Encinias v. N.M. Corr. Dep't

Decision Date02 March 2023
Docket Number21-CV-1145 KG/SCY
PartiesTRINI ENCINIAS, as personal representative of the ESTATE OF ADONUS R. ENCINIAS, deceased, Plaintiff, v. NEW MEXICO CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT, and ISABELLE DOMINGUEZ, CHRIS MAURER, BEVERY WOODBURY, TITO VIDAL, in their individual capacities, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Mexico

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 47). The Motion is fully and timely briefed. (Docs. 54, 57). Having considered the briefing and the applicable law, the Court grants the Motion.

I. Introduction

This case concerns the tragic death by suicide of a prison inmate Adonus R. Encinias, who was under the custody and care of the State of New Mexico at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 45) at ¶ 119. Mr. Encinias' mother, Trini Encinias, as the personal representative of his estate, brings four claims: (1) that individual state employees Isabelle Dominguez, Chris Maurer Tito Vidal, and Beverly Woodbury, sued in their individual capacities, were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Encinias' serious medical need in violation of his constitutional right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendments; (2) that Centurion Correctional Healthcare, a contractor acting in the capacity of the state, violated the same right through a policy and practice of denying medical care, also brought pursuant to § 1983, the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendments; (3) that the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) violated Mr. Encinias' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; and (4) that the NMCD violated Mr. Encinias' rights under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Id. at¶¶ 235-283. Because Centurion Correctional Healthcare was dismissed from this case, (Doc. 66), and this Motion is brought by the remaining NMCD defendants, Count 2 is not applicable, and only Counts 1, 3, and 4 are implicated here.

NMCD and the individual defendants now urge dismissal for the following reasons: first, because the Fourteenth Amendment is not applicable and thus Count 1 should be dismissed to the extent it is brought pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment; second, because Ms. Encinias fails to state a § 1983 claim in Count 1; third, that regardless, qualified immunity bars the suit against the individual defendants in Count 1; fourth, that the ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims in Counts 3 and 4 do not survive the decedent's death; and, fifth, even if not, Ms. Encinias fails to state claims pursuant to the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Generally (Doc. 47).

Regarding the first issue, Defendants argue that because Mr. Encinias was an inmate and not a pre-trial detainee, there is no good faith reason to include a Fourteenth Amendment claim and that all such claims should be dismissed. Id. at 5-6. Ms. Encinias counters that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Eighth Amendment against state actors and thus her claim properly references the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 54) at 4-6. The Court agrees, and is not persuaded to dismiss the Fourteenth Amendment claims considering that (1) the parties seem to agree that the Eighth Amendment provides the substantive law for deliberate indifference in this case, (Doc. 47) at 5, (Doc. 54) at 6; (2) courts “apply the same deliberate-indifference standard no matter which amendment provides the constitutional basis for the claim,” whether the Eighth or Fourteenth, George, on behalf of Bradshaw v. Beaver Cnty., by & through Beaver Cnty. Bd. of Commissioners, 32 F.4th 1246, 1256 (10th Cir. 2022); and (3) given that the first Count references both amendments, dismissing Fourteenth Amendment claims would have no practical effect on the claim. The Court will analyze the constitutional claim under the Eighth Amendment and otherwise declines to dismiss Count 1 on this ground.

That leaves the following four issues for consideration:

(1) Whether the Second Amended Complaint states an Eighth Amendment Claim;
(2) Whether the individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity;
(3) Whether the ADA and Rehabilitation Act Claims survive; and
(4) Whether the Second Amended Complaint states ADA and Rehabilitation Act Claims.

The Court concludes first that while the Complaint states an Eighth Amendment claim, the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because Ms. Encinias does not show that the law was clearly established at the time of Mr. Encinias' death. Next, the Court concludes that the Complaint fails to state ADA or Rehabilitation Act Claims. On these grounds, the Court grants the Motion.

II. Background
A. Factual Background .

Mr. Encinias was 22 years old when he was sentenced to a term of incarceration by a New Mexico court, and on February 21, 2018, he entered state custody at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF).[1] (Doc. 45) at ¶¶ 20, 23. About nine months later, on December 2, 2018, Mr. Encinias was found dead in his cell. Id. at ¶ 119.

Mr. Encinias entered prison suffering from multiple health issues: a substance abuse history which included heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and benzodiazepines; three prior traumatic brain injuries; a seizure disorder; and pericarditis. Id. at ¶ 26. At the time of his incarceration, he was also taking multiple psychotropic medications for mood disorders, including severe depression. Id. at ¶ 22. Indeed, his sentence included a requirement that Mr. Encinias be enrolled in the NMCD's Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23.

Mr. Encinias first met with a prison psychiatrist, Dr. Tabet, on March 6, 2018. Dr. Tabet documented that Mr. Encinias was experiencing anxiety, depression, irritability, visual and auditory hallucinations, insomnia, and fears of correctional officer assault based on a prior assault in jail. Id. at ¶ 24. Dr. Tabet diagnosed Mr. Encinias with anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosis, and substance abuse disorder. Id. at ¶ 27. Dr. Tabet prescribed two medications (Seroquel and Duloxetine), additionally prescribed “support including good coping,” and scheduled a follow-up appointment for April 3, 2018. Id. at ¶¶ 28-29.

His initial diagnoses aside, the prison system had a bevy of signs that Mr. Encinias was mentally and emotionally unwell. One month after his initial diagnoses, Mr. Encinias was seen by another psychiatrist, Dr. Vera, who diagnosed him with PTSD, dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder), intermittent explosive disorder, and anxiety, while noting the following symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, vivid recollection of past abuse, and that he was hearing the voices of previous abusers. Id. at ¶¶ 33, 35. In May, Mr. Encinias saw another psychiatrist, Dr. Neilson, who noted three prior suicide attempts before incarceration and diagnosed Mr. Encinias with depressive disorder and substance abuse disorder. Id. at ¶ 58. In July, 2018, Dr. Granger met with Mr. Encinias and documented severe depression, chronic anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and hallucinations. Id. at ¶ 66. In August, Dr. Cruz diagnosed Mr. Encinias with PTSD, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse disorder, among other things. Id. at ¶78.

In addition, Mr. Encinias requested therapy and mental health support at least 14 times, sometimes in explicit and dire terms:

- May 1, stating “urgent” need to “speak to mental health,” id. at ¶ 46;
- May 2, requesting services due to “feeling depression,” id. at ¶ 49;
- May 16, submitting “urgent request” because “depression at its highest peak” and requesting release from medical segregation, id. at ¶ 55;
- May 25, requesting to speak to counselor, id. at ¶ 59;
- June 1, requesting outpatient program, id. at ¶ 62;
- June 21, submitting urgent request to speak to mental health staff, id. at ¶ 65;
- July 6, requesting therapy session, id. at ¶ 67;
- September 2, submitting urgent health request for insomnia, anxiety and stress, id. at ¶ 87;
- September 4, submitting request stating, “I need to see mental health for depression, Em almost at a breaking point,” id. at ¶ 88;
- September 6, telling staff member that he was “desperate to meet with behavioral health,” id. at ¶ 90;
- September 13, requesting mental health appointment and threatening to refuse all medications and food, id. at ¶ 91;
- October 15, requesting to be seen once per week by mental health staff, id. at ¶ 96;
- October 30, requesting medications be adjusted for anxiety, id. at ¶ 98; - November 15, requesting to speak to mental health provider, id. at ¶ 103.

More alarming yet, Mr. Encinias attempted suicide at least three times which were known to prison staff. First, on May 7, Mr Encinias wrote a goodbye letter to his mother confessing to taking 15 blood pressure medications to numb the pain of death, asking her not to be affected by his suicide, and dictating what to do with his remains. Id. at ¶ 52. That letter was intercepted on May 14, but no preventative or therapeutic measures were implemented. Id. at ¶ 54. Second, on July 18, Mr. Encinias reported to mental health staff that he was actively trying to kill himself, had taken 16.5 doses of Seroquel, and was experiencing hallucinations commanding him to kill corrections officers and then hang himself. Id. at ¶ 69. Mr. Encinias spent three days on suicide watch. Id. at ¶ 70. Third, Mr. Encinias was again placed on suicide watch on August 22 when staff witnessed him cutting his arms and he told them he would kill himself if he could not speak with a mental healthcare provider. Id. at ¶ 75. Finally, though not an outright attempt, on November 17, Mr. Encinias sat for a...

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