Quintana v. Santa Fe Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, No. 19-2039

Decision Date28 August 2020
Docket NumberNo. 19-2039
Citation973 F.3d 1022
Parties Rosa QUINTANA and Cory Hickerson, individually, and as personal representatives of the Estate of Ricardo Jose Ortiz, deceased, Plaintiffs - Appellants, v. SANTA FE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS; Anne Robinson, in her individual capacity; Dylan Chavez, in his individual capacity; Anthony Valdo, in his individual capacity; Tyler Lopez, in his individual capacity; Leonard Garcia, in his individual capacity; Cristobal Gallegos, in his individual capacity, Defendants - Appellees. The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Amicus Curiae.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Alicia C. Lopez (Carolyn M. "Cammie" Nichols with her on the briefs), Rothstein Donatelli LP, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Mark E. Komer, Long, Komer & Associates, P.A., Santa Fe, New Mexico (Jonas M. Nahoum, Long, Komer & Associates, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Christa M. Hazlett and Carol Dominguez Shay, Conklin, Woodcock & Ziegler, P.C., Albuquerque, New Mexico, with him on the brief), for Defendants-Appellees.

David M. Shapiro, Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Chicago, Illinois, for Amicus Curiae.

Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, BACHARACH, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.

TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge.

Following the January 2016 death of Ricardo Jose Ortiz at the Sante Fe Adult Detention Facility (ADF), Ortiz's personal representatives sued multiple individual ADF affiliates, alleging state claims under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act and violations of his Fourteenth Amendment right to medical treatment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants moved to dismiss the first amended complaint (FAC), and the plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint to include a claim for municipal liability that was not in any prior complaint. In an order addressing both motions, the district court dismissed the § 1983 claims, denied the plaintiffs leave to amend to include that municipal liability claim, and remanded the state-law claims.

On appeal, the plaintiffs-appellants argue the district court erred in dismissing the § 1983 claims against individual prison employees and in denying leave to amend.

We agree that the plaintiffs-appellants plausibly alleged Officer Chavez violated Ortiz's clearly established constitutional right to medical care for acute symptoms related to his withdrawal from heroin. But we cannot conclude they plausibly alleged the other individual defendants violated Ortiz's clearly established constitutional right to medical care under these circumstances. Therefore, we VACATE the district court's dismissal with regard to Officer Chavez but AFFIRM with regard to the other individual defendants.

Separately, we conclude the district court should not have denied the plaintiff leave to amend for reasons of futility. The district court determined that the plaintiff could not state a claim for municipal liability without first properly stating a claim against an individual, but our court's precedent allows municipal liability even where no individual liability exists.

We accordingly VACATE the district court's denial of leave to amend.

I. Background

Ortiz was arrested and booked into ADF on January 4, 2016. After booking, Defendant Nurse Anne Robinson conducted a medical intake exam, apparently without completing various intake forms. During the exam, Nurse Robinson determined that Ortiz was dependent on heroin and would likely undergo withdrawal. She therefore offered Ortiz a set of medications known as a "kick kit." The plaintiffs allege the kick kit was never administered.

The other individual defendantsCorporal Gallegos and Officers Chavez, Valdo, Lopez, and Garcia—supervised or interacted with Ortiz in some capacity between his medical exam on January 4 and his death on January 7. By their own admission, they were aware that Ortiz was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. They did not attempt to provide any further medical assistance, and Ortiz did not request any further treatment.

On January 7, Officer Garcia found Ortiz unresponsive and disrobed in his cell, the floors and walls of which were partially covered in feces and bodily fluids. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Following an autopsy, it was concluded that Ortiz "died of an acute gastrointestinal hemorrhage due to probable heroin withdrawal." App., Vol. 1 at 34.

In January 2018, the plaintiffs filed a law suit in New Mexico state court, alleging a claim under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act and a claim against only Nurse Robinson under § 1983 for deliberate indifference to Ortiz's serious medical needs. The case was removed to federal district court, and the plaintiffs filed the FAC, which included claims against all the individual defendants under § 1983. Soon thereafter, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the § 1983 claims on qualified immunity grounds. The plaintiffs opposed that motion and moved for leave to file a second amended complaint (SAC).

In their motion to amend, the plaintiffs explained that they wanted to make several material changes to their complaint. The most significant proposed amendment was an entirely new claim against Sante Fe County for municipal liability under Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs. , 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). The SAC also contained amendments to the preexisting claims. According to the motion to amend, the SAC was meant, in part, to address the defendants’ concerns regarding the state-law and § 1983 claims. But the motion said that the changes to the § 1983 allegations were not material, as the claims were fully stated in the FAC. App., Vol. 1 at 135 (stating the rewritten paragraphs attempting to state claims against the individual defendants "contain only allegations previously set forth in the operative [i.e. First Amended] Complaint").

The district court granted in full the defendantsmotion to dismiss the § 1983 claims based on qualified immunity. In the same order, the court also denied the motion to amend because the proposed SAC would not have cured the various deficiencies in the § 1983 claim and because it did not properly state a Monell claim as a matter of law. Having disposed of the various federal questions giving rise to the district court's subject matter jurisdiction, the court remanded the surviving state-law issues to state court.

II. Discussion
A. Qualified Immunity

Our qualified-immunity inquiry requires a plaintiff to allege that: (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right and (2) the constitutional right was clearly established at the time of the violation. E.g. , Lindsey v. Hyler , 918 F.3d 1109, 1113 (10th Cir. 2019) (citing Medina v. Cram , 252 F.3d 1124, 1128 (10th Cir. 2001) ). We have described this burden as "heavy," in large part because our qualified-immunity inquiry "is designed to spare a defendant not only unwarranted liability, but [also] unwarranted demands customarily imposed upon those defending a long drawn-out lawsuit." Medina , 252 F.3d at 1128 (quoting Wilson v. Layne , 526 U.S. 603, 609, 119 S.Ct. 1692, 143 L.Ed.2d 818 (1999) (quotation marks omitted)).

Here, the plaintiff has failed to allege plausibly a clearly established constitutional violation against any of the six individual defendants other than Officer Chavez.

In making that determination, we look to the FAC and not the proposed SAC. As we explain below, a de novo review reveals the district court should not have denied the plaintiffsmotion to amend the complaint to add a separate claim against the county for municipal liability. The district court did not, however, err in denying the motion with regard to allegations against the various individual plaintiffs.

As that court noted, the plaintiffs specifically argued in their motion to amend that their proposed amendments to Count II—i.e. the count alleging individual liability—were not "substantive amendments," clarifying that "while the paragraphs under Count II are partly rewritten, they contain only allegations previously set forth in the operative complaint." App., Vol. 1 at 135. That is, the plaintiffs themselves explicitly denied that the SAC would in any way cure deficiencies in the FAC with respect to the allegations in Count II. The district court was under no obligation to consider an argument that the movant not only did not raise but explicitly discredited and disowned.

Because any argument that the district court erred in denying the motion to amend with regard to Count II of the complaint is waived, we do not consider the allegations made in the SAC as opposed to the allegations made in the FAC.

1. Constitutional Violation

In assessing the plaintiff's contention that the individual defendants violated Ortiz's Fourteenth Amendment rights, we apply the two-part Eighth Amendment inquiry when a pretrial detainee alleges deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.1 E.g. , Martinez v. Beggs , 563 F.3d 1082, 1088 (10th Cir. 2009) (citing Garcia v. Salt Lake Cty. , 768 F.2d 303, 307 (10th Cir. 1985) ). This exercise requires both an objective and a subjective inquiry. Id . (citing Callahan v. Poppell , 471 F.3d 1155, 1159 (10th Cir. 2006) ).

The objective inquiry asks whether "the harm suffered rises to a level sufficiently serious to be cognizable under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment." Id . (quoting Mata v. Saiz , 427 F.3d 745, 752–53 (10th Cir. 2005) (quotation marks omitted)). The subjective inquiry, in turn, asks whether "the defendants knew [the detainee] faced a substantial risk of harm and disregarded that risk, by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id . (quoting Callahan , 471 F.3d at 1159 (quotation marks omitted)).

a. Objective Inquiry

As we have observed, "[a] medical need is sufficiently serious ‘if it is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or ... is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.’...

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