Cooper v. Rogers, CASE NO. 2:11-cv-964-MEF

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
Writing for the CourtMark E. Fuller
PartiesBRITTANY S. COOPER, Plaintiff, v. RAYMOND ROGERS, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date06 June 2012
Docket NumberCASE NO. 2:11-cv-964-MEF

RAYMOND ROGERS, et al., Defendants.

CASE NO. 2:11-cv-964-MEF


Dated: June 6, 2012

[WO - Do Not Publish]


Plaintiff Brittany S. Cooper brings several federal constitutional and state law claims against Defendants Raymond Rogers and Curtis Pritchett, the Sheriff of Bullock County and the Chief Administrator of the Bullock County Jail, respectively. (Am. Compl. (Doc. # 15).) The case is now before the Court on Defendants' second Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 16), which is fully briefed (Docs. # 17, 19, 20). Having considered the arguments of the parties and the relevant law, the Court finds that Defendants' motion is due to be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


Subject matter jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 (federal question), 1343(a)(3) (civil rights), and 1367 (supplemental). The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court finds adequate allegations in support of both.

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A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction asserts either a facial or factual challenge to the complaint. McElmurray v. Consol. Gov't of Augusta-Richmond Cnty., 501 F.3d 1244, 1251 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 412 (5th Cir. May 20, 1981)1 ); accord Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990). A factual attack challenges "the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered." Lawrence, 919 F.2d at 1529 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A facial attack, on the other hand, challenges the complaint on its face and "require[s] the court merely to look and see if [the] plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction." McElmurray, 501 F.3d at 1251 (quoting Lawrence, 919 F.2d at 1529). In considering a facial attack, as with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must take as true the allegations in the complaint. See Carmichael v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 572 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th Cir. 2009).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint; thus, in assessing the merits of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must assume that all the factual allegations set forth in the complaint are true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as

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true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007))). In other words, a complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations," but must include enough facts "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545.


Accepting as true the factual allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds the following facts:

On July 22, 2009, Plaintiff was arrested for an alleged probation violation and was taken to the Bullock County Jail. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8.) On August 6, 2009, while still in the custody of the Bullock County Sheriff, Plaintiff learned from a doctor that she was pregnant. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12.) The doctor wrote a diagnosis of pregnancy, which Plaintiff provided to the Bullock County Jail staff. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13-15.) Plaintiff's probation was revoked by the Bullock County Circuit Court on September 9, 2009. (Am. Compl. ¶ 16.) Although initially held in the Bullock County Jail, Plaintiff was placed on house arrest pending transfer to the Alabama Department of Corrections. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.) However, on September 24, 2009, Plaintiff was returned to the Bullock County Jail. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18.)

On that same day, September 24, 2009, Plaintiff "began bleeding irregularly from her vaginal area and immediately reported it to . . . Officer Pritchett." (Am. Compl. ¶ 20.)

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Officer Pritchett responded that "Sheriff [Rogers] would send her to Tutwiler Prison if she continued to talk about the bleeding and [need for] medical attention."2 (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.)

On September 25, 2009, Plaintiff "notified a second jailor[,] Ruby Thomas[,] about her bleeding." (Am. Compl. ¶ 22.) Instead of seeking medical attention for Plaintiff, Officer Thomas provided Plaintiff feminine hygiene products and over-the-counter pain relievers. (Id.)

On September 26 and 27, 2009, Plaintiff complained to jailors Ruby Thomas and Dorothy Thomas. On both days, the jailors did not seek medical attention, and instead supplied Plaintiff with additional feminine hygiene products and over-the-counter pain relievers. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23-25.) Also on September 27, 2009, Plaintiff again requested assistance from Officer Pritchett. Officer Pritchett informed Plaintiff that he was "off duty" and instructed Plaintiff "to pretend that he was invisible . . . ." (Am. Compl. ¶ 26.)

Plaintiff remained in the Bullock County jail an additional ten (10) days until October 7, 2009, when she finally persuaded Ruby Thomas to call Sheriff Rogers about her condition. Sheriff Rogers initially responded that Plaintiff had "better keep that baby in her." (Am. Compl. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff, who was growing desperate, then sought assistance from Dorothy

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Thomas, who called Sheriff Rogers a second time to seek permission to get Plaintiff medical assistance. Sheriff Rogers retreated from his original position, and called Plaintiff's probation officer, who instructed Sheriff Rogers to allow Plaintiff to seek medical attention. (Am. Compl. ¶ 30.) When Plaintiff finally saw a doctor, she was informed that she had suffered a miscarriage. She also was informed that had she gotten to the hospital sooner, the baby might have been saved. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30.)

Plaintiff brings three constitutional causes of action. Count I alleges an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claim. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 31-40.) Count II alleges a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection violation. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 41-46.) Count III alleges a substantive due process violation under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-56.) Count IV is entitled "Violation of State Law," and references Ala. Code § 14-6-19. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 57-61.) Plaintiff has sued Sheriff Rogers and Officer Pritchett in their individual capacities and seeks monetary relief.


A. Eighth Amendment Claim (Count I)

To sufficiently state a claim for § 1983 individual liability, a plaintiff must allege that (1) she was deprived of a right secured by the United States Constitution or a federal statute, and (2) the act or omission causing the deprivation was committed by an individual acting under color of state law. Wideman v. Shallowford Cmty. Hosp., Inc., 826 F.2d 1030, 1032 (11th Cir. 1987).

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In their second motion to dismiss, Defendants have raised the defense of qualified immunity. (Doc. # 17, at 6.) "Qualified immunity offers complete protection for government officials sued in their individual capacities as long as their conduct violates no clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Lee, 284 F.3d at 1193-94. The doctrine aims to focus government officials on "'their discretionary duties without the fear of personal liability or harassing litigation, protecting from suit all but the plainly incompetent or one who is knowingly violating the federal law.'" Hoyt v. Cooks, 672 F.3d 972, 977 (11th Cir. 2012).

The examination of a qualified immunity defense involves a three-part analysis. First, the official must establish that he was performing discretionary acts, which is undisputed in this case. At this point, the court must grant the defendant officer qualified immunity unless the plaintiff's alleged facts, accepted as true, show (1) that there was a violation of the Constitution or federal law and (2) that the illegality of the officer's actions was clearly established at the time of the incident. Hoyt, 672 F.3d at 977 (citing Lee, 284 F.3d at 1194). In Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009), the Supreme Court instructed the lower federal courts to use sound discretion to decide which of these two prongs to address first.

1. Constitutional Violation

Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.3 Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). Although it appears to be

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a novel concept to Defendants, considering their arguments that they were not financially responsible for Plaintiff's medical costs (Br. in Support 12 & n.5), Sheriff Rogers, as the official designated by Alabama law to be responsible for the Bullock County Jail, Ala. Code § 14-6-1 ("The sheriff has the legal custody and charge of the jail in his or her county and all prisoners committed thereto . . . ."), and Officer Pritchett, as Chief Administrator of the Bullock County Jail, are bound by the Eighth...

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