001)). To survive a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         I. STATE LAW CLAIM FOR FAILURE TO TRAIN AND SUPERVISE SUBORDINATES AND FEDERAL CLAIM FOR DENIAL OF DUE PROCESS RIGHT TO FAMILY ASSOCIATION

         The plaintiff concedes that the Court should dismiss her claims for failure to train and supervise subordinates and denial of due process right to family association.

         II. PLAINTIFF'S REMAINING STATE LAW CLAIMS

         Hancock County argues that the plaintiff's state law claims are barred by the inmate exception and the police function exception to the waiver of immunity set forth in the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA).

         A. ...


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