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Estate of Hunter v. Uintah County

United States District Court, D. Utah

July 5, 2017

ESTATE OF JEREMY HUNTER, by its Personal Representative, BRIAN HUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
UINTAH COUNTY; KATIE SMITH; R.S. SMUIN; COLE ANDERTON; JULIANNE EHLERS; DEPUTY GRAY; RICHARD GOWEN; DEPUTY GURR; DEPUTY HARRISON; DEPUTY JENSEN; DEPUTY KELLY; GALE ROBBINS; ROLLIN COOK; and, John and Jane Does 1 thru 25, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT UINTAH COUNTY'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          TED STEWART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         District Judge Ted Stewart This matter is before the Court on Defendant Uintah County's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's Complaint arises from the death of Jeremy Hunter in the Uintah County Jail. Mr. Hunter was arrested on December 18, 2014, and was booked into the Uintah County Jail. Mr. Hunter advised that he suffered from high blood pressure and that he was receiving medications for his hypertension. Plaintiff claims that Mr. Hunter did not receive the drugs necessary to control his blood pressure.

         On December 19, 2014, Mr. Hunter experienced chest pains. Defendants monitored Mr. Hunter, but did not transport him to the hospital or otherwise provide medication. On December 20, 2014, Plaintiff suffered cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated. Plaintiff alleges that had Mr. Hunter “received timely medical care and attention, his death would not have occurred.”[1]Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and state-law claims for negligence and wrongful death.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendant Uintah County seeks judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). The Court applies the same standards in evaluating motions under Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c).[2]

         In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded factual allegations, as distinguished from conclusory allegations, are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff as the nonmoving party.[3] Plaintiff must provide “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ”[4] which requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully harmed-me accusation.”[5] “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'”[6]

         “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.”[7] As the Court in Iqbal stated,

only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.[8]

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff brings claims against Defendant Uintah County for constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, discrimination under the ADA, and state-law claims for wrongful death and negligence. In its response to Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff agrees that its state-law claims should be dismissed. Additionally, the Court previously dismissed Plaintiff's ADA claim without prejudice as against Defendant Rollin Cook.[9] Plaintiff seeks leave to amend its ADA claim with respect to Defendant Uintah County. Based upon these statements, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's state-law and ADA claims without prejudice. This leaves only Plaintiff's claim under § 1983. Importantly, this Motion only concerns Plaintiff's claim against Uintah County. The Court has not been asked to determine the sufficiency of Plaintiff's claim against the individual Defendants who are alleged to have been employees of Uintah County during the relevant period.

         A municipality may be liable under § 1983 “if the governmental body itself ‘subjects' a person to a deprivation of rights or ‘causes' a person ‘to be subjected' to such deprivation.”[10]However, “local governments are responsible only for ‘their own illegal acts.'”[11] “They are not vicariously liable under § 1983 for their employees' actions.”[12] In order to state a claim for municipal liability, a plaintiff must allege (1) the existence of an official policy or custom; (2) a direct causal link between the policy or custom and the constitutional injury alleged; and (3) deliberate indifference on the part of the municipality.[13]

         A plaintiff may allege the existence of a municipal policy or custom in the form of (1) an officially promulgated policy; (2) an informal custom amounting to a widespread practice; (3) the decisions of employees with final policymaking authority; (4) the ratification by final policymakers of the decisions of their subordinates; or (5) the failure to adequately train or supervise employees.[14] Here, Plaintiff has failed to allege the existence of an official policy or custom, or a direct causal link between the policy and custom and the alleged injury. Plaintiff merely alleges that Mr. Hunter was housed at the Uintah County Jail at the time of his death. Plaintiff then points to various allegations lodged against Uintah County employees. However, as stated, Uintah County is responsible only for its own ...


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